In this last post of the series, I will give you an overview of some basic concepts that are part of our own Requirements Management process at Polarion Software. This is not a process, it is just a bunch of hints that should help those people and companies who have no process in place. Try starting with these few practices (just as we ourselves did a few years ago) and then start building the best process in the world: yours.
Managing Requirements Your Way with Polarion
Are you unsure of which process is right for your organization? Is manual process a non-starter? Is an Agile process too light, and a formal process too heavy? The great thing about using Polarion is: you are free to design your own best practices for requirements management, and adopt a middle-weight balance that truly fits your organization.
This is in fact the path we have taken ourselves. With hundreds of stakeholders and half a million users, and a reputation for excellence to uphold, we take our requirements management process very seriously at Polarion. We have worked out a method that feels light and is easy to use, yet is secure, traceable, and cost effective. Let’s take a walk through some of the ways we (and you) can use Polarion to create a requirements process for your organization:
- Use Polarion’s Wiki in the elicitation phase to write up your thoughts in Wiki articles with links to ideas, mashups, meeting minutes – basically any piece of information that might help to round out your thinking and provide a clearer picture of the product under development. Quickly and easily circulate information to stakeholders, inviting them to participate and comment, adding their own thoughts to the process, as well as links to their own information sources.
- Use Polarion’s Wiki history to thoroughly track changes to articles and comments.
- Extract formal requirements artifacts from these informal discussions, by highlighting the discussions you want included, and clicking on the tool’s extract requirement button.
- Organize and group formal requirements into modules backed by explanatory wiki content, embedded acceptance criteria, and prioritization information.
- If you choose, start your elicitation process by reusing requirements from Polarion’s requirements library. This approach can be very valuable for organizations that must include requirements for regulatory compliance or have safety constraints that must be addressed in every product. And if you do reuse requirements from the library and the initial requirements change, you can be automatically informed of any updates, and with one click, transfer these changes over to your project.
- Use Polarion to define test cases as requirements are developed, and use powerful workflow to establish testing constraints on a requirement and to link requirements to test cases and plans.
Polarion Requirements can enable a very active discussion process, with broad participation from team members and stakeholders. In particular, you can establish permissions for stakeholders that allow them to monitor specific requirements where they have an interest. Polarion’s powerful workflow will email these stakeholders when the requirements change. Polarion also allows stakeholders to post and respond to comments in order to participate more actively in the requirements change process. For individuals who like the ability to hold a document in their hands, Polarion Requirements allows you to easily export requirements or selected requirements into a Word document for paper-based circulation. And if the reader has comments to share, they can use Polarion’s LiveDocs™ feature to submit content by simply uploading the changed document, then observe as the comments percolate through the project, and workflow takes over kicking off updates and notifications to stakeholders.
The Polarion requirements process allows for a more dynamic requirements approval process than available in other, more formal “waterfall-like” processes. Approvals can be handled incrementally, as requirements are discussed, refined, changed and discussed again. For organizations that prefer or require a more formal process, Polarion’s workflow can set a requirement’s approval stage to “awaiting approval.” For organizations with more agile methods, new stakeholders can be invited to participate in the process without permanently altering the established workflow. Polarion can easily break apart requirements for individual approval, or a URL pointer to the entire document can be sent to a stakeholder for approval. This allows the stakeholder to access the requirement(s) in one click through a Web browser, approving and commenting on requirements as they appear directly on the screen. Should a requirement fail to pass the verification stage, it can be easily reopened as a task for developers, and development team members are immediately notified via Polarion’s email-based workflow that the requirement has been reassigned for additional work.
Polarion’s verification stage actively involves QA professionals into the requirements process, giving them all the information and context they need to ensure the product meets the needs of the business. Polarion directly links requirements to artifacts such as wiki discussions, mashups, UML diagrams and other background details gathered during the earlier phases of the process, as well as any test plans or test cases that have been created alongside requirements.
The transparency afforded stakeholders in the Polarion requirements process completely facilitates approval. As stakeholders are given the opportunity to participate at each stage, comment on change, and have total visibility into the impact of change, the final deliverable should come as no surprise and meet the expectations of the business.
Unlike formal requirements processes, where change is very difficult to absorb, and often comes too late in the game, change is a natural part of the Polarion requirements process and can be completely tracked and versioned. When changes are made to a requirement or to a requirements document, Polarion also offers powerful impact analysis capabilities so that team members and stakeholders have a clear understanding of the ripple effect of change across project schedules, timelines, costs and resourcing. Team members are immediately notified of approved changes, and understand the risk/benefit, schedule and cost impacts.
Four Reasons to Try Polarion Requirements
- Easy to use – you don’t need to be an expert in requirements engineering to try and use this tool. Stakeholders never have to leave their familiar environments and can continue to use Word, Excel, and email, and can connect to requirements through a Web browser. There’s nothing to install, no learning curve, no expensive, time-consuming training
- Encourages collaboration – with Polarion Requirements, stakeholders are encouraged to participate. There is no need to sit on the sidelines. Discussion is Web-based, interactive and crosses team, geographic and time zone boundaries with ease. Team members can participate, but are freed from nasty administrative “busy work”. The tool takes over the storage of artifacts, governs the process, tracks changes and assesses the impact of change downstream – allowing team members to focus on developing great software, hardware and products.
- Effective – Polarion Requirements is geared to success. By taking the mystery and guesswork out of the requirements process, and improving efficiency and transparency, teams will build better products the first time around.
- Affordable – In an economy where budgets are tight and resources are scarce, Polarion Requirements offers the lowest total cost of ownership on the market today, offers users the fastest learning curve, and organizations the fastest adoption rate – translating in a short time to real value.
To Wrap Up
Organizations vary in their respective process maturity and in their approach to requirements management today. Many companies still rely on a manual process, others in the software development sector are moving to agile, and others remain married to a rigid, formal approach to requirements management due to regulatory compliance pressures or external safety requirements. In this series of posts, we took a look at each of these processes and showed how a tool such as Polarion Requirements could be affordable and easily added to better that existing process. By enabling your requirements process with Polarion, you will immediately mature your process, boost your productivity, and cut costs. And as time goes on, and your familiarity with the tool and its power grows, you’ll very likely look for additional ways to leverage Polarion’s workflow, change management and broader application lifecycle capabilities to build product faster, better and cheaper and achieve greater business advantage.
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The tremendous success of this blog series and the many requests coming from readers, convinced me to package up the posts into a Whitepaper. That’s in progress now and will be soon available on the polarion.com website. It’s availability will be announced here on the blog as well. Thanks for reading – I hope you have found some helpful hints along the way.
Stefano Rizzo is VP for Product Management at Polarion Software. He oversees the strategic development of Polarion’s software products. You can read his profile at http://www.polarion.com/company/people/index.php.