Design Requirements Testing Workflow

Getting requirements right: avoiding the top 10 traps

Don't get caught

A trap is a position or situation from which it is difficult or impossible to escape. Getting caught in product or software development requirement traps can be problematic. The traps of bad definition and management result in cost overruns, missed deadlines, poorly designed products, and a failure to deliver what the customer needs.

Imran Hashmi IBM ELM engineering lifecycle management

Unfortunately, requirement traps are common. The State of the IT Union Survey explored the development management practices that teams applied to either stay out of trouble or address problems after they are discovered. The online survey of respondents reveals how often product development teams anticipate that they'll fall into traps. They pad budgets and schedules. They change initial estimates to match actual results. And they request additional resources. Figure 1 reveals the lengths teams and team leaders will go to deal with these traps.

Imran Hashmi IBM ELM engineering lifecycle management

Poor requirements management results in inconsistent project outcomes.

Products today depend on software to deliver their value. A brake sensor on a car, a home appliance, a medical device—all contain software that plays an increasingly important role. The products are becoming smarter, and they involve more people and teams outside the typical value chain. Smarter management of the requirements process— the foundation of effective product and software delivery— is increasingly important for delivering these products.

This article presents 10 common mistakes that project teams make in defining and managing requirements. More importantly, it discusses how to avoid these traps so you can get your requirements right and develop the right product on time and within budget.

Trap 1: scope creep

Scope creep usually involves features being added to previously approved product designs without corresponding increases in resources, schedule, or budget. The potential causes vary, but creep tends to occur when project requirements are not defined and managed properly.

Creep can also occur when development teams create solutions before determining what the business needs. The business requirements of a project are typically seen by development teams as being too high level and vague and not applicable to them. They want to focus on detailed product requirements. However, business requirements are real requirements and they need to be sufficiently detailed to avoid scope creep. By meeting the product requirements and not the business ones, teams fail to develop solutions that provide value and may overcompensate by adding features.

Avoid the trap

  • Map detailed, real business requirements to product features that satisfy those requirements and provide value.
  • Manage change, be vigilant about focusing on business requirements prioritization.
  • Identify and work with stakeholders early and often to understand the business requirements, stakeholder priorities, and the effect on stakeholders when changes occur.

The payoff: Avoiding scope creep makes planning easier, helps keep budgets intact, and helps keep projects on schedule. Most important of all, it helps generate the desired return on investment.

Trap 2: asking customers what they want

This seems counter-intuitive. Teams are supposed to talk to customers and give them what they want in a product. But customers tend to talk about features, not what they truly need. The truth is that people often don't know what they want. And when customers don't know what they want and developers don't understand the problem, poorly conceived solutions— and products— can result.

Avoid the trap

  • Ask customers why they need a particular capability. It may lead to a better understanding of their expectations and better discussions about specific requirements.
  • Guide the discussion away from focusing on features— ask customers what they want the product/software to do. Create a separate discussion for how the resulting products will be used.
  • Identify the right stakeholders. The target audience or end-user may not be the person who is responsible for the project or invested in its success. Find— and listen to— the right mix of users, customers, executives who fund the project, government representatives who impose regulations, project teams, support teams, and others.

The payoff: Asking customers what outcome they are seeking helps you determine the true and realistic product requirements that will deliver value to them.

Trap 3: inability to adapt to change

Setting requirements in stone early in development can be a recipe for disaster that results in an enormous waste in resources and an inability to stay on schedule. As recent changes in the global economy illustrate, outside influences can quickly change project requirements. Organizations have quickly changed their focus to doing more with less. Speculative or experimental pet projects are off the table, replaced by those with strong potential ROI. Yet in any economy, there are always new requirements to contend with as business priorities change, new government regulations are enacted, and new stakeholders are identified. Project teams need to accommodate those changes.

Avoid the trap

  • Expect and plan for requirements that change throughout your development process.
  • Re-prioritize requirements based on shifting circumstances such as business needs, customer importance, estimated effort, and cost.
  • Have a fine-grain plan that you adjust at regular intervals.
  • Keep your stakeholders informed as changes occur— get their input for prioritization and the rationale behind it.

