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The Importance of Specification of Software
So, you want to design a software program, but you're not sure where to start? Actually, the first step is create a software specification. This is a document that you, the client, will provide to your vendor. It explains what features you want the software to have, how it should look, etc.
Why It Is Important to Specify the Software
The software requirements specification (SRS) is the scope of the project. In the long run, it can be vital in protecting you as the client as well as the vendor. It details what the software should be capable of as well as what requirements you have as far as what the software should do. It's vital that the SRS is planned out from the very beginning and doing so will save time and money throughout the software development process.
What the SRS Should Accomplish
There are four things that a properly written SRS will accomplish. These include:
- Addressing an potential problems that may develop
- Splitting the project into component parts
- Providing communication to the design specification
- Providing a product validation check
By recognizing any potential problems for customers, the developers can be prepared to address those problems and create the software around them.
It's also important that the language used in the SRS is natural. The language should not be technical or overly formal. It should be easy to understand and include any tables, flow diagrams or charts necessary to display the necessary information.
By identifying each component of the project, it is easier to identify and overcome any problems. They can also be addressed individually and in an organized manner. This will work well with the Scrum methodology of project management that we discussed previously in our second newsletter as well.
Finally, the validation check will be utilized when the software is completed and going through the verification process.
How to Create the SRS
The best way to write the SRS is to begin by gathering information about what you want the software to accomplish and how it should perform. The more concise you can be the better. You should also do any analysis or research about the type of software you are developing before writing so that you can consider the benefits that it will offer the user.
It's important that the client writes the SRS. Software development teams tend to be very technical and we can easily create a list of technical details, but a client can approach the SRS from a consumer's point of view and write in layman terms.
Hire a Technical Writer
While it's important that the client write the SRS in laymen's terms, it may also be necessary to use a technical writer or technical staff from your vendor as well. There are many benefits to utilizing the services of a technical writer including:
- Technical writers have a knack for presenting customer requirements in a way that can be easily understood.
- They can address the needs of customers by assessing the analysis and research you provide as the client.
- Once the writer knows what the consumer needs, they can convey that information in an easy to read manner. They can also assist with the user interface development and models.
- Technical writers that worked in the beginning stages of the project can be utilized in the end to help create manual information as well as marketing information for the product.
What the SRS Should Include
There are several basic specifications that every SRS should include. These are:
- Function Capabilities
- Performance Levels
- Data Structures/Elements
- Constraints and Limitations
To make it feasible to create all nine of these levels, it is important to start off with a template, recognizing requirements and linking, rules for business operations and traceability matrix.
When writing, always link requirements with sources. Unique identifiers are valid and requirements can be added, changed or deleted without changing the validity of the identifier.
It's also important to give a requirement ID number to the description of each requirement. The ID and description will ultimately become part of the SRS and included in the discussion of traceability. This will allow the reader to understand the software being produced.
The template should be unique as well. While it's easy to copy someone else's SRS, this can create problems and will not provide correct information. Every piece of software is unique and thus the SRS should be unique. Breaking the template up into sections will also make the SRS easier to read and understand.
Linking identified sources can help to span the gap between functional and non-functional requirements. It also establishes:
- Use case
- Business requirements
- Industry standards
- Government regulations
This will help to justify the use of the requirement to begin with. Project stakeholders will be able to see clearly and easily that frivolous requirements were kept to a minimum.
Create the business rules to establish a contingency and a responsibility. If there is a government or a business rule, follow them exactly as prescribed. There is no “wiggle room” to leave anything open to interpretation. If there is a required contingency, a regulatory attorney may need to get involved. Go to extremes when writing the SRS to show that you have anticipated the needs of the user.
It is necessary to define the responsibilities and contingencies in the business rules. This makes no room for interpretation when talking about the actions and responsibilities of the user whenever they are within certain circumstances. Writing out the responsibilities is about the same as creating a document to be used a as “chain of custody”. The flow should include, in order:
These are all a part of the chain of custody you will have created. Completed beforehand, the requirements will provide a way for the advancement of the progress. The design elements as well as the code itself will have to tie back into the requirements that are defined.
When writing the SRS, be as precise as possible. The final product is dependent on such things as the project documents, statement of work and design specifications. This is why it's important that there is no room for error when writing the SRS in the first place.
You will know if you have written a good quality SRS if it addresses all of the customer requirements for any one particular product. If the SRS is airtight and precise, it is considered to be strong. The stronger the SRS, the more protected you will be against any problems.