Software Requirement Documentation: Importance And Best Practices

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As far as software development is concerned, documentation plays an important role. It is a key aid to help the developer know what you actually need. It has a major role to play while the developer gathers data and analyses possibilities for software development.

Let’s understand it with an example. It often gets difficult for you to explore a new country, city, or even a neighbourhood without Google Maps. Without the app directing you towards the right path, it seems nearly impossible to reach the expected destination. Similarly, when considering software development, it’s hard to come up with a perfect product without well-defined documentation of requirements. To ensure that you convey all your development requirements clearly, it is important to learn software development documentation best practices.

Documentation ensures that the  Web development company team and other stakeholders remain on the same page regarding the final product from the development process. It focuses on creating complete awareness of the goals, required resources, challenges involved, and budgeting. While documenting these requirements can turn out to be tiring, you really need to go through this in-depth guide for creating an SRD.

What Is Software Requirement Documentation (SRD)?

What Is Software Requirement Documentation?

An SRD or Software Requirement Documentation includes all the functionalities, required capabilities, and creative constraints involved in a software project, clearly written. It covers all the functional and non-functional areas along with the expectation of the stakeholders. This includes how the software will operate and interact with the users to solve their problems. It acts as a “parent” document, supporting the designing and development, creating templates, validation, software testing, and delivery.

This document also defines the algorithm for ranking functional elements and specifies the elements that need to be tested and validated. SRD has been used for a long time for the development of new software. It becomes a roadmap to the final product before actual designing, documentation, and coding begin. Undeniably, these documents are often long and consist of heavy text and technical jargon. Therefore, understanding the best practices for writing them becomes crucial.

What Is Included In SRD?

Importance of Software Requirement Documentation

Software documentation is supposed to act as a blueprint in the management of a software development project. However, it only defines the various functional and non-functional requirements for the same. It does not talk about the software’s design or technological solution that would be used. Those decisions are to be made by the developers.

Mentioned below are some constraints for a well-written SRD.

  • It breaks down the problem into smaller manageable parts.
  • It works as a reference for testing and validation.
  • It holds information regarding design specifications (defining all the requirements for rendering an effective design).
  • Helps in giving feedback to the client or end-user.

The SRD helps in demonstrating to the client or organization that the issues that need to be solved are understood. It gives a highlight of how the problems can be addressed using a software solution. Most of the time, these clients are the actual stakeholders, and therefore, it becomes necessary to clearly eliminate technical jargon and draft documentation. There could be different approaches used by organizations to write an SRD. Moreover, according to IEEE standards, an SRD should include the following:

  1. Functional capabilities and interfaces
  2. Performance levels
  3. Data Structures
  4. Safety, reliability, and Privacy
  5. Quality Constraints
  6. Limitations

When all these elements are clearly defined in software documentation, you get the complete picture and necessary information regarding software development.

Best Practices For Writing Software Requirements Documentation

Best Practices for Software Requirement Documentation

While there can be different approaches to writing an SRD, it will always be beneficial to consider a few best practices before writing one.

1.Keep It Organized  

Before you actually start writing a requirements specification document, consider making an organization strategy first. This strategy should be based on how the documents will be stored and how collaborators and contributors can update them with necessary details. Since there would be so many things involved, it is important that an SRD is well organized. Otherwise, it will get difficult to understand the expectations, subsequently affecting the results.

Various companies and organizations prefer using templates to create clear documentation and keep up consistency. Templates could save you a lot of time since they are pre-organized. All you have to do is fill in the necessary details. It maintains consistency in the documentation process for your organization. However, it may not be a great idea always since they could involve numerous pages of long texts. You may instead support this process with visual tools and keep it all sorted.

2.Make Sure To Mention Complete Requirements

To ensure that the information is complete, you should see that all necessary details for implementation are included. When the designers and developers actually start building the software, they shouldn’t need to come up with guesses or assumptions to accomplish any task. Consider an example, for instance, while you’re developing a web page, one of the requirements states, “what to do in case of an error.” If the specification is incomplete, it will look like: “In case of error, the system should exit smoothly.”

