Absorb knowledge from other people’s experiences instead of slowly climbing every painful learning curve yourself

Anyone who cannot truthfully say, “I am building software today as well as software could ever be built,” would benefit from learning better ways to work. Experience is the form of learning that sticks with us the best. It’s also the slowest and most painful way to learn. …

You can’t get perfect software requirements, but life will be better if you can dodge these 6 common risks.

We all understand that accurate requirements that are elicited from the right sources and clearly communicated to affected stakeholders are a key to software project success. However, the path to good requirements is neither easy nor direct. A lot can go wrong along the way, resulting in missteps, wasted effort…

When it comes to software quality, you can pay now or you can pay more later. A lot more.

Stylized photo of a man pointing at the camera with the word “Quality” and a blue checkmark.

The aggregated impacts of software quality shortcomings across an organization, a nation, or the planet as a whole are simply staggering. A detailed analysis estimated the total costs of poor software quality in the United States in 2018 at approximately $2.26 trillion if technical debt is not included and $2.84…

Asking these 9 questions when exploring business requirements helps focus all stakeholders toward a common objective

Graphic of a tree showing various business elements: goals, ideas, sales, team, etc. that lead to success.

Business requirements sit at the top of several three-level models of software requirements information (Wiegers and Beatty 2013, IIBA 2015). Business requirements include the information that guides creating a solution to achieve specific business results. They answer the question, “Why are we undertaking this project?” We explore business requirements to…

Some say it’s critical. Others say it doesn’t matter. What to believe?

The question of how essential domain expertise is to a business analyst (BA) is a recurring debate in the BA community. One school of thought maintains that domain knowledge is not critical. A skilled BA, the thinking goes, can walk into nearly any project situation and do an effective job…

Thoughtfully designed products don’t impose an unnecessary mental load on their users. Here are some products that make me think too much.

Woman with a headache sitting at a computer

Have you ever struggled to interpret a confusing computer message or figure out how to operate the unintuitive controls on a physical device? A product that functions in an unexpected way halts us in our tracks. …

Packaged solution (COTS) products can save time, but you might need to configure, integrate, and extend them to work in your world.

Photo of a wrapped package with a bow on it.

Many organizations acquire and adapt purchased packaged solutions (also called commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, products) to meet their software needs, instead of building new systems from scratch. Software as a service (SaaS), or cloud, solutions are increasingly available to meet software needs as well.

Whether you’re using a package as…

If you don’t have real users available, create a stand-in.

A drawing of two theater masks, smiling and frowning.

You’ve performed your stakeholder analysis, identified several user classes, and perhaps lined up some people to serve as product champions, key representatives of those user classes. But what if you’re building a mass-market product and can’t connect with actual users to present needs and to assess your design proposals? Or…

Designers should anticipate possible ways a product could be used inappropriately or by the wrong people and try to prevent such misuse.

A scary-looking hooded man in front of an electronic display.

Thoughtful design of both software and physical products takes a usage-centered perspective rather than a feature- or product-centric perspective. Understanding who the users are, what they need to do with the product (their usage scenarios) and the usage environment is the best way to determine the product’s requirements and derive…

A business analyst must dive below the surface during requirements discussions.

A woman with a thoughtful expression standing in front of a blackboard covered with question marks.

A business analyst is not merely a scribe who records whatever customers say and passes the information to the development team. The BA needs to ask thought-provoking questions to stimulate the thinking of the people they’re interviewing. This article suggests some unobvious questioning tips for BAs to consider as they…

Karl Wiegers

PhD in organic chemistry. Author of 13 books, mostly on software. Guitars, wine, and military history fill the voids. karlwiegers.com and processimpact.com

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