Paula presented a paper by her and Jane Cleland-Huang of DePaul University titled “Lessons Learned from Open Source Projects Facilitating Online Requirements Processes”. The idea behind her paper was to suggest that forums and wiki-style tools might be used to collect and prioritize requirements across a large volume of stakeholders. She looked at forums used in vendor-based open source software projects for this purpose, with the idea that the lessons learned good be applied to any type of distributed project.
Some of her observations about what is needed to make forums successful for this:
- Features need to be organized or grouped in some way so it’s not just a massive list of many feature requests. This would allow users to participate in discussions similar to the feature they are interested in.
- There needs to be high visibility on the status of feature requests so users understand if it’s low priority, not in discussion, or not looked at yet. This helps them understand what to expect.
- Analysts need to stay actively involved in the conversations with stakeholders and not let it be a passive process.
These things have something in common – they are all things you need to do in a typical requirements elicitation process too. I think that perhaps there are some things we can do to adapt this to large distributed teams contributing to the requirements, but it will by no means be an easy task. I think most importantly, you have to keep the community aspect of requirements gathering and not let it just be a text-based one-way conversation.