Write Better Requirements | Requirement Writing Process
There are many theories on how to write better requirements. Some suggest using or excluding certain words or limiting each requirement to one sentence.
However, there’s a danger in having too many rules around your requirement writing process because it can end up hamstringing your work. Writing excellent requirements, in my opinion, is both an art and a science. Instead of getting bogged down by strict rules, consider the Golden Rule of Requirements: Communicate clearly and effectively to your stakeholders.
In this case, your stakeholders may be testers, designers, developers, business analysts, customers, and more. In any case, the most important goal is to properly communicate the requirement — the need — to these stakeholders. Stay away from introducing the “how,” as that should be reserved for the product design.
Of course, clearly communicating requirements is not as easy as it sounds. Luckily, we have some recommendations that can drive quality and consistency when authoring your requirements.
Remember, don’t follow these like strict rules for rule’s sake. They are just meant to help you fulfill the key objective: communicate clearly and effectively to your stakeholders. Plus, you’re likely to come up with your own recommendations specific to your company or industry when aiming for this Golden Rule of Requirements.
Use A Template
When you’re authoring new requirements from a blank canvas, start with a sort of free-form writing method. After all, everyone writes and thinks in different ways. When readying requirements to review with your stakeholders, using convoluted vocabulary and inconsistent sentence construction may muddy your requirements.
That’s why creating templates for writing requirements can be a great way to maintain both consistency and quality. Even if you start authoring in free form, you can normalize your requirements into a templated version once you’re ready to share them with others.
In terms of a requirements template, teams can choose what works best for them, but the overall goal is keeping the construction uniform. For instance, if a team is writing requirements in the form of user stories, it may be more meaningful to refer to the affected user by an actual name than rather than simply “user.” However they’re utilized, templates help maintain quality control and coherence in requirements.
In casual conversation, words like “significantly,” “quickly,” and “powerfully” can be a great way to emphasize a point. However, in terms of requirements, these types of words make it difficult to test a qualifier. For example, instead of saying something needs to work “quickly,” it’s better to get more granular and quantitative. Maybe you want it to perform an average of five seconds better per customer statement, which would be a 15% improvement on the current average. Giving more direct, specific goals to the team will help them understand exactly the target they’re working towards.
Review and Discuss the Requirements
Lastly, one of the best strategies to ensure you’re communicating requirements clearly is simply by reviewing them with stakeholders. You’ll get feedback which helps improve the requirements and increase shared understanding within your team.
Beyond that, though, reviewing and talking about the requirements will also assist with defining the criteria for acceptance and ensuring they’re testable. Plus, you’ll reduce the number of surprises and missed requirements in the product management cycle.
Figuring out how to facilitate this process can be the real challenge. Live, in-person group meetings aren’t always the most effective method for utilizing resources and ensuring individual clarity. On the other hand, a series of one-on-one meetings can be time-consuming and tough to wrangle with busy schedules. That’s why you want to think about a platform like Jama Software where you can provide comments on the requirements and have formal reviews on the collections of requirements.
Jama isn’t meant to replace face-to-face collaboration, but it can make it much more efficient. For instance, forget organizing an expensive, all-day meeting with multiple engineers to go through each requirement. Instead, start a Jama review a few days prior to give engineers time to digest and provide feedback on their own schedule. Then, any face-to-face meetings can be shorter and concentrate on the smaller set of requirements that need more clarity and conversation. This can eliminate hours spent in meetings and ensure the team stays aligned throughout the process. Whatever your preference is for completing reviews, the important thing is to make sure they get done.
There are many ways to follow the Golden Rule of Requirements and these recommendations are just a few that’ll make a positive impact on your requirements. Let us know what other tips and recommendations you have for communicating requirements clearly and effectively with your stakeholders!
Learn more about writing better requirements by watching our webinar, “Best Practices for Writing Requirements.”
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Preston Mitchell | August 15, 2017
Originally published at www.jamasoftware.com on August 15, 2017.