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Building Non-Functional Requirements Templates

Eliciting, authoring, and managing non-functional requirements (NFR’s) can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Most people who read the previous sentence will likely agree 

NFR creation can be a difficult task and creating non-functional requirements that are both quantifiable and measurable is an issue we’ve seen many teams struggle with.  

Building great non-functional requirements is however, worth the effort. 

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Non-functional requirements provide teams with a means to gauge the success of a project, process, or system. They allow your team to capture measurable ways with which you can discuss, analyze, and evaluate the different attributes of your project. 

Because of the value NFR’s provide to a project, we often see teams engaging in long and complicated processes to create NFR’s that are barely meaningful or relevant at project end.  

Today, we’re going to change that. 

In this article we cover both the value of creating NFR’s, as well as show you how you can employ some simple tools and techniques to reduce the time required for quality NFR creation. 

Why Are Non-Functional Requirements Worth Building?

Non-functional requirements provide your team with all of the success measures of a product, project, system, process, or application. When a good non-functional requirement is created, a team will be able to not only identify if a project is successful but will also be able to easily identify how far from success a project might be.  

Great non-functional requirements can be instrumental to a project’s success in many different ways aside from being a success measure. NFR’s can help teams understand the overall goals of a project, help align the project’s outcome with business goals, and much more.  

Suffice it to say that quality NFR’s can contribute greatly to project success, and the way we evaluate that success. But that doesn’t mean they are easy to manage, elicit, or author.  

Let’s take a look at the primary technique teams use today to build better non-functional requirements faster.  

The Primary Technique for Building Better Non-Functional Requirements Faster - Templates

When building non-functional requirements, teams implement templates in order to create these work items more quickly with greater consistency.

By definition, a template is anything that serves as a model which others can copy and reuse.  

Typically, templates are created as a pre-set format for a document, file, or simply the format every NFR can be created using. Once implemented, the format provided by a template does not need to be recreated every time it is needed, and users can simply pull up a template and get started quickly.  

This leads us to the most obvious benefits of using non-functional requirements templates 

Templates save time and increase consistency! 

When teams begin building a repeatable process, they often turn to templatein order to remove the need to constantly recreate document or file formatsInstead, reusing the same pieces of a document, file, or structure as a template allows your team to reduce rework and capitalize on the benefits of greater consistency. 

While time being saved and consistency being increased are great direct benefits that templates provide, there are many not so obvious indirect benefits that templates provide as well 

The Indirect Benefits of Non-Functional Requirements Templates

The largest indirect benefit from using templates is the ability to create a simple to follow, structured approach to building files, documents, and requirements.  

By providing a templated structure, users who interact with a given file or document have an easier time identifying where to input each specific piece information, and what format that piece of information should adhere to.  

This type of direction not only improves the accuracy of the content of being worked on, but also reduces the time required for NFR creation, document reviews, and requirement approvals. This is in part since supplying a template also increases standardization and use familiarity with the asset being created. 

Templates create a two-fold level of simplicity in regard to NFR work items. Building the work item is simplified as data just needs to be input within the correct fields of the template. Additionally,  the template presents information in a more consumable fashion once the work item is built.

 As the process becomes simpler, it also becomes more approachable.  This means templates also make NFR’s and their documentation easier to create for new, or less familiar, Business Analysts. 

This discussion of templates, however, might have already started to give off a sense ambiguity. 

Are we talking about employing templates for documents?  

Are we talking about employing templates for NFR creation? 

Are we talking about employing templates that outline the properties of an NFR? 

Put simply, yes. 

A non-functional requirements template could be used in any of these areas to bolster your non-functional requirements authoring, elicitation, and management. 

An NFR template might be used to organize and manage NFRs, help a team with document creation, or even in the actual construction of NFR’s.  

If you’re looking for a simple method to construct high quality NFR’s, check out our Two Simple Steps to Creating Non-functional Requirements article found here! 

Whichever way your team uses templates to build NFR’s, you can rest assured that building non-functional requirements yields an incredible return and can be done faster and easier than ever before. 

Properly Equipping Your BA’s With Elicitation Templates

Requirements elicitation, or the gathering of requirements, has never been a simple process. It is however, something that many people encounter every day in the work place.  
For example, if someone asks you to build or complete something you might ask some questions. What should this thing do (functional requirement), and how should this thing be in terms of security, usability, or accessibility (non-functional requirement).  

A well-equipped business analysts (BAwill similarly ask questions that are designed to tease out the necessary functional and non-functional requirements of any project, process, or system. BA’s primarily use questions as their medium of engagement with Stakeholders. Through this type of close collaboration with Stakeholders, BAs create a forum that helps Stakeholders express what it is they want from their product.  

