Tools for requirements gathering have usually run a small gamut. Although high-tech approaches are available, low-tech Post-It notes, index cards, Excel spreadsheets, and word processors seem to be the choice of many people. But Blueprint Systems, a requirements software maker, is looking to change that with Blueprint Requirements Center 2009.
Blueprint Requirements Center is described as a workbench for business analysts, a group that does a great share of the requirements gathering in IT today. Blueprint contends it is dedicated to serving the business analyst, who continues to work with Word and Excel at the same time QA and developer folk begin to work with more sophisticated collaboration tools.
"People are using office automation tools to do requirements definition," said Tony Higgins, vice president of products for Blueprint. "A majority of people are using Word, Excel, and Visio and then trying to connect the dots."
Use of such tools, he said, can lead to a document-centric approach to requirements gathering that can result in a lot of overhead for the individuals involved with what is being called the "Requirements Life Cycle." In many cases, business analysts interact with the business users, developers, system architects, and QA teams using a mish-mash of spreadsheets, Word docs, and the like. The Requirements Center 2009 workbench seeks to deal with this issue by offering specialized modules for requirements elicitation, elaboration, validation, and acceptance.
The Requirements Elicitation module helps business analysts capture initial requirements concepts in early interviews with business users. They can create lists of functional, security, scope, performance, and interface requirements through keyboard short-cuts and quick-attachments. Requirements Center 2009 provides bi-directional tracing for requirements assets, an integrated glossary, and integration with HP Quality Center.
Higgins indicated that Blueprint does not expect Word documents and spreadsheets in requirements gathering to go away -- overnight or otherwise. The Blueprint system can handle diverse document types, and it can provide a common view of requirements gathered in various fashions.
"I think Blueprint's approach is positive in a breakthrough way," said Theresa Lanowitz, founder of analyst firm Voke Inc. "They provide a solution to business analysts. And HP can be part of it as well."
Lanowitz said it was possible with the HP Quality Center integration to automatically generate test cases from requirements gathered with Blueprint's Requirements Center.
Need integration between requirements and test cases
Lanowitz further said Voke recently finished a study on the role of the business analyst and found that use of Word to gather requirements is prevalent.
"We also found 74% [of respondent users] are still creating their test cases manually. They are not taking requirements and turning them into test cases. Instead, they are forwarding a Word doc to QA engineers who then go through it and attempt to create test cases in a manual fashion from that," she said.
"In 2008, we still don't have the integration between the business requirements and the test cases," Lanowitz said. "That is big area where errors can occur."