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System requirements and software requirements

In this topic, system means “an interacting combination of elements to accomplish a defined objective. These include hardware, software, firmware, people, information, techniques, facilities, services, and other support elements,” as defined by the International Council on Systems Engineering.

System requirements are the requirements for the system as a whole. In a system containing software components, software requirements are derived from system requirements.

The literature on requirements sometimes calls system requirements “user requirements.” We can define “user requirements” in a restricted way as the requirements of the system’s customers or end-users. System requirements, by contrast, encompass user requirements, requirements of other stakeholders (such as regulatory authorities), and requirements without an identifiable human source.

Requirements process

This section introduces the software requirements process, orienting the remaining five subareas and showing how the requirements process dovetails with the overall software engineering process.

Process models

The objective of this topic is to provide an understanding that the requirements process

  • Is not a discrete front-end activity of the software life cycle, but rather a process initiated at the beginning of a project and continuing to be refined throughout the life cycle
  • Identifies software requirements as configuration items, and manages them using the same software configuration management practices as other products of the software life cycle processes
  • Needs to be adapted to the organization and project context

In particular, the topic is concerned with how the activities of elicitation, analysis, specification, and validation are configured for different types of projects and constraints.

Process actors

This topic introduces the roles of the people who participate in the requirements process. This process is fundamentally interdisciplinary, and the requirements specialist needs to mediate between the domain of the stakeholder and that of software engineering. There are often many people involved besides the requirements specialist, each of whom has a stake in the software. The stakeholders will vary across projects, but always include users/operators and customers (who need not be the same).

Typical examples of software stakeholders include (but are not restricted to)

  • Users: This group comprises those who will operate the software. It is often a heterogeneous group comprising people with different roles and requirements.
  • Customers: This group comprises those who have commissioned the software or who represent the software’s target market.
  • Market analysts: A mass-market product will not have a commissioning customer, so marketing people are often needed to establish what the market needs and to act as proxy customers.
  • Regulators: Many application domains such as banking and public transport are regulated. Software in these domains must comply with the requirements of the regulatory authorities.
  • Software engineers: These individuals have a legitimate interest in profiting from developing the software by, for example, reusing components in other products. If, in this scenario, a customer of a particular product has specific requirements which compromise the potential for component reuse, the software engineers must carefully weigh their own stake against those of the customer.

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Source:  OpenStax, Software engineering. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10790/1.1
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