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Quality Begins With Requirements: Karl Wiegers

Moss Drake
Karl Wiegers on guitarYou may recognize Karl's name as the co-author of the book "Software Requirements." In addition to being a software engineer, consultant and trainer, focusing on process improvement, Karl enjoys playing music. PNSQC has asked him to be a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at the  41st PNSQC this October.  PNSQC volunteer Sam Simataa recently interviewed him to catch up on what Karl has been thinking about lately.

PNSQC: Can you briefly describe what audience members can expect from your upcoming keynote talk titled “Quality Begins With Requirements: Key Practices For Business Analysis Success”?
Karl Wiegers: The theme of this year’s PNSQC is using technology and processes to amplify quality, but I noticed that the many topics listed for the three track themes did not include the word “requirements.” This struck me as an oversight. I will describe how numerous essential requirements practices pay off in higher product quality.

PNSQC: In your experience, what are 3 elements that make up unreliable requirements?
KW: Many factors contribute to inadequate requirements. Some of the important ones are:
1. Overlooking stakeholders and not engaging the right people to represent each stakeholder group
2. Focusing requirements development activities on product features rather than on understanding what users need to do with the product
3. Failing to adequately understand and define the problem being solved

PNSQC: “Shift-left” testing is a common QA buzz word; how would you describe it?
KW:Not just testing, but shifting quality practices of all kinds to earlier in the development life cycle  (left on a project’s time line) can both prevent defects and detect them earlier, when they’re cheaper to correct and have less impact on both downstream development activities and users. For instance, let’s not just talk about “code reviews.” Finding requirement errors earlier through reviews and requirement testing offers higher leverage than dealing with defects in delivered products.

PNSQC: What would be your elevator pitch for someone to purchase your latest book “Software Requirement Essentials”?
KW:You might not have time to read the many large books that describe dozens of activities for requirements engineering and business analysis. But you’ll have the time to read this short book that presents the twenty most important requirements practices that apply to all software projects, no matter what type of product you’re building or what development life cycle the team follows.

PNSQC: Care to briefly share your journey from a PhD in Organic Chemistry to Software Development Consulting?
KW: I found organic chemistry fascinating, but computer programming was my second interest. One-third of my chemistry PhD thesis in 1977 was code. I began my professional career as a research scientist at Kodak, but they never let me do organic chemistry. So I got frustrated and soon migrated into software development. That eventually led to being a software manager, business analyst, quality engineer, and process improvement leader. I started my consulting and training company, Process Impact, in 1997. I’ve now written 14 books and nearly 300 articles on a wide variety of topics, even including a forensic mystery novel.

PNSQC: Which book are you currently reading, for fun?
KW: I always read three books concurrently: one on military history, primarily World War II; a novel (typically thrillers); and one on some other aspect of history, science, biography, politics, humor, or some other topic. I finally acquired the wisdom to stop reading a book that isn’t good enough to justify the time, so I don’t finish all of them.

Karl is Author of Software Requirements Essentials and will be a keynote speaker at PNSQC this October. If you're curious about Karl's music, you can hear more than 50 original and cover songs on his website,

                  Requirements Essentials