6 Ways to Propagate Non-Functional Requirements

Type: Rules


Most BAs and a lot of other project people would immediatly agree to "nonfunctional requirements (NFR) are important in almost any software development." However, most often these people also would agree to sentences like "but it is hard to do", "we have a special sitiuation here, we can't do it", "I haven't managed to convince the others", or the exceptionally honest "I don't really know where to start", or "Why should we invest in NFRs?". I want to show how to convince others to REALLY do nonfunctional requirements, and how to REALLY start with it yourself, if that is your concern.

Rules and Notes

R1: Don't do it alone.

At least get some like-minded chap to talk to regularly. Who are the opinion leaders? Who are early / quick adopters in your area? Does it help to get somebody elso on board? How about somebody from higher up the food chain? From my own experience I'd say it's likely that you know what goes wrong and what to do about it, but that someone else is better at marketing ideas.

Note: I saw people hype an unimpressive topic so much that everybody started talking about it. (I'm not talking about 'offshoring' or 'SOA' here, but smaller, company-internal things.) However, there is a certain risk you then cannot control it anymore :-)

R2: Use all available official means,

e. g corporate idea management, any SPI programme, your regular talk with your superior, the chair you own on any related board. Which department is responsible?

Note: You don't want to fight department borders here, especially in large organizations. Maybe it's better to get a job at this other department.

R3: Get outside help.

"A Prophet Hath No Honour in His Own Country". Maybe some external expert can spark the fire within your organization. These people specialize in quick conviction! Get them in and find a way to make more senior management listen to them.

Note: I could recommend the Gilb family, but that would be surreptitious advertising. However, Tom Gilb's book 'Competitive Engineering' is full of examples, his website full of papers that could help you out.

R4: Do baby steps (ok, that one shows up in nearly all how to-guides nowadays).

Can you "just do a pilot" on some project? Or start with a few requirements you really feel comfortable about. Advance with the one most commonly used, like customer satisfaction, availability, maintainability.

Note: While there are good maintainability metrics to apply on systems, it seems nobody can show a measurable relationship between these metrics and, say, the future cost of maintenance. Maybe that is because the metrics focus on the code too much (analyzability), and maintenance has to be seen as a more holistic process.

R5: Let (bad) examples speak for you.

Where are the bad examples? I'm sure you will find some quickly. Can you show missing or bad NFRs being a root cause for some problem? Does anyone else think so (see R1)? Really get into a few examples so you know them inside-out.

Note: I suggest you use examples that show that it does not help the user a single bit if these requirements are met. Example: Some detailed requirement saying it should take x seconds from the button-click until something is persistenty saved. I bet the user is not really interested in saving in 8 out of 10 cases. He cares about the time he needs to accomplish some task greater than saving, or about some way to reuse work.

R6: Talk about it.

Once you started your endeavor to push NFRs, maybe with a pilot, make a public commitment towards your goal and keep updating an audience about your progress. Talk about your proceedings at the coffee machine, in the cafeteria or the casino, in order to keep you focused and the audience listening.

Costs, Savings

<Would be great. What does it take to implement those rules? What does it give?>

Side effects

<Is there anything that happend or will happen as one implements the rules? This relates to both wanted and unwanted effects ('unwanted' does not imply 'negative').>



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