REFSQ – Requirements Engineering: Foundation for Software Quality

Earlier this month, I attended REFSQ conference in Essen, Germany. For me, this always feels a bit like coming home. Not only was I born no more than 50km away from the conference location that has hosted REFSQ for as long as I can think back, but also REFSQ has been one of the primary venues to present my research and get inspired about new directions to take. I agree with Kurt and Samuel that the unique spirit of this conference can best be summarized with Daniela Damian’s quote on the REFSQ homepage:

I heard it first at REFSQ!

In this post, I summarize what I heard this year at REFSQ (Agile and RE, RE for Self-Adaptive Systems, RE and Games, RE and socio-technical systems), express my excitement about next year‘s edition chaired by Kurt Schneider and Samuel Fricker (it will be awesome, don’t forget to submit posters!) and share some news about what will probably affect me personally most: In 2016 Richard Berntsson Sventsson, Michel Chaudron, and myself will be hosting REFSQ in Gothenburg!

This year, REFSQ celebrated its 20th birthday

This year, REFSQ celebrated its 20th birthday

What I heard this year

Games and RE: There was a great keynote by Catherine Rolland: Do not fear the Plumber. Serious games and gamification can have a huge effect, if it is possible to link the gamification concepts with business goals. Apparently, there is not only potential in supporting RE with gamification and serious games, but also in applying RE for making success or failure of games more predictable.

In addition, we learned from Andrey Maglyas about the relationship of gaming industry and requirements engineering. The takeaway is that Gaming Industry applies RE rather implicitly through prototyping. A more structured approach to RE would help managing rapid requirements changes and enable interdisciplinary work.

Agile and RE (the industry day): The industry day at REFSQ is always a great event. This is due to the following ingredients:

  • Awesome keynotes (i.e. Joy Beatty: Stop Thinking About Requirements Quality, Focus on Value and Sarah C. Gregory (Intel, USA): How Common is Common Enough? Finding a Balance between Dogma and Corruption in Requirements Engineering Practice).
  • Excellent industry talks on lean RE, wide-audience RE, Value-based RE, agile vs. documentation, lightweight approaches and many more.
  • Very good discussions, driven by the good mixture of industry representatives and academics.

For me, incorporating agile principles into requirements engineering was the overarching theme, but that is of course subject to my personal bias.

RE for Self-Adaptive Systems: One of the new developments at REFSQ this year was the strong presence of works around RE for Self-Adaptive Systems. Apparently, I missed a very intense discussion in a parallel session on this topic, but the practice at REFSQ to summarize talks and discussions of parallel sessions in the closing sessions helped a lot to stay in the loop.

RE and socio-technical systems: Another discussion I missed was on digital addiction, but from what I heard, this might be a very interesting upcoming topic. Different stakeholders have of course different perspectives and a provider of a social software system would of course frame the ability of the software to glue users to their platform as something desirable. There were suggestions to give this concept a less negative name and define it as a quality property. But there were other presentations as well that focused on human aspects, e.g. on enabling teams with smart tools.

Next show: REFSQ 2015

During the conference dinner, Kurt and Sam advertised REFSQ ’15 with a game around the REFSQ theme “I heard it first at REFSQ”. They presented a hype curve with four phases (new concept, early adoption, broad application, and declining in use) and asked all participants to write topics and the hype-curve phase on paper slips. For each phase, the topic with the most votes was determined and the person that guessed the most of these topics right won the game. Fun results included that goal-driven RE was seen in all four phases of the hype curve. Also, researchers thought that RE and self-adaptive was the strongest new concept, while industry ranked RE and Agile higher.

Important dates:

  • Submission deadline of scientific papers: 2014-10-03 (Abstracts), 2014-10-10 (Scientific papers)
  • Conference: 2015-03-23 to 2015-03-26

Outlook: REFSQ 2016

REFSQ has been successful in Essen for a very long time now and I am very proud that Gothenburg is the first station of this wonderful conference after this epoch. I think that this is an excellent match, as both REFSQ and the software engineering community in Gothenburg value a intense interaction of industry and academia as well as the ambition to stay on top of the field. I will certainly publish updates on how the preparation for this event are going on this blog. To make up for the waiting time for those updates I am closing this post with a few impressions on what awaits the REFSQ community in Gothenburg in 2016:

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