The Software Requirements Memory Jogger: A Pocket Guide to Help Software And Business Teams Develop And Manage Requirements

Ellen Gottesdiener (2005)
Review date: December, 2010
Summary

This pocket-sized book follows a traditional approach of organizing the software requirements process.

The introduction chapter explains how to classify requirements, the characteristics of good requirements, how to document them, and key roles involved. The roadmap for the remaining text is also outlined: setting the stage, develop requirements (iteratively elicit, analyze, specify, and validate), and manage requirements.

Chapter 2, "Setting the stage", is about establishing the fundamentals for requirements work. It discusses the importance of the project vision statement, the glossary, and how to approach risk.

Chapter 3 contains techniques for eliciting requirements, such as interviews and workshops, focus groups, or stakeholder solicitation plan, whereas the following chapter focuses on concrete tools: process maps, use cases, data models, state diagrams, and alike. That chapter pretty much comprises the bulk of the book.

Chapters 5 and 6 are small compared to chapter 4, and describe user requirements documents and specifications, and techniques for validation, such as peer reviews, user acceptance tests, and prototypes.

The last two chapters are about change control, tracking, and project types.

Opinion

Reading this book from cover to cover is difficult, and that's not how it should be read. When browsing through it, every page looks about the same: headings, subheadings and lists. This is a cookbook! In style, it's quite boring; dry and to the point. Technique after technique is described in terms of "what is it", "why do it", "what does it do", and "how do I do it".

After my first reading I had to go back to it to find some specific topics, and that's when it started shining. If you want to find out about a specific technique, this book is really, really good. Its descriptions are brief and to the point, illustrated with appropriate models and figures when needed.

It covers a lot of ground, from how to approach your requirements work to how different project types will affect it. I can't say I know of any technique or angle it doesn't cover. On the contrary. Sometimes it crams in too much. For example, is developing detailed data models with attributes and foreign keys really part of requirements elicitation? For some application this may be the case, but most likely not. There are other examples where activities that I would associate more with architecture or design phases end up as elicitation techniques and tools, but that's just a proof of comprehensiveness, I guess.

One critique could be that even though the core process (elicitation, analysis, specification, and validation) is supposed to be done iteratively, the book gives an impression of belonging in the waterfall world, preferably where time and money are not limited. What I'm trying to say is that you can read the book as a manual to creating numerous artifacts spread over several process steps.

A more friendly way of reading it is looking up a certain technique, or browsing through a chapter for inspiration. All in all, the book is boring if read from cover to cover, but it's a treasure chest when it comes to number of techniques covered. Everybody working with requirements should have a copy of it somewhere at hand.

Who should read this book

Excellent reference material for all who work with requirements and possibly architecture. There's no "seniority" requirement on this book, although it goes for quantity rather than depth.




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