During a conversation with a BA, a Stakeholder will express what features they want and what their product should do (functional requirements) as well as how they want the user experience to feel (non-functional requirements).  

BA’s often employ several time-tested elicitation techniques when engaging with Stakeholders. During the elicitation process some of these techniques might include: 

  • questionnaires 
  • mind-map brainstorming  
  • use cases creation 
  • document creation and review
  • and more… 

Each of these techniques have two things in common.  

  1. First, they all are used for the elicitation of requirements.  
  1. Second, each of these techniques can capitalize on the use of templates.

Let’s think about how questionnaires can benefit from becoming, or using, templates. 

We know that to elicit the proper requirements, the proper questions must be asked.  
This is where the knowledge of a veteran BA becomes a greater asset, as they have been through the elicitation process numerous times. They have the benefit of experience and may know better which questions to ask in relation to specific industries, products, or technologies.  

This experience and knowledge can be easily captured with a non-functional requirement questionnaire template. Experienced BAs can compile well-thought-out question lists or question templates that will focus on specific functions (FRs) or system attributes (NFRs), and passively guide the team’s elicitation process even if they are not directly involved 

These questionnaire templates can then provide structure and consistency to the elicitation process, ensure the correct questions are being asked, and also reduce the likelihood of important questions being missed.   

There are plenty of examples where templates can help teams benefit from the knowledge they already have within their team. 

Let’s look at more examples of how templates are being used today in different elicitation and authoring tasks.  

Why Teams Have Historically Used Tables as Requirements Templates

Many teams continue to implement non-functional requirement templates in the form of a table to author and house requirements. 

The use of tables typically stems from the needs of users to organize and maintain their requirements in one place.  Before the use of explicit Requirements Management tools, table were used to help define naming and numbering conventionsto help track and trace requirements, as well as help by providing fields for any number of properties. 

Tables have historically worked well as templates as they are simple to organize and make it easy to manage the content within the tableTables have traditionally held the added benefit of providing an approach to export the information from table to other areas such as document creation.  

What is that export approach? Copy and paste.  

For teams that use tables as templates, the requirements typically get copy and pasted from table and are then inserted into document. Typically, the requirement is copy and pasted field by individual field into a template designed specifically for the document (another example of templating!) 

But while tables used to be a robust solution for managing requirements that contain a variety of fields, they have some significant downfalls in today’s world of explicit RM tools. 

Tables are often disconnected compilations of important information and can often be siloed off from other tools and processes. Often this results in tables becoming an extra step in your RM process, and extra asset that someone has to take ownership of to manage, update, and maintain.  

But this doesn’t have to be the case.  

With Microsoft’s Excel Team tab extension, teams can easily connect the tables they have used in the past with their Azure DevOps project. They can easily map every requirement field, property, and identifier to the Azure DevOps work item that gets created in their project. 

But how does Azure DevOps help with NFR’s? 

How Does Azure DevOps Handle Non-Functional Requirements?

First, Azure DevOps is flexible.  

Microsoft’s ALM platform allows you to easily add any types of work items your team needs to a project.  

Non-functional requirements are just one of the work item types you can add to a project.  

What is a “work item type”?  

Work items are an ADO-based authoring template for the type of requirement they represent.  

Some examples are functional requirements, transitional requirements, user stories, or even non-functional requirements. Whatever taxonomy your project requires, Azure DevOps will support it and each of the work items you create will have their own set of properties, states, and relationships which can be chosen and customized. 

With a non-functional requirement, you can configure any fields or property that your team requireto help with the management of your project. As mentioned previously, mapping the requirements you already have in a table is simple with the Microsoft Teams tab Excel extension [provide link].  

But what can you do with NFR’s once they are in Azure DevOps (ADO), and how does migrating the creation of NFR’s to ADO help your team? 

Let’s look at the tools.  

Modern Requirements4DevOps: Smart Docs – Customizable NFR Document Templates

The creation of documents depends on an organization’s policies, processes, expectations, and requirements of the stakeholders, and can even be built to house your non-functional requirements. 

Documents provide an easy way to create accountability for meeting the agreed upon requirements for a project. They afford a level of security for the stakeholders as documents can act as a checklist for agreed upon requirements, which can easily be cross-referenced to determine if stakeholders are getting what they paid for or if work was not completed. 

Another major benefit of proper documentation is that requirements often evolve throughout a project’s lifecycle. A requirement might become more clearly defined later in its life, or it might simply evolve in a manner that yields different expectation of your product.  

Queue the addition of non-functional requirement documents to your process. 

As requirements evolve, so too will the expectations for your project. This means the success indicators of your project, a.k.a. non-functional requirements, will have to be reviewed and changed.  

