One summer during high school, I worked for the maintenance department at a building that housed a public-facing government agency. Normal duties included maintaining the grounds to keep up appearances. One day, I got on the Gator to be dropped off at my work location for the morning, and I was taken to the tool shed.
I opened the doors and took a look inside. The state of the shed was catastrophic. There were tools and supplies on every surface, seemingly placed without any consideration for organization. I would have believed that it had recently endured an earthquake. My manager dropped me off and told me to clean it up. Then he left, taking all further instructions with him.
As a software requirements consultant, I sometimes feel like I experience that day all over again. When business analysts arrive on a project, the state of the requirements is often chaotic. Entropy is at a maximum. Documentation may exist in any number of locations and formats, created with good intentions by several stakeholders.
First things first: use a tool. Organizing all of the information out there is daunting, but it can be done. There may be well over 10,000 individual software requirements for a large scale software project. Spreadsheets and documents are difficult to maintain. Requirements management tools have come a long way in the last few years, so present the benefits of using a tool to make everyone’s life a little easier.
Develop standards. You will be storing files, creating documents, and more. Develop templates early and stick to them. It will reduce the chance of requirements falling through the cracks, buried deep within the darkest recesses of documentation.
Invest in training. If other stakeholders will be contributing requirements, you can get the most bang for your buck if they know how to properly create requirements in the first place. This skill is honed by experience, but software requirements training (like ours at ArgonDigital) will set them on the right course. Analysts and stakeholders will be on the same page and the time for rework can be eliminated.
Early planning is crucial for keeping the project on time and within budget. Little problems all add up; if left unmanaged, you will end up with a tool shed that looks like a tornado hit it.