Reference: Sari, K., Marjo, K., Laura, L., & Tero, K. (2005). The Role of User Involvement in Requirements Quality and Project Success. IEEE International Conference on Requirements Engineering, 2005.
Objectives: A requirement can be described as a statement which specifies what a particular product should be able to accomplish. Establishing requirements requires the gathering of information to ensure that a product help users achieve their goals. Research has shown that user involvement in requirement engineering can improve the quality of requirements. The term “user involvement” means direct contact between the design team and users through user feedback, product testing, ect. In this paper the authors seek “to investigate the role of user involvement in defining user requirements in typical development projects.” (Sari, Marjo, Laura, & Tero, 2005)
Methods: A survey was conducted, which involved 18 individuals who worked in software related development projects in 13 companies. Participants had to answer questions based on the most recent projects they participated in during the requirements engineering stage. Questions came from four sections: background information, the requirements quality issues from the user-centered design point of view, the success of the project, and requirements engineering practices. The researchers then validated the results of the survey by interviewing 8 of those participants.
Main Findings: From experience the authors argue that developers tend to view users as “one big faceless mass” (Sari et al, 2005) when users are not involved in product development. Based on the results, they argue that developers become more aware of their limited knowledge of users issues when users are involved. The project-success assessments and average requirement quality was also higher in projects where requirements were based on real information from users or customers. In addition, when users are involved less money is spent and more time is saved on requirements engineering. Finally the results revealed that requirements were defined carelessly or too abstract when users were not involved.
Analysis: Based on these results, projects which involved users in product development were considered to be more successful than those projects where users were not involved. In their research, (Chatzoglou & Macaulay, 1996) showed that fewer iterations were needed when users were the main source of information. I believe that user involvement in a development project can tremendously increase requirement quality, because users usually know what they want. And even in cases where users are not sure what they desire, a prototype of a product will give them enough information to know what they don’t want in a product.
The authors argued that the programmers in some projects did not care for user involvement because they had to consider too many wishes and features requested by those users.I believe that it is perfectly fine for users to voice their expectation of a product, but it should be left to the design team and programmers to decide how those functions and features should be implemented.
Though this research produced valuable information on the effectiveness of user involvement, the sample was fairly small, which may not give a true impression of typical project development in all companies. Taking this into consideration, a larger study should be done with this consideration although I believe it would only confirm these results.
Although user involvement does give some value insight to programmers in terms of requirements, it may not help them understand the context in which the product will be used. Then again this would require some ethnographic research will may prove too expensive and time consuming for the project at hand. I believe that for typical development projects user involvement will give designers enough information to establish high quality user requirements.