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Nov 20, 2019

Why are Software Requirements Important?

In today’s world of agility where businesses are growing day and night, it is imperative to have a smart business approach to flourish in the global market. Every day, there is a new technology, a new methodology to operate a business in a more cost-effective, and efficient manner without causing any harm to nature and its living beings.

Indeed, IT or information technology is becoming a necessity for most all businesses to survive and stay ahead in this progressing world. No matter if it’s hardware or software support, organizations are relying on these tools no less than they rely on their employees. Putting hardware aside, let’s move on to software support and see why it is important to have clearly defined requirements along with their varied types before moving on to any software solution.

Certainly, software solutions are a big blessing for organizations these days, helping them not only to work efficiently but also leading them to innovative ways of working. So, it is highly crucial to select the right software solution that matches best with your requirements.

This asset can only be enjoyed at max if the correct, clear and well-defined requirements are worked out. These software requirements are the foundation which defines and describes the purpose, value, and scope of the software development project, undertaken to tackle and satisfy some alleged needs. Thus, an organization should invest as many brains as possible with enough time in developing these requirements so that the outcomes can be achieved as needed and facilitate the goals of the business operation to the fullest. If any organization is reluctant in spending time and money for this primary task, the project is prone to be a disaster.

Apparently, it seems like a simple phrase (software requirements) which is commonly used in our routine work life, but its criticality increases when it comes to the software development project. The more the requirements are well-defined, the higher the probability of achieving the desired objectives.

A significant requirement document can be prepared if an organization can answer a few common-sense questions like:

  • What is the objective of this project?
  • What is its significance of this project to us?
  • What benefit are we expecting from this project?
  • What is it supposed to do?
  • What would be the authentic source of data?
  • How would we come to know if it is working in our desired direction or not?
  • How is this going to assure that it will keep working correctly?

Based on the answers to these questions, well-cleared requirements can be documented as having the following characteristics:

  • comprehensible
  • accurate
  • reliable
  • logical
  • amendable
  • Verifiable
  • Traceable
  • Credible source

Moving onto the software requirements, we may categorize them as:

  1. Business Requirements
  2. Functional Requirements
  3. User Requirements
  4. Non-Functional Requirements
  5. Business Rules

Business Requirements

Any organization that invests in some software solution has got some objectives behind it.  These goals are set to satisfy certain needs like profit maximization, reduction in expenses, raise product or services to the next level, in which these are termed as business requirements. This actually provides the reasoning for embarking on this software project.

Business requirements detail the foreseen benefit that the organization and its serviced group of people will expect to get from this project.

Business requirements are always aligned with the organization’s vision typically dictated by the project financers, the manager of end-user products or the marketing department.

Functional Requirements

As the name suggests, these are the requirements related to the functional part of the software. These requirements define in detail what do you needed out of this software but are related to the developer. These requirements define the functionality of the software that the project engineers have to incorporate in the software so that the users can do their tasks efficiently up to the standard of the organizational need.

It is always advisable that the functional need must be accompanied by a trial case that can be used to check if the requirement has been answered satisfactorily or not.

A few examples of functional requirements are:

  • Search bars are added so that the user can dig information from various invoices.
  • Users must have the rights to email any report to management.
  • Rights should be limited from user to user; proper categorization is essential.
  • The software must not overrule any business rule.

Non-Functional Requirements

These are the requirements which are not related to the functional part of the software. These are actually the quality attributes, which are essential for the software users like the developer, end-users or a maintainer. Quality attributes may include the requirement that the software must be user-friendly, secured, proficient enough to handle multiple data types, highlight any typos or errors, cost-effective, and capable of recovery from any disaster in an extremely efficient way.

User Requirements

User requirements can be defined as the tasks that the user will perform with the help of this software to accomplish organizational goals and objectives. In a simple way, it actually says what the user will do to achieve the desired results.

For example, the user requirements may define the need that the user has to record production data on a daily basis, translate the data in the form of efficiency and capacity utilization on the production floor, send it for approval, and generate a final report having all the required information in one location.

User requirements have different representation based on the software engineering methodologies involved and the tools used to collect data and manage them. Different forms of these representations include use case, user-stories, and event-response tables.

Software requirement management tools help to categorize requirements into documents that can be always available as a reference.

Business Rules

These are not the software requirements. The reason for including business rules here is that they may impact the scope of perceived outcomes in order to stay compliant with any of these rules. Business rules may include organizational policies, government policies related to that business, industrial norms, etc. For example, a business rule may call for a type of production document to be generated on immediate basis for review and justification if the productivity drops down by a certain defined level.

