Agile Requirements Engineering: A systematic literature review

Table of Contents


Nowadays, Agile Software Development (ASD) is used to cope with increasing complexity in system development. Hybrid development models, with the integration of User-Centered Design (UCD), are applied with the aim to deliver competitive products with a suitable User Experience (UX). Therefore, stakeholder and user involvement during Requirements Engineering (RE) are essential in order to establish a collaborative environment with constant feedback loops. The aim of this study is to capture the current state of the art of the literature related to Agile RE with focus on stakeholder and user involvement. In particular, we investigate what approaches exist to involve stakeholder in the process, which methodologies are commonly used to present the user perspective and how requirements management is been carried out. We conduct a Systematic Literature Review (SLR) with an extensive quality assessment of the included studies. We identified 27 relevant papers. After analyzing them in detail, we derive deep insights to the following aspects of Agile RE: stakeholder and user involvement, data gathering, user perspective, integrated methodologies, shared understanding, artifacts, documentation and Non-Functional Requirements (NFR). Agile RE is a complex research field with cross-functional influences. This study will contribute to the software development body of knowledge by assessing the involvement of stakeholder and user in Agile RE, providing methodologies that make ASD more human-centric and giving an overview of requirements management in ASD.


Nowadays the business world is characterized bycomplexity, since market requirements are changing quickly. Accordingly, providers are facing the challenge to reduce time to market while delivering innovative products that customer love. Agile software development (ASD) promises benefits such as on-time delivery and customer satisfaction [1], thus it aims to deliver business value in short iterations. Therefore, the development process is carried out incrementally and empirically, which is an advantage because direction of product development can be changed immediately. Humans and interactions are at the center of such methodologies [2]. Agile methodologies (e.g. Scrum [3], Kanban [4] or Extreme Programming [5]) provide a process model to develop products. These models lack in defining the right kind of product, which fulfils user needs and customer expectations. In order to fill in this gap and to develop products with a good user experience (UX), hybrid development approaches including Human-Centered Design ([6] referred to as User-Centered Design, UCD) are applied. Although there are some challenges reported while integrating ASD and UCD (see 2.1), the integration of both makes development process more human-centered [7]. Stakeholder and user involvement is a critical success factor for a system to succeed [8] and, if compared with traditional approaches, this involvement is not limited to early phases of development, as stakeholder and user are involved throughout the whole development process instead [9]. Requirements are the base of all software products and consequently Requirements Engineering (RE) plays and important role in system development. Compared to traditional RE approaches ([10], [11]), a list of prioritized requirements (Product Backlog [3]) is used instead of a requirements specification document. The main RE activities (elicitation, documentation, validation, negotiation and management) are not clearly separated activities in Agile RE. They are repeated each iteration and only required information is elaborated before the next iteration starts. For this purpose, RE in Agile environments is carried out just-in-time with a Little Design Up Front [12]. This article reports the findings of a Systematic Literature Review (SLR) in the field of Agile RE with focus on stakeholder and user involvement. In particular, ASD, RE and UCD have one thing in common: stakeholder and user involvement is described as critical success factor for a system to succeed. To this end, this will be an important aspect in this literature review and will be addressed by the following research questions:

RQ1: What approaches exist, which involve stakeholders in the
process of RE and are compatible with ASD?

RQ2: Which agile methodologies, which are capable of presenting the user perspective to stakeholders, can be found?
In terms of RE, these research questions lead us to the third
research question:
RQ3: What are the common ways for requirements management in ASD?



This paper presents a SLR on Agile RE addressed to stakeholder and user involvement with the aim to capture the current state of the art of the literature related to the integrated field of ASDþREþUCD. This review was conducted by following appropriate guidelines provided by Kitchenham and Charters [32]. We identified 42,808 papers in our initial search, and 965 further studies through the snowballing technique. Our search process was carried out in different phases in order to reduce the findings. In total, 27 studies were identified as relevant and analyzed. Firstly, we evaluated each paper with a quality assessment. Then, the findings were quantitatively classified according to a publication channel and research method. The included studies were published in between 2007 and 2015. This review has several implications for both researchers and practitioners. Based on a qualitative analysis of the included studies, we can conclude that building a shared understanding of the user perspective is not very well established in ASD. It became obvious during the deeper analysis of the identified publications, that only a limited number of papers investigated the presence of the user perspective in ASD. These publications revealed that there were many problems concerning the direct involvement of users and stakeholders. However, we identified four methodologies (Human-Centered Design, Design Thinking, Contextual Inquiry and Participatory Design) that were integrated in ASD with the aim to increase the knowledge about user needs. Furthermore, we identified a broad range of different methods that can be used in ASD to gather data in terms of RE. We identified the following key artifacts for the documentation of requirements that are used in Agile RE: User stories, prototypes, use cases, scenarios and story cards. Industrial practitioners can utilize these findings as recommendations to discover the right combination of artifacts for their development process. With regards to NFRs, we can conclude that on one hand, there are different approaches to deal with NFRs, but on the other hand, we determine an open challenge concerning the estimation and measurement of these requirements (e.g. UX metrics, security policies). To summarize, it must be stated that the review shows the need for more empirical studies that work on Agile RE using various kinds of project settings (e.g. different agile methodologies, scaling or distance of project member). In addition, it can be concluded that there is heterogeneity among Agile RE approaches focusing on user and stakeholder involvement. Future research may specifically deal with a commonly used process model for stakeholder and user involvement in ASD. To this end, we will create a metamodel that describes the influencing parameters on Agile RE at a higher level. Furthermore, appropriate methodologies have to be found for building a shared understanding concerning the user perspective among project members and stakeholders. Our review of Agile RE studies also shows that the topic of requirements management needs further empirical evaluation due to the lack of appropriate guidelines in practice.

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Eva-Maria Schön, Jörg Thomaschewski, María José Escalona



Computer Standards & Interfaces Volume 49, January 2017, Pages 79-91



Agile Requirements Engineering


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Ehsan Sharifi has a Ph.D. in software engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology. His major research interests are software quality, software architecture and semantic web.