Requirements engineering and the role of Low Code

Requirements engineering and the role of Low Code
Roland Hörmann
Requirements engineering and Low Code

Let’s get this straight. The perfect software project or process does not exist. At least that’s what I feel by looking at the past decade of managing software development projects.

However, to begin with, it absolutely makes sense to come up with a plan and a process to get your software project started – no matter if you’re working in a big corporation or within an independent software vendor – company relationship.

In this article, I provide some insights on how requirements engineering can help you get your project started. And I will be also shading some lights on the role of low code in the requirements engineering phase.

Requirements engineering – the what, why and how?

Starting out in software development, you probably have heard all kinds of different methods and frameworks, like Kanban or Scrum. All kind of similar, but not the same. And then there’s requirements engineering.

According to Wikipedia, it can be defined as follows:

Requirements engineering (RE) refers to the process of defining, documenting and maintaining requirements in the engineering design process. It is a common role in systems engineering and software engineering.

In contrast to traditional frameworks – such as the waterfall model – requirements engineering takes an important part throughout the whole software development process.

The problems requirements engineering is solving

Let’s be honest, project managers and product managers often focus too early on coming up with solutions. And while solution-oriented thinking is generally appreciated, it can hinder your software development in the long run.

In addition, customers or business teams might have a hard time to express their vision for new ideas. Or can’t describe the ‘real’ problem they want to solve.

Furthermore, developers might find it challenging to communicate their suggested solutions.

And last but not least: Important stakeholders and decision-makers are not involved in the operative doing, while the real experts are not included in the decision-making process either.

Requirements engineering is here for the rescue and aims to solve the mentioned challenges right at the beginning of a project. Requirements engineering helps you to get all your project stakeholders and their goals on board before you get even started.

How requirements engineering works

One might think that requirements engineering looks similar to the traditional waterfall model. But it doesn’t really. It starts by discovering and collecting the relevant requirements of a project, followed by the analysis and specification of those, that lead to the validation of the specified requirements. This process suits best for agile project management, as all these steps happen at the beginning of the project (or at the beginning of each sprint).

The aim is to remain flexible while conflicts and last-minute change requests are prevented.

The role of Low Code in requirements engineering

At this point, you might be asking. OK – I get requirements engineering, but what has Low Code to do with it?

Let’s get this question solved right now. If you are into Low Code you already know the basic idea, concept and methodology behind it. If not, feel free to check out our Low Code guide right here.

One might believe that Low Code kicks in when it comes to developing the specified solutions as the idea is that building applications with Low Code make you/developers faster. And while this is true, it’s not telling the full picture.

If you choose to implement a software with a Low Code approach, this will help you right at the beginning of the project, and therefore heavily affect the requirements engineering process too.

Here’s why.

The traditional way of requirements engineering is broken

One of the main benefits of using a Low Code platform right at the beginning of the project has to do with the idea of prototyping.

Here’s how the starting phase of a software project traditionally looks like. Each step of the project requires a new toolset and environment. In addition, the customer feedback on visuals comes pretty late during this phase. Furthermore, screen designs (that are usually created by designers within Photoshop or Sketch) might not be 100% compliant with the existing CI and defined functionality.

This can lead to drafts that require more development resources than necessary, and in the worst-case prototypes are created cannot be implemented.

Furthermore, multiple tools also mean that most likely your team is throwing away the mockups, and drafts after each step as the team jumping in will be using different tools anyway.

 

The key factor here is, to include technical knowledge and experience (e.g. through product owners, or developers) right from the beginning of the project.

Using a low code platform usually creates the following benefits at this stage:

  • Business-Teams, IT departments and citizen developers work closely together, creating the following situation:
    • Citizen developers and business teams usually create simple interfaces and data models on their own
    • Developers, therefore, avoid repetitive tasks and simple programming. On the other hand, they can jump in to develop more complex features and provide custom components to business teams.
  • This leads to fast iterations; a first visual prototype is ready within days instead of weeks.
  • Therefore, customer feedback can be collected earlier and more iterative throughout this process.
  • As this prototype will directly be created with the Low Code solution, the development team can go in to finish the software development on the basis of what’s already available.
  • All relevant stakeholders (clients, business team, development, design) participate at this point – allowing the team to incorporate feedback in an agile way

The great thing here is, that no unnecessary requirements are defined and all inputs from different stakeholders (business, IT, development) lead to one common goal = application.

Overall this will result in a first test-able and use-able prototype that’s ready within days instead of weeks. Customer feedback and usability checks can – therefore – happen in a more agile way than traditionally.

This results in projects being developed two to five times faster than usual.

Conclusion

Summing things up, using a Low Code platform right from the beginning (during the requirements engineering process) means a couple of things:

  1. The Low Code approach allows you to keep your prototyping process efficient and agile.
  2. The prototype in the low code approach is not just a prototype. It will be further used by the development team to build the actual system.

If you’d like to learn more about Low Code, feel free to send me an email at roland.hoermann@sibvisions.com. Or stay tuned for our upcoming articles on our blog.

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