7 Key Elements of Effective Software Requirements Specification

Author: Marek Petrykowski
10 min read
7 Key Elements of Effective Software Requirements Specification

IT project without well-designed boundaries is a recipe for timeline or budget overrun. Poor requirements management is the second most commonly cited reason project fails.

Software requirements specification helps meet project goals and functional requirements, but the creation process can be tedious, puzzling, and messy.

So, what are software houses or business leaders expected to do? Although there are no standardized solutions to their problems there are ways through which time and money can both be saved while minimizing the errors.

What Is a Software Requirements Specification?

An (SRS) Software Requirements Specifications is a document that ensures that all the software will execute and fulfill the desired goals for a certain project. Make sure that the functionality of the product fulfills the demands of the stakeholders.

SRS defines the motives of the product and describes the foundation with detail of individual objectives making sure to deliver it for approval.

While these functions are dominant for managing the scope and future of the project. It ultimately questions the functionality requirements for the system. However, the document does not define design or technological solutions.

What is a good Software Requirements Specification?

SRS provides you with a complete picture of the entire project. It provides you with guidelines that every team needs to follow. These guidelines will keep every single department on the same page.

  • Establishes the goals of the product
  • Narrows down the problem, giving manageable solutions
  • Corresponds as a requirement for validation
  • Provides data privacy and makes it accessible

This arrangement not only keeps the company in sync but also secure that each project is a success. It can help the company make vital decisions on its product and help decide things like when to retire an obsolete feature.

The time it takes to write an SRS is saved in the development phase. It helps to better understand your product, team and the time it will take for completion.

Benefits of Software Requirements Specification Document

According to the International Standard ISO/IEC/IEEE 29148:2011 (Systems and software engineering — Life-cycle processes — Requirements engineering), the advantages of documenting the software requirements contains:

  • allows for estimating product costs, risks, and schedules beforehand
  • forces evaluation of requirements before design, and reduces later redesign
  • sets foundation for a contract with required service providers

7 Key Elements of Effective Software Requirements Specification

1. Keep it organized - start with a template

The name of the organization defines the future of the company and its products. Even before you start to document, ensure that before its existence all the organization’s game plans from document storage to collaborators and contributors easily hand to picked documents. To be much more efficient all the documents should be cut short and properly organized. For instance, templates are a great time saver and stay put throughout the documentation process.

Keep It Organized

2. Write from the users’ viewpoint and in the user’s language.

It defines how an organizational system can be used as viewpoints from different stakeholders. The document should have a conceptual grasp of the system (i.e., a preliminary functional flow block diagram or operational architecture). It will also help illustrate high-level threats to a proposed system or situation. This helps and identifies the vague capabilities of a project before it even begins and gives a more clear and specific technical basis that will make it more successful.

Tools and techniques that describe the projected system from the user’s standpoint and how it should be functional. Describe the process clearly so that all interested readers can fully understand it:

  • Write it in the form of user-friendly. Avoid technical jargon. If user jargon is employed, provide a glossary that translates it for non-users.
  • Use graphics and pictorial tools as much as possible (i.e. use cases, sequence or activity charts, functional flow block diagrams, structure charts, allocation charts, data flow diagrams, object diagrams, storyboards, and entity-relationship diagrams)

Start by documenting:

  • statement of the goals and objectives of the system
  • strategies, tactics, policies, and constraints affecting the system
  • organizations, activities, and interactions among participants and stakeholders
  • a clear statement of responsibilities and authorities delegated
  • specific operational processes for fielding the system
  • processes for initiating, developing, maintaining, and retiring the system

3. Write implementation-neutral requirements

As mentioned earlier, an SRD is not a design document. Therefore, it does not and should not define how the functional requirements must be executed from a design standpoint.

Therefore, all functional requirements should be implementation-neutral. In other words, requirements should state what the system should do, but not how it should do it.

There are several rewards to implementation-neutral requirements, including:

  • a well-organized design process
  • adaptable requirements that aren’t dependent on a specific implementation design
  • less argument between requirements resulting from different implementation facts
  • any limitations on implementation should be reserved for the non-functional requirements of the system

As you gather requirements, use a form to capture them. This will help your requirements remain consistent in form and in terms of the information you capture for each. Basic information to collect:

  • a short title (written as a single definitive statement)
  • a unique identification number for tracking purposes
  • a detailed description of the requirement
  • the person recording the requirement
  • the source of the requirement (user story, testing scenario, etc.)
  • a rationale: why is this requirement necessary?
  • a list of the stakeholders most affected by this requirement
  • initial desired priority, according to the source of the requirement

Software Requirements

4. Analyze, Refine and Decompose Requirements

Inspect each requirement to see if it meets the features of a good requirement. Each requirement is then disintegrated into a more refined set of requirements that are assigned to sub-systems and documented.