Here, the explanation for “smoothly” is missing, and the developer would be left up to interpretation. Subsequently, there would be more work to do and fix the same. Instead of this, you should focus on writing the complete requirement. Stating the actual action to be taken like “try again later” or “contact the support team.” A clear requirement eliminates ambiguity and increases the chances of perfect outcomes from the development team.

3.Mention Testable Requirements  

This is a ubiquitous standard when it comes to writing an SRD. However, organizations mostly fail to write specifications that meet this rule. There should be a way to verify requirements. Otherwise, there won’t be a fair way to realize that the requirements were satisfactorily implemented. All the requirements you mention in the document should be verifiable in at least one of the following ways.

  • Demonstration
  • Inspection
  • Walk-through
  • Testing

User testing and inspection may often be necessary for high-level requirements, so they would be more reliant on general specifications. However, low-level requirements that need software testing will need to have more detailed specifications.

4.You Should Mention Implementation-Neutral Functional Requirements  

As clarified several times earlier, an SRD is not a design document. It should not focus on defining the implementation of functional requirements from the design standpoint. Implementation-neutral functional requirements are a necessary concern in the specifications document, i.e., it should only state what the system needs to do and not how it should be done. You could have several benefits from implementation-neutral requirements.

  • It supports a more efficient designing process.
  • The requirements can be modified and won’t be dependent on a specific implementation design.
  • Less conflict among requirements considering the ones arising from opposing details.

Any constraints on the implementation of the requirements should be reserved for the non-functional system requirements.

5.Discuss And Evaluate With Stakeholders  

Once you have documented all the software requirements, make sure to get the final document evaluated by all relevant stakeholders before the development process begins. The stakeholders may include developers, designers, and testers who can validate the requirements, end-user representatives, engineers, and clients.

When you get to review and approval from all the stakeholders before the process begins, you can enhance the satisfaction among teams and improve their probability of them meeting their needs. Using flowcharts to clearly map out the various software requirements, you can help all the teams involved stay on the same page. Using diagrammatic solutions could be of great use. Take some cues from here:

  • Organize all your requirements within a flowchart when you want to highlight distinct components, clear dependencies, and deal with apparent stakeholders.
  • You can use swimlanes to visually describe the role of each team for respective requirement sets.
  • While the project needs to evolve, you can easily modify the requirements or other data.
  • You can link additional documents or data to support or provide information regarding an ongoing project.
  • Any changes or updates in the documentation should be instantly shared with relevant shareholders.

You can always find better ways to align important information in your software documents in a way that everything is accessible easily.

Types Of Software Requirement Documentation

While the main aim of a software specification is to make sure that the developers and stakeholders work towards the same goal, there are several types of documents involved for the same. Generally, software requirement documents can be divided into two types:

  • Product Documentation
  • Process Documentation

Product documentation focuses on the product that is being developed and gives instructions on how to perform various tasks based on it. In general, product documentation includes requirements like business logic, tech specification, and manual. Product documentation is further categorized into the following:

  • System Documentation: It describes the system and its different parts. These include requirements documents, design decisions, program source code, architectural descriptions, and various FAQs.
  • User Documentation: It includes manuals that are generally meant for end-users and system administrators. This documentation includes user guides and tutorials, installation and reference manuals, and troubleshooting manuals.

Process Documentation, on the other hand, concerns all the documents that may be produced during the process and all the maintenance and development involved in between. Some common examples of process-related documents may include test schedules. Project plans, standards, meeting notes, reports, and business correspondence. While one describes the product that is being developed and the other describes the process of development.

Some Important Elements Included In Product Documentation

Here are some important inclusions in product documentation:

1.Roles And Responsibilities

At the beginning of your document, mention all the participants in product development along with the product owner, stakeholders, and team members. These details will help in clarifying various responsibilities and convey the specific goals for every team member.

2.Collective Goals And Objective

Mentioning team goals and business objectives is of great importance. Define all of your important goals in short points.

