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How To Create Software Requirements Specification And Improve Your Software Development Process

Software requirements specification
Defining software requirements specification ensures project consistency and reduces costs.

The global software market revenue is projected to reach the $507.2 billion mark in 2021. 

Software products are a hugely competitive business and often require a sizable investment. 

As such they require careful planning. It is advisable to take all the precautions and follow processes such as software requirement specification.

In this article, we will discuss the five necessary steps any enterprise should take towards outlining their software development requirements.

We will also explore:

  • The reasons for defining software development requirements and how this can help the end product reach the high standards in quality
  • What the software requirements specification document is
  • The things you need to know before defining your software’s requirements
  • What are the functional and non-functional requirements in software development
  • What are the risks of having undocumented software requirements

Let’s get to it!

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5 Reasons To Define Your Software Development Requirements Before Looking For A Development Partner

Software development requirements specify what features the software product should have and what the product’s objective is.

How you approach these requirements can make all the difference for the development process and, ultimately, for the end-product as well.

Clearly defining software development requirements matters, because this can:

  • Ensure project consistency: Defining specific software requirements is the beginning of a software development process and the guarantee of its consistency in later stages. After a prolonged period of development, stakeholders can get confused about what the software should do. Requirements that are well-defined, clear and measurable relate to the business needs and provide clarity and focus to the entire project and everyone involved.
  • Save time and money: When you define and structure your software requirements, the stage is set for developing the actual product. Knowing in advance as much as possible about what the software needs to do and what features it should have will create positive results quicker and with less expenditure.
  • Provide a base for collaboration: Teams working on software development often consist of members with very particular and specific knowledge. This especially goes for teams using agile development methodology. Defining software development requirements helps keep them all on the same page. Requirements provide a source of truth and general guidelines for the project by describing all aspects of a product. This makes it easier for every individual to see where their role is in the bigger picture. 
  • Provide stability in case of unexpected changes: Every development process is prone to sudden and unexpected changes: defects in design, test failures, management changes, altered functionality objectives and so on. Change management is important because it can control the rising cost of the project and make sure the delivery of the product is not delayed. Your software development requirements should coordinate and anticipate these possible changes to identify what the possible impact could be.
  • Make sure the entire software project doesn’t fail: Poorly defined or undefined software requirements that are unprioritized, unclear, incomplete or inconsistent jeopardize the entire software development projects. 

What Is The Software Requirements Specification Document?

Software Requirements Specification (SRS) document outlines the functions and purpose of the future software product, what it will do and how it will perform.

It is the backbone of the software development project as it lays the foundation and guidelines all parties involved in the project should follow.

The software requirements specification document describes the functionalities the product must have to meet the expectations of its future users. 

This document should always include:

  • An overall description
  • The purpose of the product
  • Software’s specific requirements

In addition to these, an SRS document needs to establish how the software integrates with the hardware or connects with other software systems. 

Outlining SRS document can provide valuable insight such as:

  • How to minimize development time and cost
  • How and when to make a decision about software product’s lifecycle

This document provides essential information about the development projects to various sectors, keeping them on the same page. These sectors include:

  • Design
  • Development
  • QA testing
  • Operations
  • Maintenance

Even though the terms “software” and “system” are sometimes used interchangeably, there are differences between software requirements specification and system requirement specification.

While software requirements specifications describe the software that will be developed, a system requirements specification document collects information on system requirements. 

Defining software development requirements
Software requirements specification should be outlined before the software development process begins.

What You Need To Know Before Defining Your Software Requirements

Before actually defining software requirements in the specification document, there are several things you should establish and understand first.

1. Understand The Software Development Process

The type of software development process depends on the project that needs to be completed and the team that develops it. 

The process outlines the steps of the software development lifecycle and every step creates the product that is needed for the next stage in the cycle.

Software development process consists of these six basic stages:

  • Gathering of software requirements and analysis of the project
  • Product design
  • Implementation/Coding
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance

Each subsequent step is dependent on the previous and creates a workflow. Gathered requirements create a basis for the product layout and design. The development phase – Implementation and coding – depends on the design.

