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As IT projects proliferate due to the wide use of the Web for day-to-day business and commerce, it has become clear that the success of these projects can be attributed to proper due diligence. One part of ensuring the success of any IT project is directly related to detailed requirements gathering. Developing solid requirements documentation helps a project's sponsor and development teams come to a consensus on a high-level of "absolute truths" that define the project's criteria for success.

Rational RequisitePro is a tool that helps in the often painstaking task of gathering and documenting requirements. RequisitePro accomplishes this by incorporating an environment in which members of any development team can access and update project goals and requirements.

Overview
In a nutshell, the core of RequisitePro is a tightly integrated database and application that works closely with Microsoft Word. This application enables users to update requirements, either within the application environment or by using the toolbar and menu options in Microsoft Word that RequisitePro installs. RequisitePro offers the following major features:

  • Full traceability of ever-changing requirements
  • Prioritization of requirements
  • Templates to identify and manage various types of requirements
  • An environment that supports hierarchical relationships among requirements
  • A Web-based system for viewing and editing requirements
RequisitePro also enables users to view and manage files via a Web interface. This feature is an important component in a team's ability to access the core rules and specifications governing the development of a system. The RequisitePro license comes with a Windows server and a Web-based component to provide Web access. The product also ships with a Quick Tour as well as a more in-depth tutorial. As a side note, there's full integration between RequisitePro and other Rational development, modeling, and process software, creating a suite of products that covers the full life cycle of software development.

Working with RequisitePro
Installing RequisitePro was relatively easy, although I did receive an error message saying the ODBC driver couldn't be properly configured. This error didn't seem to interfere with the operation of the product and may have been due to a nuance of the specific configuration of my system. I installed the complete product to take advantage of the Quick Tour and the included tutorial. The entire installation required about 100MB+ of disk space.

The RequisitePro window provides an environment that's logical and sensible for the maintenance of requirements. There's a tree view on the left side of the window and the details of the tree are represented on the right (see Figure 1). The tree-view items on the left expand and contract depending on the item that's clicked. Additions and edits to requirements can be added directly to the proper area in the application window or to the specific Microsoft Word requirements document. When adding items to the Word document, these items automatically update the RequisitePro tree in the application when saved. The windows are resizable, and there's a toolbar and menus to execute the necessary commands.

Figure 1
Figure 1

When using the "traceability matrix" feature, the left side of the menu can represent a grid of the feature's requirements along the top and a list of traced use cases below and to the left (see Figure 2). This was my preferred method to view linked requirements that are dependent on each other. You can also use a "list" type view that has a list of the requirements down the left-hand side, including a numeric reference to the linked requirement. RequisitePro supports hierarchical requirements that allow you to view all parent and child relationships for requirements as well as inherent dependencies.

Figure 2
Figure 2

RequisitePro comes out of the box with some great templates for use case-driven, supplemental, and feature-based requirements. A very important feature is the ability to customize these templates with a document and separate identifier of your own. This allows you to incorporate the RequisitePro product into your own process and methodology. The real benefit of this tool lies in the integration of database-driven requirements tracking and the ability to work in a familiar environment such as Microsoft Word. In addition, project team members can gain access to the documentation and team members can add, edit, or delete requirements, making this product a good tool to add to a mid- to large-scale project.

As for speed, RequisitePro seemed to respond well on my test platform, as long as I didn't try to run too many other applications simultaneously. I usually try to keep open programs to a minimum, as the system I work on is not quite state-of-the-art. I noticed a very minor lag between the update of the RequisitePro window and the Microsoft Word document. With systems above the recommended minimum requirements, I can see how the performance would be excellent.

Summary
Rational RequisitePro does a great job of tracking, editing, and generally making project requirements accessible. The integration with most standard databases and close-to-seamless updating in Microsoft Word makes RequisitePro a helpful addition to the arsenal of project management and business analysis tools. The interface is easy to use and can be learned quickly. The Web-based interface makes sharing valuable project information simple and straightforward. The ability to customize the included templates or create and reference your own is an excellent feature. Any development team working on a mid- to large-scale project will save time and money using RequisitePro's features.

Product Snapshot
Target Audience: Program managers, project managers, business analysts, and project team members
Level: Entry-level business analysis skills and basic to intermediate Microsoft Word skills

Pros:

  • Integrated database functionality
  • Traceable requirement relationships
  • Good tutorial
  • Excellent customizable template structure
  • Supports hierarchical requirements and access by the entire project team

    Cons:

  • Requires third-party database program
  • May be overkill for some smaller size projects

    SIDEBAR
    Rational Software Corporation
    18880 Homestead Rd.
    Cupertino, CA 95014
    Phone: 800 728-1212
    Web: www.rational.com

    Test Environment:
    Computer: Gateway Solo 9150 Processor: Pentium III 333MHz
    Memory:128MB RAM
    Platform: Windows NT Workstation 4.0 (Service Pack 6)

    Specifications:
    Platforms: Windows NT 4.0, XP, 2000, 95, 98, or Millennium Edition
    Pricing: Rational RequisitePro Windows Server, Rational RequisiteWeb, and Rational RequisitePro are included in the Rational RequisitePro package for $2,034 for a node-locked license with one year of support.

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