Using our Smart Docs module of the Modern Requirements4DevOps suite, a user can easily construct a fully versionable requirements document directly from their Azure DevOps project. This means users can easily make, and track changes to requirements from a user-friendly document interface.  

New requirements can also be easily created in your project from within a document’s interface, or you can choose to insert existing requirements directly into your document. This means you can easily drag/drop your non-functional requirements directly into an easily exportable document without leaving Azure DevOps and without a need for copy/paste.  

Let’s extend the idea of importing your existing NFR’s that live in tables into Azure DevOps, and then cover how you can turn these NFR’s into documents using Modern Requirements.  

First you import into Azure DevOps your non-functional requirements from your table using the Microsoft Team tab extension for Excel. Then you simply query all non-functional requirements and drag/drop them into your document.  

It’s that simple.  

But let’s say you now want to add structure to a document so that non-functional requirements can only be added in specific areas of the document.  

We support that too! 

There is a template designer built directly within the Smart Docs module, that helps you dictate what work item types are allowed where in your documentsThis means anyone building a document, NFR-based or otherwise, can easily adhere to the structure your template provides and create consistent documentation. 

Modern Requirements4DevOps: Smart Docs – Reusable NFR Document Templates

Reusable document templates are an asset to any team.  In fact, you likely already use these today.  

A reusable document template provides your team with an already populated document that lays out what a document should look like. This type of template helps authors easily figure out where specific information should go, and what contextual elements should make up the document created.  

Think about that Word document you already have on your Desktop. It likely already has a placeholder for things like Introductions, Scope, Goals, as well as where you should put specific requirements. This is a reusable document template.  

The main reason document templates are used is to increase efficiency and cut down on rework within the document manufacturing process.  

Luckily for teams who currently use multiple applications for their RM and documenting processes, there is a solution that can be used for both. Modern Requirements with Azure DevOps.  

The reusable document templates you create with Modern Requirements + Azure DevOps, can be configured to hold any field or property you need to show within your document. You can save any document as a reusable document template, which can automatically populate fields such as Introduction, Goals, NFR Requirements, and more. 

You can build documents in just a few clicks that can help your team get started quickly when building any sort of documentation! This means your team can benefit not only from your documents and requirements living in the same space, but also increase efficiency, create structure, increase accuracy, and create consistency within your document creation process.   

Modern Requirements4DevOps: FAQ Module – Customizable and Reusable Questionnaire Templates

Non-functional requirements are much more abstract than their functional counterparts.  

This makes them harder to draw out as you’re not simply pointing at the system and telling it what to do, instead you are asking questions about how the system should be and using NFR’s to represent that. 

As discussed earlier in this article building strong NFRs are based on asking the right questions.  

So, what if you are new to requirements management or have little experience? Where do you start? MR4DevOps addresses this situation with our comprehensive FAQ module.  

The FAQ module is a series of focused question templates directed at specific system attributes which are categorized by the three primary aspects of the product; operational, revisional, and transitional.  

Additionally, the FAQ module contains question templates for the elicitation of NFR for compliance and risk based medical device development. As users answer the questions from thtemplate, they automatically create a non-functional requirement directly into the Backlog. 

The questionnaire templates included in the FAQ module are beneficial to BAs with all levels of experience. Veteran BAs can modify existing lists by adding their own questions or create their own question list from scratchBy doing so, BA’s are able to capture their experience and knowledge of the elicitation process and pass it along to other members of the team.  

Modern Requirements4DevOps: Smart Report – Configurable Report Templates

MR4DevOps provides a great solution to one of ADO’s major oversights; the lack of an integrated reporting tool.  

When using tools like FAQ, or Smart Docs, to author and manage your non-functional requirements, Smart Report will be the tool that you use to output your requirements. Smart Report allows you to output requirements as PDF, HTML, or Microsoft Word where you can apply your own predesigned header/footer and even Table of Contents or title page as well.  

Looking to make a report for your project’s NFRs?  

The Smart Report tool is equipped with an advanced report template designer. The template designer allows you to build and save custom report templates based on work item type. This enables you to build a unique NFR template that shows whichever properties and fields of an NFR that you wish to include in the report; this information is pulled directly from the work item! 

This template can be applied to any group of selected or queried NFRs and used whenever you are required by your reporting process. The benefit of the reporting tool is it empowers you with the ability to create instant, structured, and consistent requirements reports. 

Interested in Seeing for Yourself?

Modern Requirements4DevOps offers several solutions to assist with the elicitation, authoring, and management of non-functional requirements. 

Would you like to have a closer look into designing templates with Modern Requirements or interested in finding out what other tools can improve your process? Book a product demonstration today!

Experience for yourself how our Modern Requirements toolbox can empower Microsoft’s industry leading Azure DevOps into a single application requirements management solution.

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