Requirements get a hard time. People often seem scared of them. They are viewed as dangerous animals. They need taming. They need to be controlled, prioritised, re-prioritised, scrutinised, numbered. They are scary, unpredictable beasts.

And more terrifying than that: They Change.

Yet this shouldn’t be a problem at all, should it? It is ironic that we supposedly live in a world of continual change, where adaptation is absolutely central, yet people seem to have a problem with requirements changing. Bizarre. The fact that requirements change isn’t the problem. It is how we deal with the change that is the problem. If we understand our systems and how they behave and what they are capable of, why would unexpected changes in requirements be a problem? If anything, such changes should be encouraged. That’s what we’re here for. Furthermore, It ought to be the creative, rewarding part of the job?

Compare that to a situation where you have a suite of poorly maintained and poorly understood systems. In this scenario, you’ll have problems. Simple as that. (For a further discussion of this, read the rest of this blog).

The project I recently completed was successful in the face of incredible change, alteration and general vagueness. It was an object lesson in it. What was eventually delivered was almost the complete opposite of what the programme manager and other senior staff suggested at the start they wanted. So to say the requirements changed and were vague is talking things up. As a result, It could have been a catastrophic disaster.

Yet it wasn’t. So why wasn’t it?

Well, simply because the application in question was well understood.

Through what seems to me to be an accident of history as much as anything, it had been well invested in over the years. in that it had dedicated development staff to maintain it. This in turn was because its technical platform necessitates it rather than a conscious choice. This is an investment that has been rewarded many times – on this and other projects.

It is sadly very common nowadays to see people attempt to counter these issues by imposing more and more ‘control’. More and more scrutiny. This inevitably results in more and more administration. More and more reviews. More and more reporting. Furthermore it takes people away from doing the work itself. Well intentioned as it is.

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