Good Requirements Part III – Be Clear

This is part III of the Good Requirement Series

Good Requirements Part I – Be Correct

Good Requirements Part II – Be Complete

If one is ambiguous and confusing when articulating requirements, there is almost no chance that an optimal solution can be reached. After all, the the goal of requirements is to clearly articulate the needs of a system. If one does not have clear requirements, what exactly is being developed?

Being clear may sound easy to do but understand that people may interpret the same thing in different ways. Simple terms such as hot, cold, small, tall, fast and easy-to-use mean different things to different people. 10 degrees Celsius may be cold to one individual yet hot to another.

One may not even realize that a lack of clarity exists because everyone thinks they understand a statement perfectly. So how does one ensure that there are no misunderstandings?

1. Use exact terminology and language.┬áSome examples of clear requirements are : “The screw must be 4.5″ long”, and, “The screw must be able to withstand 450 degrees Kelvin”. Note how much more clear these two statement are than the following one: “The user interface must be user friendly”. What does user friendly means exactly?

2. Use short sentences and simple language. Writing requirements is not lie writing prose. In fact, requirements do not even have to be complete sentences!

3. Hold informal and formal review sessions with the providers of the requirements and the recipients of the requirements (i.e business and IT groups). Go over all of the requirements, including the ones that look blatantly obvious.

4. Be anal! If there is even a remote chance that someone can misunderstand a requirement, they will!

5. Clear up any issue ASAP.

The goal is effective communication. This means no misconception, misrepresentation or misunderstandings.