The payoff: Accommodating and planning for change in project requirements helps mitigate risk and decreases costly rework.

Trap 4: failure to communicate effectively

Ineffective communication is often a root cause of project failure. The perspective of development teams, customers, end-users, and executives are different for each group, as are their needs for communication. If you don't express requirements using methods your stakeholders can easily understand, you can't possibly gain consensus on requirements.

Avoid the trap

  • Know your audience and communicate in ways that help them understand the information. Make use of diagrams, user stories, sketching, and storyboards.
  • Create glossaries, document templates, and feedback forms that are clear, concise, and easy to use.
  • Use prototyping to help stakeholders visualize the solution. This can either augment text or completely replace it depending on the level of detail required.
  • Elicit feedback from all of your stakeholder representatives. Remember that one or two people tend to be the most vocal. Don't make the mistake of overlooking others' feedback.
  • Always respond to feedback, preferably with some clear statement of status such as, “will incorporate,” “placed on a wish list” or “unable to accommodate” If you ask for input, acknowledge it.

The payoff: Effective communication makes the most efficient use of everyone's valuable time and helps avoid misunderstandings that derail projects.

Trap 5: failure to communicate frequently

Failure to communicate with stakeholders early and often leads to one primary problem: rework. Developing a product for customers without consulting them while that product is being developed is just asking for trouble. The biggest reason it happens is that we often think we know what our customers want well enough that we don't need to consult them. And stakeholders usually have different priorities.

Sometimes teams don't communicate with stakeholders because they prefer to avoid confrontations. But if you want a positive result and minimum risk and rework, it is important to collaborate with stakeholders not just at the beginning of a project but throughout the entire process, from start to finish.

Avoid the trap

  • Identify key stakeholders, including customers. Choose a representative from each group to communicate with regularly.
  • For large, in-person stakeholder workshops, consider using skilled facilitators. Good facilitators are worth their weight in gold in keeping everyone on track for attaining the meeting objectives.
  • Establish regular checkpoints with your stakeholders. Determine at the beginning of the project how often you need to check-in.  Schedule time for keeping stakeholders up to date as unexpected changes occur.
  • Make it easy for your stakeholders to provide feedback. When they do, let others see their feedback to generate better discussions.

The payoff: Regular communication reduces risks, increases team productivity, and avoids rework. Ultimately it helps deliver the product the customer wants.

Trap 6: unwieldy documents and too much information

Do you have time to review and give feedback on a 200-page document? Probably not— and most likely, neither do your stakeholders. Doing more work than necessary and adding unnecessary detail to documentation costs both time and money. It is unproductive for the person creating it and a hindrance to the people looking for information they need to get their work done. Two common missteps include adding too much detail to requirements too early in the process and requiring more traceability than is necessary to facilitate effective lifecycle management.

Think quality, not quantity. Better to add just enough detail to your requirements and identify just enough traceability to get the job done— not the entire job, but the next piece or iteration that needs to be completed.

Avoid the trap

  • Large, dense documents are not very consumable by stakeholders. Invest in communication tools that efficiently gather and disseminate requirements information.
  • Use visual techniques to model business and product requirements. Business process diagrams and use case diagrams, storyboards, and sketches can help cut through text-heavy clutter.
  • Provide a glossary of industry terms, acronyms, and domain-specific terms to facilitate communication.
  • Create transparency of feedback. When your stakeholders can review each other's feedback, the discussion is richer, problems come to light, missing requirements are identified and necessary details get filled in.
  • Add just enough information to your documents so the rest of your team members can complete their work.
  • Remember that requirements management is an ongoing process. There will be other opportunities to add more detail to requirements and to capture more traceability later when it may be more appropriate.

The payoff: Focused documentation and feedback loops increase the efficiency of all stakeholders. Reduction of extraneous details in both requirements and traceability increases quality by focusing on the most important information— while postponing further detail until it's needed.

Trap 7: hidden project artifacts

Engineers, developers, and testers often aren't aware of the project vision or can't locate the documentation for the architecture or the business requirements— that is, if they're created at all. Without easy access to these foundational documents, how can we possibly expect them to deliver models, code, and tests that solve the right customer problems? We can't. Transparency to all project artifacts is critical to the success of any software project.

