How to Write Great Requirements

After almost a year of procrastination, I finally took some time this past week and put together a presentation that I have uploaded to SlideShare with my thoughts on Writing Requirements.

Requirements are not hard to write but time and time again I see people get confused on the how they should write them, instead of the who they are writing them for, what are they writing and why are they writing them.

I put my thoughts together and here is what I came up with.

Living Documents are a Cop Out

I hate this phrase – “It’s a living document, it will never be completed, it will live on and on, we will be in the ground and yet this document will continue to live on”.  Okay the last bit might have been exaggerated a bit, but you get the gist of where I’m going with this.

Can someone show me a document that is dead?

Probably not, because we don’t exactly label documents as dead because that would mean that someone took a significant amount of time to write something, we deemed it useless and than pushed it aside into the garbage can.  It’s a topic for another day, but once people have invested x amount of time into something, they don’t want to see it thrown out.

But the term “the living document” is a cop out because here is what it translates to – I’ve done a pretty good job, I’ve got a pretty idea there is more to do and I don’t want to be the one to do anymore on it.  That’s it, think of all those times you’ve heard that phrased used, guaranteed its when you have asked someone if they are finished writing it.  And they are, they are finished, they don’t want to do anymore, they want to move on with their lives, they don’t want to hear about how you need more in it.  They are done.  At this point, the phrase the living document came to life so as to compensate for any missed information (hey it’s living of course I missed stuff) and to hand off to someone (here take the document, feed it some words, its alive).

Those kinds of living documents are ones that don’t really live on, because of the information that might be missing and the time and quality that went into it – it’s not complete, its not great, its going to be skimmed over.  But the gal that says – “here’s the doc, it’s done” – yeah those are the good docs, those are the ones that live on because people read them and see what level of effort you put into them and they want to make it better and build on it and increase it’s shelf life for all.

So those documents, the ones that aren’t pronounced as living, become the real living documents, because they weren’t labelled, they were complete and everyone knew before reading that this would be something worth carrying on.