The testing process that checks whether the requirements are met either approves or declines the resulting product from the development stage. 

If the product meets the requirements, the product is ready to be deployed to the market with subsequent maintenance processes waiting in line.

2. Define The Business Requirements For Your Software Solution

Every software product is created as a response to a certain business need. The procedure of defining and analyzing the software requirements is related to a specific business objective.

The process of defining software’s business requirements can help your business determine the scope of the project. 

This, in turn, helps with estimating the resources and timeframes needed for its completion.

Knowing the business requirements of a software solution leads to a better understanding of business needs that can be broken down into specific details. 

If a problem exists and is identified at the analysis stage, it’s much cheaper to fix it then and there rather than when the product is launched.

Follow these steps to define your software solution’s business requirements:

  • Identify stakeholders and groups that will benefit from the software product: These include project sponsors and clients that have the final say on what the project’s scope includes. These are also the end-users of the software solution which needs to meet their needs.
  • Capture their requirements: What do the above groups expect from this software solution? What are their own requirements from the product? Understanding the different perspectives of every stakeholder group helps build a complete picture of what the project should achieve.
  • Categorize their requirements: Grouping requirements into several categories such as the ones below makes your analysis procedure easier.
    • Functional requirements
    • Operational requirements
    • Technical requirements
    • Transitional requirements
  • Interpret their requirements: Once their requirements and expectations are collected and categorized, it’s important to establish which of them are achievable and how your product can deliver them. You should:
    • Prioritize certain expectations
    • Make sure they are clearly worded, sufficiently detailed, related to business needs and not vague
    • Resolve conflicting issues
    • Analyze feasibility

3. Define Your Preferred Tech Stack And Development Methodology (If Any)

Depending on your software product’s goals, development team’s size and other factors, you may want to consider several development methodologies that will bring the best results in the given circumstances.

These are the most widely used development methods that you can opt for when developing software.

  • Feature-driven development: This methodology’s goal is delivering the working software frequently and is client-centric. It’s a good fit for smaller development teams and is a precursor to agile and lean methodologies.
  • Waterfall: The traditional way of developing software, this is a plan-driven approach that requires a lot of rigid structure and documentation in advance. In its first stage, it requires a full understanding of the project’s demands. Good for large, plan-driven teams that don’t sway from their original ideas. 
  • Agile: The opposite of waterfall, agile methodology is flexible and accommodates the possibility of changes during the development process. It values individual team members and their interactions, as well as customer collaboration. Great for teams that collaborate heavily. 
  • Scrum: This methodology adopts agile’s notion that team members should collaborate closely and develops software with an iterative approach. Developers break down end goals into smaller goals and work on them using sprints to build software. A useful approach for disciplined smaller teams. 
  • Lean: This method’s basic principles are optimization of the whole, elimination of the waste, creating knowledge, delivering fast and deferring commitment. It incorporates manufacturing practices and takes agile methodologies to scale them across the organization and apply them outside of the development job.

How To Define And Document Software Development Requirements In 5 Steps

Once you understand the software development process and have defined the business requirements and development methodology, you are ready to document the software development requirements.

Follow these five steps to create a quality software requirements specification document for the product you mean to build.

1. Make A Software Requirements Specification Outline

The first step in defining the document software development requirements is to create an outline for the SRS.

This outline should include these chapters:

  • Product’s Purpose
    • Audience
    • Use
    • Scope of the Product
  • Product Overview
    • Users’ needs
    • Assumptions and Dependencies
  • System Requirements and Features
    • System Features
    • Market Requirements
    • Business Requirements
    • UI Requirements
    • Functional Requirements
    • Nonfunctional Requirements

Defining each of these items in your software requirement specifications outline and filling them out means you are ready to move on to the next step.

2. Define The Purpose And Expectations Of The Product

The very first chapter in your SRS documents concerns the product’s purpose. It sets the expectations for the software solution that you’re building.

  • Audience and use: In this segment, you need to outline the people in the entire project that will have access to the document and how they should use it. These could be developers, project managers, testers, sales and marketing people or stakeholders in other departments.
  • Scope of the Product: This segment is for defining the product that you’re specifying. It should outline the objectives of the software solution and its benefits.

