Information Technology and Management Science

Information Technology and Management Science
ISSN 2255-9094 (online)
ISSN 2255-9086 (print)
December 2016, vol. 19, pp. 57–64
doi: 10.1515/itms-2016-0012
©2016 Līga Bormane, Jūlija Gržibovska, Solvita Bērziša, Jānis Grabis.
This is an open access article licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
(, in the manner agreed with De Gruyter Open.
Impact of Requirements Elicitation Processes on
Success of Information System Development Projects
LÄ«ga Bormane1
, Jūlija Gržibovska2
, Solvita Bērziša3
, Jānis Grabis4
1–4 Riga Technical University
Abstract – Requirements articulating user needs and
corresponding to enterprise business processes are a key to
successful implementation of information system development
projects. However, the parties involved in projects frequently are
not able to agree on a common development vision and have
difficulties expressing their needs. Several industry experts have
acknowledged that requirements elicitation is one of the most
difficult tasks in development projects. This study investigates the
impact of requirements elicitation processes on project outcomes
depending on the applied project development methodology.
Keywords – Agile programming methodology, business
requirements, requirement elicitation, stakeholders, user
requirements analysis, waterfall model.
In the modern age of information technology (IT), any
human activity is associated with one or more information
systems (ISs). Ensuring effective support of business process is
also vital for the company. Since the efficiency of business
process has become one of the cornerstones of enterprise
competitiveness, the IS is an integral part of everyday life. Each
new activity, each new product and each new project are
initiated in response to some of the business needs. Quite often
there is a situation that huge consumption of time and other
resources is despised, needs are not satisfied and no appropriate
solution is found for the company.
According to the Standish Group data, from year to year it is
difficult to make IT projects successful [2], [8]. Approximately
20 % of the projects are totally unsuccessful, the
implementation of about 50 % of the projects is delayed, budget
exceeds or all necessary requirements are not implemented, and
only 30 % of projects are successful – meet the original budget,
time and are fully functional [2], [8]. Another important factor
is that since the 1990s one of the TOP 3 reasons of project
failures has been related to the project requirements [5], [8],
The most common reason of project failures is the inadequate
attention to user requirements analysis of the developed system.
Approximately 50–60 % of the project failures are shoddily
made inquiries of requirements [7]. If the customer is not
sufficiently involved in defining requirements or the analyst
takes into account only the customer requirements, but the
customer is unable to correctly formulate requirements meeting
the business needs, then the quality of defined requirements is
low [2] [3], [4]. If requirements are weak and insufficiently
defined at the analysis stage, with each next stage of the project
the amount of work needed to be done increases in order to fix
the errors – around 40 % of the work at the design stage and
around 70 % at the implementation stage [7].
User requirements elicitation process is an important part of
the project requirements analysis that ensures future product
compliance or non-compliance with the end user expectations
[1], [6]. The elicitation process is one of the most difficult tasks
of development projects because it involves understanding of
client natural language, correct collection of client problems,
needs and expectations, as well as requirement conversion in a
natural language understood by the system developers and
ensuring a correct transition between the client and the system
developer [6], [9].
Although since the 1990s several popular methods have been
developed for the requirements elicitation process support [1],
the problem of correct method application has not been solved.
A number of studies [11] state that 43 % of project failures have
been caused by applying inappropriate requirements elicitation
Replacing a well-known waterfall method with the agile
model has been promoted as one of the solutions to the project
failure problem. Agile approaches distribute all the common
project requirements in small parts and accomplish them
gradually. It helps reduce the pressure on identification of all
system requirements in one period and increases the possibility
to correct mistakes at an earlier stage of the project than using
a waterfall model but agile does not solve the problems
associated with requirements elicitation. Projects managed by
the agile methodology tend to come to a standstill if the
developer failed to establish contact with the customer and
correctly define the software system requirements [12].
