Everything You Need to Know About Requirements Management Tools

Ever wondered why despite having the best set of resources and tools at hand, your projects still tank? The PMI has a logical answer.

It states that:
“47% of projects fail to meet their goals due to poor management of requirements.”

Plus, further research suggests that inaccurate requirements gathering (35%) leads to project failure:

Furthermore, according to Geneca, “More than 80% also feel that the requirements process doesn’t articulate the needs of the business.”

Notice that in all the cases, the operative terms indicate “poor management of requirements.” So, all in all, it is safe to assume that requirements management lays the foundation for successful project management. At this point, you might be wondering what it actually means—a fair question.

Requirements Management is the art and science of planning, collecting, visualizing, testing, refining, prioritizing, and communicating all resources, tools, and processes a project needs to succeed and to live up to the client’s as well as the stakeholder’s expectations, in addition to driving clear and realistic business goals.

Managing requirements is an ongoing process carried out throughout the project lifecycle (and not a checklist that you can check things off of solely at the beginning of a project). This is precisely why you need a tool or a software solution that specializes in controlling and monitoring requirements throughout the project lifecycle. After all, investing time and labor into processes that can be just as easily automated seems like a futile exercise.

However, the catch is this: Requirements come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, thus making the use of dedicated requirements management tools a must-have (instead of a nice-to-have) capability today. This brings us to the next question:

What are Requirements Management Tools?

In simplistic terms, requirements management tools help eliminate ambiguity or inconsistencies from the requirements management process. In the broader sense of the term, ‘ambiguity’ could refer to –

  • defects in the requirements documents
  • underlying client assumptions
  • excessive use of undefined words like ‘might’, ‘and/or’, ‘as needed,’ ‘to be decided,’ etc.
  • sporadic wishful thinking by the customers and stakeholders
  • unpredictable expectations and situations that are open-to-interpretation, among other factors.

As with every other tool or software, the kind of tool you need will depend on your project’s methodology and goals. At this point, it also helps to know that different teams may use varying terms to signify requirements (user stories, features, etc.).

For practical purposes, there are two types of requirements tools – Basic (such as Google Sheets, word documents, etc.), which support traditional or functional requirements and need constant manual updating in real-time, and Complex, which includes a holistic software system that allows for a collective understanding of the non-functional requirements process via increased collaboration.

A complex requirements management tool is capable of delivering a host of features and capabilities (more on this in the next section).

Key Features of Requirements Management Tools:

Spreadsheets and Word Documents are a thing of the past. With projects becoming more complex and multi-dimensional day-by-day, there’s an increasing demand for an all-round requirements gathering tool – one that empowers requirements managers and teams to:

  • Ease the tedious process of documentation by defining and structuring the requirements management process.
  • Support a variety of software development methodologies
  • Tackle change requests by enforcing a change control process.
  • Offer easy access to critical data (that can be hierarchically organized) at all times and help accelerate the requirements management process
  • Trace requirements and link them to designs, code, and tests via the requirements traceability matrix feature.
  • Build in-depth technical tasks for creating accurate project development schedules and timelines.
  • Test the product features and gather insights about the progress (or pain-points) throughout the project lifecycle based on acceptance criteria gathered from external stakeholders or internal teams.
  • Offer customized reporting and track requirements consistently throughout the project.
  • Offer illustrations, personalized dashboards, and visual tools (read: planning boards) for on-point requirements visualization.
  • Offer version controlling and enable historical tracking of requirements, so you don’t end up using outdated information.
  • Engage in real-time, secure collaboration to test issues as-and-when they occur and keep teams informed.
  • Engage in forward and backward impact analysis.
  • Access ample space to store the requirement statements and attributes.
  • Flag missing or unclear requirements.
  • Provide permissions or role-based access control.

Key takeaway: A requirements management tool should act as a centralized point-of-reference for all things project requirements and offers a host of rich features that can make the requirements management process more streamlined, collaboration-led, and, of course, productive.

Why Do You Need Requirements Management Software?

Projects by their very nature – whether simple or complex – come riddled with a host of issues, which include (but are not limited to):

  • An ever-widening information gap between the stakeholders and assets with respect to the project’s specifications, requirements, and assumptions.
  • Inability to manage change or structure data in a standardized format.
  • An unskilled project manager/business analyst with limited technical knowledge.
  • Failure to build relationships and dependencies between requirements data.
  • Unclear, malformed, vague, and ever-changing expectations set by clients at every project development stage.
  • Convoluted heaps of ad-hoc requirements documents that are a pain to create and even more painful to update.
  • Inadequate budgets, tight timelines, and a creeping scope.