Avoid the trap

  • Keep all project artifacts in a central repository that is accessible by project team members. Having to search multiple sources for relevant documents is frustrating and time-consuming.
  • Make sure documents are categorized and managed in such a way that they are easy to find.
  • Ensure that when changes occur, the team is informed. Automatic notifications can help deliver this information.

The payoff: Accessibility and management of information and transparency of project artifacts reduces rework, diminishes waste, and promote reuse because it makes collaboration and communication easier.

Trap 8: Ambiguous requirements

Ambiguous requirements are the result of unclear or missing information. This leads to confusion and rework. Project teams spend too much time trying to get clarification so they can design, code, and test. It's very difficult for engineers or architects to develop relevant models, developers to write defect-free code and testers to develop the right test cases without clear requirements. Unfortunately, reworking requirements are so common that it can become an accepted practice— rework is just built into the schedule and budget.

Ambiguity also tends to push risks into the next phase of the project. Requirements then have to be reworked, and that poses problems to project schedule and cost. This trap is especially damaging to fixed-cost projects.

What causes ambiguity? Poor writing, inaccurate information, and the assumption that the audience understands just as much as you do.

Avoid the trap

  • Use a writing reference, such as Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White— which has long been considered the authoritative reference on writing crisp, clear text— before and during requirements creation.
  • Create a glossary, and make sure every acronym and technical term is included.
  • Pretend you are writing for a student just out of college or someone who recently joined the organization. Don't assume the audience will know every term and understand every concept.
  • Augment text with visuals. It's a great way to express both simple and complex concepts.
  • Step back. After writing any draft document, put it down for a while and read it later. A fresh perspective can reveal ambiguities.

The payoff: Clear, understandable requirements are the foundation of your software project.

Trap 9: failure to measure and assess requirements processes

Defining and managing requirements can be a complex task. Missing and ambiguous requirements can easily result in missed schedules, cost overruns, and decreased productivity and quality as downstream project deliverables fail to provide value to stakeholders. Don't wait for disaster to strike— assess your project status regularly.

Organizations must have the ability to review, assess, and improve their requirements process. Having accurate insight into data, processes, and practices is a key component of success. Measuring project and process outcomes allow for continual process improvements across the software delivery lifecycle, which reduces project failures and lowers business costs.

Avoid the trap

  • As part of your process, conduct a “lessons learned” feedback session at the end of each development iteration or release.
  • Also, do a “lessons remembered” session before starting a new project. To encourage continual improvement, you need to not only capture lessons learned at the end of an iteration or release but also reinforce those lessons as you move forward.
  • Define and collect metrics that ensure your success. For example, measure the impact of changes to your requirements, test case coverage, priority, cost and effort of business, and product requirements. As you become more experienced with measurement, you'll find just the right combination of metrics that allows you to continually improve your requirements process.

The payoff: Ongoing measurement of project performance reveals small problems before they become big issues.

Trap 10: Isolating your requirements

Viewing requirements as isolated entities, failing to capture relationships between requirements and other artifacts, and failing to recognize dependencies between requirements leads to increased project risk and rework. Re-prioritizing one requirement without considering its effect on other requirements results in increased project risk and costs.

For example, a risky trap that organizations often succumb to is not capturing the relationship between project requirements, business requirements, and other downstream deliverables such as models, test cases, and defects. When you fall into this trap, you deliver a product that doesn't satisfy stakeholder needs.

Avoid the trap

  • Identify relationships between requirements and then manage them together.
  • Create the right level of traceability between requirements and downstream deliverables that balances the traceability needed for effective lifecycle management with support for productivity.
  • As you make changes to requirements and re-prioritize them, consider the effect of these changes to related requirements and your downstream deliverables.
  • Use tools that allow you to easily visualize the relationships you've identified.

The payoff: Identifying and managing relationships between requirements and other artifacts mitigates project risk; helps ensure alignment between your business requirements, product requirements, and downstream deliverables; and results in lower development costs.

 requirements solutions can help you avoid common software development traps.

There are many traps in software. Some of the most expensive ones occur in the requirements space because that is where the foundation for your project is laid. Lack of planning, lack of communication, and collaboration with stakeholders, ineffective requirements elicitation, and requirement management techniques all lead to problems. When we don't measure how we're doing and continually make improvements, the risk escalates quickly and the project gets out of control— something you may never recover from.

