7 Tools to Gather Better Software Requirements (2023)

Gathering software requirements can be as much fun as trying to count function points or code a webpage using a vi editor. The process usually involves the software team assuming that business customers will communicate everything that their hearts desire as succinctly as possible.

Business customers have a tendency to expect software teams to be mind-readers, and to deliver a solution based on unspoken, malformed or unknown requirements. All of these requirements need to be formally captured in a mammoth document that will be used for future sophomoric squabbles over a game of “he said, she said.”

Sound familiar?

Gathering requirements is complicated

The reality is that gathering requirements is a lot of work. Project teams can make bad assumptions, focus on the how instead of the what and incorrectly describe requirements. IT teams are often given a document template and told to “go gather requirements” with the expectation that the document will be implementation-ready in a week.

(I won’t even get on my soapbox about functional and nonfunctional requirements yet.)

If you ask your software teams about how they gather requirements, you’ll likely get varied responses: from doing some actual mind reading to participating in requirement management workshops using different templates and tools. The requirements-gathering process and all the associated tools, templates and techniques isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. PMOs and other project management professionals love to see teams use a common requirements tool. A better tactic is to use a toolbox approach.

(Video) 7 Steps for Better Requirement Gathering/Elicitation

Use the toolbox approach

With a toolbox approach, project teams can use a variety of tools and techniques to define business requirements. In any given organization, you’ll likely find multiple methodologies including Waterfall, Agile and some ERP variant for SAP and purchased package implementations. If our projects are different, methodologies are different and the people are different, why would we expect our requirement tools to be the same across projects?

Here are seven useful tools that I’ve built into my own requirements toolbox. I don’t use every tool on every project, but I’ve discovered that picking the right requirement tool for the job definitely helps. These tools are helpful in eliciting better requirements and provide clarity to translating business processes into software solutions.

1. Context diagram

A system context diagram defines the system’s boundary, its surrounding environment, and all the interacting entities. The system is plotted in the middle of the diagram and identifies customers, external or internal systems, the organization’s end users and any vendors or suppliers providing third-party services.

By building a visual model of the software solution, you have a better understanding of the major interactions and players in your system. It also helps to define the context where the system sits so the end user can agree to what is in scope and what is out of scope in the project.

2. Functional decomposition

A functional decomposition diagram provides a top-down view of the business process and/or the system’s major functions. When I think about what the system should do, I’ll use the functional decomposition diagram to break it down into major chunks. This view also helps validate all the functions the system should provide. It’s similar to an organization chart and your end user should be able to easily relate to this model.

3. Use case diagram

The use case diagram helps depict the interaction between the system and its users. Each user role is called an “actor” and different processes or functions are represented in the diagram. Each of these interactions can be further broken down into steps including the “happy path” and alternative paths.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Use case: Submit Application

(Video) Requirement Gathering Techniques For A Business Analyst (2021)

Actor: Customer

Description: Describes the Credit Card application submission process

Successful completion:

  1. The user enters application information including social security number.
  2. System validates input for data entry errors.
  3. The system submits the application.

Alternative: System rejects the submission, citing form entry errors for social security number.

Pre-condition: User has been routed to credit application from email campaign or website.

Post-condition: User receive success message.

Assumptions: None

4. Sequence diagram

A sequence diagram shows the interactions between objects over time. It provides a top-to-bottom view with messages being sent back and forth between the different objects. The objects can be actors, systems or sub-packages within a system.

(Video) Requirements Gathering | Workshop - Gather Requirements in 12 Steps [EP2]

In the example above, the sequence diagram could be used to identify the different types of email notifications that need to be sent to the customer and the credit card company’s reviewer.

