Patterns of Requirements Clarification in Software Projects
For ages, requirements engineering research focused on creating good documentation. This focus seems to contradict observations that can be made in everyday software projects:
- Even perfect documentation needs to be read (and interpreted) by team members in order to establish a shared understanding of the requirements in the team, let alone the speed at which it gets obsolete.
- Quite a few organizations do very well without comprehensive requirements documentation – especially in the field of agile software development.
- Team members do in fact have extensive knowledge of the requirements and they often communicate it through informal or online discussions, as well as in project artifact repositories.
In a recent study of the project repository data in the large and distributed IBM RTC project, we studied online requirements-related communication and were able to identify 6 reoccurring patterns in these discussions (see Figure 1). Some of these patterns can be indicative of problematic requirements and thus useful to managers in diagnosing the health of the requirements development in their project.
We offer to discuss these patterns and facilitate a discussion of the usefulness of such analysis in other projects that are similar (or not) to the IBM RTC project. In a collaboration, we could in particular investigate where requirements-related communication appears and how this knowledge helps to identify risks.
Further information about this project
I gave talks on this topic at CSER’12 Spring meeting and VIATeC Software Management Roundtable. Both presentations lead to great discussions, wonderful feedback, and ongoing collaborations in this exciting field. Also, we published (or are about to publish) the following scientific papers on this topic.
- Eric Knauss and Daniela Damian. Patterns of Requirements related Communication. In Björn Regnell and Daniela Damian, editors, Proceedings of Requirements Engineering: Foundation for Software Quality (REFSQ’12), Empirical Fair, Essen, Germany, 2012. Poster
- Eric Knauss, Daniela Damian, Germán Poo-Caamaño, and Jane Cleland-Huang. Detecting and Classifying Patterns of Requirements Clarifications. Proceedings of 20th International Requirements Engineering Conference (RE’12), Chicago, Illinois, USA, 2012, to appear.
I am very excited about this research and looking forward for any feedback. Please do not hesitate to contact me for further discussion.
I thank the IBM RTC team members who provided clarifications on our dataset when needed. This work has profited from invaluable feedback. For this I thank the SEGAL Lab members, Cliff McCollum, and the participants of the VIATeC Software Management Roundtable.