Test brief: Conversation with Linda Hayes

"You'd think that you'd do the requirements and the schedule would fall out of that," said Linda Hayes, CTO and vice president of engineering at Worksoft Inc., Dallas. "But that's typically not the case.

"It's the other way around," she said. "You have a schedule and part of that is OK; we're going to spend the first x percent doing requirements. But what happens is that it always takes longer than you expect. The clock is ticking. People will tend to say 'We don't have all these requirements yet, but we have a good idea; we'll keep gathering those, but it's not going to stop us from going on to the next step.'"

Hayes compares this situation to a relay race in which a team is losing ground so a runner leaves before they have the baton because the team does not want to get further behind. What the team does not realize is that you cannot win the race if the runner crosses the finish line without the baton.

"What happens is that every runner takes off and the last runner, who has to have the baton to cross the finish line, is testing," she said. "They're the ones who look like they're holding up the show because they're waiting. And the baton is the requirements."

In requirements management, as in most development projects, testing tends to be the forgotten stepsister, the Worksoft CTO argues.

"What people call testing is really requirements refinement, because that's where you find out that you're not getting what you expected," she explained.

Another problem development teams face as they try to do requirements management is that the list of requirements can balloon to the point where it becomes overwhelming. That can lead to everyone running out of the room every time the subject comes up.

Hayes said she has worked with a few customers who made "a valiant effort to capture requirements." In one case, the development team showed up for a status meeting and asked the woman in charge of requirements how many she had.

"I'm up to about 800," the woman said.

"Well, that seems reasonable," the project leader replied.

"But wait a minute," the requirements gatherer pleaded, "that's just for the install process."

For those people put in charge of requirements gathering, observed Hayes, "I think they just get overwhelmed."

Also see:
Requirements required


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