Software requirements fundamentals

1.1. Definition of a Software Requirement

At its most basic, a software requirement is a property which must be exhibited in order to solve some problem in the real world. The Guide refers to requirements on "software" because it is concerned with problems to be addressed by software. Hence, a software requirement is a property which must be exhibited by software developed or adapted to solve a particular problem. The problem may be to automate part of a task of someone who will use the software, to support the business processes of the organization that has commissioned the software, to correct shortcomings of existing software, to control a device, and many more. The functioning of users, business processes, and devices is typically complex. By extension, therefore, the requirements on particular software are typically a complex combination of requirements from different people at different levels of an organization and from the environment in which the software will operate.

An essential property of all software requirements is that they be verifiable. It may be difficult or costly to verify certain software requirements. For example, verification of the throughput requirement on the call center may necessitate the development of simulation software. Both the software requirements and software quality personnel must ensure that the requirements can be verified within the available resource constraints.

Requirements have other attributes in addition to the behavioral properties that they express. Common examples include a priority rating to enable trade-offs in the face of finite resources and a status value to enable project progress to be monitored. Typically, software requirements are uniquely identified so that they can be over the entire software life cycle. [Kot00; Pfl01; Som05; Tha97]

1.2. Product and Process Requirements

A distinction can be drawn between product parameters and process parameters. Product parameters are requirements on software to be developed (for example, "The software shall verify that a student meets all prerequisites before he or she registers for a course.").

A process parameter is essentially a constraint on the development of the software (for example, "The software shall be written in Ada."). These are sometimes known as process requirements.

Some software requirements generate implicit process requirements. The choice of verification technique is one example. Another might be the use of particularly rigorous analysis techniques (such as formal specification methods) to reduce faults which can lead to inadequate reliability. Process requirements may also be imposed directly by the development organization, their customer, or a third party such as a safety regulator [Kot00; Som97].

1.3. Functional and Nonfunctional Requirements

Functional requirements describe the functions that the software is to execute; for example, formatting some text or modulating a signal. They are sometimes known as capabilities.

Nonfunctional requirements are the ones that act to constrain the solution. Nonfunctional requirements are sometimes known as constraints or quality requirements.

They can be further classified according to whether they are performance requirements, maintainability requirements, safety requirements, reliability requirements, or one of many other types of software requirements. These topics are also discussed in the Software Quality KA. [Kot00; Som97]

1.4. Emergent Properties