February 11, 2020

Getting Requirements Management Right In Agile Projects

In this article, we will cover how you can ensure the success of agile projects through requirements management. By the end of it, you’ll have a firm understanding of the differences in types of products, what’s required from developing teams, and how to develop fully operational software applications.

Requirements management is vital for any project whether the development methodology used is agile or not. The success of a project greatly depends on how the project manager conducts the requirements specification process. However, this may seem easier said than done, especially with complex project requirements.

With the right approach to requirements management, developers and project teams will be more equipped to meet client expectations and user needs. This is the exact method that gave rise to agile and the reason for its growing popularity.

The Difference Between Agile and Traditional Projects

Traditionally, requirements are often written at the beginning of the project. With this, developers may run into a few issues as not everything is thought of at once. As a product evolves, its needs and definitions will become clear.

The key to agile applications is to not overthink the requirements but rather work through them as they become apparent. Due to this fact, requirements management is at the core of a successful agile project.

It’s essential to know the differences between agile and traditional approaches to client requirements. Most people involved in the process will tell you that the key point of difference surrounds the concept of planning. Some may argue that agile neglects planning altogether, whereas traditional methods are stricter in this regard.

However, this is a common misconception that leads many software leaders awry. Even though agile sees software development as a continuous process rather than one that requires comprehensive documentation, it does not dismiss this in its entirety. As an alternative, agile recommends using adaptive planning.

Agile further argues that lengthy documentation foundations can slow down an entire project and even hinder its result. Furthermore, through the changes in client preferences and consumer demands, the documentation may not even be used throughout the project build.

requirements in agile projectsWhy Does Requirements Management Matter In Agile Projects?

With a more solid understanding of the planning and documentation process in agile projects, it may be clear to see why requirements management is highly recommended. If the agile methodology is a driving force behind your development, tracking and analyzing changes is essential.

Requirements management is all about collecting, refining, and prioritizing product requirements, and using this data to plan for the build’s final delivery. The purpose of this is to ensure that the software meets the needs of both the customer and the stakeholders involved.

For this to work effectively, teams need to emphasize communication. As adjustments are made constantly through the course of a project, the team must define and record all of their actions. Failing to do so can lead to the derailment of the software and prevent a team or individual from serving their clients.

Best Practices for Managing Requirements in Agile Projects

With all that there is to juggle and complete in a project, whether working alone or in a team, having a set of practices to guide the developer/s can be a huge help. These strategies for requirements management will help guide the process and assist in producing a positive final product.

Collaborative Approach To Requirements Reviews

Collaboration is an integral part of an agile software build. As a result, there is a greater opportunity to transfer knowledge and ensure that all vital data points are exchanged. When people work together, teams see more contributions to a common goal rather than individuals trying to tackle the same goal on their own. Not only can this waste time, but it can also result in some major miscommunication.

Through collaborative reviews, requirements management can become clearer as firm goals are put into place. Reviewing the project as an ongoing process can help the team analyze and track important information without missing anything.

Collaboration can even go beyond the developing team. Without a finalized set of documentation, managers can guide the team through any stakeholder or client changes. This will ensure that the final consumer’s needs and user experience are always kept at the fore while adding value to the overall business.

To avoid any miscommunication or mistakes during the planning stage, allocating a team negotiator can be beneficial. The project manager or a senior team member who has a better grasp of the project’s structure can take on this role. The purpose of having a negotiator is to make sure that all requirements are fully understood by the team and that the project continues to move in the right direction.

Use Visualisation As A Planning Tool

When properly curating and managing requirements, using visual aids can make it a lot easier and faster for a team to understand. It can also put the information in an easy-to-grasp way. Often, using visuals over text can assist in faster decision generation. However, it should be noted that this tool is best used in combination with audio and text to avoid any miscommunication.

A useful visualization aid that can be used to manage requirements is mind mapping. Mind mapping is often the preferred method of analysis, especially in creative minds. A visual map is useful in team and stakeholder meetings to discuss client and project requirements, and it can help illustrate what the desired outcome is. The best part about this is that as the plans for the project change, so does the map’s flow.

Keep In Mind The Current State And Potential Future Gaps

A problem that we frequently see in agile projects is that future difficulties and gaps are not considered. Although the documentation process is constantly evolving, this does not mean that teams shouldn’t prepare their build for when troubles arise.

It’s understandable to see why the team would want to focus on documenting and tracking current progress. After all, these are the points that are working for the project and that will contribute to its eventual success. With that being said, the team leader should always take a plan of action into consideration.

Looking at requirements management in particular, an analysis of both the current and future state of the development always needs doing. This can help assess which issues the team is currently facing, how these can lead to future problems, and what solutions are available for the desired state of the project. Teams who follow this practice will find that their approach to agile project requirements management can help solve several questions and problems.

Track Requirements With Change Requests

One of the biggest benefits of working in an agile project environment is that it is adaptive to both user and client requirements. Ultimately, this alleviates major stresses around software development to match any changes. In contrast, a traditional project is less flexible to change. Whichever style you take, opting for change requests is vital for the correction of any requirements.

The reason that increasing numbers of developers are turning to agile projects is due to its ease in matching user needs and not anticipating the requirements too early on. Unfortunately, many run into the issue of having not thought out these requirements enough. As changes and modifications to requirements are constantly being made throughout the development process, errors may arise when these are not properly corrected or verified. Communication and a lack of collaboration are often to blame in such a situation.

To mitigate the risk of losing any requirements notifications, change requests can be extremely useful. This will notify the team of clear and precise clarifications. As a result, minimal time will be wasted. Again, this is where a negotiator can take the reins.

Stay Organised With Your Documentation Approach

Don’t let the idea of continual change be the reason that your team becomes unorganized. Even though documentation is finalized in the final stages, keeping track of the requirements will prevent any major breaks in the final software. Projects should be made up of the following:

  • Detailed tasks
  • Technical design
  • Business overview
  • User requirements
  • Stakeholder requirements

Having recorded and organized the points above, both the building team and clients will have a history to refer back to. Should any issues arise, this will help to track where things went wrong and where solutions can be implemented.

Final Thoughts

Even though an Agile approach to development requires a flexible stance, this doesn’t mean that it will result in disaster. Teams and/or individuals can easily stay on top of their client’s requirements and needs while meeting the demands of the application through organization and clear communication. With the right requirements management strategy, the first stage-finalized documentation can quickly become a thing of the past.

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