Loughborough University
Thesis-2015-EllisBraithwaite.pdf (116.2 MB)

Modelling the instrumental value of software requirements

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posted on 2016-06-24, 08:10 authored by Richard Ellis-Braithwaite
Numerous studies have concluded that roughly half of all implemented software requirements are never or rarely used in practice, and that failure to realise expected benefits is a major cause of software project failure. This thesis presents an exploration of these concepts, claims, and causes. It evaluates the literature s proposed solutions to them, and then presents a unified framework that covers additional concerns not previously considered. The value of a requirement is assessed often during the requirements engineering (RE) process, e.g., in requirement prioritisation, release planning, and trade-off analysis. In order to support these activities, and hence to support the decisions that lead to the aforementioned waste, this thesis proposes a framework built on the modelling languages of Goal Oriented Requirements Engineering (GORE), and on the principles of Value Based Software Engineering (VBSE). The framework guides the elicitation of a requirement s value using philosophy and business theory, and aims to quantitatively model chains of instrumental value that are expected to be generated for a system s stakeholders by a proposed software capability. The framework enriches the description of the individual links comprising these chains with descriptions of probabilistic degrees of causation, non-linear dose-response and utility functions, and credibility and confidence. A software tool to support the framework s implementation is presented, employing novel features such as automated visualisation, and information retrieval and machine learning (recommendation system) techniques. These software capabilities provide more than just usability improvements to the framework. For example, they enable visual comprehension of the implications of what-if? questions, and enable re-use of previous models in order to suggest modifications to a project s requirements set, and reduce uncertainty in its value propositions. Two case studies in real-world industry contexts are presented, which explore the problem and the viability of the proposed framework for alleviating it. The thesis research questions are answered by various methods, including practitioner surveys, interviews, expert opinion, real-world examples and proofs of concept, as well as less-common methods such as natural language processing analysis of real requirements specifications (e.g., using TF-IDF to measure the proportion of software requirement traceability links that do not describe the requirement s value or problem-to-be-solved). The thesis found that in general, there is a disconnect between the state of best practice as proposed by the literature, and current industry practice in requirements engineering. The surveyed practitioners supported the notion that the aforementioned value realisation problems do exist in current practice, that they would be treatable by better requirements engineering practice, and that this thesis proposed framework would be useful and usable in projects whose complexity warrants the overhead of requirements modelling (e.g., for projects with many stakeholders, competing desires, or having high costs of deploying incorrect increments of software functionality).


Loughborough University



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© Richard Ellis-Braithwaite

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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