I would like to discuss with you a special case of requirements management. I call it “requirements management for mere mortals”.
I had worked as a project manager in a small web development company. Significant part of my daily job was talking with our clients to translate their wishes into the tasks for our developers.
The problem I faced is that most of the approaches and tools I used previously simply did not fit.
The root cause is that I had to work with completely non-techie stakeholders who do not care about requirements.
Another issue is a large volume of data. I had to organize info on dozens of small projects each month.
While I have adapted to the process in general there is an issue that I did not manage to overcome – software. It seems that there is no such thing as “RQ management software for mere mortals”.
There are tools like DOORS, Polarion and ton of other RQ systems targeted to enterprise (read terribly expensive and complicated) but there is nothing for a small business.
Here is a list of my wishes for a simple RQ management system:
- Web interface
- Each RQ is a separate entity with unique ID
- Each RQ is versioned (I should be able to see who changed what)
- RQs have tags for easy navigation/grouping
- A list of RQs (current state of RQ document) can be tagged/baselined
- Instant full-text search through all versions
- Primitive access control (as simple as “read/write” permissions)
- Built-in comments/chat to quickly discuss RQs in context
- Simple markup language support like Markdown instead of bloated rich text editor.
- Integration with email (i.e. I can discuss RQ via email but the message will be imported/stored in the system)
- Export of RQ document to the PDF or other commonly used format
- There should be no traceability or other features that regular user has no idea about. Basic links (i.e. "related RQs") between RQs would be enough.
- Extremely minimalistic and straightforward UI so any user familiar with GMail will be able to use/understand it from the first sight.
To summarize, I want something like Basecamp but targeted exclusively to requirements gathering process from regular people.
Did some of you experience the problem described above? Do you find yourself in a need of such software or you are perfectly fine with MS Word/Excel?
Edit: in response to angeline answer
I totaly agree with your recommendations but I do not have an issue with customers not getting RQ management.
I am having problem on my side - it is hard to manage RQs when working under certain conditions.
Even if there is no strict process (e.g. I am an independent IT consultant and decide for myself) you still have to take RQ management serioulsy.
For example, right now I have 350+ email messages regarding one of the projects. Now I need to find some specific RQ to take a decision. Even with smart features like labels and buit-in search in GMail it is incredibly hard to work with. Note that this is not a single issue - there are different problems with small projects as well.
If you have an Excel or Word document you will face with another issues:
- Changes tracking - can you effectively see who changed what in an Excel sheet?
- Versioning - having 10 version of a document doesn't make you life easier
- You still can't prevent customer from sending you info via email which quickly makes your document out of date.
- Collaboration - tossing MS Word document around is not a joy
In my opinion, software described above can solve all of these issues. On customer side it will be either plain old email messages or some simple web UI like one we have on stackexchange.com sites.
The obvious benefits are:
- all information will be in one place and I will be able to easily manage it
- there will be little or no effort for customer to use this system
Edit 2: in response to Adam Wuerl comment:
Currently, I am using Redmine for requirements management. I think that bug tracker is the closest approximation of ideal tool described above. The problems with bug trackers is that they are either non-customizable (to the degree I need) or too flexible (read complicated).
I asked this question in the LinkedIn Requirements Engineering group and of the members has recommended to use Trac.
Unless there is a simple RQ management system available, customized bug tracker would be a good choice.