Books and White Papers

Requirements Engineering

by Professor Elizabeth Hull, Professor Ken Jackson, Dr Jeremy Dick.
 This book describes a generic process for requirements management for systems engineering and software development, covering rich traceability, change management, writing requirements, modelling techniques, and many other topics. It represents the latest thinking for practicing professionals and students.

 Systems Engineering: Coping with Complexity

 by Richard Stevens, Peter Brook, Ken Jackson and Stuart Arnold.

Review by M.Hopkins: This is a very good reference for the Systems Engineering practitioner. Unlike most books of a similar title, it covers hardware as well as software engineering, and also covers other engineering disciplines accross the whole system life cycle. As the sub-title suggests, Systems Engineering is needed to manage large complex projects, and the book provides good guidelines on the processes and techniqes to achieve this goal. However, the book is pitched at a level that enables it to be scaled down for use on smaller projects as well. Despite the complexity of the subject material, the book is very readable.

 Writing Better Requirements

 by Ian Alexander and Richard Stevens.

Review by Jeremy Dick: This is a very useful little book for anyone attempting to write technical requirements. It at all times remains practical rather than theoretical. It contains a small number of well chosen exercises, which makes it ideal as an aid to teaching requirements writing, and yet sits comfortably beside the keyboard as an ongoing reference for practitioners – especially with its concise glossary of terms.

The book focuses on what is often the weakest area in requirements writing: the expression and organisation of user requirements – those that come before system requirements, and which describe more of the problem to be solved than of the system that is to be the solution. It uses the concept of scenarios as a means of obtaining and organising requirements. Indeed, the book is itself structured almost as a mini scenario, in which stakeholders are identified, interviewed; requirements documents are structured; requirements statements are written; and all is reviewed.

Because the book is about writing requirements rather than managing them, there are many topics it chooses not to cover in any detail. Examples are requirements traceability and managing change in requirements. However, there is an excellent annotated “further reading” list at the end, which has the merit of not being too long.

The only criticism I have concerns the example requirements in the appendix. I find it hard to identify the actual requirements from amongst the elements of the scenarios. Examples in the book sometimes use the affirmative “shall” to indicate a statement of requirement, sometimes just the present tense, e.g. “The pilot controls the aircraft’s angle of climb with one hand.” In the appendix, the word “shall” seems to be avoided completely, and, left only with the present tense, it is difficult to distinguish scenario steps from requirements. Are the statements “Call center operator tries to disconfirm intrusion by calling householder” and “Alarm notifies failure to call center” both requirements on the burglar alarm?

In summary, “Writing Better Requirements” should be on every requirements engineer’s desk (not shelf!) It could and should serve as a constant reminder of some common sense principles that lead to a more effective expression of requirements.

Writing Effective Use Cases

 by Alistair Cockburn.

Review by Anon: Use case theory is simple, but putting it into practice can leave you scratching your head. Hitting the right level is hard for even practiced people, never mind people just starting with the technique.

Fortunately, this is a clear and concise guide to the practical side of use cases, which no other book I’ve read covers to an acceptable depth. Alistair uses a slight variation of vanilla use cases, which IMHO makes them a lot more understandable. He also puts UML and graphical methods/diagrams in context.

White Papers

Doing Requirements Right the First Time
Theodore F. Hammer, Goddard Space Flight Center. Leonore L. Huffman and Linda H. Rosenberg, Unisys Federal Systems.

Get More from DOORS with DXL Graphics
by Ian Alexander.

Get More from DOORS with DXL Links
by Ian Alexander.