Selecting a Requirements Tool

Although I prefer a solid requirements development and management process over having a really cool requirements tool, I have found that requirements development work on many projects is easier to complete and maintain if you use a tool. Make sure that your selected tool supports your organization’s process for developing and managing requirements. For an overview and evaluation of requirements management tools, check out the requirements tools survey data on the International Council on System Engineering (INCOSE) web site at: http://www.incose.org/ProductsPubs/products/rmsurvey.aspx.   

Most requirements management tools use a database to store each requirement and any relevant data as a record. The tools organize and trace the requirements by:

  • Grouping types of requirements
  • Assigning key words and attributes to requirements
  • Linking to facilitate searching for sets of requirements
  • Generating customized reports
  • Interfacing with other systems and software engineering tools
  • Providing users with a graphical, multi-window interface

These tools often integrate with other project tools, such as configuration management, testing, analysis, design, and modeling tools. Many current tools have limited requirements documentation, management, and linking capabilities and you will often see bundled or supplemental services in the tool suites. When you are selecting a requirements management tool, consider following my simple road map for the steps in tool evaluation and selection.  And do keep in mind that one tool does not fit all needs.

  1. Make an inventory of current tools within the organization
  2. Define and understand the requirements management process that the tools will be supporting
  3. Assess your level of process and software maturity
  4. Consider internal development and integration in addition to vendor purchases
  5. Incorporate training to ensure people use tools effectively and interpret results correctly
  6. Evaluate any potential tools across the life cycle of the project and product assets

 When evaluating requirements tools, you should consider the following list of capabilities as part of your requirements management tool selection checklist:

  • User interface
  • Linking requirements
  • Tracing requirements
  • Changing requirements
  • Creating requirements
  • Integration with other tools
  • Communication
  • Stability
  • Security
  • Testing
  • Output
  • Platforms

Happy requirements tool shopping.  Be sure to do your homework and assess the available tools relative to your organization and your types of projects.  That is a common sense way to avoid tool buyer’s remorse.

Susan Weese

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