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This chapter is from the book

Formality Guide

There is every reason to make your requirements discovery and communication as informal as possible. We say “as possible” because it is not so much what you would like as what your situation demands—often the degree of formality will be dictated by factors beyond your control. For example, you may be developing software using contracted outsourced development. In this case, there is a clear need for a complete written requirements specification. In other cases, the way you communicate your requirements can be informal to the point that a portion of the requirements are not written, or partially written, and communicated verbally.

We have included a formality guide to suggest where you might take a more relaxed approach to recording requirements, as well as those times when you should rightly be more systematic with your requirements discovery and communication. These are the conventions you will encounter as you move through this book.

Rabbit—small, fast, and short-lived. Rabbit projects are typically smaller projects with shorter lifetimes, where close stakeholder participation is possible. Rabbit projects usually include a lesser number of stakeholders.


Rabbit projects are usually iterative. They discover requirements in small units (probably one business use case at a time) and then implement a small increment to the working functionality, using whatever has been implemented to solicit feedback from the stakeholders.

Rabbit projects do not spend a great deal of time writing the requirements, but use conversations with the stakeholders as a way to elaborate the requirements written on story cards. Rabbit projects almost always co-locate the business knowledge stakeholders with the business analysts and the developers.

Horse—fast, strong, and dependable. Horse projects are probably the most common corporate projects—they are the “halfway house” of formality. Horse projects need some formality—it is likely that there is a need for written requirements so that they can be handed from one department to another. Horse projects have medium longevity and involve more than a dozen stakeholders, often in several locations, factors that necessitate consistently written documentation.


If you cannot categorize your own project, think of it as a horse.

Elephant—solid, strong, long life, and a long memory. An elephant project has a need for a complete requirements specification. If you are outsourcing the work, or if your organizational structure requires complete, written specifications, you’re an elephant. In certain industries, such as pharmaceuticals, aircraft manufacture, or the military, regulators demand not only that full specifications be produced, but also that the process used to produce them be documented and auditable. Elephant projects typically have a long duration, and they involve many stakeholders in distributed locations. There are also a large number of developers, necessitating more formal ways of communicating.

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