3. Create An Overview Of A Finished Software Product

The overview or the description of the product part of the SRS should outline the software that you are building. 

In order for everyone on the project to know what they’re building, you should answer these questions in advance:

  • Is the product a new kind of solution?
  • It is an update or a take on an existing product?
  • Is it an add-on for an already created product?

Answering the above questions help with defining the following:

  • User needs: Your target audience – the people who will be using your software solution – belongs in this segment. Defining users that need the software product you’re building is vital: there are primary and secondary users who will be using the solution regularly and there might be separate buyers whose needs you also need to define.
  • Assumptions and dependencies: This particular section should outline the factors that could affect the fulfillment of the SRS requirements. It should also include assumptions that STS is making and that could be false. Also, make note of any external factors that the software development project depends on.

4. Get Very Specific About Your Requirements

The development team will make great use of this particular section, because this is where you need to detail the specific requirements for building the software solution. 

They consist of functional and nonfunctional requirements, which we will cover in-depth later in the article. There are also:

  • Business requirements: High-level business goals of the business that is building the software solution.
  • Market requirements: Requirements that outline the needs of the market and target audiences.
  • External interface requirements: Types of functional requirements that outline how the product will integrate with other software.
  • User interface requirements: Specifications that outline how UI will look and feel like. This determines the user experience of the product.
  • System feature requirements: These outline the features needed in order for the product to function.

5. Have Stakeholders Approve The Software Development Requirements

Once you define and document your software development requirements in your SRS document, the final step that remains is to send it to stakeholders for revision and approval.

Everyone should review the final version of this document – the development and design team that worked on it, the business or a company that commissioned it, the sponsors that funded it as well as a target audience sample to review its functions and features.

This is the final step of making sure everyone is on the same page before the production of the solution begins.

This is when SRS reviewers can file in their last-minute suggestions, complaints and ideas for the improvement of the process and the finished product.

Business requirements as a part of software development specifications
Choosing the development methodology is one of the prerequisites of defining software requirements.

What Are The Non-functional Requirements In Software Development?

In software development, there are two types of requirements: functional and nonfunctional.

  • Functional requirements: These are the product features that the development team is going to design, code and test. They define the functionality of the software product that will help in solving users’ pain points. These requirements are defined by “what” questions such as:
    • What should the software system do?
    • What functions or functionality will the product support?
    • What information or data will it manage?
  • Nonfunctional requirements: These describe how each feature should behave under certain conditions and what limitations they should have. They serve as a description of the functions that are important for the stakeholders. These requirements are defined by “how” questions, like: “How will the system do what it is designed for?” They establish standards for
    • Security
    • Design
    • Accessibility
    • Performance
    • Reliability

Nonfunctional requirements complement functional requirements. The former are the list of specific features, while the latter outline the functionality of the software.

To illustrate, a functional requirement could be the ability of the software solution to send messages or transfer files.

A nonfunctional requirement would be offering these functional requirements in all the major browsers and operating systems or supporting them in the mobile device layout. 

7 Risks Of Having Undocumented Software Requirements

It is not possible to know if the software product and its features are developed properly without having specified and documented software parameters.

A lot of things can go wrong if software requirements are not thoroughly analyzed and documented.

Having no official software requirements specifications can result in the following ways:

  1. Bugs and errors escalate in the system
  2. Developers need to discern the specific features based on spoken instructions and how they understood them
  3. There is no official, recorded agreement on what makes the final product
  4. The client doesn’t know what end-product to expect 
  5. Cases of miscommunication happen across the entire project and in all of its sectors
  6. As a result of miscommunication and poor development, bug fixes and reworks are needed
  7. Costs go up and it’s very difficult to meet the deadlines

Takeaways On Software Requirements Specification

When it comes to outlining and defining your software product’s requirements, it is of most paramount importance to:

  • Understand the purpose of the product and the development process
  • Define the business requirements
  • Decide on the development methodology
  • Define the functional and nonfunctional requirements
  • Create a comprehensive schedule
  • Set priorities
  • Have stakeholders review the software requirements document
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