Requirements Engineering: Building Energy Standards Development Platform


Project Background

The client, a state agency responsible for developing building energy standards, was in the early stages of defining a software solution for developing the standards and testing them against an energy simulation engine.They needed to understand end users requirements from a variety of stakeholders in the building energy community.To address the impact the proposed software would have on compliance software vendors and end users, the client wanted to use a process that would provide a public forum for stakeholders to give their input on the project requirements.


LíMonte was selected to create and facilitate a series of requirements engineering workshops with compliance software stakeholders, and through this collaborative process, develop end user requirements for the proposed software.Another task was to provide software consulting to the compliance software team on software development best practices including requirements engineering, configuration management and version control, unit test development, web security and agile software management practices.


The Process

The proposed software included upgrading to a more powerful energy simulation engine that could process new building technologies and HVAC systems unavailable with the current simulation engine used for compliance.†† Eventually, all approved compliance software packages would be required to use this energy simulation engine, thus forcing major changes on current compliance software vendors and end users alike.To address the potential resistance we invited all major compliance software vendors as well as other stakeholders to participate in the workshops and receive a stipend to cover their time and travel.At the start we formed a small cross functional planning team of client staff and members of the software development group to provide guidance and leadership during the workshops. Prior to the first workshop, we met and decided to setup an online survey with follow-up phone interviews to gather workshop participants initial responses to the project.


The first workshop was a project chartering workshop to define high level scope, establish a dialogue with stakeholders and clear up misconceptions expressed in the interviews.Breakout groups led by a planning team member, focused on brainstorming the projectís critical success factors and critical risks and issues, which allowed participants to share what would be needed for them to feel that the project was successful, and allowed them to air their concerns as well.


Throughout the workshop series we followed a process of taking requirements models from the previous workshop and developing exercises and deliverables for the next workshop.Then the planning team did a walk-through of the workshop to evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of the exercises and workshop deliverables.This also prepared them to lead the breakout groups.After each workshop we took the workshop results and developed the next draft of requirements models, and this was followed by a review and edit session with the planning team. ††


Project Outcome

The public requirements workshop process satisfied both of the clientís goals. At the end of the process the client had functional requirements that were developed and vetted by a cross section of all major stakeholder groups.The participatory nature of the workshop process addressed the potential resistance from compliance software vendors and end users by giving them an opportunity to express their ideas, suggestions and concerns for the proposed software.