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What are the different ways to elicit software requirements?

There are a number of techniques that can be used to gather software requirements. In this expert response, you'll be pointed to a learning guide that explains the differences, it will teach additional techniques and find out the key to successful business requirements.

What are the different techniques of eliciting requirements for a new software development project?

A plethora of methods and tools are covered in the SearchSoftwareQuality Learning Guide entitled, Software requirements gathering techniques. Descriptions of prototyping, storyboards, modeling, state transition diagrams, use cases, tools and other resources can all be found in this guide. Besides these methods, other techniques include the creation of user stories and the use of visualization tools.

User stories are often used in agile environments as a way of quickly identifying business needs with a very short description of the business need. Doing this prevents discussion of the technology details to ensure the focus is on what is needed, not how it will be implemented.

Another method of gathering requirements that's been getting a lot of recent press is the use of visualizations. Visualizations are simulations that can be created by business analysts using special visualization software. Using the software, BA's are able to go a step beyond documentation and are able to actually create a working model of the application. Proponents of this approach claim it aids in communication and collaboration between team members and allows for an easier way to describe requirements.

However, there is some concern that with visualizations there might be the tendency to design the system and user interface rather than focus on business requirements.

Regardless of method or tool, it is important to focus on what the business needs rather than how the system will be designed. Communication with stakeholders throughout the lifecycle to help validate requirements can also help prevent unwelcome surprises at the end of the project.

This was last published in July 2010

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