Requirements management tools initially came about to support larger companies in their business analysis. Projects so often went over schedule and budget or came under their scope that companies demanded answers. What was going wrong?
Problem analysis identified requirements as the root cause of the delivery issues. Developers complained of changing requirements, testers identified that requirements were misunderstood (or flat-out missing), and project managers struggled to meet users’ and stakeholders’ demands without getting in trouble for differences between estimates and actuals.
Requirements management tools reduce these challenges by tracking all the requirements as they progress through development. Use them when you need visibility across all the requirements and need to allow project managers to better manage expectations and issues. Look for tools to offer benefits such as in-flight (throughout project execution) key performance indicators and requirements metrics, among other things:
Documenting the requirements after they’re defined
Tracing the requirements: Identifying and recording which ones relate to others
Managing the requirements: Tracking them through development and testing
Identifying changes to requirements (and analyzing to determine impacts)
Controlling changes to requirements: Facilitating discussions with stakeholders to decide whether changes are necessary and impacts are acceptable; recording agreements; and documenting adjustments to scope, schedule, and budget
Requirements management tools are best suited for you if you’re a knowledgeable, senior-level business analyst providing repeatable processes; sound practices; and predictable results.
Low- and mid-tech options for business analysis requirements management tools
Low-tech options for requirements management usually amount to manual tracking and management tricks, but more frequently, business analysts simply track updates on the overall requirements document(s).
One particular low-tech solution is gaining in popularity, and it’s great if you’re working with agile or iterative projects where user stories and cards are used: Requirements are managed by taping or pinning the index cards up to a wall and putting them in visually chronological order.
You can also use a variation of this setup called a Kanban board, which tracks and manages work in a production flow model and shows requirements progress more clearly.
A Kanban board has different columns depicting the different states or statuses of requirements during the development process (such as “In Definition,” “In Development,” “In Test,” and “Done”). You pin the story cards to the board within the specific column corresponding to their current state and move them along to the different columns as things change.
If you prefer mid-tech options to track the information within electronic tools or spreadsheets, look for tools that provide sorting, calculating, tracing, and sharing (just note that these are manual efforts where frequent updates are necessary).
High-tech options for business analysis requirements management tools
High-tech tools provide data entry features for getting the requirements into the tool. They offer workflow and status tracking to stay on top of which requirements are in whatever states of development or testing at whatever time, and they measure rates of change (often called volatility — the extent to which requirements continue to change and reach a stable state of definition) and other metrics.
The high-tech options are the ones that really add the value for requirements management.
If defined requirements aren’t entered and tracked in the tool, metrics can’t be generated on them. Luckily, greater incentives and opportunities are on the market today for getting data into the management tools, and now that requirements definition tools have matured, business analysis professionals are experiencing the benefits of tool convergence (both requirements definition and requirements management functions are now available within a single tool or tool suites).