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1.3hickey

1.3hickey

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Requirements ElicitationTechniques
Analyzing the Gap between TechnologyAvailability and Technology Use
ANNM
.
HICKEY
,
ALANM
.
DAVIS
,
and
DENALIKAISER
279
INTRODUCTION
The current state of building information systems is terrible. At least$185 billion is wasted on development projects that fail, often because thesoftware does not satisfy users’ needs (Standish Group, 1995). Althoughthere are many possible reasons for these failures, problems related to
ABSTRACT
Many software development projects failbecause the resulting software does not satisfy user needs. The pro-cess of determining user needs is generally termed
requirementselicitation
. Although there are many possible reasons for softwarefailures, if analysts practiced more effective requirements elicita-tion, fewer projects would fail. Although hundreds of requirementselicitation techniques have been developed by researchers to aidanalysts in effectively determining user needs, few have ever beenused by practitioners. This paper reports on research to study thenature of the gap between requirements elicitation technique avail-ability and use, identifies the major factors that impact the transferof elicitation techniques to practice, and explores how to improvethe transfer of elicitation techniques from research to practice.
Comparative Technology Transfer and Society
, volume1, number 3 (December 2003):279–304© 2003 by Colorado Institute for Technology Transfer and Implementation
 
understanding users’ needs are consistently identified as among the mostimportant (Standish Group, 1999). Requirements elicitation techniquesare the means by which systems analysts determine the problems, oppor-tunities, and needs of the customers, so that systems development person-nel can construct systems that actually resolve those problems, leveragethose opportunities, and/or address customers’ needs. In response to aless-than-acceptable rate of failure of systems, hundreds of elicitation tech-niques have been created by researchers. But the majority of these tech-niques are rarely, if ever, used by practitioners. Solutions appear to beavailable, yet we continuously fail to make use of them. Given this gap be-tween elicitation technique technology availability and use, barriers to thesuccessful transfer of requirements elicitation techniques from researchersto practitioners appear to exist.Problems with the transfer of new requirements elicitation techniquesto practice impact more than the software development industry. First,information technology, and more specifically the information systemssoftware that supports an organization’s operations, is critical to the suc-cess of the vast majority of organizations today. Therefore, any problemthat impacts the successful development of those systems impacts allorganizations. Second, information technology (e.g., knowledge manage-ment systems) is viewed as a key enabler of technology transfer and infor-mation dissemination. Therefore, the successful development of informa-tion systems potentially impacts the successful transfer of many othertechnologies. Third, continuous process improvement, and the transfer of new processes and knowledge required to support that improvement, is anecessity in today’s rapidly changing and competitive environment. There-fore, problems with the transfer of processes such as new requirementselicitation techniques in an industry that has traditionally been viewed asan early adopter of new technology may provide important, early insightsinto the transfer of new processes and knowledge in other, less pro-inno-vation industries.The research reported in this paper seeks to investigate the nature of the gap between requirements elicitation technique availability and use;identify the major factors that impact the transfer of new processes andknowledge, such as requirements elicitation techniques, to practice; andexplore how the transfer of requirements elicitation techniques and othernew process technologies may be improved. This paper describes ouroverall research plan, provides details of the exploratory research we haveconducted using surveys and in-depth interviews with requirements ex-perts, and summarizes our results.
Comparative Technology Transfer and Society, December 2003, vol. 1, no. 3
280
 
BACKGROUND
Requirements elicitation is the process of learning and understandingthe problems, opportunities, and desires of customers. It is part of the setof activities usually termed
requirements management
, whose goal is tounderstand the customers’ requirements for, and document the desiredexternal behavior of, a new or revised system. Although much of the re-quirements literature describes elicitation as an early
activity
of the re-quirements phase, it is actually conducted throughout the requirementsphase in conjunction with the other requirements activities. But even moreimportantly, because customers’ problems constantly change, the entire setof requirements activities is performed continuously throughout the sys-tem development process. Therefore, requirements elicitation should beconsidered an ongoing process throughout the life of a system.Requirements elicitation is performed by analysts (also known as
sys-tems analysts
,
requirements engineers
, and
requirements analysts
) using elic-itation techniques. In 1996, Capers Jones estimated that there would beapproximately 12 million software developers worldwide by 1998. Assum-ing 5% growth per year, and assuming that 1 out of every 15 developers isan analyst, there were approximately 1 million practicing analysts in 2003;so it is clear that there are many potential users of requirements elicitationtechniques. To better understand elicitation techniques, and why they areso important to product success, Table 1 provides a brief overview (ex-tracted from Davis, Hickey, & Zweig [2003]) of several major classes of elicitation techniques including interviewing, brainstorming, collaborativeworkshops, prototyping, questionnaires, observation, and modeling. When faced with a new requirements elicitation situation, analysts se-lect from the following types of elicitation techniques using a variety of ap-proaches:1.They select an elicitation technique because it is the only onethat they know.2.They select their favorite elicitation technique.3.They select an elicitation technique because they understandintuitively that the technique will be effective in the currentcircumstance.Using either of the first two approaches yields the potential for disas-trous consequences: alienated customers, incorrect requirements, and sys-tems that fail to meet the customers’ needs. Both researchers and practi-tioners seem to recognize that poor requirements elicitation, and by exten-
Hickey, Davis, and Kaiser
|
REQUIREMENT ELICITATION TECHNIQUES
281

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