5. AS-IS and TO-BE process model

The swim lane diagram is a systems analysis model that is taught in every Systems Analysis and Design course. If you wanted a relevant book on business process management, take a look at Paul Harmon’s Business Process Change. It provides an in-depth approach to business process management that goes beyond the typical textbook. Here’s a look at the AS-IS and TO-BE process models:

AS-IS process model

The AS-IS process model describes the current business process flow. I’ve seen some teams struggle with developing an AS-IS model for the business process, as teams often want to jump to the future TO-BE process. However, it’s worth spending the time documenting the AS-IS for major processes or complex processes so the entire team can develop a common understanding of the business process.

(Plus it’s helpful to overlay the AS-IS with the TO-BE to understand the changes)

TO BE Process Model

The TO-BE process model usually adds the system as a swim lane and shows how the business process is adjusted with the system in place. Teams can now validate if the business process still makes sense with the addition of the IT system and supporting workflow.

6.User stories

I’ve covered user stories in previous articles and I include them here because they’re helpful tools to quickly identify the major functions of a system. Since they’re written on note cards (physical or virtual), the cards can be further split into smaller user stories as needed.

If a user story proves to be too complicated, it can be broken down into smaller stories and supported with one of the aforementioned diagrams. Agile doesn’t mean just using notes cards and sticky notes. Agile teams understand the importance of picking the right tool for the job.

7. Mind maps

Mind mapping is another awesome tool to capture ideas, requirements and help organize a conversation with many tangents. When you’re in a requirements gathering session, it is easy to run off-topic and leap to another business process needed. Mind mapping helps to organize the conversation by aligning comments, requirements and ideas with the major thought branches in a conversation.



You’ll notice I didn’t include the boring old requirements document as a tool. Eventually, you’ll likely use a spreadsheet, a word processing document or a software system to further document these requirements. Even if you use a software system like HP’s Quality Center or IBM’s Rational Requisitepro, these tools will still provide an option to generate the mammoth requirements document.

The reality is: No one wants to read a boring and expansive document on systems requirements.

People are more likely to look at a picture than read a 200-page tree killer.

I’ve found by using visual communication to define and describe the requirement, teams are more engaged and they understand each other better. Even though the user story example was drawn on an index card, I still use Agile software tools to build my product backlog visually.

If I can draw it, I can understand it, and so can my business customers.

Requirements modeling tools

The above examples were developed in Microsoft Visio and MindGenius—a mind mapping program. If you’re looking for additional software tools for your requirements toolbox, then consider:

  1. Star UML – A popular UML modeling tool
  2. OpenText Provision – An extensive business process architecture tool
  3. Visual Paradigm – A design and management tool for business IT development

What’s in your toolbox?

The key takeaway is to try some of these tools, develop your own requirements toolbox and pick the right tool for your next project. The process of defining requirements isn’t a cut-and-dry path. Project teams take different approaches to develop requirements, and as IT leaders we should bring the right tool for the job.

Here’s another great tool for successful projects: accurate estimates. If you’re looking to expand or hone your method or would like to pick up some tips (we are devoted to ranged estimates), download our eBook, 6 Best Practices for Accurate Project Estimates.

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What are the types of requirements 7? ›

Types of requirements
  • Business requirements. These include high-level statements of goals, objectives, and needs. ...
  • User (stakeholder) requirements. ...
  • Solution requirements. ...
  • Transition requirements. ...
  • Software requirements specification document. ...
  • Use cases. ...
  • User stories. ...
  • Functional decomposition or Work Breakdown Structures (WBS)
23 Jul 2021

What is the best method for gathering requirements? ›

11 Requirements Gathering Techniques for Agile Product Teams
  • Interviews.
  • Questionnaires or Surveys.
  • User Observation.
  • Document Analysis.
  • Interface Analysis.
  • Workshops.
  • Brainstorming.
  • Role-Play.

What is software requirements example? ›

Software requirement can also be a non-functional, it can be a performance requirement. For example, a non-functional requirement is where every page of the system should be visible to the users within 5 seconds. need that has to be implemented into the system.

Why do we need requirements management tools? ›

A project manager, who schedules tasks, can do so based on more accurate requirements. A requirements management software tool can greatly support successful teams, as it enables more efficient and optimized product and system development. This type of tool can provide: Clarity and visibility.

