Requirements Management in the SEI-CMM


In November 1986, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie-Mellon University began developing a process maturity framework to help developers improve their software process. In September 1987, the SEI released a brief description of the process maturity framework, later amplified in Humphrey's Managing the Software Process [1989]. By 1991, this framework had evolved into what has become known as version 1.0 of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). In 1993, version 1.1 of the CMM was released [SEI 1993]. Version 1.1 defines five levels of software maturity for an organization and provides a framework for moving from one level to the next , as illustrated in Figure F-1. The CMM guides developers through activities designed to help an organization improve its software process, with the goal of achieving repeatability , controllability, and measurability.

Figure F-1. CMM maturity levels


Despite the ongoing debate and controversy about the advantages and disadvantages of the CMM, an accumulating body of data shows that adherence to the CMM and corresponding improvements in software quality have significantly lowered the cost of application development within many companies. By now, the CMM has been in use by many organizations long enough that meaningful and positive return-on-investment statistics are appearing. These payoffs should, ideally , provide results in productivity and significant reduction in time to market. In an era of increasingly competitive environments, any improvements to software productivity cannot be ignored.

The CMM provides a framework for process improvement that consists of "key process areas," or organizational activities that have been found, through experience, to be influential in various aspects of the development process and resultant software quality. Table F-1 identifies the key process areas of each of the five levels of the CMM. (The reason we're discussing all of this at length in this book is that Table F-1 shows that the first key process area that must be addressed to move from level 1 to level 2 is requirements management.)

The CMM summarizes the process area of requirements management as follows : The purpose of requirements management is to establish a common understanding between the customer and the software team of the customer's requirements .

This common understanding serves as the basis of agreement between the customer and the development team and, as such, is the central document that defines and controls the activity to follow. Requirements are controlled to establish a baseline for software engineering management use. Throughout the CMM, guidelines specify that all activities, plans, schedules, and software work products are to be developed and modified as necessary to be consistent with the requirements allocated to software. In this manner, the CMM moves the organization toward an integrated view wherein technical requirements must be kept consistent with project plans and activities. To support this process, software requirements must be documented and reviewed by software managers and affected groups, including representatives of the customer and user community.

Table F-1. Levels of the CMM with Key Process Areas


Key Process Areas

  1. Initial : Ad hoc, even chaotic ; success depends solely on individual heroics and efforts.

Not applicable

  1. Repeatable : Basic project management to track application functionality, cost, and schedule.

Requirements management

Software project planning

Software project tracking and oversight

Software subcontract management

Software quality assurance

Software configuration management

  1. Defined : The process for management and engineering is documented, standardized, and integrated. All projects use an approved, tailored version of the process.

Organization process focus

Organization process definition

Training program

Integrated software management

Software product engineering

Intergroup coordination

Peer reviews

  1. Managed : Detailed measures of the software process and software quality metrics are collected. Both process and software products are understood and controlled.

Quantitative process management

Software quality management

  1. Optimizing : Continuous process improvement is enabled by use of metrics and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies.

Defect prevention

Technology change management

Process change management

The software requirements specification serves as a central project document, a defining element with relationships to other elements of the project plan. The requirements include both technical (the behavior of the application) and nontechnical (for example, schedule and budget) requirements. [1] In addition, acceptance criteria, which are the tests and measures that will be used to validate that the software meets its requirements, must be established and documented.

[1] Note that the recommendation in this book excludes these project parameters from the application's requirements set.

In order to accomplish these objectives and to demonstrate compliance with the CMM process area of requirements management, adequate resources and funding must be provided for managing requirements. Members of the software engineering group and other affected groups should be trained to perform their requirements management activities. Training should cover methods and standards, as well as training activities designed to create an understanding on the part of the engineering team as to the unique nature and problems of the application domain.

