Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design Hardcover – 23 May 1990
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This quote encompasses the most important concept I learned from this terrific book on the art of gathering requirements. Most customers seem to focus exclusively on the size and quality of the requirements document itself. What Gause & Weinberg are saying here is that the process of developing the requirements and the building of a strong project team should be the primary goals. The document itself is secondary.
I've read this book at least three times and I'm constantly finding new ideas and tips that I missed in previous readings. The book is now covered almost top to bottom in highlights and peppered with little sticky note bookmarks. I've also skimmed it before the start of a project and I found the list of Helpful Hints at the end of every chapter to be quite useful.
A sample product development project is skillfully integrated into the book and helps to tie together the many recommendations and process advice presented. I've impressed many a client with my customized process for requirements gathering, which has been improved tremendously by the techniques I learned from G&W.
As an independent technology and management consultant, I can't have enough tools to facilitate the work on my projects. This book is a must read for project managers or business analysts who are involved in creation of any kind of product or service from software development to manufacturing to new media.
That said, do not let me give the impression that this book is vague or that it does not get into specifics or that it does not contain some useful step-by-step approaches. It is not vague at all, and it gets into plenty of specifics. What impresses me the most is the way it achieves complete coverage of the subject without bogging down or becoming boring. After reading this book, it is very likely that you will not feel the need to read much else on the subject of software requirements.
Now, what is most amazing is this: this is *not* specifically a book about *software* requirements. It is about any kind of requirements for any kind of project that requires a design, be it a new and better mousetrap or a large software system. My comments have used the term "software requirements" because this is why I read the book, and why I think a lot of people will read it. But this book is for anyone who must specify the requirements for something that must be designed and/or built, no matter what field you are in. The lessons here are so univeral that it does not matter which context you use them in. Essential reading.
It is easy, they say, if readers focus on five critical words: desire, product, people, attempt and discover.
Then why is it, to borrow statistics used by Microsoft at their Project 2002 product that 74 per cent of projects in the United States are either behind schedule or fail at a cost to industry of $74 Billion a year?
If you watch how people successfully develop systems, the authors say, you will observe that the process of developing requirements is a process of developing a team who:
1. Understand the requirements.
2. Stay together to work on the project.
3. Understand and practice teamwork.
The project, the authors say, will probably fail if one of these conditions is not met. Team members must develop and concentrate on three critical, but often ignored human aspects of the process:
1. A clear understanding of the requirements by all members
2. A sense of teamwork
3. The required skills and tools to work effectively as a team.
This conversational book is written to be read in modules or front to back. Either way, the exercises and tools provided should help rank your project with the successful 26 per cent.
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