Clarifying Ambiguous Requirements

Ambiguity at the statement level is tested through verbalization of visualizations. For example, if the requirement is to build a structure to protect a human against wind and rain and snow and ice is given to five people, each of the five people may have a different visualization. One might visualize a kiosk at a bus station, another a three-bedroom ranch house, and someone else a nice shiny Rolls Royce. As people at the meeting explain their visual image of what has been stated, clarification can be made, and agreement can be reached.

So, how does one visualize the following requirement statement: The user will be able to store one or more windows in a scrapbook, and how does one express that vision. The visualization here may not be as obvious, but one certainly would want to know if anyone around the conference table is getting the impression that they will be able to store windows into a scrapbook the way files can be stored in directories for indefinite periods of time. So, test the statement:

■ What is the customer interpreting the statement to mean?

■ What does the developer intend the capability, i.e., a brief functional description of what will be implemented to satisfy the requirement, to be?

■ What are the system requirements, i.e., How many windows will be stored? How long are they required to be stored? What are the retrieval time requirements for different types of storage?

Document the negotiated understanding that is reached between the customer and the developers regarding the requirement(s) and how it (they) will be implemented.

At the word level, use synonyms and comparisons to clarify and ensure the correct interpretation of what is being said. For example, if the requirement is initially stated as:

A big clock will be displayed ... It should be restated as: A large clock will be displayed .

Start by using the synonym large for the word big. Then, clarify the use of the word large again using a specific comparison, i.e., does large mean it fills the entire screen or just half of the screen? Finally, restate the requirement to spell out the specific size or range of sizes to which the customer and the developers have agreed. In this way, the understanding by both the customer and the developer are consistent. There will be no surprises when the product is presented as complete. More importantly, the incidents of on-the-spot fixes that add up so quickly at the end of a project will be reduced significantly.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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