Since this document is a detailed work, the business rules may seem difficult to prepare but during the implementation phase, you will come across many places where you will realize the importance of this document.

It matters a lot to what level your team was utilized in developing this document. Instead of bringing only managers on-board while writing the requirements, it is absolutely advisable to have your team on-board. On doing this, you will have the maximum inquiries and ideas that will help you in formulating a high-quality requirement for your software project.

Amongst all of these, what is most important is to define a functional need in detail so that the developer can understand clearly your expectations and results that you need. The more the requirement document is scribed in detail, the closer the estimates are and there is a higher probability of achieving them. Upon providing so many details, the developers also get an opportunity to foresee any possible mistake before they move onto the development phase saving time, money and efforts.

Also, the details help in defining the timeline for the project required both for development and implementation. At any point in time, the progress of the project can be measured against this defined timeline. If the requirements are worked in detail, it will help the accuracy of the project to get close to finishing at prescribed time, but in contrast to this, if certain things pop-up during the project, it will result in delays and the developer may have thousands of reasons for extending the timeline and the estimated cost as well.

The documented detailed requirements can be grouped as:

  • Must-Have: requirements without which the software cannot be considered operational.
  • Should have: requirements that will improve the functionality of the software.
  • Could have: with these requirements, the software can still properly function.
  • Wishlist: requirements which do not map to any objectives of software.

During the software development phase, “must have” is the primary needs that must be addressed, “should have” is the requirements that are debatable and may or may not be canceled, whereas the categories ‘could have’ and ‘wish list’ can be kept for software updates in the future.

Requirements are so crucial for any project that at the beginning it will mark the destiny of the project. The main idea during requirement working is to identify all the main points and desired functionality of the service that is needed for a seamless start. People who take this foundational step lightly and ignore taking unnecessary risks to their organization, their actions may lead to the waste of time, money, and an ultimate disaster for the whole organization.

After putting in considerable, detailed effort on the “software requirements” work, the next step is how to execute the software development project to generate desired results within the anticipated timeframe.

There are two methodologies that have been put into practice over numerous decades:

  1. Waterfall methodology
  2. Agile methodology

Waterfall Methodology

This methodology also viewed as the traditional approach, was invented in 1970 and was considered the gold standard practice in developing software because it brought a strong control over following the submitted specifications. This software requires that all of the documents be prepared before any coding process was done.  After the completion of the software requirements document detailing all the strategies, functional specs, and visual user interface design, etc., that the business demanded in the application, then comes some form of technical specifications, detailed data structures, functional designs, user interface, and other non-functional requirements. At the completion of all of these, this waterfall methodology will generate coding, followed by integration, and finally the testing stage before declaring it ready for production.

It could take a couple of years easily, in the development of software via this methodology. So, it was not easy in those days. The developers were expected to understand the software requirements just like the persons who developed them and could have been penalized on missing any single key detail. These technical specs were the whole sole, giving directions to proceed further. It involved a lengthy procedure of reviewing and signing off by the business heads to entertain any change in the requirement submitted earlier because communicating changes down to the team and code fixing process were very expensive.

Following all the requirements for software development, it is not always exactly workable that you submit to the customer. Sometimes, users don’t appreciate some feature, so it all goes to waste or perhaps the capability of the software was appreciated but needed re-engineering to meet the required performance. The drawback with this methodology is that all such problems are highlighted following the deployment of the software in the aftermath of you having invested immense efforts, time, and money. In the waterfall world, you only learned these things after the software was deployed, subsequently to all that effort and expense.

Agile Methodology

Over the past several years, the world of software development and its testing has been taken over by the term “Agile”. However, the adoption of this methodology is limited and it’s a long way to its implementation and maturity.

In today’s world, almost every software development firm is practicing agile software development methodology or any version of it or at least they assume they are doing so.  No matter if you have been developing software solutions for years using waterfall software development methodologies or a fresh one to this field, your work is somehow influenced by the agile methodology of software development.

This methodology was officially introduced back in 2001 when a large number of technologists drafted the “Agile Manifesto” and concluded four core principles for developing better software which is rooted in:

  • adaptive planning
  • in-time delivery
  • continuous improvement
  • ability to manage swift changes with an ease

The Agile methodology is designed on the concept of the ever-changing world, bringing in new requirements which mean that the software development teams do not have ample time for introducing new products. If they take a long time in doing so, the customer requirements might get changed or satisfied by some other developer.  The Agile approach helps in minimizing this chance by close team collaboration, encouraging them to have regular discussions about their work while collecting feedback so that they can accommodate any changes required, immediately.

