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Agile requirements – highlights from the Ellen Gottesdiener workshop

Agile Requirements – Creative Collaborative and Colorful Discovery – was the title of a workshop held on March 16, 2015, at the RE Conf (Requirements Engineering Conference) in Munich. Coach Ellen Gottesdiener (founder of EBG Consulting) is a renowned pioneer in the field of collaborative partnerships for Requirements Engineering and Management. During this workshop we experienced her creative and colorful way of thinking – and were quite impressed by her “retro approach” based on flip charts and colored post-its.

What’s more, we were not allowed to forget the “mantra of value” during the one-day workshop! Every software application (or even hardware component) upgrade must add value for the various customer, business and technology stakeholders or partners involved. Otherwise the requirement should be disregarded.

Workshop content was focused on an example of a software solution designed to manage the organization of conferences. A “product options board” was used to illustrate a seven dimensions concept that includes the following elements:

  1. User
  2. Action
  3. Control
  4. Data
  5. Interface
  6. Environment
  7. Quality Attribute

And this is how the product options board for agile requirements works:

Discover to Deliver - 7 Product DimensionsIdeally the product options board is mounted on a large wall in a project room, along with flip charts and similar items. One participant asked why no online or digital tools are used for this, and whether they would not be more efficient. Ellen replied with conviction (and humor) that paper and pen are still the best tools!

And at the end of the day, we had to admit that she was right, because you will never be able to view a product options board of this kind displayed in full (and yet still legible) on a 17-inch screen.

But now back to the workshop itself. The team (product owner, developer/designer, tester, and if applicable, user and customer) proposes options within the scope of each dimension. Which dimension is dealt with first depends on the nature of the project, and on the project team’s preferences. The best thing to do is to attach post-its to the board that detail options for each dimension in a logical sequence. Then participants can continuously enhance them across all dimensions during the course of the discussion. Some options may eventually be eliminated, while others are added or existing ones are modified. It is important that options are then prioritized and interlinked across the dimensions, in order to facilitate a decision for implementing the requirements during the next agile sprint.

In our workshop we unanimously agreed that online conference delegate registration should be incorporated in “our” software during the first sprint.

At the end of an eventful day, we went home with our minds full of new ideas. And we will undoubtedly apply a number of these ideas to our day-to-day work routine.

More information about Ellen Gottesdiener’s ideas and methods is available at:  

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