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Requirements Management by Matthew Bell

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The Branch was grateful to Corporate Member Diligenta for hosting this event at their excellent facilities at the Friends Life Centre on Tuesday 24th March 2015.  Our speaker tonight, Dr Matthew Bell, is a Chartered Engineer with many years of experience in the defence and aerospace sectors and integrated logistics support.  Matthew’s presentation addressed requirements management and how it is essential for project success. He planned to discuss the what, why, when and who,  principles, methods and issues and the importance of stakeholder management.

Matthew started off with explaining what requirements are and are not.  One of the biggest problems with requirements is that people often want to go straight to solutions.  It is important to listen to what the User says they want and translate that into what they actually need and then to define the capabilities that are required to meet that need.  This disciplined approach ensures that the User understands what they actually need, compared to what they think they want, and helps avoid the common trap of jumping to solutions.

It is important to identify who the User’s actually are.  There are often many of them and not just the end User of the equipment or service. Stakeholder management techniques are used to identify stakeholders, their power and influence.

Mathew explained that it is important to understand what is in scope and out of scope, and how the requirement interfaces with the out of scope areas which are often dependencies.

He defined what a requirement was: a need, expectation or obligation. It is important to write a requirement in unambiguous terms, to avoid words such as ‘may’, ‘could’, ‘would like’, and to use words such as ‘shall’.  Ambiguous terms can lead to requirements creep and cost and schedule overruns.  Requirements need to be necessary, (no duplication), attainable, (realistic), verifiable, (able to be tested and proven), traceable, (from the top level down, to enable trade off discussions), unambiguous, and formatted, (consistent).

Matthew explained that in order for a customer to ‘accept’ a product they need to understand what the expectations were. In order to hand over a product to a customer, the supplier needs to know what they are handing over.  Requirements management helps suppliers and customers understand and agree what is needed and to avoid wasting time, resources, and effort. Requirements management helps ensure project success by avoiding the top reasons for project failure: poor requirements capture, scope creep, disagreements about acceptance. Not having an agreed requirement sets you up for project failure.

Requirements capture is usually led by a requirements manager with support from systems engineering. Specialised requirements management tools are helpful for complex systems, but do need database administrators.

Matthew next looked at principles and methods and explained using the ‘V’ diagram how each level of requirement is matched with how it is to be verified. For example, each level of requirement down to the detailed solution specification is matched with tests to confirm that each level has been met, from verifying the design, testing at subsystem level, integration and system verification, validation and User acceptance.

Effective stakeholder management is essential, not only at the start of requirements capture, but throughout the whole process through to User acceptance. All stakeholders need to be engaged to get buy-in and endorsement from each for the time and scope. Stakeholder engagement needs careful planning and dedicated resources throughout the project to effectively communicate with stakeholders so that they have a common understanding of both the intent and the requirements.

Matthew illustrated the application of requirements management using two examples, for a simple, short project and for a complex 10 year project.  The effort, tools and resources need to match the need.

Matthew summarised the benefits of requirements management:

  • Helps you win the battle
  • Helps you understand your biases
  • Helps the User understand their needs
  • Helps in developing an effective solution
  • Helps plan effort, resources, risks, opportunities and success

Investment in requirements management provides long term benefits in terms of project success by providing vision and direction.

Martin Gosden
SWWE Branch Chair

Matthew has very kindly shared his presentation material.


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