3.Strategic Aims And Actions

Briefly and clearly mention the strategic aims of all the actions that will be taken. Answer a few questions like why is the product being built? What difference will your actions make to the entire product development and company’s goal?

4.Assumptions

Make a list of all technical and business assumptions that the team may possibly have.

5.User Stories

It may be worth linking user stories that can strengthen the project. It is a user’s point of view or experience, written in the form of a document. It is generally a short description of probable customer actions and the goal they would want to achieve.

6.Acceptance Criteria  

This is a condition to indicate that the goal of development is met. The purpose of acceptance criteria is mainly to define a satisfactory result of development from the users’ perspective.

7.Design And UI

Suitable design explorations and wireframes should be linked to the software documents.

8.Questions

While the team proceeds following the various steps and solving problems, they’re likely to come up with various questions. As a part of good practice, all these questions should be recorded and tracked.

9.Postponed Tasks

There may be a few things that you don’t look forward to doing too soon but have planned for the future. Make a list of those things as they would help you prioritize features and

Components To Be Included In Process Documentation  

All the activities surrounding product development are covered under process documentation. Process documentation helps to make development well-planned and more organized. This documentation requires some in-depth planning and paperwork before the project can be started and even during the process follows. Some common types of documentation, in this case, are mentioned below:

1.Plans, Estimates, And Schedules

These documents are generally created before the project takes off and continue to update as it proceeds.

2.Reports And Metrics

Reports reflect the use of time and human resources during development. Reports can be prepared on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis as needed.

3.Working Papers

These documents focus on recording the ideas and thoughts of engineers during project implementation. They include various details about sketches, engineers’ codes, along with various ideas to resolve technical issues. While working papers are not the major source of information, racking them makes it possible to retrieve specific project details whenever needed.

4.Standards  

Standards include various UX and coding standards that the team has to stick by throughout the process.

Mostly, process documents belong to specific phases or processes. Therefore, they become obsolete and outdated within a short time. While they can significantly help in completing similar tasks and implementations, these documents should necessarily be part of the development process.

Also, with these documents, the entire development process becomes easier to manage and transparent. The main intention of process documentation is to eliminate more and more system documentation. In that case, writing a minimal documentation plan is always good. All the information should be mentioned clearly as per your assumption.

Why Is It Important To Define Software Requirements Documentation?

While software requirements specifications are important to know what features should be present in the software product being developed, your approach towards these requirements affects the end product and processes along the way. Defining your software development requirements matters because of the following reasons.

1.Ensures Project Consistency  

Defining software requirements marks the beginning of the development process and guarantees that it will remain consistent through all stages in the future. Many times, over a long time of development, stakeholders may find themselves confused about the task that the software should do. Well-defined, measurable, and clear requirements help in business needs and offer focus and clarity to the project and different teams involved.

2.Saves Time And Money

When you structure and define your software requirements, you actually get ready for the development. As much as you know in advance what the software needs to do and the features it should have, there will be more chances of getting positive results and less expenditure.

3.Makes Collaboration Easier

Software development teams often include professionals with very specific knowledge, especially the teams that are using agile development techniques. An SRD helps to keep everyone on the same page. They become a source of general guidelines and facts by clearly stating all aspects involved in the product. With this, every individual can recognize their role in the bigger picture.

4.Brings In Stability  

Sudden troubles and unexpected changes are common when it comes to software development. There could be defects in design, management changes, test failures, altered functionality objectives, and much more. While change is inevitable, it is also important to control the increasing cost of the project and ensure that all deadlines are met. Your software development requirements, anticipate and coordinate with these changes to come up with the expected product.

5.Ensure That The Project Doesn’t Fail  

If your SRD is poorly defined, unclear, or incomplete, the entire project would be inconsistent and jeopardized. Software requirements specification ensures that your team doesn’t fail to meet the goal.

Summing Up

While you seek well-developed software, it may be important to perfectly define software requirement documents. It helps in getting the best end-product. The above-mentioned software development documentation best practices will surely help you come up with documents that are easy to handle and understand.

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