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Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Green Requirements!

Since I’m on a roll with my 2015 holiday posts – in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s talk about making our requirements green. Ok not literally green in color, but the paper-free version “green”.

I’m still constantly surprised how many companies are not using requirements management tools. Many business analysts (and similar roles) are using Word, Excel, and Visio to record the requirements. But these tools are insufficient to do many of the analysis activities we do….which leads us to printing requirements. And therein lies the dreaded paper waste that is not green! But think about why you hit “print” when working on requirements? For example, it is often necessary to look at two-level relations, such as linking business objectives to functional requirements, or three-level relations of functional requirements to state diagrams to process flow diagrams. It is helpful to view such entities next to one another, but is usually impossible since they cannot all fit on one screen. Therefore printing the document allows multiple pages of a document to be laid next to one another. What are other reasons we print? Here are a few:

  • It’s easier to mark-up documents on paper
  • It’s easier to read on paper
  • It is challenging to manipulate multiple pieces of information simultaneously in a digital format
  • Document authors print for meetings for collaborative reviews
  • View a large section or multiple sections of a document at the same time without jumping back and forth
  • Requirements artifacts are cross-compared to understand the full specification or to identify inconsistencies and contradictions

There are some easy answers to address some of the above:

  • Ensuring that the people creating the requirements documents have laptops eliminates the first reason for this printing
  • Use projectors to easily share information with others
  • Online editors that allow multiple authors to edit simultaneously (Sharepoint does this, or Google docs)

But here is the rest of the answer – use a requirements management tool

An ideal solution is a well-designed requirements management tool to replace the common usage of Microsoft Office documents. Such a requirements management tool would manage text requirements and associated diagrams and allow objects to be linked at any level, quickly and intuitively. When the reader is viewing one particular set of information, it would be very simple to navigate to related information, even viewing multiple pieces of it simultaneously. Unfortunately, a review of available requirements management tools found that they do not provide such easy-to-use functionality. But many are getting closer to this dream state, so we actually can do almost everything without paper pretty easily.

I just realized this post will work well for Earth Day too! So will you use a tool and be more green this St. Patrick’s Day?

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