What's new in Rational Requirements Composer 4.0

Unlock the power of traceability from definition to delivery

Version 4.0, the new release of IBM Rational Requirements Composer, enhances support for business analysts when they are defining, capturing, and managing project requirements, from definition to delivery. It focuses on enterprise deployment and high availability, extended graphical capability for suspect link analysis and traceability analysis, better requirements exchange and import, as well as information access control for requirements management for project teams.

Jared K. Pulham (jared.pulham@uk.ibm.com), Senior Product Manager, IBM

author photoJared Pulham is a senior product manager for IBM Rational software, with more than 15 years experience in software testing and development and experience in many companies and industries. Jared focuses on requirements management tools and capabilities for Jazz technology, and he is responsible for IBM Rational Requirements Composer.



30 May 2012

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Introduction

IBM® Rational® Requirements Composer provides a complete requirements management capability to define and capture business needs and managing all requirements throughout a project lifecycle. It fosters better business and development collaboration in an online agile requirements community, involving a wide set of stakeholders that can include customers, analysts, developers, testers, and anyone involved in operations and production.

The new Rational Requirements Composer 4.0 (part of the IBM Collaborative Lifecycle Management CLM solution) improves support capability for enterprise deployments and provides new and enhanced features that improves a project team's time-to-value in software and IT organizations.

Requirements Composer continues to make it easier for organizations to reduce development costs, increase efficiency, and improve product quality by enabling them to optimize requirements communication, collaboration, and verification. The new and improved capability will help project teams realize project impact and downstream visibility, using traceability across requirements, testing, and development.


Enhance the potential of project traceability

Using links to connect project information can be a useful way to explore and navigate from one data element to another in a requirements management tool. Being able to use these same links for analysis and change impact provides a whole lot more value.

Visualize lifecycle link relationships graphically

Traceability is the backbone of a requirements management tool. Being able to create relationships (links) between requirements and from requirements to other lifecycle elements is one of the primary reasons that organizations choose a requirements definition and management solution. Tracing and understanding relationships between requirements and lifecycle artifacts are crucial to project success. Links not only denote simple connections from one piece of information to another, they also indicate further meaning or significance. There is usually a justification for why a link is created, which motivates further analysis of that link in a query report.

Although, for years, basic methods for querying links have been understood, based on matrix tables and grid style column displays, new technologies are making it possible to expand greatly on the business analyst's interaction and use for links. Requirements Composer now provides a built-in graphical links explorer that allows the analyst to interact with requirement links and to use them as primary elements in a requirements process.

Figure 1. Graphical traceability explorer
Diagram view of related links

An analyst can now select the traceability explorer from the links panel in the artifact interface or launch the explorer from the grid view through the artifact interaction menu. The traceability explorer then expands to fill the interface and maximize the viewing area to include one or many artifacts.

You have many controls to make your traceability analysis query more effective. Zooming features allow you to resize the view to fit the requirements and lifecycle artifacts that you want to view as part of your work. You can also use positioning menus to choose which layout (landscape or portrait) is more appropriate for the task at hand.

There are also standard layouts for basic, walker, and radial views that can offer different perspectives on how requirements are connected. The power of graphical traceability is exemplified by using the radial layout that displays link relationships in a circular, star-like display, with the focus requirement in the center of the display and linked requirement artifacts branching out radially.

When an artifact is viewed with other artifacts in the same display, the analyst can easily spot the dependency risk for a specific requirement artifact just from the graphical display. This type of query might be completely overlooked when using a traditional grid style of traceability analysis, but when viewed graphically, it is immediately recognizable. The analyst can then make note of these critical requirements to make sure they are on track throughout a release.

After a layout is selected and the view adjusted, the real analysis work can begin. Using the link type relationship filter, you can select which relationships are important for your analysis task. If you want to see what downstream requirements have been created to satisfy the higher-level requirements, then by selecting a Satisfies relationship from the check box and selecting Apply, you will eliminate other background and supporting linked artifacts that might obstruct and confuse during a specific analysis task.

