Towards an understanding of the causes and effects of software requirements change: two case studies

Sharon McGee, Des Greer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
204 Downloads (Pure)


Changes to software requirements not only pose a risk to the successful delivery of software applications but also provide opportunity for improved usability and value. Increased understanding of the causes and consequences of change can support requirements management and also make progress towards the goal of change anticipation. This paper presents the results of two case studies that address objectives arising from that ultimate goal. The first case study evaluated the potential of a change source taxonomy containing the elements ‘market’, ‘organisation’, ‘vision’, ‘specification’, and ‘solution’ to provide a meaningful basis for change classification and measurement. The second case study investigated whether the requirements attributes of novelty, complexity, and dependency correlated with requirements volatility. While insufficiency of data in the first case study precluded an investigation of changes arising due to the change source of ‘market’, for the remainder of the change sources, results indicate a significant difference in cost, value to the customer and management considerations. Findings show that higher cost and value changes arose more often from ‘organisation’ and ‘vision’ sources; these changes also generally involved the co-operation of more stakeholder groups and were considered to be less controllable than changes arising from the ‘specification’ or ‘solution’ sources. Results from the second case study indicate that only ‘requirements dependency’ is consistently correlated with volatility and that changes coming from each change source affect different groups of requirements. We conclude that the taxonomy can provide a meaningful means of change classification, but that a single requirement attribute is insufficient for change prediction. A theoretical causal account of requirements change is drawn from the implications of the combined results of the two case studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-155
Number of pages23
JournalRequirements Engineering
Issue number2
Early online date09 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems


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