March 5, 2020

Critical Aspects of Agile Requirements modeling

In this article, we will look at what agile requirements modeling is, its importance and various functions, as well as the application of such systems.

In IT projects, there are many instances when developers misinterpret software requirements due to the lack of efficient briefing and communication. This leads to discrepancies in the software that is being built.

To mitigate this risk, teams and individuals are adopting a more detailed visualization process to ensure that the project’s requirements are marked clearly. When working on agile projects, having this understanding is essential.

We’ve previously covered getting requirements management right in agile projects, but what we haven’t analyzed are the critical aspects that go into a successful development.

What are Agile Requirements modeling?

The basic idea of agile requirements modeling is to create a foundation for your project’s specifications for higher-level understanding. This is done in the beginning stages with details being added as you need them on a just-in-time basis.

To fully understand what this model is, it’s important to look at agile software development too. This is the process of developing software where requirements and solutions are constantly evolving through a collaborative effort. With the use of self-organizing and cross-functional teams, customer and stakeholder specifications are always met.

By underpinning the project’s requirements at the beginning of the software build, it is easy to identify the critical aspects. This approach is generally extremely iterative and collaborative while remaining flexible to address the risks of the project. As a result, a collection of values, principles, and practices are established for the development of a model to ensure that builders and inputs remain on track.

The best way to understand this process is to look at its main goals. Agile requirements modeling is designed to support the goals of software development and aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Establish the best practices for an effective model
  • Outline the ways to put those practices into place
  • Display alternatives to improve the modeling approach

Types of Requirements:

There are two categories that agile requirements modeling can be divided into. The distinction between the two is important to establish as they distinguish the technicalities of a project from the user interactions. Although differentiating these categories isn’t essential, it can establish a clearer outline of key components for your project.

These two categories are:

  1. Behavioral: This form of requirement refers to any user interface issues, usage, and business rules. This can also be seen as the functional requirements of a project.
  2. Non-behavioral: On the technical side, non-behavioral looks at a system’s features relating to availability, security, performance, interoperability, dependability, and reliability. In other words, these are the non-functional requirements.

Why is it important?

For a rapid and continuous delivery of your software, agile requirements modeling is a crucial component. Although this model won’t provide development teams with a succinct solution, it will act as a guide for the final product. As a result, a deeper understanding of what is being developed will be gained.

Not only is this beneficial for the software builder but it will also open up communication for any client concerns. Stakeholders and clients can examine the plan and provide input on necessary changes to ensure that the end goal meets their specifications. The rapid feedback encouraged in the beginning and throughout the process lessens the risk of roadblocks along the way.

Furthermore, agile requirements modeling can be a vital element to a project’s success, especially in circumstances where new team members are anticipated. This will give them a quick snapshot of what the project is, its end goals, and the prioritization of the iterations of the system.

Lastly, this process can assist teams in managing their time better by eliminating the need for lengthy specification documentations. Traditionally, software builds require thorough documentation to be put in place. This doesn’t just take up time but it can quickly become outdated with the change of requirements and system updates.

Applying Agile Requirements Modeling Principles

The future of your agile project relies heavily on several factors. As any developer already knows, anything could happen, from client changes to user-need adaptations, that can turn the project’s success into failure.

Without a clear plan or project outline, a system can quickly become confused by varying stories and goals. However, agile requirements modeling prevents this from happening and ensures that the same goal is communicated at all times.

With this in mind, when it comes to agile modeling, getting the key principles right is crucial. Although this isn’t a rigid procedure, keeping these practices at the foundation of your work will steer your project towards a more streamlined process.

These principles include: 

  • Outlining how the software is your primary goal
  • Establishing the next effort as your secondary goal
  •  Remaining agile by focusing only on the models required
  •  Assuming simplicity
  •  Embracing change
  •  Modeling with purpose
  •  Creating multiple models
  •  Producing quality work
  • Maximizing stakeholder investment

The key benefits of this modeling form are based on the corporation of the above principles. Agile modeling is a synergistic approach to development that requires all of these practices to be utilized. Leaving one out can open up the project to becoming less effective.

The reason for this is that software is complex and it needs to be analyzed from various standpoints. For example, you will need to model the system based on the user’s perspective and the business’s functions. After all, the program needs to work for both parties without any communication issues between the two. As a result, the system has to be fully understood from all perspectives and requires multiple models to accommodate any potential issues.

The scope of a project may not be defined by a single term or goal, but it will become an adaptive system to assist in keeping everything on schedule. Through the collaboration of the aforementioned principles and team efforts, projects can remain flexible to help develop models that only apply to your project.

Critical Aspects of Agile Requirements modeling

There are several modeling-orientated aspects of agile requirements modeling. Depending on your point of view and understanding of agile modeling, effective practices will differ. However, the following factors make up the key components of this method of project management and planning. The end goal is to gain a better understanding of the requirements at hand and develop a clear plan of action.

Some schools of thought separate these critical aspects into two categories high-level models and models in iterations. High-level models provide teams with a quick picture of the project’s breadth. This is a broader approach to the project where teams can quickly determine where to dive in.

High-level models include:

  • Context diagrams – a diagram that sets the landscape of the project and clearly defines the scope of boundaries.
  • Org chart – an organization will more than likely already have this model in place. Using it can help teams quickly identify the stakeholders and users that need to be included in the project’s discussions. It will also determine where the focus of the project should follow.
  • Data flow diagram – a quick sketch of the key data pieces that flow throughout the system. This includes where it’s created, changed, and deleted.
  • Process flow – an outline of the major steps needed for the project. This is simply a sketch or outline to guide the project and is in no way a complex diagram.

The second form of modeling is models in iterations. Once the first iteration’s work has been prioritized, teams can dive into the user interface by using two tools.

  • User stories – a succinct detailing of the different use cases to establish important parts of the flow. Here teams can get a better understanding of who the project is for and how it can help them.
  • Wireframes – a quick modeling tool that connects high-risk user stories. This will aid in sketching an interface to help users explain their needs and functions.

Other core practices include active stakeholder participation, using inclusive models that encourage participation, and reminders that the goal is to define the requirements, not document them.

Going through this process isn’t to establish concrete spec documentation but rather an overall plan. At the beginning of an agile project, we recommend investing time to identify the scope of the project and then create a prioritized stack of requirements. It’s best to keep this approach streamlined and simple.

Taking a Just in Time (JIT) approach to agile requirements modeling is advisable too. Through model-storming, you will be able to explore details behind a requirement and think through potential design flaws.

Embracing change is a key component to a successful agile model and requirements are more than likely to vary before deployment. Luckily, a JIT approach takes an evolutionary and incremental look at the development to ensure that you will be working on requirements before coming to the final solution.


When it comes to agile requirements modeling, there will be other models that will help create visual representations of the project. It’s important to remember that at the core of this process, the goal is to create an adaptive understanding of the brief’s requirements and remain flexible throughout.

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