Agile requirements management: Six advantages of using the cloud
The Agile Manifesto states that individuals and interactions are preferred over processes and
tools. Cloud-based development environments have become a must-have rather than a nice-to-have
since stakeholders in development projects have become more and more distributed across the globe,
and often across many time zones. Rather than being one more hurdle to overcome in adopting Agile
requirements management, cloud-based environments are now assets. Here are six advantages of using
cloud-based Agile requirements management tools and processes:
1. Frequent and asynchronous communication in cloud-based collaboration tools
Most Agile practitioners prefer short descriptions of requirements as stories rather than
specifications in the form of lengthy documents. They also expect these requirements to change and
involve several clarifications and explanations as they roll these into stories and sprints.
Cloud-based collaboration tools become crucial additions to Agile iterations, in that much
communication between stakeholders is enabled beyond the daily or periodic stand-ups. It also
creates permanent written records available to all stakeholders to view, and add their own opinions
and suggestions, in an asynchronous way. Cloud-based requirements management provides the most
important ingredient in Agile development: frequent and rapid communication among all the
2. Cloud-based tools enable exchange of models
Although the intent of Agile development is to present users with software that runs as early as
possible with sprints for feedback and refinement, at the earliest stages of any requirement or a
story, different stakeholders may hold different conceptions of the requirement in their own minds,
leading to communication gaps. Cloud-based environments help a group share, comment, and refine
various models, wireframes and even scanned crude sketches among all the stakeholders. These could
greatly reduce communication gaps even within an iteration, eliminating the need to possibly spread
stories across multiple iterations.
3. Cloud-based test data storage and access
Cloud-based test data storage and access, if possible within a software development project,
enables the sharing, commenting and closing of communication gaps between intended requirements and
requirements as they were understood by the development team. Cloud-based test data along with Agile
test plans help close this communication gap since product owners can verify that they have been
4. Cloud-based Agile requirements enabling on-demand generation
In some companies (especially start-up companies) that use Agile methodologies, the business
model itself could be changing rapidly or the requirements could be evolving over time. If
stakeholders are distributed geographically, then managing rapidly changing requirements are best
handled in cloud-based environments. This allows stakeholders to pull requirements from a stack of
sparsely described stories, insert a few new ones, rearrange them based on priorities and add
additional details only to those on the top of the stack, those that are slated for the next sprint
or iteration. This on-demand detailing of requirements is enabled by cloud-based environments much
more than non-cloud ones.
5. Cloud-based centralization of requirements and test data speeds up testing
Cloud-based testing is arriving fast, especially in mobile applications, where the number of potential makes and models that an
app needs to be tested against may number in the thousands. When you combine cloud-based
requirements with cloud-based centralization of test data and the test environments are also
cloud-based, it enables a lot of the testing and quality assurance to be done around the clock, by geographically
distributed people, all in parallel. This also enables the use of standardized test data that can
be validated by stakeholders wherever they are located physically.
6. Cloud-based workflow speeds up clarification, approval cycles between all
Cloud-based collaborative environments invariably include workflow features also. This greatly
enhances the speed with which gaps in requirements definition and understanding can be bridged in
the shortest amount of time possible. Even in collaborative environments, a discussion forum may
not get the same attention and rapid response that an email representing a workflow would. This
helps the Agile development group be ready with the requirements for the next sprint, ready to go
before the current sprint is done.
Cloud-based Agile requirement management tools are evolving rapidly. They present a number of
significant advantages over a centralized set of tools that not all stakeholders may have ready
access to at any time, especially if they are geographically distributed across many time zones.
Managing Agile requirements over the cloud primarily bridges the communication gaps that could
exist between sparse definitions of requirements and the conversations that need to happen before
you see that requirement implemented in a sprint. Combine that with cloud-based test data and test
environments, and you have a very powerful overall Agile development mechanism.
About the author: Nari Kannan is currently the Chief Delivery Officer of V-Soft Consulting,
Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky-based software consulting firm. Nari has 20 years of experience in
information technology and started out as a senior software engineer at Digital Equipment Corp. He
has since served variously as vice president of engineering or CTO of six Silicon Valley startup
companies, working in the areas of business process improvement, IT consulting, automotive claims
processing, human resources and logistics applications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was first published in August 2011