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There are a lot of solutions for requirements management on the market. Get a breakdown of what to consider when looking for requirements management tools and software, and what the top requirements management tools all have in common.

Every trade has its own sort of requirements — those items or processes necessary to produce products, systems, or software that meets certain standards for safety, use, reliability, and customer satisfaction. All of those requirements connect and build on each other in different ways. For example, in the development of a medical device, engineers, enterprise architects, designers, software developers, medical experts, and researchers all bring different requirements to the table. However, if those requirements don’t work together, the resulting medical device won’t function as it should or satisfy the end user.

In the realm of product development and software development, requirements can exist across a variety of boundaries and in a host of different places. Without a single place to capture all product requirements, team members can end up siloed and isolated from the big picture. The unintended negative outcomes of this fragmented process might include: significant delays, cost overruns, product defects, compliance gaps, safety recalls, omitted requirements, and lengthy rework.

The right modern requirements management tool can help.

What is a requirements management tool?

Put simply, a requirements management tool is a central repository for product development teams that ensures all team members can see requirements as they evolve and properly evaluate where they are—at any given time—in the product development process. With a requirements management tool that captures everything from soft knowledge to regulatory compliance standards in real-time, product development teams can realize benefits such as faster speed of delivery, lower costs, and improved productivity.

Selecting the Right Requirements Management Tools and Software

As products, software, and regulatory guidelines have become increasingly complex, so has requirements management and project management. Methods that worked in the past, such as tracking requirements in static MS Word or Excel documents or using Atlassian Jira alone, may no longer be adequate for development teams. With teams scattered across geographic boundaries and a trend toward remote work, key members may work anywhere around the world from any time of day. Moreover, the convergence of technology means that products may need multidisciplinary teams across a complex hardware and software ecosystem. A product that used to require mainly mechanical experts now requires experts on mechanics, electronics, software, hardware, and even new technologies such as green energy and artificial intelligence.

And it’s not just the hard knowledge that needs to be captured. As the workforce ages, it’s vital that teams find ways to capture the soft knowledge and experience of workers who are preparing to retire. Not only that, but younger workers, especially Millennials and Generation Z, tend to change jobs more often than their predecessors. With workers moving in and out of the workforce and shifting jobs more often, teams need to preserve knowledge as much as possible. In addition, as enterprise companies move to Agile to stay competitive in a start-up world, they increasingly need collaborative tools to streamline processes and move past old ways of doing business and ineffective static requirements documents.

In this environment, the need for requirements management solutions has never been greater. With the right requirements management tool, teams will streamline product development and get better products to market faster.

RELATED POST: Checklist: Selecting a Requirements Management Tool

What criteria should be used to select requirements management tools?

To some degree, it depends on the industry, product, and make-up of your team. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

Is the requirements management software collaborative?

If your teams are scattered, implementing a solution that allows for structured collaboration and accommodates everyone is vital. A collaborative solution also contributes to a move to Agile.

What is the best tool to manage requirements for complex products in regulated industries?

In general, the more complex the product, the more robust the solution needs to be. Highly regulated industries need requirements management tools that allow them to trace compliance-related requirements in real-time.

How important are Living Requirements?

If your requirements management tool or system fails to address a fragmented development life cycle, and you are still operating with static requirements, the likelihood and risk of negative outcomes increases.

Are we stuck, unproductive, or frequently bogged down in a way that delays the release of products?

The right requirements management tool can streamline your processes and get the team moving in the right direction.

Do we need our requirements management tool to connect with other tools?

Many cloud-based requirements management solutions offer integrations with other cloud-based tools to further streamline your product development process and allow better collaboration across ecosystems.

What is the difference between using a spreadsheet and requirements management tools to manage requirements?

Using an Microsoft Word document or a spreadsheet for requirements management isn’t necessarily wrong. For simple products with small, in-house development teams and few governing regulatory guidelines, a spreadsheet may suffice. Historically, requirements have been captured using spreadsheets or simple processing documents.

 What are the pros and cons of using an MS Word document or spreadsheets for managing requirements?

·       Pros: Simple; cost-effective with free or open-source spreadsheet apps; few barriers to adoption.

·       Cons: Prone to errors; tracking change is difficult; may not be easy to collaborate.

But as products and regulations become more complex, the spreadsheet approach presents challenges and hinders traceability. Teams increasingly work across a variety of geographies, disciplines, functions, and even companies. As the importance of cross-boundary collaboration rises and teams work in-person less frequently, trying to maintain one spreadsheet becomes increasingly difficult. Even a shared document on a cloud drive is inadequate; it may be infrequently updated, saved on multiple drives, or full of insufficient information. In addition, especially on multi-disciplinary teams, members may find a spreadsheet cumbersome as they try to determine which requirements they are directly responsible to address. Finally, creating a requirements trace matrix from a spreadsheet can be cumbersome and prone to incomplete information.

At the point where a spreadsheet is no longer adequate to trace and track requirements, organizations and teams need to consider what type of dedicated requirements management solution will work for them.  A dedicated tool should allow the product development team to collaborate across boundaries, easily trace requirements, and produce requirements documentation with ease.

What are the best requirements management tools?

Of course, because teams and products have unique needs, defining the “best” requirements management tool is dependent on a number of factors.

For small teams or start-ups with few stakeholders, simple products, and tight budgets, there are a variety of free and open source requirements management tools available, including spreadsheets.

For SMBs who typically have fewer stakeholders and users, cost may be an important consideration. SMBs may want to look for a tool that has a lower priced edition or a per-user pricing model. Those options can still provide the important functions of requirements traceability, integrated discussion boards, and collaboration while remaining cost-effective.

For highly regulated industries, a robust RM tool can significantly reduce the risk of product failures, recalls, and reprimands from regulatory agencies. With a requirements tool that captures everything in one place, teams operate with more complete information and generate more accurate reports, which reduces the risk of product failure.

