So how do we ensure we get meaningful requirements? We have a number of ways to understand our objective and learning about the
- Interviews customer clinics
- Digital mock ups
- Prototype physical mock ups
- Other information gathering (standards, regulations, etc.)
We start with interviews of customers, stakeholders and project sponsors. Interviews also include customer clinics. In interviews we ask questions regarding the prospective use of the product. We want to prioritize the information we learn during these interviews and focus on the needs. In customer clinics, we may provide some rough facsimile of the product for the customer to review.
- What specific problems will the product are required to solve?
- How would the product be typically used?
- What are the constraints upon the solution?
We can use simulation to understand how the product could work and document via the model for the simulation or text elaborating on the simulation. We may have simulation techniques that are entirely virtual or some amalgam of hardware, software and simulation. For example, complex automotive features we may use our product systems testing tools to understand how the proposed feature or function works within the context of the entire system. In this way we learn the systems interactions that will influence the design.
We can build mock-ups either digital or physical prototype parts. The example of the latter is for physical attributes and fitting issues. These mock ups need not have all of the appearance of the resultant product. We have seen mock ups using cardboard to understand the fit envelope of the product. We have also seen the menu structure for an instrument cluster mock up via Microsoft Excel. Selecting a specific menu then takes the user to the sub-menus and displays through the use of hyperlinks, simulating the intended product expected performance.
We can even use instrumentation to understand the stimuli the product will be subjected. In automotive world, for example, we may instrument a vehicle to understand the use of associated functions (for example the HVAC control use) or for other ambient stimulation such as vibration and thermal.
Successful product requirements are often due to the variety of ways we go about gathering. Requirements capturing from the ivory tower seldom works (and probably attributed to luck when it does work.)