Requirements Change Management

Change is an inherent aspect of the software development cycle. In real-life settings, it can often get tough to describe the desideratum for the software development cycle because the circumstances and project requirements are always evolving or shifting. Accompanying components such as market fluctuation, consumer demands, competitive landscape, etc., are hugely instrumental for the malleable nature of requirements.

Furthermore, the need for highly sophisticated software is at an all-time high as organizations wrestle against each other to distinguish themselves in an extremely competitive market. As a result, effective requirements change management in a software’s development cycle becomes critical for the final product’s success.

Changes in requirement can begin as early as the point at which the requirement is elicited and can last beyond the product’s release (in the form of maintenance). The process is thus defined as a system of managing changing requirements during the requirements engineering process and system development.

Requirements Change FAQs

Q 1. Why do requirements change?

Requirements can change for a variety of reasons. The most common causes of requirements change are given below:

  • Extracting requirements from stakeholders is a long process. Stakeholders do not always articulate requirements in a way that your engineering team can easily derive next steps from it. During the course of this process, a requirement can deviate from the client’s original vision of the requirement and may need review and modifications. This process becomes more complicated and requirements undergo more changes if stakeholders are not adequately involved in the requirement management process
  • Changes and evolution in the market can prompt changes.
  • Requirements can be necessary at times to include legislative changes and ensure that your software aligns with the relevant standards.
  • Unforeseen problems in projects and otherwise – budget cuts, changes in the project schedule, personnel changes, system and technological resource changes can bring significant changes to requirements. Changing stakeholders, clients, vendors, and partners also result in changes in the requirements. The best strategy for project teams is to keep a requirements change management strategy in place.

Q 2. How do changing requirements affect projects?

Numerous analyses of software development cycles show that more than 80% of faults identified during the verification stage are introduced during the project’s requirement development stage. Changing requirements at these stages of product development are typically more difficult to execute and call for more rigorous consideration. In certain instances, these alterations can result in substantial delays in implementation and cause a price increase.

Q 3. How to deal with changing requirements?

  • Design and implement a well-defined method for requirement development specifications and train your employees in the science of how to write effective specifications. Record, baseline, and organize a change to your scope to prevent scope and requirement creep. Use requirement management tools that will help you streamline the process and deal with requirements management with a more organised and efficient approach. Establish the change management plan explicitly and ensure that everybody knows how to propose and make changes.
  • Resist deferred changes and hastened changes. Deferred changes are those that are authorized for subsequent implementation and may not function at the time you attempt to enforce them. This could have undesirable consequences.
  • Establish specific requirements for changes. Having predefined standards for improvement helps everybody to understand the rules for the kind of improvements they can make and the ones they can’t bother with. The three rules to direct transition are as follows:
    • if it isn’t working, fix it
    • if it isn’t safe, fix it
    • if it violates a code or is illegal, fix it.
  • Be as rigorous about the act of making changes as you do for delineating the requirements. Make sure that all the required changes not only achievable but verifiable as well.

The Requirements Change Management Process

Requirements change management is defined as a process “of managing changing requirements during the requirements engineering process and system development.” Having a requirements change management system and process in place is crucial since it ensures that changes are made systematically, changes are documented for, and the requirements change management document is updated. It also includes ensuring that the subsequent changes are communicated to stakeholders thus avoiding miscommunication. An overall analysis of the impact of change can be made so that change control practices can be initiated.

Typically, most organizations have a change control board that governs over change management and make decisions regarding the implementation of the proposed changes.

What Does a Requirements Change Management Plan Look Like?

Most organizations generally define a few elements, such as requirements change management roles, change control board, change request form, and changelog for the superintendence of an effective requirements change management process.

The change control board is usually the governing body that is responsible for approving or vetoing change requests. More often than not, the change control board also designs a series of iterative steps to ensure that the change initiative is successful. This is how a requirements change management process looks like in most software development projects:

1. Evaluate proposed change requests
Project requirements get changed due to multiple reasons – poorly defined requirements, requirements modified by stakeholders or clients, budgetary or schedule-related constraints, or evolving technology and market trends. The first step to change a set of requirements is to evaluate the proposed change requests and sort requirements that need to be changed as feasible or non-feasible depending on project constraints, importance of the change, and the impact of the changed requirement on the project. After communicating the change, define the scope of the change request in consultation and collaboration with the internal and external project teams. Using a requirements management software that will be able to streamline the change management process is very beneficial at this stage to avoid scope creep and curb further changes.

2. Execute the proposed change
This step involves building a blueprint that describes the starting point, the path to be followed, and the final goal. You can also integrate assets to be utilized, the scale or purpose, and the budget of the plan. This includes detailing the initiative with concrete steps, achievable goals, benefits, metrics, and analysis.

3. Communicate the Change
Since the impact of change in requirements in a project is usually significant. It is imperative that you keep communication channels going both ways – upwards and downwards of the project team’s hierarchy. Small changes could fall through the cracks in the course of communication and catapult the situation into more of a mess. Offering direct and clear channels of communication throughout the lifecycle of the process is an important component across all transition modules. These methods promote accountability and transparent bidirectional interaction structures that offer opportunities to express grievances, celebrate what works, and effectively alter whatever doesn’t work.

