Volere – the Evolution of Successful Requirements Techniques

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It is more than 20 years since the first Volere Requirements Specification was launched. Since that beginning so much has happened and so many people in so many industries have adopted the techniques and have improved their discovery, communication and management of requirements. the following is a brief summary of the history of Volere:

Suzanne_Robertson_opt_4 Suzanne Robertson, The Atlantic Systems Guild, mailto:suzanne@systemsguild.net

IRM UK is pleased to offer the following in-house and public course in partnership with the Atlantic Systems Guild in London: Mastering the Requirements Process 15-17 November 2016 & 14-16 March 2017


The Volere Requirements Techniques are a language used for the discovery, communication and management of requirements, and to design solutions for those requirements. The Volere language enables the business analyst to communicate with all the appropriate stakeholders, and the developers of solutions. Volere techniques are socio-technical; technical ways of defining requirements and connecting them to solutions, and sociological approaches to working with stakeholders who have different interests and roles.

Improving the Solution

From the 1960’s to the 1990’s the software development industry was concerned with techniques for improving software. Techniques emerged for structuring code, along with design principles. These techniques were formalised and written about by pioneers like Edsgar Dijkstra, Glenford Myers, Larry Constantine, Michael Jackson, and others, and had the effect of improving the structure and readability of code. This consistent way of writing code made it easier to maintain and to share. But these improvements raised some new questions.

The code being produced was more communicable between technical specialists, but the people who used the software products complained that much of the software did not do what was needed. In other words, it was good code but it did not solve the real business problem.

Communicating the Problem

In the 1980’s Gane & Sarson, Tom DeMarco, Peter Chen and others introduced ways of building models to make the business processes and data more visible. The products of systems analysis were becoming more communicable. But even then, there was little formal traceability between the people who did the analysis of the problem and the people who did the development of the solution.

In 1990 Suzanne and James Robertson were working as Analyst/Designer/Programmers – yes, the roles were deeply intertwined – and they kept on hearing this from business stakeholders: “Why can’t you build systems that help us to do our work?” It became clear that what they understood to be the business requirements were not what the stakeholders thought they had asked for. Admittedly, a lot of the time, the stakeholders’ requirements were vague and ambiguous. Additionally, there was little formal connection between the business requirements and the implemented software.

Volere as a Common Language

Those that came before had defined ways of modelling business systems and specifying software systems. We could see that what was needed was a way of connecting systems models and specifications so that stakeholders with different interests and different outlooks could communicate with each other. We needed a common language to bridge the problem-solution gap. This marked the birth of what we called the Volere Requirements Techniques.

The first thing was to develop a checklist for identifying, specifying and connecting the business requirements from the problem scope all the way down to the atomic functional and non-functional requirements. Thus the Volere Requirements Specification Template was born. The template is supported by a rigorous Requirements Knowledge Model that provides a traceable definition of each level of requirements from the business problem all the way through to the implemented solution and its testing.

The Volere Requirements Specification Template has been downloaded about 20,000 times. It first appeared in 1995, and has become something of a standard in requirements work. We recently published the 18th edition of the template.

Since it first appeared, the template has been joined by training courses, consulting services, videos, webinars and books on the subject of business analysis and requirements. The techniques have expanded to include the useful Brown Cow model of system viewpoints, the context or scope model, business use case and product use case (BUC and PUC) scenarios to model responses and provide a basis for both story writing and implementation strategy. The techniques include ways of writing agile stories so that they better portray the real business problem.

To date Suzanne and James have trained more than ten thousand people in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, not counting people who have crossed borders to attend their courses.

The Volere techniques are used in numerous industries – aerospace, automotive, construction, entertainment, government, insurance, pharmaceutical, banking, retail, telecommunications, human resources, and many more including a zoo.

The first edition of the book Mastering the Requirements Process was published in 1999. It is currently in its third edition, and to date has sold more than 50,000 copies. It too has become something of a standard.

Ongoing Practice and Development

The Volere requirements techniques are alive – they are being used and enhanced by the skill and experience of business analysts and requirements specialists worldwide. They are continuously evolving to meet – and often lead – trends and discoveries in our industry. The Volere instructor/consultant is a business analyst with the right combination of practical, successful experience, and the communication skills to impart their knowledge.

You can find more – events, articles, videos – on www.volere.org.

Suzanne Robertson is a principal and founder of the Atlantic Systems Guild. Suzanne is co-author of Mastering the Requirements Process—third edition, a guide for practitioners on finding requirements and writing them so that all stakeholders can understand them. Suzanne works with organisations to apply innovative techniques and fresh thinking in all of their systems development activities. Her work also includes research and consulting on the management, sociological and technological aspects of requirements. The product of her research and experience is Volere, a requirements process, template and techniques for assessing requirements quality, and for specifying requirements.  Suzanne is author of many papers on systems engineering. She speaks at numerous conferences and universities. She is a member of IEEE and British Computer Society, and on the board of the British Computer Society’s Requirements Engineering Specialist Group. She was the founding editor of the Requirements Column in IEEE Software.

Copyright: Suzanne Robertson, The Atlantic Systems Guild

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