Requirements management: 6 best practices
Updated on June 10th, 2021
Even if you launch your project with a complete set of requirements, expect changes to crop up once the project is up and running. Depending on which project management model you choose, adding, modifying, or removing requirements after you start can be quite costly and time-consuming. That’s why you need a continuous requirements management process, which helps you control costs and avoid scope creep, ensuring end-to-end traceability.
Jira Software is a good tool to use as a Test Case Management. Depending on your testing needs, its own components can be easily configured for your project. What’s more, it can be integrated with a number of the applications such as RTM for Jira. A smart requirements management system also ensures that when changes occur, you are ready to manage them flexibly, without losing your focus on delivering the desired capabilities efficiently. Here are 6 best practices to help you with that.
Elicit requirements specification from multiple sources
Your first step is requirements collection. Remember to include all relevant sources such as new and seasoned users, managers, business analysts, and other stakeholders. Pay close attention to operational users, because they are the ones who will provide you with the most functional requirements for both system performance and user interface. Treating this group as your top requirements source will enable you to deliver a product or service that helps you to solve real problems experienced by your customers.
How to get requirements from users?
- Look at users’ informal narratives – requirements may appear in them explicitly or indirectly.
- Capture user responses to targeted questions.
- Hold brainstorming sessions with managers who communicate with users.
- Take a closer look at the user environment.
- Learn more about the users – for example, the tasks they perform with the product on a regular basis, their workflows and task sequencing, internal rules, types of problems they may encounter, or interactions with other users and staff members.
Organize and prioritize requirements
Categorizing a long list of requirements can be a daunting task. As your project matures, you will need to document requirements attributes and keep all information up to date in order to remain traceable during testing and verification. By organizing and prioritizing your requirements, you will enable your team to identify what’s missing, contradictory, or duplicated. A clear structure of requirements will also make it easier to determine all the actions, that should be taken during test management, including assigning related test cases to them. These two processes are closely related to each other and only if executed in a controlled and well-planned way will result in achieving your project’s goal.
To prioritize requirements, ask stakeholders to assign a priority to each requirement you collected from them. Naturally, stakeholders may differ in opinion about which one is critical, desirable, mandatory, or optional. Defining priorities in agreement with all stakeholders is quite challenging – that’s why it’s best to start doing that early on the project. One of the best ways to easily see the assigned priorities and dependencies between requirements is organizing them hierarchically into a tree-view structure.
By organizing and prioritizing your requirements, you will enable your team to identify missing, contradictory, or duplicate ones
Make sure all stakeholders are in agreement
Once you collect your requirements, it’s a good idea to hold a special meeting where you review them with stakeholders. Make sure to include project team members if you can. Sometimes last-minute changes may arise during this meeting, and that’s when it’s critical to reach consensus among all stakeholders.
You need to be flexible throughout the application lifecycle to ensure that development and implementation of the system don’t just blindly aim to meet a broad set of requirements, whereas you could reduce costs or provide an earlier delivery. That’s why you need to prioritize requirements correctly.
All that’s left is gathering requirements for final approval – that type of document will provide a direction for the project’s future. If you’ve got people on board who are experienced in requirements management and know-how to tell good requirements from bad ones, have them review your specifications.
In general, aim for requirements that are uniquely identified, consistent throughout the project, complete, easy to test, fully traceable, attainable by your team, and verifiable by the stakeholders. If you spot a requirement that doesn’t meet these standards, modify or delete it.
Prepare requirements for validation
It’s common to ask stakeholders to review documentation that includes requirements they supplied once in a while. You should provide them with all the help for interpreting requirements. Be prepared also to offer a description of outcomes when these requirements are implemented.
Depending on your workflow, you can give stakeholders explanations in different forms, including activity diagrams, workflow models, or flowcharts. It’s also smart to prepare a tree-structured view with folders and subfolders with your requirements for validation. That way you will build a limited functioning context where users can try different alternatives before assessing the requirements. Additionally, that kind of organization will show stakeholders clearly how specific requirements represent their objectives and whether they are consistent with the overall goals of the project. For the same reason, it’s equally important to show all the relations between objects and issues in a transparent way.
Tree-structured view show stakeholders clearly how specific requirements represent their objectives and whether they are consistent with the overall project goals
Invest in change impact analysis
The impact analysis is very important for the project. It helps you make business decisions and makes them the best for the moment. The impact analysis consists of an awareness that reducing the performance of a given product may be perceived negatively by its users. It is also crucial to know how much time and capacity it will take to implement the change. And in case of it, you must present documents or files that may need to be modified.
Naturally, as you add new requirements and alter or discard the existing ones, the requirements of the system will change as well. Teams need a solid requirements versioning practice to control these changes and implement a well-organized further action plan, including test management, and by that minimize the risk of misunderstandings between stakeholders.
Use smart requirements management tools
Confluence for requirements management
Collecting and documenting requirements is most efficient with the help of the right tool. If your development team uses Jira, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try out its potential as a requirements management software. Even though it was designed as a tool for the issue and project tracking, Jira combined with another Atlassian product, Confluence, can become the right tool for the job, as proved by worldwide experts like Tarun Sapra. You can use Confluence for general requirements gathering and project discussion on particular pages. Thanks to Confluence and Jira integration, you can create development issues directly from these requirements pages. That way, your team will be able to view requirements together with corresponding Jira tasks. Developers can use the wiki platform to view or edit the requirements, ensuring that all stakeholders stay up to speed. Confluence also ships with a Blueprint template to help teams in writing down requirements.
A product requirements page in Confluence. Source: Atlassian Documentation
Requirements management in Jira
You can also customize your Jira instance with dedicated apps for modern requirements management, such as Requirements and Test Management for Jira (RTM). This smart tool supports documenting, linking, and tracking requirements as well as executing your whole testing process right inside Jira. What differentiates RTM from other available tools for testing is that it attaches importance to gathering requirements on the same high level as to defining test cases. The app allows collecting requirements in a transparent tree-structured view with folders and subfolders, making it clear for all team members. Thanks to seamless Jira integration, users are able to link requirements to Epics and user stories and search for them inside your Atlassian suite like for regular Jira issues. The well-known interface makes it possible to start working with Requirements and Test Management without any additional training.
Detailed descriptions make it easier for all team members to understand the context of specific requirements
Requirements management relies also on verifying their implementation in the development and testing process, and nothing can help you with this as much as reporting your actions and presenting conclusions. RTM has two features that basically create ready-to-export reports for you:
- Traceability Matrix allows to track relations between any two baselined types of requirements, using many-to-many relationship comparison. Using JQL, we can define which issue types we’d like to see on the X and Y axes of our matrix.
Traceability Matrix allows to track relations between two types of requirements
- Requirement Coverage shows if Requirements are well covered by Test Cases, Test Plans, Test Executions, Test Case Executions, and Defects. We can filter displayed elements by Project, Issue type, Fix version, Component, RTM Environment, and Assignee, or choose only covered or uncovered ones. It’s also possible to select the fields to be included in the report on the Configuration Issue Card after clicking the Preferences icon.
Requirements Coverage report allows making sure if all requirements are covered by other test objects
All in all, defining requirements is an important stage for every project. However, the convenience of your working process depends on the source that you choose to elicit requirements.
If you’d like to learn more about requirements management in Jira Software, check out this video tutorial series on our YouTube, or read more related articles on our blog:
- 6 steps to set up requirements management and testing in Jira
- 3 ways to manage software requirements in Jira
- 7 ways to structure software requirements and test cases in Jira