Critical Success Factors as Applied to Software Requirements

Requirements are often viewed as a set of critical success factors (CSFs) for a software product. Descriptions of CSFs make the link seen reasonable:

® Those limited number of areas where "things must go right";

® Those managerial or enterprise areas that must be given special and continual attention to bring about high performance; ® Those factors predicting success on projects;

® Events or circumstances that require the special attention of managers;

® Those factors in which success is necessary in order that each of the major project participants in a project has the maximum chance of achieving the goals;

® Achieving quality targets.

There is a temptation to create CSFs with simplistic characteristics, such as "find a solution to the defined problem," but we shouldn't give in because there is too much ambiguity in this sort of definition of success. In order to proceed with requirements specification and design, requirements that will make the project results successful to the user community and other stakeholders need specificity.

CSFs, when clearly identified as critical requirements, can be tested and measured and can assist the analyst with controlling scope-creep. This does not give the analyst license to ignore the additional or remaining requirements, but does keep the project focused on those that were defined as the most significant during this crucial requirements gathering phase. The use of CSFs has been demonstrated to be especially effective in the rapid prototyping, RAD, and spiral models due to the rapidly changing environment of these life cycles.

CSFs are directly related to strategic and business plan objectives and goals. For each critical success factor there is an associated key indicator that provides the measure, and a standard of performance or allowable variance from planned performance. CSFs for software projects are usually thought of as completing certain milestones or other key indicators that provide a reading of performance. For our purposes here, we will limit our discussion to CSFs for the product and keep in mind that some requirements are simply more essential than others. We will use the definitions of CSFs to help identify them. This will come in handy when functions must inevitably be scrubbed or delayed in the prioritization process.

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