The list goes on. As you can imagine, all this can lead to delayed schedules, cost overruns, lost productivity, and unhappy customers. A 360-degree requirements management software solution is the need of the hour. Here are the top-7 benefits of using a mature software solution:

  • Access to a detailed, shared, and updated repository of requirements for all stakeholders.
  • Ability to monitor varying requirements attributes – from the asset responsible for the project’s release to the costs and risks involved.
  • Seamless tracking and testing of changes across the lifecycle.
  • Accurate and real-time monitoring, testing, and reporting of requirements management across all levels.
  • Greater visibility into project management requirements with accurate project controlling.
  • A better understanding of project scope and complexity.
  • Improved collaboration between internal and external stakeholders.

Key takeaway: Manually tracking your project’s status is tedious and time-taking, not to mention error-prone and costly. This is why businesses need to invest in a requirements management tool that offers true value-addition to all the organization’s ecosystem partners – the developers, requirement managers, the stakeholders, or the clients.

How to Choose a Requirements Management Tool for Your Project?

We’ve looked at the defining characteristics, and key benefits a dedicated RM (Requirements Management) software can provide. Now, let’s look at the qualifiers you need to keep in mind when selecting a requirements management tool for your project that caters to all knowledge areas, such as:

  1. Business Analysis Planning and Reviewing
  2. Requirements Analysis
  3. Requirements Management and Communication
  4. Enterprise Analysis
  5. Solution Assessment and Validation

Additionally, it should:

  • Address business, stakeholder, functional (think: relating to a product’s functionality, usability, features, etc.), non-functional (think: not relating to a product’s functionality and could include elements such as performance, stability, security, and more.), and transitional requirements.
  • Enable real-time collaboration over rigid engineering specifications.
  • Offer capabilities that can be extended to the team members, systems, and technology instead of solely offering technical functionalities.
  • Allow you to trace requirements that are in sync with the changing business processes and systems.
  • Offer a stakeholder impact assessment feature by default, which captures stakeholder needs as a separate entity from requirements and helps them stay engaged throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Allow you to link requirements across services, departments, and components.
  • Allow you to define and modify the problem statement and the business outcomes as and when needed.
  • Enable requirements managers and business analysts to record business outcomes in the form of performance measures or KPIs.
  • Work as a multi-tasking tool that can be used for different projects (other than solely defining product/project requirements).

Key takeaway: A requirements management tool worth its salt should be able to account for the laundry list of requirements changes mentioned above. More importantly, it should align your business and stakeholder goals with your requirements management goals and offer measurable metrics to track all three elements at all times.

Why Don’t Some Requirements Management Tools Work for Your Project?

It’s common knowledge that when it comes to requirements management tools or any software for that matter, its success primarily depends on three key factors:

  1. The way the tool deals with the roadblocks and challenges your business puts up with on a daily basis.
  2. How well it tackles the requirements and dynamic needs of the user as well as the business.
  3. The user-friendliness of the tool

That said, oftentimes, things may go south, and the tool may fail to justify its cost if the following constraints are not dealt with properly:

Pain-point 1:
If the tools are too complicated for your team to understand, and the learning curve is steep.
Proposed solution: Opt for an RM tool that extends extraordinary support. Most vendors prize themselves on offering customized help, so make sure to communicate your troubleshooting requirements to them. Another way to ease the transition is by creating a 24×7, useful knowledge base that includes demos, how-to-guides, useful blogs, etc. that can guide your team at the click of a button. Additionally, you can also set up short training sessions and workshops or build dummy tasks that center around the tool. When it comes to figuring out new software, nothing is better than getting hands-on experience.

Pain-point 2:
Not taking enough time or effort to define the tool objectives.
Proposed solution: As mentioned earlier, conducting extensive research into the kind of tool you’ll need is of paramount importance. Just to reiterate, engage in an internal audit by questioning your team on the following pointers:
A. The common pitfalls your team is facing in the project and requirements management processes.
B. The business and operational processes they would like to improve and why.
C. The project methodology that works best for your project and team.
D. The paralyzing challenges they would like to overcome.

Pain-point 3:
Expensive tool. This one’s a no-brainer. Frequently, requirements management tools come burdened with “hidden” costs (in the form of implementation fees, add-ons, training costs, etc.) – a huge disadvantage, especially if you find out about them during later stages of adoption.
Proposed solution: Make sure to speak to your vendor upfront about hidden costs right at the time of negotiations. This allows you to steer clear of any unnecessary surprises later on, which can cost your organization dearly (quite literally in this case).

Pain-point 4:
Unsecure RM tools that don’t focus on data privacy and can pose security threats.
Proposed solution: Speak to your vendor about how foolproof the tool is in terms of data safety and privacy. On your end, read the fine print from end to end, or, better still, run it by specialists in the field. Here’s another handy tip: If you’re signing up for trials, pay attention to the little details so your data doesn’t get compromised at any stage.

Key takeaway: Getting your hands on the right requirements management tool requires extensive research and in-depth knowledge of your business goals, team’s expectations, and the immediate needs of the project at hand. Make sure to account for the pain-points mentioned above to ensure the investment you make is sound and ROI-driven.

