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Easing pain of agile requirements with forward-looking technology

By July 19, 2016Article

As agile development methodology continues to gain ground, some organizations may express concern over adopting this framework or frustration over agile requirement processes. Fortunately, the technology needed to support these requirements has made great strides recently. Today’s requirements tools enable the visualization, collaboration, management analytics and reuse that organizations need. 

In order for organizations to scale agile successfully and reap its benefits, they need a modern agile requirements tool to bridge the gap between business and IT. Here are four reasons you need one now. Not only will it help you mature agile and reinforce processes already in place, but it also will improve project success regardless of the methodology in use. 

1. Greater efficiency of interactions 

Many voices must be heard when creating an application, each with a particular viewpoint and agenda, and it can be tough to get them all in a room together. Requirements tools help agile teams leverage those stakeholders’ input without burdening them. They can help teams: 

  • Overcome the Business Requirements Document (BRD) bottleneck. A technology platform enables business analysts to simplify the requirements review process for busy stakeholders by sending them only the chunks of requirements they care about. Stakeholders can provide input and collaborate easily online using threaded discussions and email-driven conversations. Even stakeholders that aren’t agile-aware can quickly and easily provide the input business analysts and development teams need without having to wade through an all-encompassing BRD. 
  • Turn requirements into user stories automatically. Using process models, business analysts can automatically generate user stories and their acceptance criteria and push them into the development team’s agile management tool. Instead of creating these artifacts manually, developers and testers get the information they need fast, and they know it’s accurate. They also have access to related requirements information such as regulatory information, visual models and constraints to provide a comprehensive understanding. 
  • Create the right ratio of business/technical collaboration. Business stakeholders can interact with development teams without having to participate in daily stand-up meetings or be overwhelmed by technical information. Business analysts and product owners can drive the communication between the two groups to make the best use of business stakeholders’ time, tracking interactions and input. 

2. Empowered collaboration 

Thirty-seven percent of all organizations reported inaccurate requirements as the primary reason for project failure, according to PMI ’s Pulse of the Profession® report. Thus, healthy collaboration is critical to improving requirements quality. Modern requirements tools help by enabling teams to: 

  • Collaborate while using preferred tools. Business analysts should be able to easily share requirements artifacts with business and technical stakeholders. They should have capacity to send requirements to business stakeholders online for review and receive input via threaded discussions and email conversations. Business and technical stakeholders will benefit from working with requirements in their own toolsets while having clickable access to related artifacts such as regulatory information, visual models and business rules that help them understand the big picture. 
  • Make and improve visual models to supplement textual requirements. In enterprise agile, user stories aren’t enough. Business analysts and business partners can easily create visual models such as use cases, process models, customer journey models and screen mock-ups. These models, with the right tool in place, can be used to automatically generate consistent and high-quality user stories, so user stories are the result of collaboration instead of a source of conflict. 
  • Conduct impactful analysis. Best-in-class requirements tools provide the robust, end-to-end, precise traceability teams need to analyze and fully understand their complex business and technology environments. Stakeholders can collaboratively walk through scenarios to make better decisions based on a clear understanding of tradeoffs and risk. 

3. Reduction of rework and accelerated requirements definition 

Requirements quality may suffer when development runs at the speed of agile. Take these steps to mitigate that risk and help teams deliver better requirements faster: 

  • Provide a centralized repository. Without a platform, teams define and manage requirements in silos. They can’t leverage work done by other teams because they don’t have an effective way of sharing them. A centralized requirements repository enables teams to reuse existing requirements artifacts, including visual models, user stories and business rules, accelerating requirements development and saving organizations money. 
  • Redefine critical nonfunctional requirements. Nonfunctional requirements, like those for security, performance and compliance, define the quality attributes of a solution. A list of predefined categories helps business analysts think about elicitation questions in buckets, and the lists of predefined questions within each category speed up interview design and improve requirements coverage. 
  • Use visualization and precise traceability to reduce rework. Visual models provide cues that are key to analyzing information more effectively. Individually, they allow stakeholders to view a requirement from different perspectives and at varying levels of detail. Their power is multiplied when they are linked to one another, so stakeholders can analyze them collectively to understand relationships between requirements and other artifacts. Visual models and the ability to establish precise traceability among them helps teams ensure full requirements and test case coverage. 
  • Implement the best practice of reuse to reduce rework. Many requirements such as those for regulatory compliance, security and performance can be reused. With the right tool, organizations can develop a high-quality, authoritative source of complete and accurate information for these standard requirements. Access to pre-defined requirements artifacts, including user stories, visual models, business rules and other artifacts, speeds up delivery processes while maintaining quality. Requirements reuse improves standardization, governance and adoption, while reducing duplication of efforts. 

4. Knowledge continuity and agile transition 

To maintain control, large organizations need enterprise-class solutions. Best-of-breed agile requirements solutions help by: 

  • Amassing a library of valuable requirements documentation. When teams use a Word-based BRD that ends up on a shared drive, organizations lose valuable information. Instead, requirements solutions store requirements information in a centralized database for refinement and reuse over time. Ultimately, these requirements document your enterprise systems in a way that is almost impossible to do without a platform. 
  • Supporting requirements during the transition to agile. A robust solution’s capabilities shine whether teams follow waterfall, agile, a hybrid methodology or any of the newer “enterprise agile” frameworks like Spotify, LeSS, DAD and SAFe. Organizations can leverage best-of-breed visualization, traceability, reuse and requirements accelerators features across teams and projects. Any requirements artifact can be leveraged on any project, following any methodology. 

Update to collaborate 

Some enterprises are committed to agile processes but have yet to enjoy its full benefits. Others are considering making the transition to agile but are concerned about how to do so efficiently. While it’s important to get all stakeholders on board and on the same page, perhaps the most significant thing you can do to ensure success when working with agile methodology is to implement a modern requirements tool that offers next-generation collaboration capabilities. 

Ruth Zive is vice president of marketing at Blueprint Software, providing enterprise-class solutions for agile transition and agile requirements management. She is a metrics-driven marketing strategist who has worked for two decades serving B2B clients in the technology, healthcare and financial services industries. At Blueprint, Ruth is responsible for product marketing, analyst relations, branding, demand generation and inside sales initiatives. Follow her on Twitter.










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