IBM software requirements solutions incorporate many that help you avoid these common traps and enjoy the payoffs.

IBM's requirements management solution enables you to capture, trace, analyze, and manage changes to requirements in a secure, central, and accessible location. These capabilities strengthen collaboration, increases transparency and traceability, minimizes rework, and expands usability. IBM solutions make it easier to adhere to standards and maintain regulatory .

Key capabilities include:

  • Requirements traceability – Link individual artifacts to test cases for full visibility of changes in requirements as they happen. Capture all annotations, maintain them, and make them easily accessible.
  • Variant management – Manage the entire version and variant process while monitoring the progression of the system through a shared dashboard. Store data in a central location and present it in document format.
  • Compliance – Incorporate industry standards and regulations into your requirements to achieve compliance early on. Building compliance into the end-to-end engineering lifecycle makes achieving compliance less complex.
  • Quality – Using Watson Natural Language Service IBM provides the capability to evaluate requirement quality using guidelines from for writing complete, clear, and testable requirements – to accelerate your review process and increase requirement quality.

For more information

To learn more about IBM requirement solutions for software or product development, contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit IBM Requirements Solutions.

Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting an Application Lifecycle Management and DevOps Solution, 2019–20

IBM Engineering Requirements Management DOORS Next

IBM Engineering Requirements Management DOORS Family

IBM Engineering Requirements Quality Assistant

1, 2 Scott W. Ambler, “State of the IT Union Survey,” Ambysoft, July 2009,

Requirements Design Testing Workflow

Demo: ALM for Medical Devices IEC 62304 ISO 13485 ISO 14971

ApplicationLifecycle Management or ELM Engineering Lifecycle Management for IEC 62304 ISO 13485 ISO 14971

Design Requirements Testing Workflow

Understand ELM Automotive Compliance in under 5 minutes

Design Requirements Testing Workflow

MBSE- IBM Client Success: Fagor Industrial accelerates time to market by 30 percent

Fagor Industrial

Washing away the competition by cutting time-to-market by up to 30 percent

Inspired by the evolution of smartphones, Fagor Industrial decided to launch a first-of-its-kind touchscreen washer extractor. With a short window of opportunity before competitors introduced similar products, the company achieved a rapid time-to-market by working with ULMA Embedded to develop the embedded systems using ® Rational® solutions.

Business challenge

Fagor Industrial spotted a chance to excite customers with a never-before-seen touchscreen washer extractor. To gain first-mover advantage, it needed to design and launch this innovative product fast.


To achieve a swift time-to-market, Fagor Industrial engaged IBM Business Partner® ULMA Embedded to develop its cutting-edge product using sophisticated IBM Rational development platforms.


Up to 30%

reduction in time-to-market, enabling Fagor to gain first-mover advantage


faster development of new embedded systems for a state-of-the-art product


huge time and cost savings by reducing the need to build physical prototypes

Business challenge story

Seizing a commercial opportunity

Imran Hashmi IBM ELM engineering lifecycle management

The success of touchscreen interfaces on smartphones has led to increasing numbers of other devices adopting touchscreen technology—including laptops, cash registers, ATMs and even cars. Observing consumers' keen appetite for touchscreens, and the greater usability they afford, Fagor Industrial set out to capitalize on this trend by launching an industrial washer extractor that can be controlled via a touchscreen interface.

At the time, no similar offerings were available on the market, but the clock was ticking. Fagor Industrial knew that first-mover advantage would be critical in this new product segment. To seize the narrow window of opportunity, the company needed to design, test and launch its new touchscreen offering as quickly as possible.

“With Rational, we can design and launch new products faster than ever, sharpening our competitive edge.”

— Imanol Lukas Etxarri, Electronic Engineer, Research and Development, Fagor Industrial

Transformation story

Calling in the experts

Developing a first-of-its-kind product using the latest technologies is always a challenge. For assistance in the venture, Fagor Industrial engaged an expert team from ULMA Embedded, an IBM Business Partner. The ULMA team proposed adopting IBM Rational Rhapsody Designer for Systems Engineers to help accelerate the pace and improve the quality of development.

