Why draw up a requirements specification?

Why draw up a requirements specification?

September 22, 2010

Before starting work, EDISON needs an accurate and professional requirements specification. Our experience proves that the requirements specification is a prerequisite for success in large- or medium-scale projects. Some development teams get straight to work with no preparation as they don't want to scare clients away with their project questions. However, rushing in unprepared often leads to wasted time and money later on. Ensuing disagreements over evaluation criteria, long-term negotiation, additional reworking and technical characteristic alterations leave behind an “unpleasant aftertaste” even if work is finally accepted. A clear software development requirements specification helps avoid these problems.

Who is the requirements specification for?


The project contractor needs the requirements specification to work on the project and the client needs it when accepting completed work. Therefore, the client should clearly present the task at hand in all its detail and provide information about their organisation and its aims. The more detailed the information in the requirements specification, the easier it is for the client and contractor to find a common language. But the project manager makes the requirements specification mainly for himself: many ideas arise while the project is being implemented so the main thing is to focus on the primary goal as stated in the requirements specification and not get distracted by certain nuances which may emerge during project work.

Purpose of the requirements specification


The main purpose of the requirements specification is to organise the working process which involves a whole team of specialists. It forms the basis for the project and all work must be carried out in accordance with this document. When you have an accurate written document it is easier to assess innovative development work and compare results with initial targets.

The other objective of the requirements specification is to provide information. As we have already mentioned, the contractor should understand the specific nature of the company's business, the aims set by its management team and the purpose for which the software is being developed. The information section of the document should be accurate and concise. Besides source information about the client, the information section can include information about software development research. The requirements specification can also contain supplements providing the current system characteristics, specifications and operating conditions, engineering specifications and the standards supported.

The requirements specification should settle all conflicts and disputes which have arisen during verbal negotiations. Thus, the third objective of this document is communication. One project may involve several groups, including: a development team, company manager (client), client employees who will use the developed software in the future and a project manager. These people may also speak different languages. Software development is a creative process, so the first stage should provide a basis for understanding. Each person may have their own idea of how the end product should look, based on their own knowledge and past work experience. Therefore, clear criteria for assessing project work is essential and there must be consensus within the team. The requirements specification acts as an important means of communication between all those working on a project.

The requirements specification should provide all of the initial terms and conditions, gives all necessary background information and establish work assessment criteria. Importantly, this document also defines legal authority and responsibility. Together with the contract and supplements, the requirements specification gains legal significance. When all of the terms and conditions (including labour cost, implementation timeframes and optional warranty service) have been agreed upon then all further disputes, unnecessary stress and time loss can be minimised. As a result, all parties will be happy with the end product of their fruitful cooperation.

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Clients can draw up a requirements specification independently or have us do it for them.