What is requirements gathering process? ›

Requirements gathering is the process of identifying your project's exact requirements from start to finish. This process occurs during the project initiation phase, but you'll continue to manage your project requirements throughout the project timeline.

What is software requirement process? ›

It is a process of gathering and defining service provided by the system. Requirements Engineering Process consists of the following main activities: Requirements elicitation. Requirements specification. Requirements verification and validation.

What are examples of requirements? ›

The following are common examples of requirements:
  • Accessibility. Requirements designed to ensure that products, services, interfaces and environments are accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Architectural Requirements. ...
  • Audit Trail. ...
  • Availability. ...
  • Backup And Restore. ...
  • Behavioral Requirements. ...
  • Capacity. ...
  • Customer Experience.
22 Mar 2021

How do you ensure requirements are complete? ›

Define Scope before you write your requirements.
  1. Identify the relevant stakeholders.
  2. Define a clear set of Need, goals, and objectives. ...
  3. Identify your drivers and constraints. ...
  4. Develop scenarios, use cases, and operational concepts. ...
  5. Identify the external interfaces between our system and the outside world.
16 Aug 2012

What are the six most common challenges when gathering requirements? ›

Requirements gathering challenges and solutions
  • Undocumented processes. ...
  • Conflicting requirements. ...
  • Lack of access to end users. ...
  • Focusing on visual aspects rather than on functional. ...
  • Stakeholder design. ...
  • Communication problems. ...
  • In summary.
27 Oct 2020

What is requirement gathering and analysis? ›

Requirement Analysis begins with: Requirement Gathering, which is also known as Elicitation. It is followed by Analyzing the collected requirements to understand the feasibility and correctness of converting the requirements into a possible product. Then, Documenting the gathered requirements.

How do you present requirements? ›

Tips for Presenting Requirements and Deliverables
  1. Establish and Communicate the Purpose. ...
  2. Use Visual Artifacts to Display Requirements and Design. ...
  3. Understand your Audience. ...
  4. Understand the Business Context. ...
  5. No Surprises. ...
  6. Don't forget to leave your comments below.
12 Jan 2010

Why is gathering requirements important in project management? ›

Requirements gathering is an important process in project management, without this, it is virtually impossible to successfully meet project goals. The requirements gathering process provides a team with direction that is based on the requirements a customer has identified.

How do you gather reporting requirements? ›

In the course of creating strong general reporting requirements for any given system, an analyst must consider the following:
  1. The report's purpose. What is the purpose of this report? ...
  2. Industry standards. ...
  3. User expectations. ...
  4. Unique Identifiers. ...
  5. The design of the report function. ...
  6. The design of the report look.

What are the main types of software requirements? ›

A software requirement can be of 3 types:

Functional requirements. Non-functional requirements. Domain requirements.

How do you analyze software requirements? ›

A requirements analysis process involves the following steps:
  1. Step 1: Identify Key Stakeholders and End-Users. ...
  2. Step 2: Capture Requirements. ...
  3. Step 3: Categorize Requirements. ...
  4. Step 4: Interpret and Record Requirements. ...
  5. Step 5: Sign off.
28 Sept 2022

What is the purpose of requirements? ›

A set of requirements is used as inputs into the design stages of product development. Requirements are also an important input into the verification process, since tests should trace back to specific requirements. Requirements show what elements and functions are necessary for the particular project.

What is requirement analysis? ›

Requirements analysis, also called requirements engineering, is the process of determining user expectations for a new or modified product. These features, called requirements, must be quantifiable, relevant and detailed. In software engineering, such requirements are often called functional specifications.

What important features should a requirement management tool contain? ›

Essential Features of Requirements Management Tools
  • Support for different software development methodologies. ...
  • Hierarchical organization. ...
  • Traceability. ...
  • Collaboration features. ...
  • Import requirements from other tools/systems. ...
  • Security and permissions. ...
  • Modern Requirements. ...
  • Accompa.
19 Jan 2022

What is requirement gathering with example? ›

Examples of requirements gathering

Bob, the project manager, interviews the vendors and provides IT staff members with questionnaires to complete. He then conducts user observation with product users and asks for their feedback regarding their experience.

