Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Beam me up Scotty" requirements ...

Everyone's heard of the phrase “Beam me up Scotty” from Star Trek...

There's just one problem - that the phrase was never spoken in any TV series or film in the Star Trek franchise. We can trawl through them all and we'll find something very similar in a few occasions, "Scotty, beam us up" or "Beam them out of there, Scotty”.  But never properly, word-for-word “Beam me up Scotty”.

Never-the-less, the phrase has entered culture so much that we know it's associated with the series. We just have the inconvenience of not being able to be backed up by the facts!

I've recently learned that something similar with requirements. On my Waterfall project, we've been living and breathing the same set of requirements since Christmas. We've had meetings about them, we've had a dozen updated copies of the. We've discussed them informally.

Imagine our surprise then when we had software delivered this week, and it didn't quite meet expectations. We turned to our source of truth, the requirements, and found … erm that they weren't there. Not quite as we'd imagined them.

We'd kind of asked for a certain behaviour, and we'd definitely discussed them. But rereading them from a different angle now, maybe not.

This no doubt is the weakness of Waterfall projects. When you talk about the requirements so much, it's very easy to read them “in the same manner as how you've discussed them”.

The difference sadly is one between “what you think the requirements say” and “what they actually say”. Oops.

This in my mind is definitely the power of Agile, where it's the group discussion and consensus which is the living and breathing source of truth for the project, instead of the derived set of documentation (often delivered weeks after all those conversations).

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