Term Paper: Software Engineering Requirements Are Volatile

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[. . .] To make matters more foreboding, he asserts that by adding programmers to a late project, the product is likely to be even later because efforts devoted to communication and administration becomes larger.

And, it may be difficult to reset budgets to obtain additional resources once a project is underway.

Projects can't necessarily count on the use of new software productivity/quality tools and techniques to bail them out either. In "The Realities of Software Technology Payoffs," Robert Glass discovered that the benefits of Structured Techniques, Fourth Generation Languages, Computer Aided Software Engineering, Formal Methods, Cleanroom Methodology, Process Models and Object-Orientation simply do not match their claims. Glass estimated that productivity and quality benefits of these approaches can realistically expect to range widely from five percent to seven percent, but more studies are needed. Glass also warned that there is a substantial learning curve for these tools and techniques that initially leads to lower productivity, then to slow improvement over time.

As was the case with the software design process, bad requirements have negative implications to the entire software development cycle. Lifecycles do not easily accommodate volatility when requirements need to be changed. The Waterfall lifecycle model is one of the most commonly used lifecycle models for software development. It emphasizes that software is developed in sequential phases (requirements, analysis, design, implementation, testing, and operations and maintenance) with established milestones and reviews at the end of each phase. The entire scope of the project must be addressed at each phase and a phase must be completed before another can begin. Under this model, projects face extreme risk if requirements are not properly defined. Although it allows a revisit to a previous phase, it requires the definition of a huge bulk of requirements to continue though the lifecycle, leaving a project more vulnerable to inaccurate and incomplete requirements.

Recognizing the inherent risks in the waterfall model, Barry Boehm created a new lifecycle model, the Spiral model, based on the Waterfall model.

The Spiral model recommends that developers should only define and implement the highest priority features. Then, the team should obtain feedback from users and customers and continue to incrementally implement additional features in small chunks. Each cycle in the Spiral model includes identification of objectives, alternatives, and constraints for each alternative.

Alternatives are to be evaluated relative to objectives and constraints with the identification of any sources of project risk. If risks are present, they must be mitigated by methods such as prototypes, simulations and benchmarking.

However, Boehm's Spiral model may actually introduce additional risk, especially in the development and implementation of complex systems. It's often difficult to select the appropriate design method without an understanding of the complete data model and it may difficult to produce a design that will accommodate the future when all the requirements are not considered. It may also prove to be problematic in forecasting resources for projects that have predetermined schedules in the absence of a full set of requirements.

Although, expenditure in information technology (IT) is continuing to rise, it has been estimated that as many as 50% of information systems (IS) projects are failures. Requirements engineering is a difficult and volatile process and one that is thwarted by the difficulty in modifying designs and changing resource allocations. Lifecycle models are becoming more continuous in the approach to software development, but still have a long way to go when trying to meld an incremental approach with the realities of the need for a comprehensive requirements set for design and project management considerations.

Gentle Introduction To Software Engineering, Sponsored by the Computer Resources Support Improvement Program (CRSIP), Revision 3.0 March 31, 1999, pp. 7-16

Gentle Introduction To Software Engineering, Sponsored by the Computer Resources Support Improvement Program (CRSIP), Revision 3.0 March 31, 1999, p. 10

Jones 1994]

Jones, Capers, Assessment and Control of Software Risks, Prentice-Hall, 1994

Brooks 1995]

Brooks, Frederick P. Jr., The Mythical Man-Month, Anniversary edition with four new chapters Addison- Wesley, 1995

Glass 1999]

Glass, Robert, "The Realities of Software Technology Payoffs," Communications of the ACM, Vol. 42, No. 2 February 1999, pp. 74-79

Boehm 1988]

Boehm, Barry, "A Spiral Model for Software Development and Enhancement," Computer, Vol. 21, No. 5, May 1988, pp. 61-72

Lyttinen and Hirscheim 1987] K. Lyttinen, K. And R. Hirscheim,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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