The CMM further specifies that requirements should be managed and controlled and should serve as the basis for software plans, work products, and activities. Changes to the requirements should be reviewed and incorporated into the project plans, and the impact of change must be assessed and negotiated with the affected groups. In order to provide feedback on the results of these activities and in order to verify compliance, the CMM provides guidelines for measurements and analysis, as well as activities for verifying implementation. Suggested measures include

  • Status of each of the allocated requirements

  • Change activity of the requirements, cumulative number of changes

  • Total number of changes that are open , proposed, approved, and incorporated into the baseline

One of the most enlightened aspects of the CMM is its understanding that requirements management is not simply a "document-it-up-front-and-go" process of the sort often prescribed in the waterfall methodologies of the 1970s (Chapter 3). With the CMM, requirements are living entities at the center of the application development process. Not surprisingly, the process of effective requirements management appears at virtually all levels of the process model and within many key process areas. As an organization moves to level 3 on the CMM scale, the focus is on managing software activities based on defined and documented standard practices. Key process areas for level 3 include organization process focus, organization process definition, training program, integrated software management, software product engineering, intergroup coordination, and peer reviews. The software product engineering key practice is designed to cause an organization to integrate all software engineering activities to produce high-quality software products effectively and efficiently . The software engineering key practice states that the " software requirements are developed, maintained , documented, and verified by systematically analyzing the requirements according to the project's defined software process " [SEI 1993].

The analysis process is necessary to ensure that the requirements make sense and are clearly stated, complete and unambiguous, consistent with one an other, and testable. Various analysis techniques are suggested, including simulations, modeling, scenario generation, and functional and object-oriented decomposition. The results of this process will be a better understanding of the requirements of the application, which are then reflected in revised requirements documentation. In addition, the group responsible for system and acceptance testing also analyzes the requirements to ensure testability.

The resulting software requirements document is reviewed and approved by the affected parties to make sure that the points of view represented by these parties are included in the requirements. Reviewers include customers and end users, project management, and software test personnel. In order to manage change in a controlled way, the CMM also calls for placing the software requirements document under configuration management control.

Another important concept in the CMM is traceability . Under the CMM, all worthwhile software work products are documented, and the documentation must be maintained and readily available. The software requirements, design, code, and test cases are traced to the source from which they were derived and to the products of the subsequent engineering activity. Requirements traceability provides a means of analyzing impact before a change is made, as well as a way to determine what components are affected when processing a change. Traceability also provides the mechanism for determining the adequacy of test coverage.

All approved changes are tracked to completion. The documentation that traces the allocated requirements is also managed and controlled. Measurements are made to determine the functionality and the quality of the software products and to determine the status of the software activity. Example measurements include

  • Status of each allocated requirement throughout the lifecycle

  • Change activity of the allocated requirements

  • Allocated requirements summarized by category

Finally, the CMM recognizes that change is an integral part of software activity in any development project. In place of frozen specifications, we instead strive for a stable baseline of requirements that are well elicited, documented, and placed into systems that provide support for managing change. Specifically, the CMM requires the following.

  • As understanding of the software improves , changes to the software work products and activities are proposed, analyzed , and incorporated as appropriate. Where changes to the requirements are needed, they are approved and incorporated before any work products or activities are changed.

  • The project determines the impact of change before the change is made.

  • Changes are negotiated and communicated to the affected groups.

  • All changes are tracked to completion.

In summary, the CMM provides a comprehensive view of the activities that must be applied to improve software quality and to increase productivity. Requirements management is an integral part of this process, wherein requirements serve as living entities that are at the center of development activity. Once elicited, requirements are documented and managed with the same degree of care that we provide to our code work products. This process puts the team in control of its project and helps team members manage both the project and its scope. Lastly, actively managing changing requirements keeps the project under control and helps ensure the reliable, repeatable production of high-quality software products.

Although all of this provides an important "validation" of the concept of requirements management, along with some high-level advice for inserting requirements-oriented processes into the development lifecycle, it doesn't tell us how to do requirements management. The detailed activities of eliciting , organizing, documenting, and managing requirements are the subject of this book, and these activities have been influenced by the CMM framework.


Managing Software Requirements[c] A Use Case Approach
Managing Software Requirements[c] A Use Case Approach
ISBN: 032112247X
Year: 2003
Pages: 257 © 2008-2017.
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