Agile Requirements Engineering: An Empirical Analysis and Evidence from a Tertiary Education Context

Meetu Thomas, Mali Senapathi
Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology  •  Volume 16  •  2019  •  pp. 097-112
Aim/Purpose: The study describes empirical research into agile Requirements Engineering (RE) practices based on an analysis of data collected in a large higher education organization.

Background: Requirements Engineering (RE) in agile development contexts is considerably different than in traditional software development. The field of agile RE is still nascent where there is a need to evaluate its impact in real-world settings.

Methodology: Using a case study methodology, the study involved interviewing nine experienced software practitioners who reflected on the use and implementation of various agile RE practices in two software development projects of a student management system.

Contribution: The primary contribution of the paper is the evaluation of agile RE practices in a large tertiary educational organization. Based on the analysis of the data, it provides valuable insights into the practice of agile RE in a specific context (i.e., education), but just as importantly, the ones that were omitted or replaced with others and why.

Findings: While the evolutionary and iterative approach to defining requirements was followed in general, not all agile practices could be fully adhered to in the case organization. Although face-to-face communication with the customers has been recognized as one the most important agile RE practices, it was one of the most difficult practices to achieve with a large and diverse customer base. Addressing people issues (e.g., resistance to change, thinking, and mindset) was found to be a key driver to following the iterative RE process effectively. Contrary to the value-based approach advocated in the literature, the value-based approach was not strictly adhered to in requirements prioritization. Continuous integration was perceived to be a more beneficial practice than prototyping, as it allows frequent integration of code and facilitates delivering working software when necessary.

Recommendations for Practitioners: Our study has important implications for practitioners. Based on our empirical analysis, we provide specific recommendations for effective implementation of agile RE practices. For example, our findings suggest that practitioners could address the challenges associated with limited face-to-face communication challenges by producing flexible, accessible, and electronic documentation to enable communication.

Recommendations for Researchers: Researchers can use the identified agile RE practices and their variants to per-form in-depth investigations into agile requirements engineering in other educational contexts.

Impact on Society: There are a number of new technologies that offer exciting new opportunities that can be explored to maximize the benefits of agile and other requirements techniques.

Future Research: Future research could conduct case studies in different contexts and thus con-tribute to developing bundles or collections of practices to improve software development processes in specific contexts.
agile requirements engineering, case study, empirical, agile, Scrum, tertiary edu-cation
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