Requirements repositories are a method of storing requirements, encompassing those under development, in review, and approved. They are an efficient means of gathering, managing, and leveraging data across the enterprise – including business, stakeholder, solution, transition, project, and quality requirements – along with supporting documentation, such as whiteboard sketches, word processing documents, diagrams, and visual models.
Capturing all that information in itself can be difficult. Capturing the information in a repository that is accessible, meaningful, searchable, and sharable presents further challenges. Keeping in mind these three best practices for knowledge management can help.
Repositories are only valuable if they’re used. To promote use, the repository has to be part of the daily life of the work environment. It has to function with the overall enterprise architecture, and integrate with other technologies in use, such as Outlook, project management systems, and SharePoint.
Also, people have to be able and willing to access it regularly. They have to be motivated to populate a repository. On the receiving end, it has to be easier for them to access the repository for information than to walk across the hall and ask for it. Use of the repository has to be bought into, encouraged, and mandated from the top down and the bottom up.
The repository also has to be relevant. Requirements are valuable only when they are connected and in context. Imagine the Internet without Google: It’s just a massive amount of information with no context around it.
Repositories must provide an easy way for people to search and access the information that has meaning to them. Many businesses seek to define and collect a database of “the system shall” statements. But are these valuable? The reality is that requirements need to convey more meaning. They need context that can be searched for and attached to attributes, features, and ultimately high-level business values.
Codification is a balance
The right level or balance of codification is also imperative. On the input end, users must populate the repository. Users must have information to share, codify it in a logical and purposeful way, and then store it. On the output end, users must be able to search for information, decode it, and access it. Information has to easily flow back and forth with the repository in the middle. Errors can happen at any stage, and they often do at the point information is codified.
Many repositories end up using too much modeling of information, dictating the format that data must be captured in. This creates a situation in which only people who can use the information in that format can benefit. For example, it is common for software architects to use a modeling tool to document requirements. But problems erupt when businesses don’t understand how that modeling can be applied to their purposes (metrics, gauging performance, analysis) and thus will not use it.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is too little codifying. This results in requirements hoarding – it’s all knowledge and no organization. To be effective, information needs to “cleaned up.” The content needs to categorized and structured to provide organization and eliminate unreliable and irrelevant information. The key to collecting and managing knowledge in an effective way is balance.
More information on best practices in repositories can be found in Enfocus Solutions’ encore presentation of “Requirements Repositories and Reusability” December 3rd. Register today to achieve a competitive advantage on your next project. (Update: The webinar is now available for download.)
Enfocus Solutions’ educational webinar series regularly explores the latest topics in business analysis and requirements management. Make them a core part of your professional development.