Requirements engineering versus Agile

19 October

I finally attended this yearly global and prestigious RE’10 event where academics and industry got together to listen and exchange ideas. Much to my surprise, there was a large disconnect between academia’s ideas of requirements engineering with much talk about automation that requires careful consideration of algorithms and language using patterns thought to be more concise delivering a complete and consistent set of requirements.

Many concepts were covered from a different angle – it felt like trying to saddle the horse backwards without success!

Industry people were naturally drawn to the more practical sessions and I genuinely perceived a sense of boredom, “done that and what’s new” kind of attitude where industry constraints such as lack of time and culture were not taken into account.

Much to my surprise there was great hesitance to make mention of Agile – that is, Agile techniques were solemnly covered and speakers openly making a point that Agile methodology is merely a farce. I could not agree more in that following a step-by-step approach to implementing Agile techniques is very similar to traditional iterative/ incremental methods but, what I felt was really needed is us all coming together and sharing ideas to mutually build up a tool box full of tools and techniques for Agile practices across industries. As long as the RE just keeps attending the RE conferences, the BA just attending BA World and Agilists just attending Agile conferences, we will keep re-inventing the wheel missing out on each other’s complex knowledge that one has accumulated over many years.

Myself included, I am suffering a great deal of being judged as “waterfall” coming from a complex, safety-critical environment. I have only worked on one project that was fairly waterfall and it was iterative. The remaining experience was all around RUP (or some version of RUP) thus I am very familiar with Agile practises alas; I haven’t worked on pure SCRUM or XP (well, as if one ever implements a pure approach!!!).

Some great games and a great topic on “invention of requirements without speaking to the user” (initially that is anyway) I found stimulating. However, I got most of my ideas by listening to some repetitive old stuff with people completely oblivious to the changes that take place around them.

There were few Business Analysts attending this conference, which makes me think that the rift between the generalist Business Analyst and the specialist Requirements Engineer who will probably remain working in the larger, complex environments such as Transport or Energy will not close. There is even talk about REBOK – as there is talk about some more formal Agile certification!

What we are doing is segregating ourselves – we suffer from immense Role displacement and as long as we cannot find ways of collaborating – we will never find a true synergy of industry practices and we will never ever be truly Agile!


Posted by Anja Wever