The objective of this study is to investigate the impact of
requirements elicitation processes on project outcomes
depending on the applied project development methodology. In
this study, the authors draw attention to the role of qualitative
requirements elicitation process in the successful
implementation of IS project and reflect the results of case study
research, which was conducted in one of the largest and most
valuable companies of Latvia. During the study, the authors
have carried out a detailed analysis of some company’s
development projects with an objective to evaluate if mistakes
in the requirements elicitation process have an equally
significant impact on the project success in different software
development (SD) methodologies.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows: Section 2
describes theoretical background and the related studies;
Section 3 presents the research methodology used for a case
study. Results of the case study are given and discussed in
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Section 4. Conclusion and future research are presented at the
end of the paper.
This section summarises theoretical background and related
studies about the successful project, requirements elicitation,
SD methodologies and the requirements elicitation process in
different methodologies.
A. The Notion of Successful Project
In order to clarify when a project can be called successful, it
is necessary to provide the project definition. Different
explanations of the concept “project” have been found in
different literature sources related to project management.
According to these definitions, the project is a set of actions to
be implemented for a certain period of time with an objective to
create a new compliant product with originally intended money
and human resources.
Taking into account the definition of project, it can be stated
that the success of the development project depends on the
interaction of three project limiting factors – time, quality and
cost. Thus, a “successful” project is a project that has been
implemented within the specified time, approved budget and to
a level of functionality that meets the determined needs. Even
if one factor is not considered, it will lead to project failure, as
well as it will definitely affect the other two elements. For
example, by improving the project quality the costs of the
project also increase and the implementation time is extended
According to the study carried out by the Project
Management Institute in 2014 [26], most organisations
underestimate the importance of the quality limit on project
success. The requirements management process that is
primarily responsible for the end-product quality as a critical
factor has been referred in half of the reviewed unsuccessful
projects. On average, only in one-third of analysed cases
requirements management has been carried out properly
(Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Evaluation of requirements management as a critical component for
project and strategic initiatives by the majority of organisations [26].
B. Requirements Elicitation
Assumed decisions and cooperation with stakeholders in the
requirements analysis determine up to 80 % of the final
developing system costs [9]. Therefore, the mistakes at this
stage of project will have a significant influence on the project
outcome. Requirements analysis aims at identifying all the
client stakeholders, finding out their needs, experience, view
point on the system and recording them in such a way as to be
able to implement the correct development [13].
During the first step of requirements analysis (requirements
elicitation process), system requirements need to be discussed
and coordinated with the stakeholders [9], [15]. In this step, it is
important to understand that each of the interested parties is a
different person with their needs, vision of a solution, previous
experience, as well as prejudice [9]. Requirements elicitation is a
complex process because it ensures searching, learning,
acquisition and development [15].
The requirements elicitation and related problems [9], [14]
have been widely studied in both literature sources – scientific
and practical ones. The topicality of the study confirms a
growing trend of available articles in scientific databases
(Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. Number of conference and scientific papers on requirements elicitation
from 1990 to 2014.
Requirements elicitation problems have been divided into
three main categories: problems of scope, problems of volatility
and problems of understanding. In literature, it has been noted
that problems of scope are related to amount of information
included in requirements description, i.e., too much or too less
information. Problems of volatility are concerned with the
changing nature of requirements. Problems of understanding
are related to poor understanding of requirements, lack of
communication, lack of domain knowledge and conflicting
views of users on requirements [14].
The requirements elicitation process includes five principal
types of activities [16]:
1) Understanding of the application domain: “What are the
purposes?” and “How does it work?” are the first questions to
2) Identifying the sources of requirements: Multiple sources
can be used, such as customers, users or experts. Each of them
provides a different kind of information.
3) Analysis of stakeholders: Not all of the stakeholders have
equal importance and impact that is why in this step it is
necessary to identify only the most important of them and keep
them in the project scope.
4) Selecting techniques, approaches and tools: This step has
often been considered as a critical factor for success of the
requirements elicitation process. This study has been performed
to help choose the “right” techniques according to the situation.