The graphical explorer has now made it very easy to see dependencies and downstream impacts. If there are artifacts without further linked relationships, then the analyst can quickly recognize where a gap exists in the development cycle and take steps to get the downstream requirement, scenario, lifecycle work item, or task in place.

In addition to being t a viewing and analysis environment, the graphical explorer is an editing environment. If there are gaps in the downstream view, then new linked artifacts can quickly be created and immediately viewed through the explorer display. Many analysts might begin to prefer working directly in the traceability explorer rather than previous grid methods whenever they need to work with project requirements and end-to-end traceability.

Raise awareness of change by using suspect link analysis

Many typical users who simply review and read requirements will use links merely to navigate from one requirement to another. But links can be a much richer mechanism to quickly discover how information changes across the project.

When two requirements are linked together, there is a point in time when the relationship is considered to be valid between the two pieces of information. But during the lifecycle of a project, changes will inevitably be made to the requirements that can affect whether the two requirement artifacts remain logically consistent. When these changes take place, the analyst needs an easy way to discover the change and an easy way to take action to revalidate the relationship.

Requirements Composer now includes a suspect links capability that will automatically flag requirements when a change has taken place on the other end of the link. Instantly, the analyst will know that someone in the project team has made a change that might affect requirements for their part of the project. After a few additional clicks of the mouse, the user can see the changes (through the artifact audit history) and make a decision whether or not they need to update their requirements according to the suspect link or perhaps create new requirements to accommodate for the change.

Figure 2. Suspect links
Artifacts view: ID, Name, Type

Suspect links can also be managed through a user profile, making it very easy to configure the distinctive links that a project team needs to track. Product managers and development leads can each establish their own profiles. When specific users want to analyze suspect links, they can set the view to show only the suspect flags for their specific roles. The new suspect links profile capability will greatly reduce false positives compared to other requirements tools, making the Rational Requirements Composer suspect link facility more valuable (with less overhead for users).

After the flags are displayed, you can swiftly move through the display to analyze the link, update the requirement and clear the suspect flag. When the user clears the flag, the suspect link will be considered valid again, and Requirements Composer will continue tracking it for the possibility of a future change.

Figure 3. Clearing a suspect link
Options: clear all or clear for profile (role)

Suspect link tracking is a powerful capability and is one of the most requested analysis capabilities in a development lifecycle solution. It is a perfect feature to include in the links analysis feature set.


Manage projects and maintain control

Project team leaders who manage multiple projects and environments need features that make their jobs easier. They need ways to manage their users and project information access and better ways to manage the configuration for all of their environments.

Expanded data access permissions

Maintaining control over project requirements is crucial, especially for larger teams in which roles of the various team members can differ. Some project leaders are comfortable with an open editing experience and trust their team members to do the right thing. But even in a trusted environment, costly mistakes can occur, and even simple incorrect changes can be made inadvertently. Thus, the power of access permissions becomes vital to protect project requirements from these types of unfortunate mistakes.

Project teams can now apply more specific permissions to write to their folders, requirement artifacts, and links below the project level. This is an improvement on previous versions of Requirements Composer, in which permissions were available only at the project level. Project administrators will use team management to assign permissions on folders, artifacts, and links to protect data from being modified when it shouldn't be. This extends the project administrator's control and allows them to establish "locked" data when they reach specific project milestones.

Figure 4. Setting access permissions
Example of setting permission by role

Larger view of Figure 4.

As an example, consider a typical requirements process in which all team members have write permissions to freely create business requirements in the early phase of elicitation and definition. All user roles will have the ability to create and edit new requirements to help move the project forward. As the project reaches more crucial milestones, the project administrator can remove the team write permissions, thereby preventing further modifications by the wider project team. This would be an appropriate time to use Requirements Composer review capabilities in order to collect user comments for additional changes, permitting only those with specific user roles to make the modifications, based on the review feedback.

Expanding the write permissions now enhances the project administrator's ability to control business requirements and expand on the types of team configurations for multiple requirements projects.

Higher-level project dashboards

As organizations expand their use of Requirements Composer, they continue to increase the number of projects that are used to manage information. For organizations that already have a large-scale project volume, Requirements Composer now has a project dashboard in which all projects can be accessed from a single place. Team members can each have a preconfigured dashboard (or viewlet) to display the typical projects that they are assigned to support.