Follow steps:

  • Evaluate each high-level requirement for the feasibility of the application, reliability within program limitations, and its ability to be verified. If the requirement is impossible to apply within cost and schedule limits, it must be recognized as an issue and resolved by adjusting the budget, relaxing the schedule, and changing or eliminating the requirement.
  • Practice functional or object-oriented analysis to define a functional architecture that can be used as a basis for allocating requirements.
  • Classify analyses, trade studies, prototyping, and demonstration efforts for risk reduction, considering the following:
    • Completeness: Are all higher-level requirements allocated?
    • Consistency: Is the content, format, and notation from the requirement to requirement, and specification to specification similar?
    • Feasibility: Can the requirement be met?
    • Balance: What are the trade-offs between requirements?
    • Verifiability/testability: Can the requirement be objectively verified?
    • Human factors: Is the design consistent with sound human factors principles?
  • Complete the definition of derived software requirements and examine them for consistency with system requirements, feasibility, and the effects of various implementation strategies. Monitor derived requirements size volatility since derived requirements are often a significant source of software size growth.
  • Use operational scenarios to the extent possible to demonstrate, or bring to life, what the requirements are trying to capture. (Operational scenarios portray the product, end-user, and other entities in the intended environment, and are a useful tool for discovering and refining requirements.)

5. Make requirements testable

This is a very common and ubiquitous standard and even then organizations fail to meet the criteria

High-level requirements often undergo inspection or user testing, so they naturally rely on more general specifications. But lower-level requirements that undergo software testing will likely need more detailed oriented specifications.

Estimate the documented requirements. During the evaluation of the course, the following criteria must be considered and the outcomes of the evaluation predicted:

  • requirement can be traced back to business need
  • requirement is steady with the business need
  • testability of the requirements
  • can the requirement be implemented given the current architecture?

6. Evaluate documentation with stakeholders

After all, the software requirements process has been documented, have all related stakeholders evaluate the final documentation before development begins.

Stakeholders should include designers and developers, testers who will corroborate the requirements, engineers, end-user representatives, and the client.

After all the stakeholders’ review, assess, and approve the documentation before beginning development, you can ensure that satisfaction is reached across the teams and increase the probability that the requirements will meet their needs.

Help software developers and their teams stay on the same page with flowcharts that efficiently and elegantly help you map out your software requirements specifications. Look for a diagramming solution that can help you:

  • organize your requirements into a flowchart to keep your components distinct, your dependencies clear, and the stakeholders apparent
  • use swimlanes to visually describe which teams are responsible for each requirement set
  • quickly modify requirements or other data as the project needs to evolve, link additional documents to support and inform your ongoing project
  • share the documentation (and any changes) instantaneously with stakeholders

Numerous people can simultaneously work on a Software Requirements Documentation in real-time if you use Google Docs. It’s an efficient way for software developers to handle different aspects of the software together under a single roof.

Update With Stakeholders

7. Manage requirements changes

Modification is an inherent characteristic of the software development cycle. In real life, it can often get tough to describe the desideratum for the software development cycle because the situations and project requirements are always developing or ever-changing.

Requirements can change for plenty of reasons. Among the most common causes of requirements change are:

  • Eliminating requirements from stakeholders is a long and tedious process. Stakeholders do not always articulate requirements in a way that your engineering team can easily descend the next steps from it
  • Unanticipated problems in projects and otherwise. Budget cuts, changes in the project schedule, personnel changes, system and technological resource changes can bring significant changes to requirements

Supervising requirements is a continuous process and is conducted throughout a system’s life-cycle and confirmed at each technical review. The purpose is to assure that the requirements continue to meet the requests and expectations of its customers and stakeholders.

Having a management change requirements system and process in place is crucial. This is what the requirements change management process looks like in most software development projects:

  • Evaluate proposed change requests. The first step to changing a set of requirements is to evaluate the proposed change requests and sort requirements that need to be changed as feasible or non-feasible depending on project constraints, the importance of the change, and the impact of the changed requirement on the project.
  • Integrate change into requirements documentation. Define and integrate the scope of the change request in consultation and collaboration with the internal and external project teams.
  • Validate or Seek Feedback. Follow the process of recognizing the perceived threat or opportunity for changes to requirements by asking for feedback. Having contrasting perspectives on the need for reform along with differing views on what the requirements change process should contain can be an eye-opener. This will help you formulate a buy-in from stakeholders and team members.

Conclusion

For creating software requirements documents, you need a proficient documentation process that can help you create, share, and collaborate with stakeholders and get work done efficiently.

We hope this article helped you to set you on the right path with your SRS document. If you have any questions about the documentation template or how to write software requirements specifications or want to learn how SoftKraft can help with your project, contact us!

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