Moving on to Agile software development with Scrum, this is often considered as a methodology. However, it must be understood as a framework for process management, instead.

While working in the Agile Scrum world, you don’t need to provide descriptive details on how to execute the project. Instead, much of the things are kept open for the Scrum software development team so that they can offer the best solution for the given problem. These are the cross-functional teams, self-organized in a way that they do not have any leader to make decisions or give directions. The whole team is responsible to make any decision if needed and every member is responsible from the concept origination to its final execution.

The agile scrum project management team is supported by two major roles:

  1. Scrum Master
  2. Product Owner

Scrum Master 

The Scrum Master is more like a launch pad with no hierarchical authority but to ensure that the team remains engaged by sticking to the Scrum theory, practices and rules.  The role of Scrum Master might include the removal of any hindrances that the team may have been facing, facilitating team meetings, and supporting the Product Owner by clearing any backlogs.

Product Owner

As the name suggests, the Product Owner is the key person who owns the product representing the business, customer or user. He is responsible for conveying the whole mission and vision of the product to the Scrum team. He is also accountable solely for backlog management and accepting completed tasks.

The way these roles are inter-linked with each other is similar to a race car, in which the car is the team itself, always ready to gear-up in a given direction. The Product Owner plays the part of the car driver making sure to follow the right direction, whereas the Scrum Master plays the part of the chief mechanic keeping the car well-tuned so that it can deliver the best of it.

Main Artifacts of the Scrum Process

There are three main artifacts of Agile Scrum:

Product Backlog

It is a document that outlines the complete list of the functionality required for the product to be added. It is a to-do list in which each task will be a deliverable to the business value. These items are prioritized by the product owner in terms of business value.

Sprint Backlog

This is the list of items from the product backlog that needs to be closed at the end of each Scrum sprint.


It is the total product backlog that has been accomplished since the last software that was marketed. Although it is the Product Owner who decides the release date, the team is responsible for getting all the included items ready for it.

Unlike the Waterfall methodology, the Scrum model is based on frequent inspections to ensure progress and detects any variation at the primary stage so that the adjustments are easily done within no time. The Scrum follow-up events are:

The Sprint

Keeping the Agile methodology intact, a sprint is time-boxed during which an assigned task is completed and made ready for reviews; this takes no longer than a month, typically 2-4 weeks or even as short as one week. 

Sprint Planning

These are the time-boxed meetings in which the teams declare how, when, and which product backlog items can be delivered.

The Daily Stand-up

It is hardly a 15-minute, stand-up meeting in which each team member covers progress from the last meeting and cordially removes any hurdle that may block progress.

The Sprint Review

It is a demo session in which the team presents the tasks that they have completed during the sprint. The Product Owner assesses whether the completed tasks are in accordance with the pre-defined acceptance criteria or not and based on that he accepts or rejects it.

The Retrospective

It is the final event in the series in which the reviews are given about the good things and the bad experiences and how the team can better perform in the subsequent sprints.

Different Kinds of Software Testing

After going through all this, the final coding process for the product is completed. The testing of this code is essential not only to find all the bugs or to enhance software features or even to verify the software against given specs, which is just not completely possible but to reduce the risk of any harm that can be caused on the customer’s side while using the software. The different types of tests that are performed on software are:

Unit tests

These tests are performed at the very micro level, almost close to the source of the application. They test every individual process and function of the classes, components or modules, which is being used by the software.

Integration tests

As the name suggests, it verifies the synchronization of all the different modules that are being used by the software.

Functional tests

The main focus of these tests is to meet the business requirements of an application. This test is only concerned with the output value from the database if it is as per the defined product requirements or not.

End-to-end tests

In this type of testing, a user behavior is replicated utilizing the software within a complete application environment. This testing verifies that the software can execute the simplest users’ workflows to the most complicated ones.

Acceptance testing

These are the formal tests to verify if the designed software satisfies the business requirements while measuring its performance while having all the rights to reject any changes if they do not meet certain business objectives.

Performance testing

These are the non-functional tests performed to check system behaviors under load conditions. This test will help to state the availability, reliability, and stability of the application.

Smoke testing

These tests are performed to check the basic functionality of the developed application. These are quick tests just to give assurance that the major features of the application are performing as per the requirement.

Software development is not only critical for business growth but also equally challenging for the survival of these software solution providers. Like it is advisable for the companies to have a clear understanding of their needs before approaching any software solution, it is also essential for the developers to choose the right methodology along with detailed tests so that the required results are achieved in the first place, saving efforts, time, money and improving their market reputation as well.         


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