For the enterprise, a requirements management software that offers full integration and collaboration options can help keep teams agile in a start-up world. In addition, the right requirements solution makes integrating market research and user stories better, improving the chances of successful product release.

Your requirements management system should, at the very least, do these things:

  • Simplify the effort it takes to achieve compliance with regulatory standards
  • Reduce risk and the probability of negative outcomes and the impact of change
  • Enable alignment and collaboration across teams and activities
  • Provide end-to-end visibility and control with a single source of truth
Want the inside scoop? See what users are saying about Jama Connect

What are the pros and cons of requirements management tools?

For teams working on complex products in a regulated industry (especially those with a widely distributed team), there are many pros to adopting a dedicated requirements management tool. With the right tool, teams can realize several advantages:

Improved productivity: With one dedicated solution, team members have a single source of truth. As members write requirements, add user stories, trace progress, link to other layers of knowledge, and create relationships with other requirements, everyone on the team can see how decisions and progress ripple across the product development lifecycle.

Reduced time to market: With improved productivity comes reduced time to market. With true collaboration inside a requirements management solution, traceability improves, and all stakeholders can see connections in real-time.

Reduced rework: A 2018 Engineering.com study (sponsored by Jama) revealed that 83% of design teams experienced some kind of production outcome failure due to poor requirements management. Improving requirements management along the way will reduce potential rework, thereby improving outcomes.

Reduced defects: Defects in the development process are common, but they don’t have to result in long-term problems if caught early. Proper requirements management can help quickly identify defects and track their impact. By giving visibility into the problem early, teams can address and correct defects before they result in product failure or regulatory problems.

Of course, there are downsides to some requirements management tools. Some solutions may be cost-prohibitive, and if the solution is cumbersome or not user friendly, teams may be reluctant to implement and adopt it, especially if the customer support isn't outstanding. Additionally, cross-boundary teams may use different apps or solutions that lack integration capabilities, creating barriers to productivity, collaboration, and, ultimately, product releases.

What features are important for requirements management software?

Jama Software breaks down some of the key features of various requirements management solutions on the market, and shows what top requirements management tools have in common.

There is a wide range of features offered across requirements management solutions. The features highlighted focus on the core functionality that any solution must offer to effectively fulfill the function of requirements management.

Top Requirements Management Tools Have These Things in Common

Ease of Use – installation and implementation must not take a lot of time and must quickly integrate with other systems and workflows to ensure adoption of the solution across teams.

Requirements Management  – includes the ability to define requirements, model relationships, link requirements, reuse requirements, and export/import requirements data.

Collaboration and Reviews –  includes the functionality for interaction between users, as well as some basic task management functionalities to allow for collaboration on tasks. This includes the ability to review, approve, provide electronic signatures, gather input, maintain version control, and receive notifications about other users’ activity within the software. This may extend to include collaboration with external teams and suppliers.

Full Traceability and Impact Analysis – able to establish an automatic relationship across requirements is key to effective requirements management. This includes test management and the ability to run test cases and mitigate risks through change management across the lifecycle of a project.

RELATED POST: How to Perform Better Impact Analysis on Upstream and Downstream Relationships

Flexible, Scalable Architecture  –  customers are searching for flexible, scalable and secure deployment models  with simplified, yet flexible license types for uses to support role-based deployment. These options should include availability as a SaaS solution in the Cloud or offered on-premises.

Integrations – the ability to integrate easily with other systems that are being used by the company.  Additionally, the solution should include an API built for customization and integrations to best-of-breed solutions across the customer's tool ecosystem. Some integrations to look for are for software development tools, automated testing tools, and design and modeling tools.

Reporting and Analytics – graphical tools and reports, interactive flows and simulations, dashboards, storyboards, and functionality for graphical models.

Tools on the market to fill the function of requirements management vary from MS Word to those that focus on a specific industry use case (e.g. Greenlight Guru), all the way to full-scale Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools (e.g. Modern Requirements4DevOps, Intland Software codeBeamer ALM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools that serve multiple lifecycle needs (e.g. Siemens Polarion and PolarionX, IBM Engineering Lifecycle Management, IBM Rational, IBM DOORS Family and IBM Next, Rational DOORS, PTC Windchill, Dassault Systems Reqtify) to fit-for-purpose requirements management tools, focusing on the discipline of requirements management (e.g. Jama Connect).

Learn from customers directly how the products compare on leading customer review sites like G2 and TrustRadius.

RELATED POST: Non-Functional vs. Functional Requirements – What's the difference? 
Team Culture and the Right RM Solution: Paired for Success

Finally, it should be noted that the right software can only do so much. Ultimately, a requirements management tool is just that — a tool. The right tool, however, can go a long way toward encouraging team cohesion and success, especially in an agile project. Look for a requirements management solution that:

Captures a full range of knowledge from all users: With an increasingly mobile workforce, it’s more important than ever to capture knowledge and hold onto it when workers move on. The right requirements management tool can help. As users enter and track requirements, knowledge is saved in one central location, allowing future users to access that knowledge for future projects.

Encourages collaboration and allows all users visibility: While it may be necessary to limit who can actually make changes to requirements, the right tool should give all team members the ability to see up-to-date information. This gives everyone a sense of connection to the project and allows users to see the impact of requirements and changes to all steps of the design process.

Provides a top-notch customer experience: A solution that gives you a full range of training options and ongoing support will help all members of your team adopt your solution. An added bonus is a strong user community that can offer support and advice from colleagues.

The right requirements management solution can give your product design team a way to manage, change, and track requirements through the full development life cycle and improve your chances of a successful product launch. To learn more about how Jama Connect can streamline your requirements management, contact us.

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