What is importance of requirement specification? ›

An SRS minimizes the time and effort required by developers to achieve desired goals and also minimizes the development cost. A good SRS defines how an application will interact with system hardware, other programs and human users in a wide variety of real-world situations.

What should be in a software requirements document? ›

A software requirement specifications (SRS) document lists the requirements, expectations, design, and standards for a future project. These include the high-level business requirements dictating the goal of the project, end-user requirements and needs, and the product's functionality in technical terms.

How do you sort the requirements where we will use give one example? ›

How to Organize Requirements as a Business Analyst
  1. A business requirement can be presented in any of the following ways:
  2. Step 1) Categorize the requirements.
  3. Step 2) Arrange requirements. ...
  4. Step 3) Prepare a list. ...
  5. Step 4) Use unique identifiers. ...
  6. Step 5) Present requirement in stakeholders preferred method.
27 Aug 2022

Which tool or technique is used in the Collect requirements process? ›

Interviewing is the first collect requirements technique. It can be done through a meeting, through a phone call or through e-mails. In this collect requirements technique Project Manager interviews the stakeholders to get their requirements.

What are the 4 steps of requirements development? ›

An effective Requirements Management process must involve all four Requirements Processes defined above: Requirements Planning, Requirements Development, Requirements Verification, and Requirements Change Management.

What is a common BA tool that can be used to help with verification of requirements? ›

Rational Requisite Pro

The Rational Requisite Pro tool for Business Analysts is a must-have tool for every BA working on requirement gathering and elicitation. It has a very robust architecture that can easily manage requirement documents that are dynamically linked to a project database.

What are the four major steps of requirements specification? ›

Use These Four Steps to Gather Requirements
  • Elicitation. The Elicitation step is where the requirements are first gathered. ...
  • Validation. The Validation step is where the “analyzing” starts. ...
  • Specification. ...
  • Verification.
13 May 2015

Why is gathering requirements important in project management? ›

Requirements gathering is an important process in project management, without this, it is virtually impossible to successfully meet project goals. The requirements gathering process provides a team with direction that is based on the requirements a customer has identified.

What is meant by requirement gathering? ›

Requirements gathering is the process of determining what your projects need to achieve and what needs to be created to make that happen. You're probably familiar with the fact that everybody has their own common project assumptions about what a project should include.

How can you improve quality of requirements? ›

Key to improving the quality of your requirements is to include the following in your requirement quality improvement plans: – Develop and enforce a formal requirement elicitation, development, and management process. – Train your team in your requirement development and management process.

How do you manage requirements? ›

Requirements Management Process
  1. Identify stakeholders.
  2. Gather/elicit requirements.
  3. Analyze requirements.
  4. Specify/document requirements.
  5. Baseline requirement groups (verify, validate, and prioritize requirements- i.e.: agree and sign-off on requirements)
  6. Communicate requirements.
  7. Monitor/track requirements.

Which is best tool for data analysis? ›

Microsoft Excel is the most common tool used for manipulating spreadsheets and building analyses. With decades of development behind it, Excel can support almost any standard analytics workflow and is extendable through its native programming language, Visual Basic.

What is the most frequently used tools for company analysis? ›

Excel. Excel is, of course, the most widely used Data analytics software in the world.

What are the six most common challenges when gathering requirements? ›

Requirements gathering challenges and solutions
  • Undocumented processes. ...
  • Conflicting requirements. ...
  • Lack of access to end users. ...
  • Focusing on visual aspects rather than on functional. ...
  • Stakeholder design. ...
  • Communication problems. ...
  • In summary.
27 Oct 2020

What is requirement process? ›

Process requirements define tasks as detailed in the organization's internal process requirements, which can define reviews requirements, financial templates, approval processes, and so on.


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