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The role of distances in requirements communication: a case study

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Requirements communication plays a vital role in development projects in coordinating the customers, the business roles and the software engineers. Communication gaps represent a significant source of project failures and overruns. For example, misunderstood or uncommunicated requirements can lead to software that does not meet the customers’ requirements, and subsequent low number of sales or additional cost required to redo the implementation. We propose that requirements engineering (RE) distance measures are useful for locating gaps in requirements communication and for improving on development practice. In this paper, we present a case study of one software development project to evaluate this proposition. Thirteen RE distances were measured including geographical and cognitive distances between project members, and semantic distances between requirements and testing artefacts. The findings confirm that RE distances impact requirements communication and project coordination. Furthermore, the concept of distances was found to enable constructive group reflection on communication gaps and improvements to development practices. The insights reported in this paper can provide practitioners with an increased awareness of distances and their impact. Furthermore, the results provide a stepping stone for further research into RE distances and methods for improving on software development processes and practices.

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We would like to thank the development team members for enabling this study by sharing their time, thoughts and office space. We also want to thank the reviewers, both Dr Leonor Barroca and our anonymous reviewers for providing constructive feedback that has helped us improve the readability of our results. This work was partly funded by EASE and by Ericsson Research.

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Bjarnason, E., Sharp, H. The role of distances in requirements communication: a case study. Requirements Eng 22, 1–26 (2017).

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