Roundtable on BDD and the requirements crisis in financial markets


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The inability to generate accurate requirements for software development has reached a crisis point, especially in highly regulated industries like the Financial Markets. Behaviour Driven Development is vital to ensuring that relationships between the business and the IT departments attain the vast potential offered by Agile development, to produce software that adds real value to a business.

These were among key conclusions of the Requirements Crisis Roundtable, an informal debate on how Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) could help end the Requirements Crisis in Financial Markets, when it met in London on the 30th of April 2014.

The dialogue involved a candid and dynamic exchange of insights and opinions between 22 experts, business representatives and developers from leading financial organisations. The conversations resulted in a range of ideas for thought leaders and IT professionals to consider and act upon.

The Realization Group hosted the Roundtable with partners from Hindsight Software and Inviqa, leading the discussion. Participants encompassed BDD Gurus Liz Keogh and David Evans, alongside delegates from across the financial industry including Barclays, J.P. Morgan and Aviva.

Inaugurating the roundtable Inviqa gave a forthright assessment of the current state of development and trends around business alignment with software requirements, followed by an appraisal of Legacy Systems in regulated industries from Hindsight Software. The appraisal covered the need to re-capture requirements for these systems, as they evolved to meet the new challenges of the digital age.

These topics were among the seven themes covered during the Roundtable:

  1. Aligning with the business

  2. Eliminating misinterpretation - creating a shared understanding of requirements

  3. The importance of generating examples and the use of natural language

  4. The disruption caused by introducing BDD in an organisation

  5. The need for cultural change

  6. Backwards implementation of BDD - from testing to requirements

  7. BDD & non-functional requirements

The following conclusions and ideas emerged from the discussions:

  • Communication and collaboration lie at the heart of BDD.

  • BDD is an analysis tool, not a testing framework

  • The businesses are often reluctant to get involved with BDD - seeing it as time consuming. However, this need not be the case - short, regular meetings can capture all the information necessary for high quality requirements.

  • Real life examples are fundamental to BDD, to generate shared understanding between Product Owners, Business Analysts, Developers and Testers. These examples should be expressed in natural language and accessible to everyone.

  • Participants shared a strong interest in developing a stronger dialogue with the business. Product Owners should step up their coordination and help activities to shape and mould IT system to the needs of the business. Equally, IT departments need to provide an environment in which the collaboration between project teams and the business is the default practice.

  • Capturing and using feedback form users is essential to the on-going development process. There were various ways to this including public votes on new features, aggregated bug reports and user feature requests.

  • Many people associate BDD with testing, and in particular with Cucumber. This is a distraction from the central point of BDD - generating solid requirements, and can actually damage a project rather than adding value. Backwards implementation of BDD can be solved, but it may take up to a month to resolve, adding an extra time and costs to the project budget.

  • Non-Functional requirements and performance testing work well with BDD by exploring the implicit expectations of the customer/user, with the assumptions of developers. By exploring expectations via examples, shared understanding can lead to a system that performs, as the business both needs and wants.

The convening organisations expect to hold a further roundtable in July, aiming to explore the business case for BDD. Issues to be explores include how BDD can real add value, realise benefits, and enable communication, from the business perspective

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