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This chapter is from the book

Evolution of Requirements

You start a project with little more than a vision—and sometimes a fairly blurred vision—of the desired future state of your owner’s work. (As we have done elsewhere in this book, we use the term “work” to refer to the area of the owner’s organization where improvements are to be made, usually by automating or re-automating part of it.)

During the early stages of requirements discovery, analysts deploy models of varying degrees of formality to help them and the stakeholders to learn what the work is, and what it is to be. From this investigation of the work, everyone arrives at the same level of understanding such that the stakeholders find improvements that will be truly beneficial.

It helps enormously when coming to an understanding of the work if the analysts and stakeholders can see the essence of the work. The essence is an abstraction of the work that sees the underlying policy of the work without the technology that clouds our vision of what the work actually is. This “thinking above the line,” as we call it in Chapter 7, Understanding the Real Problem, is important if the requirements are not to merely replicate whatever it is that exists at the moment, and if “technological fossils” and inappropriate process are not to be inadvertently reimplemented.

The understanding of the work evolves and matures, and at some point it is possible for the stakeholders, guided by the business analysts and the systems architects, to determine the optimal product to improve that work. When this stage is reached, the business analysts determine the detailed functionality for the product (keep in mind that not all of the work’s functionality would be included in the product) and to write its requirements. The non-functional requirements are derived at roughly the same time and written along with those constraints that are not already recorded. At this point, the requirements are written in a technologically neutral manner—they specify what the product has to do for the work, but not how the technology will do it.

You can think of these requirements as “business requirements,” meaning that they specify the product needed to support the business. Once they are adequately understood, they are released to the designer, who adds the product’s technological requirements before producing the final specification for the builders. This process is illustrated in Figure 2.8.

Figure 2.8

Figure 2.8. The requirements evolve as development of the product progresses. They start out as fairly vague ideas as the analysts and stakeholders explore the work area. As the ideas for the product emerge over time, the requirements become precise and testable. They remain technologically neutral until the designer becomes involved and adds those requirements needed to make the product work in its technological environment.

We have said that the requirements evolve, but this process should not be thought of as an inexorable progression toward some known destination. As Earl Beede points out, every time you think of a solution, it causes some new problems that require you to backtrack and revisit some of your earlier work. When we are talking about a requirements process, keep in mind that the process, if it is to be useful, must allow you to move backward as well as forward. Naturally, you would like to spend most of your time moving forward, but don’t be too disappointed if you have to return to some things you thought you had put behind you.

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