It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      April 2008 Full Moon Edition      

Writing Better Requirements by Ian F. Alexander and Richard Stevens

It is rare when you come across a project management book that is easy to read, short and full of valuable information but Writing Better Requirements meets this criteria. If you have been in my training or heard me speak you know I like simple and to the point!

The Book Provides Practical Advice

The book provides good practical advice on writing requirements. Alexander and Stevens follow their own advice for writing requirements in the book by using simple words that contribute to the books readability. The book is written in a manner that will not intimidate non-technical personnel so it may given to the entire project team, including customers and users. (Wait….. I just had a novel idea….we should teach our customers and users how to write requirements.)

Here are five valuable tips from Writing Better Requirements

1. Perspective on the requirements effort. The authors state approximately 5% of the project effort and up to 25% of the schedule duration should be put on project requirements.

2. Guidance on structuring requirements. Improper structuring is identified as a primary cause of poor requirements. The structuring discussion includes a useful table that documents problems and solutions for structuring requirements. For, example, the authors characterize one problem as “Some requirements can be applied simultaneously or in any order” and provide the common sense solution of “Mark whether sections in the structure are sequences, parallels or alternatives.” Overall the authors provide some good alternatives to challenges on how to effectively structure requirements.

3. Plenty of exercises. Another valuable aspect of this book are the exercises provided after a lot of the sections in the book. The exercises provided are well thought out and solutions are included at the end of the book. In addition to the exercises examples are provided to clarify and reinforce key points.

4. Guidelines on conducting a requirements workshop. Important guidelines on how to conduct a requirements workshop are discussed including room lay out and facilitation tips. The book has a good glossary of terms.

5. Lists of other sources of requirements. The book includes a nice list of “other” sources of requirements. One of these sources that is often overlooked is problem reports from the previous system. The authors state these problem reports “can often be turned around into requirements.” This is a powerful method to ensure improvement of the future system.

Writing Better Requirements (ISBN 0321131630) should be a part of every project managers library. I give it 5 of 5 stars! Make your life easier and give it as a holiday gift for your users and customers. No need to wait until December. Memorial Day is approaching fast!

Dr. James T. Brown PMP PE

Copyright 2008 SEBA Solutions Inc. 

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