Requirements Analysis (BABOK KA)

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Extreme Inspections are a low-cost, high-improvement way to assure specification quality, effectively teach good specification practice, and make informed decisions about the requirements specification process and its output, in any project. The method is not restricted to be used on requirements analysis related material; this article however is limited to requirements specification. It gives firsthand experience and hard data to support the above claim. Using an industry case study I conducted with one of my clients I will give information about the Extreme Inspection method - sufficient to understand what it is and why its use is almost mandatory, but not how to do it. I will also give evidence of its strengths and limitations, as well as recommendations for its use and other applications.

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Widely-accepted conventional requirements models continue to create creep—changes to settled requirements which are a major cause of project overruns. Business Analysts and others will continue to encounter such creep so long as they follow flawed models focusing on requirements of a product or system being created without adequately also discovering the REAL, business requirements the product must satisfy to provide value.

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With business analysis projects, as with all endeavors, you have to know where you are going before you can chart your course to get there. In other words, before you can decide whether to take a train, bus, or plane, what time of day you will travel, and what you will carry, you have to decide where you are going.

So it is with requirements. Before you can chart how you are going to implement a solution, everyone involved in the development effort must agree on why you need it to start with and that it is the very best solution available. Business requirements are fundamental to any development effort because they define where you are going by articulating the business problem and its solution—why it is needed and how to measure its success.

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The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® 2.0) is the definitive guide to the profession of business analysis. Every business analyst can profit from it, and few analysts can afford to be without it.

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Given the economic downturn, "cheaper, better, faster" seems to be a universal mantra in business. To stay competitive, organizations must continually strive to be more agile and develop higher-quality solutions more quickly-despite obstacles such as geographically distributed teams, limited budgets and resources, quick delivery times, language barriers and government regulations. These challenges require teams to consider new ways of doing business so they can be more responsive to frequent business changes.

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As the process of capturing and documenting business requirements matures, there is often a watershed moment when an organization must decide whether to perform traceability of requirements as part of that process. Most companies involved with a formal methodology for software development utilize some degree of traceability; but those not familiar with it could be put off by the overhead of requirements management (RM), of which traceability is a component. Therefore, it helps to understand some of the value aspects of instituting traceability.

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For almost every analyst, the day comes when you write a set of requirements that causes engineers to bemoan a recent development project that they just coded. "If only we'd known that you wanted to build this, we would have made the last project more flexible. Now we've hardcoded in changes that will take days to rebuild."

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In Part 1 of  this article, I talked about the new skills and attitudes business analysts need to bring to agile development... Now it's time to talk specifics. What exactly do BAs do in agile development? How will your activities differ from those of traditional development? Let's take a look at agile business analysis from the perspective of the activities that make up requirements development and management, comparing traditional with agile analysis.
 

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I am not sure if there are many other fields in corporate America that require the finesse necessary to execute the professional pushback as greatly as business analysis. Just by the shear nature of what analysts do, we are constantly uncovering inefficiencies and making recommendations for improvements or enhancements. Sometimes those recommendations are system-focused but they can also be people and process focused.

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If requirements management practices were songs entering a popularity contest, requirements validation would hardly be a favorite contender. It's easy to understand why: validation is usually a tedious, time consuming task, and, as with nearly every quality control activity, it is supposed to reveal defects, going against our natural desire of being right, not making mistakes, and singing in tune.

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No matter what requirements gathering process you subscribe to-waterfall, unified, or another approach-your discovery will be markedly easier if you can identify the right subject matter experts from the beginning. Whether they exist inside or outside your organization, people who intimately know your project's product or service, its actors, and its building tools will help you create more inclusive requirements, identify your unknowns, and grow in your own knowledge of the industry.

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Business analysts are at the sharp end of one of the great challenges of information technology – how to build the systems organizations need. At the same time, organizations are demanding more sophisticated systems – the “dumb” systems of yesteryear are no longer enough.

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Why has it been necessary to write so many different, book-length treatises about requirements management on software projects? Is it not possible to develop an approach to handling software requirements that is simple enough to express concisely -- and yet can work with large, complex projects as well as smaller efforts?

At the risk of using a word that disturbs many in the field of software engineering, requirements management is just a process. The more simply this process can be described, the more likely it will be to work in real software organizations. So rather than consider every possible nuance relating to managing software requirements, this article will attempt to express the essence of an approach that can work well on virtually any Agile software development project. In the appendix, I include a detailed example illustrating the key ideas.

Author: Theodore F. Rivera, Software Group Strategist, IBM

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It has been just over a year since I published my book, and that makes it easier for me to measure what has happened since then.

I have spent this year visiting many companies and discussing their business analysis function. In some cases, I have performed an assessment on the business analysts as well as the business analysis function within many large Corporates.

It has now got to the point where I could document the findings before I start the investigation. The reason for this is that the problems are the same. From articles and discussions from other countries it appears the problems are similar the world over. These are the problems I encounter most often:

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The ubiquity of software project failures – with failure defined as projects that fundamentally failed to meet business-sponsor expectations, missed scheduled completion dates, or exceeded budget – is a pronounced theme in any number of independent research reports on custom software development. The Standish Group, for example, cited that only 31% of projects delivered 100 percent of the expected value, were on-time, and on-budget and a report from the Aberdeen Group found 90 percent of projects came in late, of which 30 percent were simply cancelled before delivery.

Analysts and users alike cite inaccurate, incomplete and mismanaged requirements as the number one reason for software project failure. The Standish Group’s annual CHAOS report indicates three of the top five reasons for project failure are related to requirements. Requirement miscommunications is also the primary factor behind the prevalence of rework, which according to industry statistics, can add up to 40 percent of the total development effort within a given software project. A 2005 survey conducted by iRise and Decipher found that almost three-quarters (73%) of organizations budget for rework, thus, in effect, planning for failure. Moreover, almost one-third set aside more than 25% in their budgets for these change orders, money that could be funneled directly into innovation rather than re-doing work that should have been com¬pleted the first time.

Ultimately, rework costs companies the ability to get to market quickly and saps competitive advantage; while companies are busy fixing applications, their competitors are busy capturing market share.

The solution to these costly, frustrating problems is the creation of accurate requirements before development even begins. By allowing the business analyst to col¬laborate with stakeholders, users, architects, user expe¬rience designers and developers early on in the development process, all parties are involved in the definition of the product and all parties know what will be built long before a single line of code is written.

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