Requirements Management Ruminations

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A collaborative blog with contributions from members of the PMI Requirements Management Community of Practice and various authors and presenters who have dealt with the topic of requirements management.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Abdulilah Angaa
Mike Frenette
Beth Ouellette
Victoria Cupet
Jhansi Vijayarajan
Bobbye Underwood
Elizabeth Larson
Ellen Gottesdiener
Mary Gorman
Rich Larson
Sally Elatta

Recent Posts

Natural Language Processing to sharpen up your requirements

Automating requirements review using Natural Language Processing

Actionable Agile Tools - a book review

What’s Hot and What’s Not--Trends in Business Analysis Webinar Follow-up

Project Managers Find New Rhythm at PMI® Global Congress’ First Agile Open Jam

Viewing Posts by Mike Frenette

Natural Language Processing to sharpen up your requirements

It's great to on the bleeding edge sometimes, isn't it? I was fortunate enough to be invited to meet with Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO of QRACorp in my home town of Halifax, Nova Scotia when he saw I was speaking at the annual Professional Development Symposium. Jordan introduced me to the concept of Natural Language Processing as it applies to requirements documents. Jordan and I (well, mostly Jordan) put on a webinar today to discuss this very topic. You can view it here on

Here's a handy shortcut:

But sometimes it is easier to read about things, so I thought I'd talk about it here at a high level, at least.  

Natural Language Processing is gaining a lot of attention these days. Automatically going through documents and looking for patterns or comparing to knowledge bases, or comparing one document to another to see if they relate one to the other are just a few things NLP can be used for. 

Imagine a world where a computer application reads a document instead of you and points out all the places where the requirements writer has been too vague, imprecise, or has not provided enough detail?  How about one that compares all the requirements documents in the organization and lets you know when it detects inconsistencies between your work and others?  Or maybe one that knows the jargon of the profession in which you work, and can point out misuse of terms?  Or one that is able to look through your requirements and tell you what is missing?

Seem like it might be a bit of a stretch?  Well, some of what was covered in today's webinar is not available ... yet.  But some of it is. And that's what bleeding edge is all about, isn't it?  Working with new concepts, innovating new methods and the tools to go with them, envisioning the future. 

Now you can decide for yourself whether the webinar might be worth a listen.  

Many thanks to Jordan Kyriakidis for sharing this advanced knowledge.



P.S. Below are some comments which I thought were quite generous and gratifying from the over 1,200 attendees: 

  • Thank you. This was enlightening
  • Amazing conference
  • Great presentation. Thank you
  • Thanks!! Great info!!
  • Interesting webinar, glad I didn't miss it. thank you
  • AWESOME!!!!
  • Thank you ... very good presentation.  Excellent on defining requirements!
  • Thank you, interesting and informative!
  • Thank you for a very fine presentation.
  • One of the BEST webinars
  • JORDAN - AWESOME cutting-edge at its best!! Keep going forward and sharing.
  • Thank you! Awesome!
  • Great presentation. Thanks
  • Michael, Jordan thank you for your presentation. It's very useful!
  • Great presentation and ideas
  • Thank you for a very interesting talk.
  • Thanks for presentation, great webinar.
  • Fantastic. thank you.
  • Thank you & was great presentation!!
  • Great presentation
  • Great presentation. Thanks a lot
Posted by Mike Frenette on: July 14, 2016 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Automating requirements review using Natural Language Processing

Ever wonder if the requirements you are writing make sense? Do you wonder about what you could do to improve them?  Make them more concise?  More accurate? 

I ran across a company recently that has developed a new approach to this with a product that scans the requirements you tag in your document and tells you what might be improved.  The product is quite new, and they are looking for beta testers if you are interested. You can sign up at  I already have and am looking forward to trying something that is leading edge.

Have you had experiences with similar tools? Or is this approach using natural language processing new to you?  Comments welcome!

Posted by Mike Frenette on: May 05, 2016 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Actionable Agile Tools - a book review

This Blog is about requirements management, so a book I read recently about Agile tools seemed to apply since some of them are about managing the Product Backlog. 

"Actionable Agile Tools" is the name of the book, and it was written by Jeff Campbell.  It is a short book - a compendium of tools he has developed over the last ten years as a Scrum Master and Agile Coach.  Jeff is Canadian, but has been living in Sweden for many years.  I met Jeff at an event called a "Scrum Beers", which is a gathering of people who use Agile.  They meet for presentations, followed by some informal networking and libations.  Scrum Beers is really about Agile, not just Scrum, and is now present in three countries. Check it out at

If you buy the book at, you can tweet about it at #actionableagiletools.

So - on with my review!

First of all, I must say that Jeff has given some innovative names to some of the tools he mentions. I hope you enjoy the names as much as much as I did.  The book is simply structured with a brief introduction and then a chapter on each of the tools.  I’ll comment on each of them, but of course you really won’t see the whole picture until you read the book.

  1. Experiment Driven Change – Fixing things found in retrospectives by experimenting with a change immediately, and tossing it out or keeping it when you discuss it again at the next Retrospective.  This tool is meant to stop the “never do anything but talk about it” syndrome.

  2. Door Calendar – An information radiator about events you can create with some simple sticky notes.  Put it on a door the team uses every day.

  3. Doing Dots – Put a dot on a post it note reminder to do something every day nothing changes. These notes might be on your Kanban chart or other card wall.  The more dots, the older the item. This stops things from not getting attention (lots of dots? Needs attention!), or becoming fixtures that everyone ignores.

  4. Bugs for Breakfast – Increase your quality focus by having a team breakfast on a regular (start with weekly) basis where the main discussion is about bugs and how/when to fix them. 