4. Validate or Seek Feedback
Follow the process of recognizing the perceived threat or opportunity for changes to requirements by asking for feedback. Having contrasting perspectives on the need for reform along with differing views on what the requirements change process should contain can be an eye-opener. This will help you formulate a consensus, and since everybody has participated in it, you will already have significant investment from your core personnel. Since requirements change management is a meticulous process, be advised to not skip this step of validation and mutual approval.

5. Reject or Batch
No transition takes place without jumping over a few hurdles. You will find that once you have articulated your vision, formulated new, modified requirements, you may encounter change resistance. At this point you can evaluate the resistance, collaborate, and repeat step #1. You can also follow a system of batching requirement changes and implement the proposed ones in the next iteration or sprint of your product development cycle.

6. Implement and Integrate
Utilize different methods to incorporate the transition into the development cycle. Keep a continual monitoring system in place to track if all components of the transition are dutifully taking place or not. If you see non-compliance, take action immediately.

7. Verify and Update
Most change procedures fall short due to an early declaration of success. Implement the change completely before declaring a victory. Let the change rest for a while and be integrated on its own.

6. Review and Revise
As much as integrating changing requirements into the development life cycle of the project is important, it can be daunting and even unpleasant. However, it is also inevitable as an ongoing process. Consequently, reviewing requirement change management progress is key. Ideally, since requirements usually keep changing quite frequently and throughout the lifecycle of a project, a well-established process should be interwoven into the lifecycle of the project.

What Is the Need for a Requirements Change Management Plan?

Successful companies are capable of dealing with differing extents of dramatic change and easily adapt to and manage the evolving environment. Profound emerging changes can be incredibly disruptive and confusing, whereas deliberate, incremental changes can feel like only slight improvements in efficiency and go largely unnoticed.

All types and levels of requirements change need someone to lead the charge while connecting with stakeholders on a continuous basis. It is essential to have a clear and comprehensive change management framework to help formulate a consistent change strategy so as to help everyone involved understand the reason for the change, why it is necessary, and what its future state will feel and look like.

A requirements change management system aids in managing the process of change along with offering control over the expenditure, timeline, scale, coordination, and assets. The change management strategy also minimizes the impact the change could have on companies, staff, consumers, and other main stakeholders.

Having a requirements change management system in place is essential as it guarantees that improvements are implemented methodically, changes are recorded, and the requirements change management document records all developments made to date. It also ensures that changes are conveyed to the relevant stakeholders while also making sure that any form of miscommunication is avoided, thus enabling the initiation of change control practices.

Xebrio for Your Requirements Change Management Processes

Characterizing requirements is the very first step in identifying your final goal. Since requirements keep shifting continually in agile teams, the team needs a cohesive platform to monitor all updates or changes. In such cases, a requirement management software comes as a godsend to the stakeholders involved in a project. Xebrio is one such requirements management tool that allows you to handle change requirements effectively so that the project implementation starts in an organized format and your team is on the same page at all times.

Requirement management is perhaps the most critical aspect of a project. A requirements change management tool should consolidate all your interactions, link with common interactive applications, offer a virtual space for generating creative ideas, and automatically connect project artifacts. You shouldn’t have to switch between apps or tools or deal with the clutter of indefinite email threads just to reach out to your colleagues on a regular basis.

Companies trying to espouse change management strategies by adopting suitable tools can utilize Xebrio’s collective requirements management with the help of an airtight feedback mechanism. If the specifications have passed through it, you can extract next-steps and project tasks from them, create milestones out of them, and monitor the amount of effort, time, and resources needed to achieve those milestones.

During the strategy formulation stage, you can link these requirements and their corresponding tasks to test cases, monitor and repair bugs, and control tasks through releases. Xebrio also has real-time collaboration and communication features along with a robust embedded requirement management framework that reinforces requirement change management. It integrates feedback from the stakeholders at each and every step of the journey in the requirements management procedure and enables tasks to be extracted from requirements only once they have been authorized by all stakeholders.

But this is how Xebrio encourages the kind of forward thinking that requirements management needs. It also allows teams to catalog risks exhaustively for all variants and versions of requirements, monitors dependencies, connect tasks to requirements, milestones, test cases, releases, and allows real-time correspondence in real-time in the context of tasks, thereby ensuring end-to-end traceability.

Xebrio also has provisions for various task management techniques and lets teams choose the technique that they usually follow and prefer. Teams can opt from any of the Kanban, classic list, and detail task views. It also has a time-tracking function that lets stakeholders monitor and assess the time and effort allocated to a specific task, requirement, or milestone. This lets stakeholders understand how well the project is progressing, chart the efficiency trends of the project team, and prepare better. This also helps internal team leaders and project managers plan work better.

Requirements Tracking Software track the progress of your processes with Xebrio. Create a centralized dashboard in Xebrio to survey key details and stay up-to-date in real-time. Xebrio’s automated reporting features equip you with a 360° view of assets, progress status, and execution levels so that you can immediately and accordingly align your operations with your strategy.

Read More:
1. Requirements Management Plan
2. Requirements Management: A Complete Guide