5) Eliciting the requirements of stakeholders and other
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There are several methods that can be used to obtain as much
information as possible from the stakeholders. High quality
requirements can be collected only if you have selected the right
people and the right method for them. The collected
requirements can also be compared and prioritised after they
have been obtained from users. There is no ideal method that
works in all situations. The suitable method for the
requirements elicitation process can be selected according to the
project type and stakeholders [15].
In practice, all methods (techniques) are divided into the
following groups: traditional, collaborative, cognitive,
observational techniques, etc. [17], [18], [19]. Traditional
techniques are interview, questionnaire, data collection from
an existing system, survey. Collaborative techniques – focus
group, brainstorming, prototyping, workshop, story boarding,
models, use cases and scenarios. Cognitive techniques are
document analysis, protocol analysis, laddering and repository
grid. Observational techniques are observation and
ethnography/social analysis.
If the results of studies on effectiveness of the requirements
elicitation methods [6], [18], [19] and [25] are compared (Table
I), the user survey and interview are recognised as the most
effective methods.
METHOD [6] [18] [19] [25]
Questionnaire x x x
Use case diagram x
Brainstorming x
Interview x x x
Requirement reuse x
Document analysis x
Scenario, passive storyboard x
Requirements management x
Prototyping x
In another study [20], it has been considered how to choose
the best method for different agile methodologies (Table II). In
product backlog, all requirements are deemed as necessary or
useful and the priority of requirements is identified. System
functions, possible errors and improvements are included in the
product backlog, while in the feature list only system functions
are included and the project team arranges its priorities. [20]
Use case Product backlog Feature list
Brainstorming Interview Brainstorming Interview
Comparing results of Table I and Table II, it has been evident
that an interview can be equally effectively applied in both SD
C. Software Development Methodology
The traditional or waterfall model (Fig. 3) divides SD into a
number of successive activities or stages where the result of
each previous activity is input for the next activity proceeding
[21]. The agile methodology (Fig. 4) is based on iterative steps,
i.e., the entire SD project is divided into small successive stages
[21]. The stage plan is defined or specified at the beginning of
each stage (at this point a plan can be adjusted to the changing
requirements of the client) and during the stage it cannot be
changed [21].
Fig. 3. Traditional or waterfall life cycle model [21].
Fig. 4. The life cycle model of agile programming methodology [21].
In the waterfall model, requirements are defined at the
beginning of the project and necessary changes can be
authorised only after some development and testing activities.
Otherwise in the project based on iterative principles (iterative,
incremental, agile, etc.) requirements are defined and changes
are accepted in each iteration (Fig. 5) that increases flexibility
of these models against mistakes in the requirements elicitation
process [22].
Fig. 5. Two models for managing changes in requirements [22].
As one of the main reasons why the agile methodology is
much more efficient is the already mentioned small feedback
loop between the idea generation and implementation time.
This not only reduces the risk of confusion but also reduces
costs of mistake resolution [23]. The cost curve of both SD
methodologies, depending on a phase when changes should be
carried out (Fig. 6), shows that a waterfall model is much more
sensitive against the requirements quality. The cost curve of
waterfall model projects is growing exponentially – the later the
defect is found, the more expensive it will be to fix it. The main
reason is that the definition and analysis requirements take
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place at the beginning of the project (Fig. 5). In the agile model,
this curve increases almost logarithmically till a specific point
and then a little bit faster. In the ideal case, the cost curve should
be logarithmical throughout the entire period of project
Fig. 6. Cost change curve of traditional and agile methodology [23].
According to the Standish Group research [8], overall
success of implementation of small-scale projects is almost
equal for both waterfall and agile models (Fig. 7). Comparing
project results with regard to the project size, the most
successful projects are small-scale (Fig. 8). These projects have
simpler project vision, less amount of work, less time to spend
for requirements collection, as well as it is possible to achieve
the results faster. Several companies have confirmed that
applying project optimisation by dividing a large-scale project
into some smaller ones the project success has clearly been
Fig. 7. The success of agile and waterfall methodology in small projects [8].
