The state-of-practice in requirements elicitation: an extended interview study at 12 companies

Abstract

Requirements engineering remains a discipline that is faced with a large number of challenges, including the implementation of a requirements elicitation process in industry. Although several proposals have been suggested by researchers and academics, little is known of the practices that are actually followed in industry. Our objective is to investigate the state-of-practice with respect to requirements elicitation, by closely examining practitioners’ current practices. To this aim, we focus on the techniques that are used in industry, the roles that requirements elicitation involves, and the challenges that the requirements elicitation process is faced with. As method, we conducted an interview-based survey study involving 24 practitioners from 12 different Swedish IT companies, and we recorded the interviews and analyzed these recordings by using quantitative and qualitative methods. Several results emerged from the studies. Group interaction techniques, including meetings and workshops, are the most popular type of elicitation techniques that are employed by the practitioners, except in the case of small projects. Additionally, practitioners tend to use a variety of elicitation techniques in each project. We noted that customers are frequently involved in the elicitation process, except in the case of market-driven organizations. Technical staff (for example, developers and architects) are more frequently involved in the elicitation process compared to the involvement of business or strategic staff. Finally, we identified a number of challenges with respect to stakeholders. These challenges include difficulties in understanding and prioritizing their needs. Further, it was noted that requirements instability (i.e., caused by changing needs or priorities) was a predominant challenge. These observations need to be interpreted in the context of the study. We conclude that the relevant observations regarding the survey participants’ experiences should be of interest to the industry; experiences that should be analyzed in the practitioners’ context. Researchers may find evidence for the use of academic results in practice, thereby inspiring future theoretical work, as well as further empirical studies in the same area.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.re-survey.org/

  2. 2.

    http://atlasti.com/.

  3. 3.

    This is the notation that is used in this article to refer to the interview subjects. The notation corresponds to Sx(y), where Sx is a unique identifying number for the interview subject (referring to Table 7 in Appendix 1), y is the identifying number assigned to the interview subject’s company (referring to Table 8 in Appendix 1). Each subject talked in the interview about different projects, even in the case of subjects working in the same company. Therefore, the project referred by subject Sx is identified as Px (referring to Table 9 in Appendix 1).

  4. 4.

    Note that both interview subjects work for the same company, a public transport administration.

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Acknowledgements

This work has been supported by the GENESIS project, funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación under project TIN2016-79269-R, and the Horizon 2020 project OpenReq, supported by the European Union under Grant Nr. 732463.

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Correspondence to Carme Quer.

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Appendices

Appendix I: Description of population

See Table 7, 8 and 9

Table 7 Subjects included in the empirical study
Table 8 Companies included in the empirical study
Table 9 Projects included in the empirical study

Appendix II: Interview Code Relationships

This appendix contains a summary of the categories of the answers that were provided by each respondent in the interview-based empirical study presented in this paper. The discussion and the findings are based on the data provided in this appendix. By providing the following tables, the reader will be able to verify the discussion and the findings of the study and assess whether there are other potential relationships that are not related to the research question addressed. The first column shows the respondent’s code and the subsequent columns show the coded categories (introduced and detailed in Sect. 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4) that each respondent mentioned.

Abbreviations used in the table

BA:

Analyst (Business Analyst)

BT:

Business Team

CC:

Customer of customer

CCS:

Challenges related to commu-nicating and Sharing a unified view

CEP:

Challenges related to the Elicitation Process

CI:

Consultant (Internal)

CoS:

Consultant (Specialist)CP: Customer Proxy (invited customer)

CPE:

Challenges related to Predict the Evolution of the system

CR:

Customer (Requester)

CS:

Challenges related to Stakeholders

CSR:

Challenges related to Stable Requirements

DK:

Do not Know

DST:

Developer / development team / Scrum Team

FO:

Function Owner

GIT:

Group Interaction Techniques

GT:

Generic (Technician / Technical team)

ID:

Interaction Designer

IPT:

Isolation Participation Techniques

MS:

Market Research

MU:

Market Unit

NC:

No Challenge

OET:

Other Elicitation Techniques

ONS:

Organization (Not Specified)

PEU:

Potential End-User

PM:

Project Manager

PO:

Product Owner

REU:

Real End-User

RBS:

Reading-Based Techniques

SA:

Software Architect

SLE:

System/Lead Engineer

SP:

Service Provider (carrier)

TSM:

Technical/System Manager

WE:

Web Editor

ID Subject RQ1 RQ2 RQ3
S1 GIT, IPT BA, CR, DST NC
S2 GIT BA, CR, DST, WE CEP, CSR, CS
S3 GIT, IPT, RBS, OET CP, PEU, CEP
S4 GIT BA, CR, ONS NC
S5 GIT, RBS CR, ONS, SP CS
S6 GIT, IPT CR, MU, TSM CSR, CS
S7 DK CR, ONS CCS
S8 GIT, IPT CC, CR, ONS CEP, CS
S9 GIT, IPT BT, CI, CR CCS, CPE, CS
S10 GIT, MS MU, REU CCS, CSR
S11 GIT, IPT CI, GT, ID, REU CS
S12 GIT, IPT BA, CI, MU, SP CSR, CS
S13 IPT, RBS BA, CR, SA CCS, CEP, CSR
S14 GIT, RBS MU, SLE CSR
S15 IPT CR, PM CSR, CS
S16 GIT, MS DST, ONS CSR
S17 IPT, RBS CR, ONS CS
S18 GIT, MS FO, GT CSR, CS
S19 GIT, OET GT, SLE CSR, CS
S20 GIT, OET ONS CEP, CS
S21 GIT, MS CR, ONS, PO CEP, CSR, CS
S22 GIT, RBS CR, DST CCS, CSR
S23 GIT, RBS BA, CoS, CR, PEU, CPE
S24 GIT, OET BA, CoS, CR, GT, TSM CSR

Appendix III: Relevant statistical correlation values

This Appendix contains the relevant correlations that were found in our statistical analysis. For each correlation, we show the p-value and the Cramer’s V value. The correlations are organized by RQ.

RQ Correlation item 1 Correlation item 2 p-value Cramer’s V value
RQ1 Project managers Group interaction techniques 0.022 0.466
Software architects Group interaction techniques 0.022 0.466
Consultants Individual participation techniques 0.028 0.447
Product owners Market research 0.022 0.466
Function owners Market research 0.022 0.466
Challenge of instability of requirements Market research 0.044 0.411
Project number of employees Individual participation techniques 0.038 0.592
Project costs Other elicitation techniques 0.017 0.650
RQ2 Subjects with requirements-related job position Involvement of customers in elicitation process 0.016 0.655
Projects costs Involvement of external consultants in elicitation process 0.012 0.674
Project domain Involvement of external consultants in elicitation process 0.000 1.000
Project methodology Involvement of real end-users in elicitation process 0.037 0.426
Years working in the organization Involvement of generic technical roles in elicitation process 0.022 0.466
Years working in their current position Involvement of generic technical roles in elicitation process 0.035 0.529
Years working in the organization Involvement of the organization in elicitation process 0.044 0.581
Involvement of analysts in elicitation process Involvement of external consultants in elicitation process 0.021 0.470
Challenges related to stable requirements Involvement of market units in elicitation process 0.044 0.411
Challenges related to stable requirements Involvement of the organization in elicitation process 0.043 0.414
RQ3 Highest educational background Challenges related to predict the evolution of the system 0.028 0.723
Years working in the organization Challenges related to the elicitation process 0.029 0.613
Project domain Challenges related to communicating and sharing a unified view 0.010 0.793
Project methodology Challenges related to stakeholders 0.043 0.414

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Palomares, C., Franch, X., Quer, C. et al. The state-of-practice in requirements elicitation: an extended interview study at 12 companies. Requirements Eng 26, 273–299 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00766-020-00345-x

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Keywords

  • Requirements engineering
  • Requirements elicitation
  • Empirical studies
  • Interviews