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Live from RE’08: Managing Requirements Knowledge, or RE as KM

OK, yes, it’s a confusing title. But stick with me, and I promise it’ll make more sense.

Welcome to Barcelona! Day one included the Managing Requirements Knowledge (MaRK) workshop. The presentations covered a WIDE variety of topics in Requirements Engineering (RE), some of which seemed directly related to Knowledge Management (KM). Many of the presentations initially appeared unrelated to what I think of as KM, but part of my interest in the workshop was to get a sense of what our community considers KM, so I stuck it out … and I’m very happy that I did.

My typical understanding of KM is influenced by Information Science and corporate KM endeavors, in which the whole of a company’s knowledge about specific topics is cataloged and managed in a central repository. So, I was expecting KM in RE to be similar. What I found, though, was that KM in RE is in many ways more fundamental to our work than KM is in my expected, corporate setting. Sebastian Meyer talked about automatically generating glossary terms from existing documentation. Joao Araujo presented research on automatically generating use case names, again from existing documentation. Jane Cleland-Huang and Oezguer Uenalan each discussed some initial work on using wikis for requirements elicitation. To me, these topics all seemed to be “everyday” RE, not specifically KM-focused.

What I was looking for was something new or different about RE practice, given the focus on KM. What I found instead was a new way of looking at RE as KM. These unique approaches may be focused on eliciting or generating requirements, but those activities are the first step in managing knowledge about requirements. By slightly changing my perspective on the topic and the work we do, I was able to see the entire RE process in a new light. Expect to hear more about RE as KM from these and other researchers.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the small group discussion sessions we had at the close of the session. In my group, we delved deeper into the use of wikis for elicitation, documentation and management of requirements. We got into some interesting topics of anonymity, power relations, and the role of the RE in the overall development process. Again, keep an eye out for Jane and/or Oetzger to give us more to talk about in the near future!

It’s been a great start to the week, and I expect the remainder to be as insightful — stay tuned!

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