Why requirements engineering is the central part of the software development process

Introduction 

Getting the requirements right is the first step of getting the software right. If there is an error in the requirements phase, there are higher chances of error in the software development phase. That is why requirements engineering is crucial to lead to a quality product.  

But, what is requirements engineering? Why is it important for any software development project? Who is responsible for it? We will answer all these questions in the below article: 

What is Requirements Engineering?

Requirements engineering is defined as the process of outlining, recording, and managing the requirements. In this, you gather the information on expected features in software and define them clearly. It states what the software system will do after the development.

In this process, you understand the needs and desires of all the stakeholders. Then, you collate all of them to prepare a set of requirements for the software. This set of requirements serves as the base for developers to prepare and compare the solution at the end.

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What are the components of Requirements Engineering?

Requirements engineering is a combination of four key activities:

Requirements elicitation

This is the step of interacting with stakeholders and trying to understand their business needs. You aim to identify the objectives of the project that will define the software capabilities. You collect these requirements from end-users, customers, and any other relevant stakeholders.

You can conduct a requirements elicitation process through brainstorming, use case approach, workshops, interviews, etc. These methods allow you to understand the perspective of all stakeholders. The understanding gained in this step serves as an input to the next stage.

Requirements specification

The input from the requirements elicitation stage allows you to specify the requirements clearly. This process of preparation of formal software requirement models is called requirements specification. We include functional and non-functional needs of the software along with the limitations of the project.  

You can use models such as flow diagrams, data dictionaries, graphical notations, and many more. It must be in a format that is understandable to your stakeholders as well as the developing team. Ensure that you specify the requirements clearly, correctly, and completely.  

Requirements verification and validation 

Requirements verification means to ensure that the developed software fulfills the requirements. Requirements validation means ensuring that the end-users’ expectations are met. These are the ways of checking the quality of the software.  

This step is necessary to guarantee that the development of software aligns with the stakeholder requirements. This step removes any errors in requirements by discussing and negotiating with stakeholders. If not done correctly, it might lead to rework or several adjustments later on in the software development process.  

You must ensure to check whether the requirements: 

  • Are complete 
  • Are achievable in the practical sense 
  • Are consistent with other requirements 

Requirements management

Managing requirements means managing any changes in the requirements of the software. When you receive changes from stakeholders, you must list them and make sure that changes are done. You must control the entire process of making those changes effective.

Thus, for every suggested change, you need to analyze whether it is relevant for the software or not. You must prioritize these changes, get an agreement, and supervise the change-making process. All of these steps ensure that the software is relevant to industry trends and business needs.

Requirements verification and validation 

You must do requirements engineering for any software development process. The development team will refer to this document while developing the application. It is also used in the future for reference purposes or maintenance services.  

Requirements engineering is important because: 

  • It translates the rough ideas of software in stakeholders’ minds to clear, complete, and precise specifications for the project 
  • With a requirements engineering document, you get a formal contract between developers and stakeholders that defines the project 
  • With a clear, complete, and correct set of requirements, the chances of making software errors reduce 
  • The process of requirements engineering involves discussion and negotiation between stakeholders, thereby aligning their thoughts 
  • With requirements engineering, it is easier to compare the final software with the requirements document to check the success of the project 
  • After doing the requirements engineering, you get to know if it is feasible to develop the product or not 
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Who is responsible for doing requirements engineering? 

The responsibility of requirements engineering lies with the team/individual managing the software development. If an individual manager does it, the time taken is more but less collaboration and communication are required. If a team manages it, you can expect faster and quality work but chances of miscommunication are high.  

Choosing between a team and an individual may also be dependent on the project type. If the project is a simple one with less complicated requirements, one man is okay. But, if the software is a big investment expected to bring a huge transformation, having a team is better.  

A solo manager 

Requirements engineering is not an easy job. With all the sub-steps required in all four activities, it is a humongous task. This means that you will take a lot of time to complete it. So, beware of the delays that this process may cause because you will be responsible for handling everything.  

Another problem with a solo person would be that not all the possible requirements would be elicited. This is because an individual may miss some of the ideas or thoughts regarding the software. With zero people to interact with, your approach to the software will be based on a unidirectional viewpoint.  

But, you can have the best knowledge of the software by hiring the best person for this job. Thus, there will be no confusion in the document going to different hands for review and editing. Thus, you save more time in this case.  

A project team

A senior manager with a project team consisting of developers, testers, and engineers would work the best. This will help you to get more viewpoints on requirements because of team participation. You can conduct brainstorming sessions and discussions to gather ideas regarding the software.

This will lead to more innovation, more creative thinking, and more negotiation. As a result, the final requirements turn out to be of high quality and complete with no conflicts between them. A well-rounded set of requirements helps you articulate the goals of the project clearly.

With all the team participation and discussions, the best part is that you do not miss any requirements. But, there is a chance of miscommunication when team members are located in different cities. There is also a chance of loss of the message context in between several discussions. All these lead to a delay in the process.

But, you are at least guaranteed a quality output based on many members’ expertise and experience. Also, the collaboration between them leads to a 360-degree improvement in software features and functionalities. Thus, these team members ensure the alignment of project objectives with business goals.

Final thoughts

With all these insights, you must be ready for conducting the requirements engineering of your projects. Be careful not to miss any of the components. Understand the objectives of the product and allocate the right individual or team members to go ahead with it.

If you still are not confident about it, hire an expert IT consultant to execute this part. Technovisors, a leading IT consultant in Ahmedabad, India, has the relevant expertise to help you with requirements engineering. We have handled similar work for various clients in different industry sectors.

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FAQs

Limitations can be of any kind – people, organizational procedures, budget, etc. For example, you do not have people with relevant skills for your project. Or, the budget is not enough to pay the number of team members required for the project. Or, there are strict restrictions on conducting interviews with end-users, because of which you do not get their viewpoint on the software. There can be many other factors inhibiting the software development project. 

Some of the common mistakes that can occur in the requirements engineering process are: 

  • You are not able to identify the right stakeholders for the project 
  • You do not include end-users’ desires and needs related to the software 
  • You overdo with the scope of requirements by adding several small features that do not add much value 

About the Author

Pathik Shah

(CISA, FCA, CS, DISA (ICAI), FAFP (ICAI))

Pathik is a multi-disciplinary professional with more than 22 years of experience in compliance, risk management, accounting, system audits, IT consultancy, and digital marketing. He has extensive knowledge of Anti-Money Laundering rules and regulations, and he helps companies comply with legal requirements. Pathik also helps companies generate value from their IT investments.