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Software requirements for business systems

One of the best ways to ensure the quality of any product or service is to get the requirements for it right. This module examines requirements engineering (RE), which is used to analyse business problems and develop requirements specifications, by eliciting and documenting the requirements of those affected stakeholders. The specification can then be used to develop an appropriate solution to the problem. In this module, we assume that the eventual solution will be computer based. Students will have the opportunity to engage in small group-collaboration in a wiki environment to emulate real-life RE practice.

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Start End England fee Register
01 Nov 2014 Apr 2015 £1130.00

Registration closes 17/10/14 (places subject to availability)

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November 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

What you will study

If the requirements for a product or service are not clearly or completely set out, any project or design based on them cannot succeed. The increasing complexity of software systems and the dependency of organisations on their software systems stress the need for software-development projects to be successful. As product life cycles get shorter, and as technology enables more ways of producing goods and services, it is harder to meet a client’s requirements and deliver a new software system within the constraints of time, cost and quality.

This module examines a disciplined approach to the process of eliciting, analysing, communicating and agreeing requirements as the essential first step in the development of software. (The later stages of development, design and implementation, are covered in other modules.) However, precisely which activities should be undertaken will depend on the development process being adopted. The module discusses the options appropriate for a range of processes from the very ‘agile’ to the most formal. Managing change is also an important activity in this context, as requirements will evolve in the time it takes to develop software. It is also desirable that requirements should be reused in different projects and across product families to reduce cost and effort, so these features will also be discussed in the module.

While this module focuses on products and services that are likely to involve a computer, it is still the case that when building any artefact (goods or services) it is important to ensure that the requirements are right. Therefore, this module is appropriate to gathering requirements whether or not a computer is involved.

The module text is in the form of Study Guides which have been written by the module team to supplement a text book (supplied). The module also uses a collection of published articles that provide insights into state-of-the-art requirements engineering and give alternative views on important concepts. To help you practise the requirements process, there are case studies and a software tool. Since requirements elicitation is seldom practiced by an individual but is performed by teams of requirements engineers, you will have the opportunity to engage in some group activities using the latest internet technologies including wikis (to produce requirements specifications collaboratively online).

You will not have to do any programming, but the module does assume that you are a competent computer user, able to use a word-processor, access the Web and use email.

There is a dedicated website from which the articles, software and assignments must be downloaded. The website also keeps you up to date with the module.

The module is suitable for anyone who is, or wishes to become, involved in the development of new products or services, whether or not this will involve the use of a computer.

You will learn

The essential principles and practices of requirements engineering including:

  • the need for accurate and complete problem analysis and how these relate to business goals
  • how to determine the major activities or processes within a given business context
  • how to elicit requirements for a specific real-world business problem
  • how to identify the stakeholders of a business problem and its solution, and understand how to manage stakeholder conflicts
  • how to determine the qualities of a set of requirements and make them measureable
  • how to specify a set of requirements
  • how to avoid ambiguity and conflict in requirements
  • how to reuse requirements
  • the connection between requirements engineering and design
  • how to apply the requirements process to projects of various levels of agility
  • how to carry out requirements review
  • how to communicate a set of requirements to a variety of stakeholders
  • how to work collaboratively on the production of a requirements specification
  • developing a reflective approach to learning.

Having completed this module, you should have gained a thorough understanding of the state-of-the-art in requirements engineering, leading to a deep and systematic understanding of the subject area including, but not restricted to, the requirements needed to support product lines in software development and the application of problem frames.

Entry

There are no entry requirements, but we do assume that you have already studied to a minimum of HNC/HND level or have equivalent experience from your employment. The module does not assume a knowledge of computers or computing beyond that of a competent computer user (someone who is confident in the use of a word-processor, email and the use of a web browser). If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

You do need to have a reasonable standard of spoken and written English to study successfully with us. Poor language skills will make study more difficult, and it will take longer. The normal requirements for English language skills are explained on our website.

If you have any doubts about whether your level of English is good enough for you to study this module you may find it helpful to look at our Skills for OU Study site.

Discount for Open University Graduates

If you are a graduate of The Open University (holding either an undergraduate or masters degree), you are eligible for a discount of £100 towards the cost of this module. You can claim this discount when you register, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Qualifications

M883 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards C02, C69, D69, E10, E19, F05, F26, F37, F43 and F54, which are no longer available to new students.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module  can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

The module makes considerable use of diagrams and you will be expected to submit your own in answer to assessment questions. A software requirements tool for use in practical exercises is distributed with the study materials, however, in order to make the module more accessible, use of this tool is not compulsory; you may use whatever means you wish to draw diagrams.

You may need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet. Part of the assessment requires access to electronic material from the dedicated website. The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) with the exception of the brought-in book. If you have a computer with screen reading and synthetic speech facilities you will need to check that these will work with the study material and software well in advance of starting the module.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

The set book, Mastering the Requirements Process, edition 2, by Suzanne Robertson and James Robertson, published by Addison-Wesley; supporting study texts, a set of published articles, software, module website, online forums, wiki.

You will need

Access to the internet is essential, since some study materials are available only on the module website and you will have to access the module wiki to engage in the collaborative activities. You also need to use the internet to submit your assignments to your tutor.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress on the module, marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. There is a student online forum. 

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in November 2014 when it will be available for the last time. A 30-credit module – Software engineering (M814) –  is available.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code M883
Credits 15
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
Examination
No residential school

Student Reviews

“Thoroughly enjoyed the course, I've come across the course book 'Mastering the Requirements Process' many times as an IT Consultant....”
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“The concepts in this course help in situations where someone is trying to put the cart before the horse! The...”
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