Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Requirements Testing

Requirements seem to be ephemeral. They flit in and out of projects, they are capricious, intractable, unpredictable and sometimes invisible. When gathering requirements we are searching for all of the criteria for a system's success. We throw out a net and try to capture all these criteria.

Using Blitzing, Rapid Application Development (RAD), Joint Application Development (JAD), Quality Function Deployment (QFD), interviewing, apprenticing, data analysis and many other techniques, we try to snare all of the requirements in our net.

We accept that testing the software is an integral part of building a system. However, if the software is based on inaccurate requirements, then despite well written code, the software will be unsatisfactory.

The newspapers are full of stories about catastrophic software failures. What the stories don't say is that most of the defects can be traced back to wrong, missing, vague or incomplete requirements. We have learnt the lesson of testing software. Now we have to learn to implement a system of testing the requirements before building a software solution.

As soon as we have a single requirement in our net we can start testing. The aim is to trap requirements-related defects as early as they can be identified. We prevent incorrect requirements from being incorporated in the design and implementation where they will be more difficult and expensive to find and correct.

To pass through the quality gateway and be included in the requirements specification, a requirement must pass a number of tests. These tests are concerned with ensuring that the requirements are accurate, and do not cause problems by being unsuitable for the design and implementation stages later in the project.

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