12 Key Questions To Ask Before Selecting A Requirements Management Software

Requirements management software is a specialized application with features that support the business analyst in activities ranging from requirements documentation, review and collaboration to modelling, specification, traceability, versioning to change control. A good requirements management software allows seamless communication with all stakeholders and ensures that no change is left undocumented and no feature left unimplemented (as much as is possible). Choosing such a complex tool requires some consideration and knowledge of which qualities are most important.

Selecting a Requirements Management Software should be done with as much care as when selecting any other software. You should identify which features are required for your project beforehand and assess if the tools currently available to you do not already meet your needs before hunting for requirements management solutions with all the bells and whistles you don't need. 

As a starting point, here’s a list of questions you should seek answers to before making the leap:

  1. Is the application user-friendly? Even the most feature-packed requirements management software is virtually useless unless it’s user-friendly. When stakeholders are presented with an unintuitive tool, they are likely to prefer sticking with less effective but familiar alternatives. You can tell a lot about the user-friendliness of a requirements management software just by looking at its interface. If it involves reading through tons of user manual pages to get the hang of it, chances are that it won’t be a pleasure to use.
  2. Can it be customized? Your organization/project will most likely have its unique requirements which existing solutions may not meet 100%. Unless you want to spend a huge sum of money on a custom-built solution, customisable software is the way to go. Just how much customisation is enough will depend solely on your team’s requirements and what you would like to accomplish with the requirements management software. It’s best to outline all your needs and discuss them with the vendor. At the minimum, the requirements management solution should provide you with the capability to add requirements attributes needed or skip them as needed. It’s also important to enquire if the functionality of the requirements management software can be extended with add-ons.
  3. Is it web-based? The web is quickly becoming the place where we accomplish most of our daily tasks. Modern web applications include full-featured office applications, chat engines, task management tools, and, of course, requirements management tools. One major advantage of opting for a web-based application is the ease of access. Stakeholders from anywhere in the world can review requirements documents, provide comments and sign off on their requirements.
  4. Does it support requirements traceability? Where there is need to trace a large number of requirements, Requirements Management Software should provide both forward and backward traceability. Requirements Traceability involves tracking requirements backwards to their objectives and forward to their deliverables (e.g test cases and solution components). Having a requirements management tool to draw on can make requirements management seem effortless. Traceability is particularly important in managing changes to a requirement. For example, if a requirement changes, the software should flag related test cases or requirements that are affected as a result, for reassessment and impact analysis.
  5. Are there features for intelligent reporting? Chances are that your project needs to fulfill regulatory, audit and reporting needs for compliance and management visibility. Any good requirements management software is able to automatically provide you with intelligently generated reports. Not only does this feature save a considerable amount of time, it also ensures that everyone is informed of all the latest changes and developments, resulting in smoother workflow.
  6. Can it integrate with other applications in your organization? The solution should provide a means of integrating with other relevant tools in your organization. For example, you may desire integration with project management, issue tracking or task management tools, as part of ensuring that business analysis tasks are completed when they should be.
  7. Does it support your requirements methodology? Your requirements management software should align with your chosen business analysis practice which could be Waterfall or Agile. Unless the software fits into your workflow, you won’t be able to experience the full productivity boost that the requirements management software has to offer.
  8. Does it provide features for change tracking? One key feature that no good requirements management software should be without is the ability to manage the changes to a requirement from its origin to its current state. You should be able to see all changes made to it, view associated notes, and continue managing the requirement even after it has been deployed.
  9. Are there features for uploading models/images as supplementary information to textual requirements? For example, you may want to upload data models or business process models as part of your requirements elicitation and documentation effort.
  10. Are there features to ensure that each stakeholder can only view the requirements that affect them? This is particularly important in preventing information overload. For example, when you define requirements around specific processes, you may want to forward to each stakeholder group for review based on the processes that concern each one.
  11. Are there features for collaboration and approvals? Your project may involve signing off on key requirements or a requirements baseline. A requirements baseline is a package of requirements that have been agreed to be delivered for a specific product release. Consider which approval/signing features are available.
  12. Does the solution provide a means of checking the validity of requirements by flagging when certain mandatory fields are not populated?

Interestingly, like any other category of software, shopping for requirements management software should also involve looking at non-functional requirements such as availability, training, cost of the tool, etc. See Why Non-Functional Requirements Matter.

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Picture Attribution: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net