Posted by: RationalRDM | June 29, 2009

The payback from improving your requirements process – $$$, Morale and Golf Time?

This post comes to us from Andy Gurd, Senior Go-To-Market Manager, IBM Rational Systems Marketing

At the recent Rational Software Conference (RSC) in Orlando, requirements engineering seminars in the UK, and in conversations with colleagues and customers, we’ve been having many discussions about the business value and the return on investment (ROI) from improving requirements practices.

In one presentation at RSC, an IBM customer, developing a web application that uses the Electronic Medical Record to provide patient data analytics vital to the treatment and care of medical patients, told how putting in place improved requirements practices and deploying a requirements management tool, they achieved a 69% net reduction in the cost of test preparation, testing, and rework; and that they are now delivering similar functionality in less than 25% of the calendar time it took before the improved practices were deployed.
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But it’s not only ‘hard’ benefits like cost savings and productivity improvements we’ve heard mentioned. The team developing the healthcare web app also experienced ‘soft’ benefits like improvements in team morale because they are now able to more accurately deliver what the customer wants – and sooner. Another example of a ‘soft’ benefit came from a large government defense agency. The central administration for the requirements tools and processes at this agency are helping the users to achieve a much more personal goal of ‘more golf time’ by providing tools and processes to help them become more efficient.

One common pattern that seems to emerge from talking to organizations that have focused efforts on improving their requirements practices is that the payback has to be viewed from a complete lifecycle perspective. While we’ve certainly heard customers say that they’ve been able to streamline their requirements capture, review and approval process and reduced the time it takes to sign off a requirements baseline or define the user stories for a sprint, we mostly hear that the larger payback comes from reduced rework time and costs. But that doesn’t mean that it has to take years before you see a return on your investment in improving your requirements practices – in the example we gave above of the healthcare web app, the team achieved those results within six months of deploying new practices and a requirements management tool.

What have been your experiences? How did you make the business case to invest in improving your requirements process? Where have you have seen the benefits? We’d love to hear your comments.

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