[Answered] Why You Should Swap Document-Based Requirements Management for Real-Time Collaboration

Jama Software

Document-Based Requirements Management

Why should you consider changing out your documents-based workflows for real-time collaboration tools? As product development processes become more complex, traditional document-based requirements management is showing its age and limitations.

Document-based requirements management (RM) is still widely used in highly regulated industries like healthcare, automotive, industrial manufacturing, aerospace and defense. As these industries progressively shift toward increasingly complicated products and systems, they must fulfill numerous software and hardware requirements before safely reaching market.

But many organizations haven’t upgraded their requirements and risk management tools and processes to keep pace with this innovation, putting themselves at risk of protracted development cycles, costly late-stage changes, and regulatory recalls.

Solving the Challenge of Document-Based Requirements Management (RM)

More specifically, outdated document-based requirements management workflows centered on Microsoft Word and Excel are too fragmented for efficient product development. Multiple conflicting versions of requirements documents may be in play at any time, while stakeholders struggle to consistently connect on feedback and conduct timely reviews and approvals.

According to IT research firm Gartner, only 55% of product launches happen on time, with product development issues such as missed bugs and feature creep being major causes of setbacks. Fortunately, better collaboration is possible with solutions that enable real-time interactions, shorter review cycles, and a consolidated system of record.

Let’s explore some of the challenges with document-based requirements management solutions in particular, and how to overcome them through a more modern approach.

What You Miss Out on With Document-Based Workflows

At a high level, document-based requirements management – i.e., RM that involves authoring requirements, traceability and risk matrices, and other items, all managed within discrete files such as Word documents and Excel sheets – isn’t scalable to the demands of modern product development. A single requirements document can be hundreds of pages long, or (if a spreadsheet) have an overwhelming number of rows. Plus, it will inevitably change throughout the product lifecycle.

When the unwieldiness of these documents meets the complexity of continually gathering, authoring, testing, and tracing requirements, the result is often something like the following:

  • Person A emails a requirements document to their entire team.
  • Persons B, C, and D each update it with their own feedback.
  • Those various updates get re-distributed among the team for another look.
  • Person A tracks the changes in Word and tries to manually maintain an agreed-upon version of the truth
  • The entire team participates in lengthy meetings to align on the final version or changes
  • Ongoing rework, within that complicated and detailed document, is required to keep everything up to date.

This highly manual type of collaboration can consume many hours. Ultimately, the product team ends up managing documents more so than the actual requirements within them, which leads to miscommunications and delays, on top of wasted time.

Beyond the time-related workflow issues outlined in the above hypothetical, channeling all RM through individual documents creates additional problems. With document-based RM solutions, teams miss out on the convenient collaboration and standardized, consolidated processes available with modern RM tools. Accordingly, they’re left with problems including greater difficulty in implementing and adhering to industry standards, inability to efficiently manage change, crucial feedback not making it through cross-functional and distributed teams, and often costly rework leading to slower time to market,

Standards Adherence

Product development has become much more complicated over time. As a result, so has product risk—and the accompanying regulatory compliance required.

When teams build products and systems that must meet functional safety and compliance standards during development (such as ISO 26262, IEC 61508, Automotive SPICE, CMMI, ISO 14971, and more), they introduce risk into the development process when they take a document-based approach to RM. Without an easily accessible source for RM information, teams are essentially starting from scratch each time, with no built-in mechanisms (e.g., industry-specific templates or reuse functionality) for baselining or aligning the work of cross-functional teams around the necessary standards.

Traceability of Requirements

Given that document-based requirements are often very lengthy and increasingly complex, and the workflows for updating and circulating them are inefficient, it is easy to see how risks can be overlooked during product development. To go back to our hypothetical example, it’s possible that Person A sends out a revised version of their document that integrates feedback from Person B and C, but not Person D. That oversight could result in missing test coverage or a critical defect being identified too late. Moreover, tests would become tougher to trace back to requirements, in part because there’s uncertainty about whether all risks have been accurately captured at any point in time. Additionally, when Person A needs change a requirement, it is difficult to accurately assess the impact of that change (i.e. perform impact analysis) to understand what other requirements or tests may be impacted.

RELATED: Five Tips for Requirements Traceability

Cross-Functional Team Collaboration

Although many team members from different departments are involved in product development, coordinating all of them is nearly impossible without the right requirements management platform. Lengthy cross-functional team meetings are often held for the sole purpose of updating just a few contributors on recent changes made to a key RM document. With people often being out of the loop on changes in disparate documents, last-minute adjustments become problematic, as do reviews and approvals requiring input from specific individuals. All of these issues lead to late stage changes and rework that ultimately lead to product delays.

Real-Time Collaboration as a Replacement for Document-Based Requirements Management

To successfully move on from document-based processes, a particular type of RM solution is needed – one that can:

  • Enable real-time collaboration with full context and conversations around requirements, risks and tests.
  • Simplify the process for pulling in contributors and connecting them in real time.
  • Provide out-of-the-box templates for adherence to industry standards from the start.
  • Offer a single system of record for requirements, risks, and tests.
  • Support risk analysis throughout the development process
  • Easily export reports for proving compliance and passing audits.

In Jama Connect, real-time collaboration in one convenient place replaces the fragmented workflows spread across multiple documents and communication channels. Rather than emailing collaborators with new changes and requests or leaving them comments in Word or Google Docs that could easily be missed, contributors can manage requirements and risks in real time in the same system, providing a single source of truth.

To see the difference, consider how risk impact analysis changes when using a modern RM platform. Items downstream from modified requirement get automatically flagged as “suspect,” and specific individuals can be quickly notified and given context on what action is required. Once they make updates in Jama Connect, their inputs are automatically saved and can be viewed by others with the confidence that the data is the latest available. This process is much more straightforward than playing email tag or reconciling static documents.

Watch this recent webinar to learn more about moving away from document-based design control and risk management and how a modern platform can improve team collaboration and streamline processes.


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