  5. Communication Protocol – Discuss with your team all the means of communication you have and the pros and cons of each. Gain team consensus on how, why and when each should be used.

  6. Tasty Timeboxes – Have food at Sprint Reviews, but make it different food for each Sprint.  This allows people to easily refer to past Sprints and also gets some team spirit going as you choose the food for the next Sprint. For fun, you can use the alphabet to choose the food. Remember the Chicken Curry Sprint and how Maggie said…

  7. Where Does the Time Go – Categorize time such that in the daily Scrum each team member reports on the category into which the time they are talking about falls.  Was it planned?  Critical? Support? Admin?  This highlights productive versus wasteful time.

  8. Event Log – Keep track of events during a Sprint on a large sheet (date/event) to be used at the Sprint Retrospective. Make updating it a daily ritual.

  9. Resilience Map – List the skills (rows) you need on your team, then map it in a large matrix you put on the wall showing the level of skill (columns) each team member (multiple per cell) has in each skill area. Keep it up to date as the team changes.  This lets you know who has what skills when people come and go or need help. It also acts as a tool to see where you have skill shortages on the project.

  10. Recruitment Retrospectives – Empower people joining the team to invite anyone they want to retrospective meetings to discover holes in the on-boarding process. Create specific experiments to plug those holes and follow up on them. Use the newest person in on-boarding the next new hire.

  11. Appreciation Flowers – Give a post it note with your team members name and flower drawn on it for them to take back to their desk.  Write on the back of the note why you are giving them a flower.  A great and no cost why for people to show appreciation.

  12. Value Poker – Like Planning Poker where the relative complexity of stories are set by the team, this allows stakeholders to rate the value of each story.  Helps you understand the business value of each item so you end up with a Prioritized Product Backlog.

  13. In-Line Definition of Done – Make a checklist of items that must be ticked off before something can be considered “done”.  Put it against the story, not in some place that won’t be noticed until someone says something is done.  Helps your team focus on what “done” means.

  14. Not Now Backlog – Choose a timeframe with your team and stakeholders beyond which you will not consider items for the backlog. Rather than throwing out the ideas, add them to the Not Now Backlog.

  15. Visualized Flow – Use a Kanban Board to show In-flows and Out-flows – that is, the movement of a story from its inception showing who came up with it, through refinement (by the Product Owner and by the Team) until ready, and finally done.  This allows anyone to see the status of work as it goes through each stage until it is finished.


Posted by Mike Frenette on: January 18, 2016 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

You Don't have Requirements!

Categories: Project Requirements

So you think you know all the answers? Well.... you don't! If you are running projects, the people with the answers are your clients.. They will define the scope of your project, and the detailed requirements of what they want.

And guess what? If you don't ask them, you won't know the requirements. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Yet, amazingly, according to the 2014 Project Management Institute's Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report on Requirements Management, "Poor requirements management is a major cause of project failure, second only to changing organization priorities."

How do you discover requirements on your projects? Conversations? Workshops? Interviews? Surveys? Once discovered, how do you record and confirm them? Documents? Emails? Memos? Phone calls? Texts? Data and Process Models? Other forms of models? And once discovered, documented and, hopefully, reviewed and approved, how do you make sure the project delivers what is expected?

So many questions, so few answers!

Oh... wait. There are answers! The Project Management Institute has recently released Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide, written by some real gurus in the industry. I can personally vouch for the authors and the guide, having read their books and attended webinars some of them have presented. I also listened to their apt answers to some great questions from the audience at a recent panel session presented at the PMI Global Congress this past October. I've browsed through the new guide and am happy to report that it is brimming with great tools, tips and techniques to help you define, record and manage requirements in a project.

So - what are you waiting for? Go get the guide while it is still available for free download, read it, use it and spread the word!

In 2015, let's change it so poor requirements management is no longer the number two reason for project failure. Let's make the excellent management of requirements the number one reason for project success!

This same post drew some criticism on LinkedIn in that a responder suggested that you don't always have a client, citing products like the iPhone, Twitter and Facebook as being clientless.  What do YOU think? Is there such a thing as a clientless project where requirements appear out of the ozone? Or might that be a semantical argument about the word "client"?  Respond here (and on LinkedIn if you like.)

Posted by Mike Frenette on: December 23, 2014 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

PMI Releases Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide - free download for the next 6 months!

Did you know that according to research PMI conducted in 2014 that only 64% of completed projects met their original goals and business intent? That 16% of projects in the last 12 months were failures? That 37% of organizations reported "inaccurate requirements gathering" as the primary cause of project failure? That poor requirements management practices are the second leading cause of project failure, second only to changing organization priorities?

Thankfully, good business analysis on projects and programs result in customer expectations being met, engaged and committed stakeholders, projects that are more likely to be delivered on time and within scope and budget, implemented solutions that provide business value and meet stakeholder needs, all while developing reusable business analysis competencies for future projects.

The above are quotes and paraphrases from the recently released the Project Management Institute's 227 page Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide. It is available for free download for the next six months. Written by experts in the field, it is chock full of solid tools and techniques to help you succeed on your projects and programs in the area of business analysis and requirements management.

Why not get it today and learn more about Needs Assessment, Business Analysis Planning, Requirements Elicitation and Analysis, Traceability and Monitoring and Solution Evaluation? From SWOTs and Five Whys to Use Cases and Wireframes, and everything in between, you will be glad you did!

And keep an eye on this Blog for possible posts by some of the Practice Guide's core and review committee members, among them Elizabeth Larson, Rich Larson and Ellen Gottesdiener.

Get your free copy here for the next six months at this link:

Posted by Mike Frenette on: December 09, 2014 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.

- Mark Twain