Agile processes have transformed how organisations develop and deliver applications. As with any such process, it’s a group effort, which can lead to missed requirements. Fortunately, technology exists today to support agile requirements, including visualisation, collaboration, management analytics, and reuse. In addition, modern requirements tools facilitate a high level of collaboration and alignment between business and IT to ensure success.
A modern Agile requirements tool bridges the gap between business and IT, enabling organisations to scale Agile successfully and reap its benefits. Here are four reasons you need one now. Not only will it help you mature Agile and reinforce processes already in place, but it will improve project success regardless of the methodology in use.
1. Breakthrough collaboration
PMI ’s Pulse of the Profession® (2014) found that 37 per cent of all organisations reported inaccurate requirements as the primary reason for project failure. Thus, healthy collaboration is critical to improving requirements quality. Modern requirements tools help by enabling teams to:
Collaboratively create and refine visual models to augment textual requirements
In Enterprise Agile, user stories aren’t enough. Business analysts and business partners can easily create visual models, like use cases, process models, customer journey models and screen mock-ups. These models, with the right tool in place, can be used to automatically generate consistent and high quality user stories, so user stories are the result of collaboration instead of a source of conflict.
Work in their chosen toolsets while collaborating effectively
Business analysts should be able to easily share requirements artifacts with business and technical stakeholders. They should have capacity to send requirements to business stakeholders online for review and receive input via threaded discussions and e-mail conversations. Business and technical stakeholders will benefit from working with requirements in their own toolsets, while having clickable access to related artifacts, like regulatory information, visual models, and business rules that help them understand the big picture.
Perform powerful, collaborative analysis
Some requirements tools today provide the robust, end-to-end, precise traceability teams need to analyse and fully understand their complex business and technology environments. Stakeholders can collaboratively walk through scenarios to make better decisions based on a clear understanding of tradeoffs and risk.
2. Efficient interactions with business and technical stakeholders
There are numerous business stakeholders with limited availability, varied preferences, and differing concerns. Requirements tools help Agile teams leverage those stakeholders’ input without burdening them. They can help teams:
Move away from the bottleneck created by the Business Requirements Document (BRD)
A technology platform enables business analysts to simplify the requirements review process for busy stakeholders by sending them only the chunks of requirements they care about. Stakeholders can provide input and collaborate easily online using threaded discussions and email-driven conversations. Even stakeholders who aren’t Agile-aware can quickly and easily provide the input business analysts and development teams need without having to wade through an all-encompassing BRD.
Automatically generating user stories from requirements
Business analysts can use process models to automatically generate user stories and their acceptance criteria and push them into the development team’s Agile management tool. Instead of creating these artifacts manually, developers and testers get the information they need fast, and they know it’s accurate. They also have access to related requirements information, like regulatory information, visual models and constraints, to provide a comprehensive understanding.
Support the right level of collaboration between business and technical teams
Business stakeholders can interact with development teams without having to participate in daily stand-up meetings or be overwhelmed by technical information. Business analysts and product owners can drive the communication between the two groups to make the best use of business stakeholders’ time, tracking interactions, and input.
3. Accelerated requirements definition and reduced rework
Agile’s focus on speed has the potential to compromise requirements quality. Mitigate that risk and help teams deliver better requirements faster by:
Eliminating duplication of efforts across projects
Without a platform, teams define and manage requirements in silos. They can’t leverage work done by other teams, because they don’t have an effective way of sharing them. A centralised requirements repository enables teams to reuse existing requirements artifacts, including visual models, user stories, and business rules, accelerating requirements development and saving organisations money.
Reducing rework through visualisation and precise traceability
Visual models provide cues that are key to analysing information more effectively. Individually, they allow stakeholders to view a requirement from different perspectives and at varying levels of detail. Their power is multiplied when they are linked to one another, so stakeholders can analyse them collectively to understand relationships between requirements and other artifacts. Visual models and the ability to establish precise traceability among them helps teams ensure full requirements and test case coverage.
Reducing rework through the best practice of reuse
Many requirements, like those for regulatory compliance, security, and performance, can be reused. With the right tool, organisations can develop a high quality, authoritative source of complete and accurate information for these standard requirements. Access to predefined requirements artifacts, including user stories, visual models, business rules, and other artifacts, speeds up delivery processes while maintaining quality. Requirements reuse improves standardisation, governance and adoption, while reducing duplication of efforts.
Simplifying the definition of critical nonfunctional requirements
Nonfunctional requirements, like those for security, performance and compliance, define the quality attributes of a solution. A list of predefined categories helps business analysts think about elicitation questions in buckets, and the lists of predefined questions within each category speed up interview design and improve requirements coverage.
4. Agile transition and longevity
Enterprises require enterprise-class solutions to maintain control. Best-of-breed Agile requirements solutions help by:
Supporting requirements while an organisation transitions to Agile
A robust solution’s capabilities shine whether teams follow Waterfall, Agile, a hybrid methodology or embrace any of the newer 'enterprise Agile' frameworks, like Spotify, LeSS, DAD, and SAFe. Organisations can leverage best-of-breed visualisation, traceability, reuse and requirements accelerators features across teams and projects. Any requirements artifact can be used on any project, following any methodology.
Building up a long-lived repository of valuable requirements documentation
When teams use a Word-based BRD that ends up on a shared drive, organisations lose valuable information. Instead, requirements solutions store information in a centralised database for easy access, refinement, and reuse over time. Ultimately, these requirements document your enterprise systems in a continuous and dynamic way that is almost impossible to do without a platform.
Make the connection
If you’ve seen some Agile success but have been unable to scale your Agile practices, you need to understand why. You may think your biggest challenges are related to roles, skills and processes, but don’t underestimate the importance and benefits of connecting the entire team — business and IT — through the right technology.
Ruth Zive, Vice President of Marketing, Blueprint Software
Image Credit: Mclek / Shutterstock