Fig. 8. The outcome of small and large projects [8].
Our research is based on the case study methodology. This
methodology is useful for observing, explaining and exploring
real-life events. Case study involves an in-depth inspection of a
small number of cases.
A. Case Study Questions
One of the most important elements of modern life is money.
Money often plays a key role in deciding on the project
implementation or cancellation. According to the theoretical
cost curves of changes, the agile model is better than the
waterfall one. Since the number of project changes directly
depends on the quality of the requirements elicitation, in our
study the first raised question is related to the costs of changes.
Q1: Does the real character of the cost curve depend on the
selected SD methodology?
According to the Standish Group, a more significant project
indicator is its size. The theory about small-scale development
projects in both waterfall and agile models says that it is almost
equally effective because for these projects the total number of
requirements is also relatively small; requirements are more
easily to elicit and collect before development. The importance
of the project size is the second question:
Q2: Is it true that in small-scale SD projects both
methodologies equally affect the consumed project persondays and cost?
As already mentioned, high-quality requirements can be
obtained only by selecting the requirements elicitation methods
that are suitable for project stakeholders. After the analysis of
related research, an interview has been referred to as the most
appropriate and popular requirements elicitation method of all
SD methodologies. In our study, we also included a question
about the use of the elicitation methods:
Q3: What requirements elicitation methods are used in real
projects? Do they differ in various SD methodologies?
B. Case Selection
The case study research has been conducted in one of the
largest and most valuable companies of Latvia. Its activities
cover the all territory of Latvia, and it employs approximately
1,000 employees. None of the company’s activity fields are
directly related to IS development, but as already mentioned the
company cannot survive without modern IT support. Therefore,
every year this company has several different challenges of SD
projects that are related to the introduction of new systems and
existing system supplementation.
External service providers mainly ensure the implementation
of projects within the company. At the company, there is a
separate established structure that provides each project
management and business analysis function.
C. Data Collection and Analysis
To answer the questions, the essential characteristics of the
SD project have been identified. For data collection, three data
collection and analysis steps have been used:
1) usage of multiple information sources to obtain more
complete data and increase the reliability of the data;
2) establishment of data registration place – common table,
database or other safe place for data storage;
3) testing of resulting data completeness and authenticity –
review of all data and search for contradiction.
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For collection of case data, the following sources of
information available to the company have been used:
ï‚· closed tasks of SD project;
ï‚· project progress reports;
 project issue management system – records about
change requests;
ï‚· project final reports.
All available information (paper and electronic data results)
about projects has been recorded in the summary table. The
authors of the study have also carried out interviews with
projects leaders to obtain and capture the undocumented data.
A. Case Study Description
12 different SD projects have been examined during this
study performed at the company during the period from 2014 to
2016 (inclusive). Most projects are related to the company’s
existing IS replenishment and only two are new SD projects.
The examined SD project includes the following systems:
enterprise resource planning and management system,
document management system, budget planning and
management system, performance management system,
employee self-service system and system of vehicle
The examined projects have been implemented using
2 different SD methodologies – waterfall (7 projects) and agile
(5 projects). In each project, a number of stakeholders are
greater than 3 and the total number of users exceeds 30 people.
In the examined projects, different teams have worked:
project managers, analysts and developers. The overall
performance of 4 different teams of developer has been
B. Data Analysis
During the research, the summary table has been created
illustrating the obtained information about projects (Table III),
i.e., project methodology, applied elicitation methods, project
size, implementation year, complexity, amount of actual time:
person-days and budget, as well as changes in budget
breakdown by the project stage. As the information on persondays and budget is confidential, it is not included in Table III
but displayed in graphs below without certain values.
Using the collected information about project changes, the
authors have created cost change curves of each SD
methodology (Fig. 9), compared planned and actual project
capacity (Fig. 10), as well as planned and actual budget by
means of the applied methodology (Fig. 11).
C. Responses to Case Study Questions
Q1: Does the real character of the cost curve depend on the
selected SD methodology?