Figure 5. Project dashboard
My Projects dashboard view

Larger view of Figure 5.

Reuse project templates

Project managers and tool administrators can now upload and download project templates from one Requirements Composer instance to another. This enables better project management for multiple environments and gives project teams a way of maintaining project configurations from server to server, without needing to configure a project from instance to instance manually.

Figure 6. Project template upload or /download
Options to upload, download, edit, delete

Larger view of Figure 6.


Improve requirements information transfer

When collaboration with people outside of your requirements tool is important, how do you reliably share information with them or take information that they give to you as input to your project? They need ways to transfer information from one environment to another, to share information with partners or collaborators.

Requirements Interchange Format (ReqIF)

It is very common for project managers to need to extract requirements from a project to share with extended stakeholders, partners and global team members. Many have relied on standard reports or document and spreadsheet exports to take project requirements out of the database and share them with the wider community. The problem with some of these formats is that the richness of the meta information (for example, structure and rich formatting) is not preserved in a reliable format for the extended team member to continue to use in a requirements management tool.

This was the basic use case that inspired the format known as the Requirements Interchange Format, or ReqIF. The ReqIF format is an XML file format that can be used to exchange requirements — along with its associated metadata — between software tools from any vendor. The requirements exchange format also defines a workflow for transmitting the status of requirements between partners. Although developed in the automotive industry, ReqIF is suitable for lossless exchange of requirements in any industry.

Requirements Composer now supports some of the ReqIF workflow use cases to export and import requirement artifacts from one requirements project instance to another. Using the ReqIF definition wizard, a project team member can define which project requirements artifacts should be exported. In addition, when a file has already been exported, they can use the wizard to download a file again.

Figure 7. ReqIF Manager
Example of exporting a file

This provides a more reliable way to export and import project requirements, using an open format that can be used with other requirements instances or even other requirements tools (such as IBM® Rational DOORS®).

Automated requirements identification and parsing

Many project requirements begin in Microsoft Word documents. It is usually at the point when these documents become unmanageable and require the support of attributes, traceability links, and other concepts provided by Requirements Composer that the business analyst wants to transfer requirements to a suitable requirements tool from another team, partner, or organization. Requirements Composer 3.0.1 introduced the ability to import Word documents directly into a project, either in the native format or converted to a rich text format.

Team members who are importing Microsoft Word documents can now automatically identify requirements by using keywords, styles, and other document structures to parse and separate the document into individual, manageable requirement artifacts. The parsing process is very simple and can be activated on any document in Requirements Composer and configured through a few simple wizard steps.

Figure 8 Requirement parsing wizard
Specify how to identify requirements

This greatly improves the options to take exiting or legacy requirements information and migrate it into Requirements Composer for further management tasks.


Support an enterprise deployment

Organizations that have enterprise IT environments demand high reliability, availability and scalability to ensure their business succeeds.

High availability through clustering

For many organizations, high availability and reliability are crucial to ensure that development teams have access to business-critical systems. Requirements Composer 4.0 (along with Collaborative Lifecycle Management 2012) now supports high availability through clustering. The 3.0 CLM applications supported a manual standby solution, in which a backup server could manually take over the work if the primary server failed (supporting basic high availability) for a CLM server.

With this new release, proper clustering is now supported, whereby multiple server nodes are active at all times with requests distributed across them. When one of the nodes fails, the clustering configuration adjusts to redistribute requests to other nodes, thus minimizing disruptions to the end users.

Server renaming

The Collaborative Lifecycle Management (CLM) approach is based on a web architecture with integrated tools addressing and linking to each other through URLs. Although this enables powerful integration scenarios between tools, it could introduce an obstacle when a server URI needs to be changed. CLM 2012 now supports server renaming scenarios for tool reconfiguration.


Summary

Rational Requirements Composer is quickly becoming an industry standard requirements definition and management tool. As next-generation requirements management software (and part of CLM 2012), it breaks new ground in traceability analysis, project management, data exchange, and other enterprise features that support globally distributed software/IT project teams.

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