Developers Like Requirements; Project Managers Don't
and A Possible Transcendent Hawthorne Effect

Daniel M. Berry

Cheriton School of Computer Science
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON, Canada


This talk reports the results of a case study conducted in July 2010 of one industrial software development project to determine how the project's lack of any explicit requirements gathering process affected the project's development and the product that it produced. The study reveals that the lack of any requirements gathering process led to missing functions in the product, reduced productivity among the project's members, and poor cost estimation. This lack converted a potentially profitable project into a liability. In the end, the project members completed the product, but much time was wasted. A requirements specification could have saved this time.

Conducting the case study resulted in an increased awareness among the study's subjects, i.e., the project's management and members, that a requirements engineering process was needed. This awareness led to a Hawthorne effect, in which the project management and members improved their requirements process. The next project conducted by the project management was begun with an explicit requirements gathering process. This improved process continued through at least May 2011, 11 months after completion of the study.

Joint work with Daniel Isaacs