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“A Poor Craftsman blames the (requirements) tool”

The decision to use a requirements tool is dependent on a number of factors: size of project, number of system interlocks, global teams, specific business objectives tied to real dollar figures, just to name a few.  In this post I will describe the key benefits of using a requirements management tool early on to capture and review requirement artifacts. After building out a project inside Jama, the solution our team chose, I noticed several key feature sets that have provided real value, including:

  1. Structured Requirements
  2. Gap Analysis
  3. Collaboration

Organizing requirements is so important to ensuring consistency and finding costly gaps before reaching development. Jama allows you to create detailed requirements architecture, built of discreet requirements type, represented as “items”, including all of the OPSD items (Objectives, People, Systems, Data). This structure enables all relevant items to be linked together, providing the basis for system reporting on traceability gaps. The relationship diagram below shows the order of items, from high-level upstream items like business problems, objectives, and success metrics, all the way downstream to the functional requirements and test cases. Breaks in these relationship chains indicate a possible miss in functionality, or excess or duplicate requirements that are not necessary to build.

This structure is highly customizable, so any project life cycle can be supported. Once these structures are created, they can be reused again and again, updated and versioned as you go. The ability to create traceability relationships at the architecture level is a great feature that ensures each requirement can be related directly back to a business object and a success metric.

As I mentioned to above, Jama’s requirements structuring abilities drive a number of traceability features that help to identify items that are missing linkages to upstream and downstream features. Each item has an indicator, pictured below, signifying the number of linked upstream and downstream items. As you may have guessed, the large red exclamation mark means a relationship is missing and needs to be reviewed.

A robust, multi-factor filtering capability is also there to quickly access a tabular or page view of missing linkages, either upstream, or both. There are stated “traceability” features, that allows for the creation of traceability tables, with customizable columns, for example business requirements to User Requirements, to Functional Requirements. While the presentation of the matrixes isn’t perfect, you can quickly export to Excel to make the information more consumable.

I would be remiss to not mention the collaboration features, which a user of social media will be more than familiar with. As with any requirements tool, each user is created and endowed with their own user profile. Each item, whether it’s a feature or a test case, has a panel where a user can use an @ sign to trigger an email to that user. My team uses this constantly as we discuss and trade revisions for an item. There is also a #, if you want to group items into a broad class, say any feature item related to the operations team will have #Ops applied. Similarly tags can also be added to items, which can be viewed and selected in a dynamic word cloud widget included in the UI. These simple tools do make communicating updates quicker and more comprehensible. While the cost, time to customize, and lack of a single best-in-class solution all make the choice to adopt a tool a hard one, it is hard to deny that certain complex projects would greatly benefit from the use of a tool. Have you had any positive or negative experiences bringing a requirements management tool into your project? Let us know in the comments section!

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