Saturday, 24 November 2012

Management of requirements management!

Quote this week from Bambofy - "you deal with the boring end of software development".

I think I agree.

This week has taken a bizarre twist in that its been a week of 'requirements management' (RQM) issues. Two area emerged, the first around how to specify them appropriately and the second on reuse of requirements. You have to admit that sounds pretty boring doesn't it!

But when you try to get your head round these things, the situation rapidly gets complicated. A problem emerges around the sheer number of 'requirements' that can be generated if you don't have a strategy for RQM. Let me try and illustrate.

Even for a simple system there is an exponential increase in the number of requirements the more you need to partition things. Lets not do software example as they tend to be a bit obtuse, but use a house build as an example. Hopefully we can all relate to that a bit better. I'm assuming in all this that everyone is signed up to undertaking some form of RQM as part of the design of course! The first decision is how are you going to represent the 'systems' involved as you will need to be able to allocate the requirements throughout the house in some manner. If you don't get this bit correct you have already increased the gradient of the requirements growth curve. In our house example you could take each room as a 'system' or you could take each major element of infrastructure as a 'system' or one of many other variations. Lets take the infrastructure view as this is more akin to what you would do for more complex assets, railways, oil platforms, power plans etc.

So off we go doing our requirements capture exercise - don't worry I'm not going to do the whole thing - even I'm not that sad!

There are at least say 10 major areas to consider, e.g. 1 water, 2 electrical, 3 heating, 4 lighting, 5 civil structure, 6 plumbing, 7 waste treatment, 8 accessibility, 9 safety, 10 useability ....... etc.

Each of these areas breaks down into at least 10 further sub-areas, e.g. for  1 water these could be 1.1 sinks, 1.2 baths, 1.3 toilets, 1.4 hot water, ..... etc.

Even for this relatively simple example we already have 10x10 or 100 sub-areas to allocate requirements to. We could then easily envisage coming up with say 10 main requirements for each of these sub-areas and at least a further 10 sub-requirements for each main requirement. You can see where this is going - we now have 100 (sub-areas)x10(main)x10(sub-main) or 10,000 requirements to allocate and track. On top of this it is likely that we would need to allocate a set of 'attributes' for each requirements so that we could also track certain types of requirements rather than just which area they are allocated to, for example attributes like, environment, performance, safety, quality .....etc. which could again easily add up to 10 minimum. So - you still awake - in total, without even trying, we have got ourselves into a situation where we are reporting and tracking 100,000 items - just for a house!

Serious problem eh - if you are not careful this is also serious job creation!

This number assumes also that you can clearly specify your requirements in the first place - if not you could easily start with (I have seen this) 100 top-level requirements leading to 1,000,000 items to manage - good luck with that one.

That is why it is imperative that you have a rationale for management of your requirements management. And, no, you don't just have to purchase a requirements management software package.

You then have to ask yourself, if you tick all the requirement boxes, is your built system the one you wanted - would you want a builder to manage the build of your house in this way - or would you rather have the build project overseen by a civil engineer?

In the overall scheme of things its still pretty boring - but critical to get right!

Now some of these requirements can surely be reused on the next house - but which ones ;)

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