This is the typical response received when we suggest using a formal requirement management tool.
“Doesn’t MS Word provide enough functionality to manage requirements? We’ve been using it and it’s worked fine for us so far.”
It may be simple to jot ideas and start writing requirements in a Word document, or any other text editor, however, there are many limitations associated with using only one tool that is not designed to manage requirements.
These are the main limitations:
1) When making changes, it’s difficult to update and keep track of these changes,
2) It’s difficult to store extra information or additional detail about requirements, and
3) It’s difficult to link requirements to what is developed, tests, and defects. It is the goal of the requirements tool to provide a robust solution to managing requirements.
The following are some reasons to use requirements management tools.
Each tool you research should, at the minimum, be able to solve the following issues that a traditional text editor does not. The most obvious benefit is that with a tool, your requirements are all in one place: no more tracking down documents and trying to decipher which version to use, if your company uses versioning.
Ability to Manage Version and Changes
When business objectives change, requirements inevitably change. A requirements tool will keep track of changes implemented. It also becomes easy to revert back to previous versions, if necessary. Many people try to use SharePoint to distribute updates to documents. This can work, however, it’s easier to edit in real time in the same application rather than needed to put alerts on a document and checking it in and out. With a requirements management tool, people can work collaboratively in real time.
Information, or attributes, concerning requirements should be associated with the requirement. This makes needing to remember what other document these attributes are stored moot. Additional examples of common attributes are author, person responsible, origin, priority, status, difficulty, stability, and risk.
It is necessary to link requirements to business decisions, emails, and conversations for traceability. It answers the question of “Where did this requirement come from?” and it also answers the question of “What other systems or element could potentially be affected?”. Also, being able to link requirements puts each team accountable for its actions. If, when you’re testing, a test fails, it becomes convenient to link the requirement to the test to ensure that the team knows that the test should pass.
This helps to ascertain where the development team is on working each requirement, whether the requirement was deemed out of scope, etc. Being able to track status also provides a quick progress report for the project manager, or other responsible party. Status is an attribute of a requirement.
If you’re working with teams across the state, country, or world, controlling access is a vital part of requirements management. You do not want someone editing requirements who should not be doing so and you want the ability to see a history of who edited which item.
An additional benefit of a management tool is being able to better determine reporting and success measures.
It does take time to determine which requirements tools would be the best solution for your company, and it does take time and effort to train users to ensure adoption, but those investments are worth the cost for better management and increased success. However, before starting your research, be sure to ensure your process of eliciting, developing, and reviewing requirements is effective, because a management tool will not help with the processes involved with developing requirements, it only helps with managing what you have.