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Requirements-Led Project Management: What Is the Value of Requirements?

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Every project requires investments in terms of time, money, and other resources. This chapter will help you analyze the requirements of your project at hand, and decide how to proceed in light of the investments required to make it work.
This chapter is from the book

Whenever we make an investment—some stocks, a new car—or do some work, we like to think we get something in return for the money or effort expended. In this chapter, we look at your investment in requirements and what you can expect in return. And though all men may be considered equal, all requirements are not. Some requirements are crucial to the product, while others are gold-plated luxuries. We discuss how business people and requirements analysts can determine how much to invest in requirements, by focusing on the value of requirements to their organization.

"Improved software practices provide returns ranging from 300% to 1900% and average about 500% ... The reason for these excep tionally high returns is ... improved practices [that] have been avail able for decades, but most organizations aren't using. Risk of adopting these practices is low; payoff is high."

—Steve McConnell, Professional Software Development

An Investment Story

Amelia's parents have decided move to Australia. A week before they leave, Amelia's parents call Amelia over and tell her the camera shop they have been running for the past 20 years is all hers. "It's not the greatest camera shop in the world," they tell her, "it has been losing a little bit of money for the last few years, but we kept it going for your sake. We are sure you can turn it around. Here are the keys and the lease for the shop. We're off now. Be sure to write."

Amelia looks at her shop. "A little run down," she thinks, "but the location is good. The main problem is Mom and Pop have not kept up with the times. Perhaps if I update things a little it will work out for me."

Amelia is now faced with several investment choices (see Figure 2.1):

  1. Take over the store and continue to run it exactly as is.
  2. Take over the store and invest in it. This means updating the image, putting emphasis on digital photography, and buying equipment to give digital customers full ser vice.
  3. Make minor changes hoping the changes will attract enough customers to keep her head above water.
  4. Walk away.

Figure 2.1 Amelia has to decide whether or not to invest in the camera store. Her thinking is not unlike deciding whether to invest in requirements.

The first option gives Amelia no apparent risk in that she invests no money of her own, and thus will probably steadily lose money over time. So "business as usual" appears not to be a good strategy for her.

If she chooses option 2, she has to borrow heavily and invest in the store and particularly in digital photography. The track record of other stores doing this seems good, and the market for a good, modern cam era store in this neighborhood is buoyant. Choosing this option, the next question for Amelia is how much to invest. She might plunge in heavily and turn the store into a complete digital imaging center, in which case the return on investment (ROI) will be longer term. Or invest just enough to make this a popular store for people looking for the latest piece of cool photographic technology. The lighter investment will see returns earlier, but the long-term gain will be less than if she makes the deeper investment.

Option 3 is bland. Amelia knows she will not make a lot of money from the store if she follows this route, but the investment amount is low and she feels good about being able to repay the loan.

Option 4 has a complete lack of risk. She invests nothing and gets nothing in return.

This is not a book about camera stores. It is about requirements and project success. However, Amelia's choices are concerned with investing in something to make it more valuable. Requirements are the same: You are investing in the requirements part of product development to end up with a more valuable product and get it less expensively. We aim to show you how investing in the requirements part of your project should be seen and treated the same as if you were investing in property, bonds, stock shares, or anything else that has the potential to give you a positive return on your investment.

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