tsJensen

A quest for software excellence...

Requirements in Text or Why I Hate Microsoft Word and Excel

In an ever more agile development world, we gradually learn to accept that requirements change constantly. Of course, it has always been thus, but I do remember a time when we pretended that requirements were locked and could not be changed. But then I remember delivering a product some months later which did not then meet the client's requirements despite what they had agreed to only months before. Their requirements changed, you see.

Now I work in an environment where this norm is the norm. Requirements change and they change often. Or better put, requirements are discovered daily and old requirements change into new requirements nearly as often. This is the unavoidable nature of the business I'm in. I accept it.

What I hate and cannot accept in this ever changing world are requirements documents written in a proprietary binary format. Sure they're stored in source control, so when I do a little update on my Subversion client in the morning and see that several requirements documents have changed, I'd like to just do a nice simple DIFF on them and see what's changed. But no. Oh, sure there are probably some diff tools out there I could get, but why should I when we could have just written the requirements in text or even a simple transformable XML rather than the binary gobbledygook in a Word or Excel file.

And can anyone tell me how to "blame" a change in a particular line in a Word doc on a certain author? Oh sure, I could use the gooey sticky messy change tracking--no thanks. Just give me a good text file and an editor that can handle it well.

Is my rant a cry for a product or what? Is there an existing product you can recommend? If so, please tell me. And then maybe we can ban the use of Word and Excel for the production and maintenance of requirements. We can say goodbye to the lack of transparency and traceability. We can say hello to simplicity and accountability. Ah, how would it be.