Imanol Lukas Etxarri, an Electronic Engineer in the Research and Development Department at Fagor Industrial, explains: “We have worked with ULMA Embedded Solutions many times in the past, and they are one of our key strategic partners. When we decided to develop a new touchscreen washer extractor, we knew that it would be difficult, so we engaged ULMA Embedded Solutions to help us on the journey.

“We have a very strong relationship with ULMA because their engineers have an in-depth knowledge of the latest market trends, and cutting-edge development tools. When they advocated Rational Rhapsody for this particular development, we were quickly convinced that it was the right recommendation.”

Results story

Achieving a clean sweep

Previously, Fagor Industrial built new embedded systems by first manufacturing the hardware, then developing the software using the C programming language, running on microcontrollers. Although most of the company's previous products had fewer functions and a simpler interface than the new touchscreen washer extractor, the programming was complex and time-consuming.

In addition, the traditional development process required significant investment in building a physical prototype before the company could obtain feedback on the product from marketing and other departments, and then finalize the design.

With Rational, all that has changed, as Imanol Lukas Etxarri explains: “Rational offers a broad array of advantages in developing a new product. For example, it allowed ULMA Embedded Solutions to begin by designing all of the hardware on the computer, and simulate the results.

“This meant we could show detailed simulations of the new product to our customers, marketing personnel and executives to obtain their feedback. We worked with them to get the look, feel, functionality and usability of the new product right before we built physical prototypes—resulting in major time and cost savings.”

Additionally, the flexibility of the Rational solution made it easy for ULMA Embedded Solutions to develop new functions requested by Fagor Industrial—such as personalized washing cycles—and incorporate them into the new washer extractor's control panel and processes.

As the development team made changes to the definitions of the washing cycles, the Rational software automatically updated any dependent processes—for example, telling the drum when to spin, empty or fill with water. Thanks to this automation, ULMA Embedded Solutions was able to develop the hardware for the new washer extractor 25 percent faster than expected.

Imanol Lukas Etxarri continues: “Thanks to ULMA Embedded Solutions and Rational software, we were able to cut time-to-market by up to 30 percent. Because we launched our touchscreen washer extractor before our competitors brought their products onto the market, we gained first-mover advantage. Our offering has been a hit with customers because it offers a user-friendly touchscreen and helpful features for personalized wash cycles.”

He adds: “With any innovative product, you can expect to encounter some service and support issues immediately after the launch. However, with our touchscreen washer extractor, we experienced far fewer issues than expected. Because we identified and solved many potential problems in the simulation stage, we have been able to achieve a higher standard in the end product.”

In the future, Fagor Industrial plans to enhance its touchscreen washer extractor with internet connectivity, tapping into the trend towards smarter laundries. As a result, customers will be able to control the devices remotely.

Building on its success, Fagor Industrial also plans to streamline the design of future products using Rational, enabling it to respond rapidly to emerging customer demands and hot trends in the market.

About Fagor Industrial

Headquartered in the Spanish town of Oñati, Fagor Industrial S. Coop. manufactures products for cooking, cleaning and chilling food on an industrial scale. The company is the leading producer of machinery for the hotel and catering sector in Spain, and is among the top ten manufacturers in this market segment in the world. Employing 1,800 people across eight production plants and 18 sales offices, Fagor Industrial serves customers in 90 countries.

Solution components

  • Watson IoT Platform

Take the next step

To learn more about IBM Rational Rhapsody Designer for Systems Engineers, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website:

Founded in 2009, ULMA Embedded Solutions specializes in providing engineering services to support the entire lifecycle of electronic products—from concept to manufacturing and maintenance, including design, development and test phases. The company is based in Oñati, Spain. To learn more about ULMA Embedded Solutions, please visit:

View more client stories or learn more about IBM Watson IoT

Design Requirements Testing Workflow

How can MBSE tools impact systems engineering processes?

's proven solution for modeling and design activities provides a collaborative design, development and test environment for systems engineers and software engineers that supports UML, SysML and AUTOSAR. It enhances productivity, facilitates team collaboration, reduces time to market and helps improve product quality.