How to Do Agile Requirements Management Properly

05 Mar 2019

It's no secret that software development is, in fact, a complex process. That's why it's of the utmost importance to develop software in accordance with the client's preferences, expectations and needs. However, when it comes to managing client requirements, traditional and Agile methods have quite a different approach to the task at hand. Simply put, Agile focuses on avoiding heaps of documentation that are associated with traditional methods.

With that in mind, let's take a look at how to do agile requirements management the right way.

The difference between Agile and traditional

If you're to sum up all the differences between Agile and traditional approach to client requirements, you'd easily be able to identify the one that stands out the most, which is planning. A common misconception is that the Agile approach neglects planning altogether while traditional methods are quite strict when it comes to planning.

Even though Agile manifesto states in one of its principals that working software is imperative over comprehensive documentation, it never stated that documentation is not required or useful for that matter. That being said, Agile uses an adaptive planning method while the traditional method requires from project managers to plan for weeks, if not months, in advance to prepare and gather the documentation for the project.

Documentation in agile requirements management

Therefore, the entire purpose is to eliminate excess documentation that's only hindering the process and leave only essentials that are adding to the overall value of the product. Piling up documentation will only slow down the entire project and in the end, it will inevitably delay it as well. What's more, at least 50% of created documents in traditional methods will end up not being used at all over the course of the project.

Defining client requirements

In the Agile approach, the best way to start things off is to define client requirements by creating a product requirements document (PRD). This document will encompass the product that's about to be developed, its features, its functionalities and how it's supposed to behave.

After that is set and done, you'll need input for other people that will be involved in the project, such as shareholders, developers, designers and any other business or technical team that'll be handling some of the project's aspects. However, it's very important to obtain the necessary information from the clients beforehand, so that you can avoid inconveniences and misunderstandings.

As an example, the Agile approach is based on a shared understanding between clients and technical teams. If both sides understand each other, it becomes easier and more seamless to get the requirements properly. Therefore, when you interview clients, make sure you bring along a few of the members of the development and design teams so they can hear what clients require firsthand. This is a more reliable method than relying on documents provided by clients.

Focus on the communication

Agile focuses on developing pieces of software during the period that consists of a few weeks tops. These processes are also called sprints. These software pieces can be reviewed by anyone involved, including the clients themselves.

This brings us to another important difference between Agile and traditional methods. As a matter of fact, clients are highly involved in the traditional methods but only during the earliest stages of the software development process. Their input is required to help managers understand requirements regarding software functionality and how it should be developed.

However, clients have limited to no involvement during the development process itself. On the other hand, in the Agile approach, clients are involved in every step of the development process and they can suggest improvements after revising pieces of software developed after each sprint.

This ensures client engagement and contributes to the overall success of the project. Another factor that contributes to improved communication, as well as understanding between clients and technical teams are requirement backlogs.

These backlogs consist of user stories, which are crucial parts of requirements aside from visualizations and functionality requirements. In other words, these are simple, everyday sentences that describe how users expect the software to function in certain situations. This helps the teams prioritize tasks based on strategy and objectives.

User story template

Decomposition and grooming

In order to properly finalize client requirements in the Agile method, it's is time for decomposition and grooming. These contribute to the product backlog. In other words, client requirements are being added to the Product Backlog in a such a way that everyone understands their impact on the upcoming work.

That way your teams will be able to clearly understand the requirements and determine the best way to implement them. By further grooming the backlog, technical teams also improve communication and collaboration between themselves. Furthermore, when you consider that clients are involved at all times, it becomes easier to capture and refine requirements along the way. That way you can guarantee that the project won't end up in disarray due to the misunderstandings of project goals.

Why is Agile a more reliable approach?

The software development process is quite a dynamic environment. Traditional methods simply lack the transparency needed for requirements to be integrated seamlessly. This can easily lead to unnecessary delays and increased costs. Moreover, the lack of adaptive flexibility in traditional methods makes it difficult for a project to shift from its current course once it's well underway.

On the other hand, the Agile approach fosters ongoing improvements, specific time frames for development cycles and quicker delivery of value to the end users, which makes it more reliable. With that in mind, the value itself is driven in most part by the clarity and excellence of requirements that are fed into the development process. With an agile approach to requirements early in the software lifecycle, the entire process can be made more seamless, to begin with.

When it comes to agile requirements management, it takes on a new approach that's focused on value. It eliminates the need for extensive documentation that has the potential to slow down the project itself. Instead, it focuses on a collaborative environment that will ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding software features.