Requirements Management Tools

A colleague asked:
"I'm looking for information about requirements collection and management tools for one of our project leads. Specifically, is anyone using an easy-to-use requirements management tool on their project?"
I mostly use Requiste Pro which includes a nice tutorial that is located under the "Help" menu. Includes eight lessons that will help you get started. Not too hard to work thru most of these in Friday afternoon. With regard to "ease of use", none of the products in the requirements management space are as easy to use as your typical consumer software but as a computer assisted software engineering (CASE) tools go.... ReqPro is one of the easiest of the lot. I used to be a Rational Partner (1996-2003) and saw first-hand that the Rational strategy was to offer easier to use CASE tools and offer them in bundles or suites (i.e. with Rose for OOAD, with ClearCase for CM, etc.). A strategy which I often thought of as the "Microsoft Strategy" in that Word was never as powerful as FrameMaker for word processing.....but much easier to use and came in a bundle with Excel and PowerPoint. DOORS has a long history and in the old-days used to be more of a niche professional's tool (like FrameMaker) but in the past few years has made huge improvements and become comparable to ReqPro, Project, etc. in ease of use for the general IT worker. Another caution about "ease of use" is that none of these tools do very much "out of the box" and all require a certain amount of setup before you can do much with regard to requirements management.....setup that, in the wrong hands, can do more harm than good. It is comparable to why a friend of mine can't understand why I use Excel to manage my personal finances when they use Quicken. Excel doesn't do anything out-of-the-box for personal finances but I've been able to setup worksheets that meet my needs. Quicken is much easier to get started and guides you straight to the task at hand.... and helps you avoid making any really dumb mistakes. Another aspect of the "ease of use" route is having web access to your requirements management repository. ReqPro supports this as do many of the other big-name tools. In this case "ease of use" might be better put as "ease of access" but it is also true that the web front-ends to these tools contribute to ease of use in that those interfaces are a little simpler. "Ease of use" here means for the day-to-day users of the system - setting up and administrating these web front-ends isn't hard for someone used to those chores but isn't something your average office worker will probably want to take on. For anyone with enough Microsoft Office skill to have moved beyond memos, e-mail and slides...... getting started with a simple Access application is a great way to start as part of your path to using the CASE tools (ReqPro, Caliber, etc.) . You can connect the Access to a local or corporate database. It is easy to setup reports. Finally, and most importantly, it is easy to setup forms so that non-techie participants can use (add, lookup, edit) the requirements database easily and without mistakes. This is also a great way to prototype your requirements management needs as preparation to the setup of one of the major tools. All of the big-name tools have decent importing features so it is easy to keep the requirements you've already entered. For even simpler requirements management tasks, it is probably fine to use Excel and the sort, filter, etc. features that come with that tool. I find the point at which Excel falls apart is when you get more than a couple of requirements types (i.e. traceability is a pain) or when you get the more complicated constraints on requirements attributes. However, I've seen lots of projects flounder because they just had to use a big-name tool.... but did so poorly and when they would have been better off with simpler (Word or Excel) documents managed well. <rant> Throwing Word in as an option isn't a joke. Let's remember that we managed to put a man on the moon before tools like ReqPro were even imagined or before databases as we currently understand them were available. I've often found that many people gravitate to the tools in order to get some instant, unearned, credibility for their projects or their roles on the project - as if buying these high-end tools was a way to buy success in a box for their project or automatically made them smarter about the work to be done. This is a mistake. None of the tools are so easy, so well built, that they are a substitute for competent project management and systems engineering. </rant> See my del.icio.us lists for on links to other requirements management tools or references about equirements management. - Brian

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