BlogJAM Session®Tips and Techniques

The problem with upfront requirements

By February 17, 2011No Comments

Prototype and visualization technology are starting to improve the way companies define and build software applications. However, requirements management and documentation of those requirements is still antiquated. Most tools on the market are outdated and cumbersome to use. 83% of companies still rely on Microsoft Word and Excel to communicate requirements. OneSpring has worked on over 50 projects ranging from small $20K projects to over $2 million dollar requirements definition projects and has seen first hand what works and does not work.

Most companies follow a documentation centric path to defining software applications where a lot of time is spent writing out text-based requirements. In 2005 we discovered a disconnect exists between what a client said they wanted and what they actually received. We call this the Clarity Curve.

The Clarity Curve depicts the understanding stakeholders and users gain as they start seeing their software project come to life. The problem with this model is that there is a very high cost associated with it. In most cases, once the stakeholder sees what is being developed they typically want to make changes. Changing developed software is 100 times more expensive than catching changes upfront in the lifecycle before code has been written. This is the value proposition we have been successfully selling. Our goal is to create software that allows users to rapidly define, organize, and distribute better and more accurate requirements thus allowing companies to build the right software the first time.

The below illustration shows a traditional software development lifecycle. Notice the increase in understanding at the end of the cycle. It is commonly said that stakeholders and users don’t really know what they want until they can see and interact with it. This holds true for software development as it does for most products.

Clarity Curve

So how do you improve the Clarity Curve?

The goal is to shift stakeholder and user understanding to the beginning of the elicitation phase. By building visual models, visualizations, and rapidly documenting requirements, you can start to shift the curve to the left. The illustration below depicts what we always try to achieve on projects. This will help you reduce cost, increase clarity, and produce better and more usable software. Use visual representations of your requirements to improve understanding and consensus among your stakeholders.

Clarity Curve 2

About the author: Jason Moccia is the President, COO, and Co-founder of OneSpring. Jason has over 14 years of experience in the software development field. In addition to operating as President and COO, he also runs the company’s Federal side of the business. His philosophy of doing one thing better than any other company emanates throughout OneSpring’s core strategy. Jason has worked with numerous Fortune 1000 companies including but not limited to Ernst & Young, General Electric, SAIC, Florida Power & Light, InterContinental Hotels, Deloitte, and SunTrust.

Leave a Reply