Critical challenges and the best solutions in defining software requirements
Building a custom software solution is a complex undertaking, and there is plenty of room to make mistakes that can hurt your bottom line. Or even worse, doom your project from the get-go. However, you can drastically reduce this risk by correctly describing what the software needs to do. So, let’s look at the critical challenges and solutions in defining software requirements.
What does defining software requirements mean?
When we define software requirements, we elicit from the customer what he wants the software solution to do and then translate those needs into technical terms that the software development team can understand and put into code. Usually, these tasks are done by a Business Analyst or a Business Analysis team depending on the complexity of the project.
Why are software requirements essential?
Software requirements provide all those involved in the project with the features/functionalities that the solution should include and how they need to work. Moreover, they are also used as a starting point for software testing activities and as one of the main criteria for the customer accepting the software solution.
Think of it as hiring a designer for your house. You first meet so they understand the style you want, and then you have a lot of back and forth where you nail down what each room should look like. Or, for those of a more foodie persuasion, it’s like ordering shawarma and, more specifically, the process of deciding what you want in it and how much😊.
Now that we’ve shed some light on software requirements and why they are essential, let’s move away from the design and fast-food analogies and look at the critical challenges and solutions in defining them.
Make sure that the list of stakeholders that need to be involved in the project accurately represents all parties involved. Sometimes, the person you had initial contact with is not necessarily one of your primary stakeholders. Don’t skip or fast forward through this stage because you risk, at best, losing valuable insights and, at worst, having to redo some of the software’s functionalities.
Do stakeholder mapping, and take the time to meet with key people from the client’s side to make sure you put together a list of everyone who needs to be consulted. Afterward, keep them in the loop throughout the project’s entire lifecycle. People change, business needs change, and the requirements will probably also need to be modified at some point. Be prepared to have regular meetings with all parties involved.
Handling change requests
Requirements being modified after the first phase of the project is not an uncommon issue in software development. Sometimes changes in the market in which the business operates require a reshaping of the software functions. Other times as the MVP is rolled out, clients have a better idea of how it looks and realize that some alterations are in order.
That is why you need to have a system in place to deal with these situations – and make sure the client is aware of it. Change requests must be received, analyzed, included, and communicated to the development team and the stakeholders. And the plan needs to be updated accordingly.
It is also imperative that you set up a point where change requests are frozen or no longer accepted – such as when a particular phase of the project reaches a certain level of completion.
Have an iterative approach to requirements
Most software development projects rely on an iterative approach such as Scrum or XP. This same philosophy needs to be applied to requirements gathering. The development team doesn’t need to wait for the requirements phase to be finished to get started. Requirements can also be gathered iteratively based on business priorities and given to the development team. This needs to be synced with the release schedule that the team has.
An iterative approach reduces the risk of incorrect requirements because it’s easier for people to get a better view of a software system once you have a basic working one. Plus, you also improve the quality of requirements later on as the feedback from retrospectives gets back to the business analysis team.
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