How to Adopt a Requirements Management Tool? Top-7 Requirements Management Best-practices to Consider

The requirements management process flow comprises the following seven best-practices:

Step 1: Create – and stick – to an evaluation framework that allows you to address the following burning questions to arrive at the correct requirements evaluation:

  • How should I organize and prioritize my requirements?
  • How do I ensure that my defined requirements are holistic, acceptable, and complete?
  • Is my list of requirements clear, accurate, and measurable?
  • When should I engage in the requirements’ quality management? Should it be done after the design and definition phases, or should it happen throughout the project lifecycle?

Handy tip: One of the most common mistakes in terms of selecting a shelfware requirements management software is that often, it may not deliver any business value, allow users to perform daily activities, or adhere to the needs of the stakeholders – a fatal mistake. This usually happens as the chosen tool is narrowed down strictly on the basis of functional and non-functional requirements.

Step 2: Do your homework and look for a tool that offers additional capabilities other than just requirements (as mentioned in the “How to choose a requirements management tool for your project?” section).

Step 3: Once your research is complete, communicate with your team about driving changes in the requirements management process, and clearly outline the reasons behind why you’re initiating this change. Any change requires physical as well as mental preparation. Once everyone has had enough time to accept this change, you can guide your team in setting goals based on your shared vision.

Step 4: Encourage teammates to be a part of the selection process. Since your team is going to be using the tool, why not pick their brains and get a collective opinion on preferred tools? By including the teammates in the selection process, you are allowing them to be more open and accommodating to this new change.

Step 5: Prepare your team with adequate support. If you want the adoption process to be smooth, you need to give your team time to train and engage in demos. So get in touch with your vendor and create a blueprint of how you can offer support if your team needs it.

Step 6. Connect and learn from your team through in-house training. Conducting demos is all well and good; however, you should also look at driving question-answer (Q&A) sessions in-house. You could address common issues while charting out the best practices and hacks collectively. As they rightly say, teamwork makes the dream work.

Step 7: Adopt a flexible and open approach to new suggestions, structures, and systems. Let’s face it. Adopting a new software will throw light on new organic ways to work and may lead to revisiting the current protocols in place. Before throwing in the towel, collect feedback from your teammates to see what’s working and what is not. You could also brainstorm together about ways to improve the requirement management process. In extreme cases, you may need to look for a replacement. In such a case, reassess the existing expectations and go ahead.

Key takeaway: Adopting a new requirements management tool is an exhaustive process by itself. However, it can pay huge dividends if done right and allow you to deliver projects successfully and seamlessly. So follow these best-practices and take your requirements management to the next level.

How to Use Xebrio for Requirements Management?

Hopefully, by now, you’ve gotten a better idea of what requirements management entails and what a good requirements management tool should look like. In this last section, we’ll dive into Xebrio – a requirements management software that brings to the table end-to-end collaboration and seamless versioning, allowing your team to revisit the changes throughout the requirement lifecycle.

Its USP includes a foolproof change tracking system that empowers stakeholders to get involved in the requirements management process, avoid any miscommunication, minimize requirement changes, and allows the team to freeze requirements earlier and get complete traceability.

This is how it works, step by step:

  • Gather requirements and get it reviewed and approved by the stakeholders.
  • Categorize and prioritize requirements while managing project risks.
  • Collaborate as a team and integrate every expert opinion possible.
  • Map requirements with tasks, milestones, test cases, and trace it all the way to deployments.
  • Track requirements across versions and timelines through a visually designed process that offers granular visibility.
  • Document use cases in the form of specification sections across different versions of a requirement.
  • Log risks in the context of each different version of a particular requirement.
  • Record requirements from the end user’s perspective.
  • Add teammates and stakeholders as reviewers to scrutinize every requirement thoroughly and gain transparency.
  • Validate use cases against a set of approved requirements.
  • Keep track of all your to-dos in an organized manner.
  • Quickly search user stories, use cases, and requirements by title.
  • Keep track of the time spent in scoping each requirement and analyze the amount of effort and resources utilized.

Key takeaway: Xebrio is a comprehensive and unified requirements management tool that delivers quality requirements and empowers your organization to organize and capture requirements in real-time — a big advantage for agile teams whose requirements change by the hour. From tracking changes through a properly designed workflow to getting real-time updates, Xebrio takes over your requirements and allows your team to always stay on top of schedules, budgets, timelines.

Wrapping Up
In essence, requirements management is not merely about documenting the ‘requirements’ of a project. It’s much more comprehensive in scope and ever-evolving. It accounts for stakeholder participation, team member’s needs, and client expectations. It also serves as a point of reference, meticulously tracking and monitoring a project’s progress from start to finish. That said, there’s no doubt that the increased propensity of complex projects has compelled organizations to take a hard look at their current requirements management processes and tools and re-evaluate them in a new light. So keep the aforementioned tips, hacks, and tricks in mind when navigating unchartered waters and testing new tools to find the right fit for your organization.