With the complexity of development projects increasing, the delivery of technology products is getting more and more challenging. The sheer amount, as well as the growing sophistication (and fast changing) of requirements makes it difficult to collaboratively author, edit, manage, and track requirements along the development lifecycle.
Teams, processes, and tools are all important factors in tackling the most important problems. Careful process planning and continuous improvement is key – which is why this blog post aims to help by listing the most important challenges of requirements management today!
One thing to note is that teams still relying on document-based processes are harder hit by some of the following challenges. Tooling certainly isn’t a silver-bullet solution to all the below problems – a reconsideration of your current processes may be necessary. That said, using a modern platform for requirements management can take much of the burden off your teams’ shoulders.
Creating a shared requirements repository
The number one challenge is building a shared, central repository of requirements assets. Using static documents and spreadsheets stored and managed in shared folders is hardly conducive to transparent and efficient collaboration. It is necessary to manage product specifications (including a complete change history, approvals, and links to downstream work items) in a system that provides access to all relevant stakeholders.
This is one of those cases where tooling actually does make all the difference: you can’t really beat a collaborative requirements management environment created specifically to bring efficiency and transparency into how specifications are authored. Such a system lets you manage requirements worfklows and traceability – all in one place, with accurate reporting on specifications and their relations to other items in the cascade of assets throughout development.
Tracking changes in requirements
In any project, but especially in complex ones, change is inevitable. As design plans iterate in a system-of-systems product, changes in one subsystem may impact the requirements of other product elements.
All that change needs to be controlled across dependencies in the chain of work items. Versioning is key so that all changes are easy to follow for everyone affected. Ideally, you’ll have adequate tooling in place to help analyze and control the impact of these changes (for instance, through automated notifications to the owners of affected work items).
Collaboration frustration: clarity is key
Complex projects not only have a lot of changes – those changes may also come in the last minute. Feedback doesn’t always come in time, especially if you’re lacking adequate approval processes or automated workflows for managing requirement reviews.
Frequent changes or not, collaboration in general can lead to conflict and frustration in the team. As the management of requirements necessitates the input of various team members, ensuring they have collaboration a streamlined way to collaborate is vital.
But it’s not just about communication and workflows: you’ll also have to make sure you accurately convey the context of any requirements, decisions, changes. In any environment, but especially with Agile teams, it’s great if you can capture discussions in their entirety so that team members understand and can interact in an informed way. That’s how a fast-moving team will be able to keep up the velocity.
Focus, focus, focus?
In the development of modern technology products, you can’t expect every team member to stay on top of all requirements, changes, decisions, and so on all the time. In order to be able to do their jobs, they must focus on what’s relevant. Realistically, there’s no way to change that – instead, you’ll have to find a way to work around this fact, or better still: to leverage it.
Keep requirements to the point and accurate. Use a system that lets you tag users and assign tasks so that decisions and action items are never delayed. Leverage a multi-layered requirements system to break down huge projects into manageable tasks. Manage items separately, then combine those in baselines, releases, milestones, product versions, etc. Use reporting on the appropriate level.
Capturing accurate documentation
Documentation is important in any sector: documenting each decision, discussion, approval, and change creates clarity and transparency, informing expectations and goals in your project.
As a key regulatory requirement, documentation is paramount in safety-critical product development. Compliance audits require developers to report on various phases, activities, and decisions in the lifecycle. Documenting at every step of the way manually is practically impossible – or, rather, you’ll have to make the decision whether you want to document development, or execute the actual development tasks. With the profitability of your company in mind, that’s not a great tradeoff.
Take a proactive approach by automating the documentation of as many processes as possible. Modern requirements management tools let you capture information as part of the workflow, providing the visibility that enables your team to focus on product innovation instead (without adding overhead or jeopardizing regulatory compliance).