Language of development needs tweaking for global fit

Working with developers in another country means re-thinking requirements management, German software firm, Lufthansa Systems, discovered. Heather Havenstein reports

The continuing worldwide broadening of software development organisations — either with internal employees dispersed geographically or through the use of offshore outsourcers — is forcing IT operations to improve their requirements management processes.

For example, German company Lufthansa Systems, which makes revenue management systems for airlines, turned to a requirements management tool to overcome problems with communicating software requirements to internal developers working in Budapest, says Rainer Bartholdt, head of service management at Lufhansa.

The tool set, the MKS Integrity Suite from MKS, replaced a paper-based method of getting user requirements to development teams, Bartholdt says.

The company has been using the MKS integrated source-code repository and requirements management tool set for about ten months, Bartholdt says. The tool captures business and technical requirements, and then links those to developer tasks. It uses predefined workflows to notify users of changes throughout the process, he says.

“Now we have a straight connection from the high-level software requirements to the definitions of the features and the different source-code files,” he says. “It is transparent to see how requirements are being met with source code.”

When companies move development offshore, whether internally or through outsourcing, they often find that the traditional, informal methods of laying out requirements — such as in casual conversations — don’t work anymore, says Carey Schwaber, an analyst at Forrester Research.

To bridge the gap between contract developers in Chicago and India, the California State Automobile Association opted to add a simulation tool that provides business users with visual representations of the interface of a new application before any coding is done, to ensure that it meets their needs.

The association plans to use the tool for new projects starting this year, including one to develop a portal.