By Sue Bushell
High levels of application development outsourcing at all levels of government highlight an urgent need for enhanced requirements management capability, particularly where limited points of contact exist between client and the outsourced development team.
And a commercial requirements management tool that stores requirements and related information in a multi-user database can arm the outsourced development team with the clearest possible understanding of business and technical requirements, says John MacLeod, Consulting Director for Telelogic ANZ.
MacLeod, who has been running Enhanced Requirements Management seminars in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, points out that Standish Group in 2000 calculated 50 per cent of all projects fail as a result of inadequate business requirements.
"Without a requirements management capability, developers run the risk of developing entirely the wrong system, or of placing the emphasis on a requirement that is not all that important to the business," MacLeod says. "Not only is it important that we develop stuff that matches requirements but also that the relative effort put into the quality of various parts of the system matches the business need. Because the application is important to the business, then it's key that it is developed correctly and with high-quality."
Poorly understood user requirements and rampant scope creep are the causes of many software project failures. As a result, many organizations are striving to improve the methods they use to gather, analyze, document, and manage their requirements. In the past project teams have typically documented requirements in a structured software requirements specification (SRS) written in natural language. Enhanced requirements management software can help with the effort to keep requirements current, communicate changes to the affected team members and store supplementary information about each requirement.
MacLeod says the Australian Defence Department, which outsources all application development, has found requirements management provides Defence clients with consistency, correctness and completeness of systems and software leading to fewer errors, making it easier to get projects right faster, and resulting in lower costs.
It also gives them complete accountability as all of the deliverables for each milestone are visible, stored, controlled and linked to the automatic production of documentation deliverables, and provides tools, methodologies and services to help buyers gain control over the bidding/tendering process, by giving them a fair way of collecting and comparing bids.
And it is making it easier for Defence to move to a more network centric model where systems are compatible with those of allied forces through compliance with the US Department of Defence Architecture Framework (DoDAF) standard.
"The extra challenge that Defence face is that in what they call network centric warfare they have a large number of systems that need to interact - not only the systems that the tenderer is delivering but systems that already exist inside Defence. So not only do the systems that they put out to tender need to work correctly, they need to interact directly with all the existing communications systems, and that is literally a life or death thing -it has got the right.
"Requirements management is absolutely essential and they use it typically throughout the process," he says.
Communication between business and technical people is hard enough at the best of times, MacLeod says. When a government department has to cross an internal-to-external boundary to do so, the situation can be even worse.
"It's important to all organizations that what they develop meet the original business need in the first place but that difficulty is continually increased when you are not developing internally - when you are relying on an external organization with limited points of contact to do the development for you," he says.