Fig. 9. Cost change curves of case study projects.
Fig. 10. Planned and actual person-days of case study projects.
Fig. 11. Planned and actual budget of case study projects.
P_1 A Waterfall Interviews,
Old system study Large 2014 High
P_2 A Agile Interviews,
Brainstorming Small 2016 Low
P_3 A Waterfall Interviews,
Prototyping Small 2016 Low
P_4 A Agile Interviews,
Document analysis Large 2016 Medium
P_5 A Waterfall Interviews,
Old system study Small 2015 Medium
P_6 B Waterfall Interviews,
Old system study Large 2015 High
P_7 B Agile Interviews,
Old system study Large 2015 High
P_8 B Agile Interviews,
User story Large 2015 Medium
P_9 C Agile Interviews,
User story Small 2015 Medium
P_10 C Agile Interviews,
Prototyping Small 2014 Medium
P_11 D Waterfall Interviews, Analysis
of legal norms Small 2016 Low
P_12 B Agile Interviews,
Prototyping Large 2015 Medium
Agile change cost, €
Waterfall change
cost, €
Requirements analysis Development Testing Implementation
Agile Waterfall Agile Waterfall
Planned person-days
Actual person-days
Agile Waterfall Agile Waterfall
Large Small
Planned budget, € Actual budget, €
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The cost curve of the case study proves the theory that the
change cost in waterfall model rises almost exponentially and
in the agile model almost logarithmically. This confirms the
above-mentioned assumptions:
ï‚· Later change implementation increases costs regardless of
the SD methodology;
ï‚· Projects implemented by the waterfall model are much more
dependent on high quality of the requirements elicitation
ï‚· The cost curve of agile SD projects increases faster if
requirements have not been identified at the analysis phase
but later surcharges are relatively small.
Q2: Is it true that in small-scale SD projects both
methodologies equally affect the consumed project persondays and cost?
Analysing results of planned and actual values of project
capacity and budget (Fig. 10 and Fig. 11), depending on the
project size and selected SD methodology it can be concluded
that the outcome of a small-scale waterfall and that of an agile
project are quite close. Using the agile methodology in largescale projects, its advantage has been observed – the amount of
resources and consumed money is much closer to the planned
one than using the waterfall methodology. Therefore, this
confirms two previous assumptions:
ï‚· Small-scale projects are easy to implement complying
with initially defined constraints compared to large-scale
projects irrespective of the SD methodology;
ï‚· Large-scale project optimisation (dividing it into several
small stages) can be used to improve overall project
Q3: What requirements elicitation methods are used in real
projects? Do they differ in various SD methodologies?
The collected data have also proven that a user interview is
the most common requirements elicitation methods at a
company; it is evident regardless of the applied SD
methodology (Fig. 12). It can be explained by the fact that this
elicitation method is one of the oldest and most popular
methods. This method is also customary and easier for users.
Fig. 12. Requirements elicitation methods used in case study projects.
The interview method is mostly used in both methods and in
each SD methodology separately. This confirms one more
ï‚· Interview can be equally effectively applied in the
waterfall and agile methodologies.
Within this case study only 12 projects implemented by the
company have been analysed, and the information about the
requirements elicitation directions can be provided. However,
the obtained data set seems to authors too small to discuss the
requirements elicitation methods used by the company. The
application of different methods is evident in the waterfall and
agile methodologies, but it can be related to the knowledge and
working practices of developers and analysts.
A. Compliance of Results with Theory and Related Research
The obtained results on the success of project, applied
requirements elicitation methods in different SD methodologies
have proven the generally accepted theory. The authors have
concluded that the case study confirmed the assumptions made
during the analysis of other case studies. Overall, on the basis
of the research results, the authors have gained the approval of
6 rules that have already been mentioned in the case study. The
approval of these rules allows concluding the following:
ï‚· Regardless of the selected SD methodology, changes will
always take place in projects. In addition, the introduction
of changes will be more expensive further away from the
requirements analysis phase. Thus, it makes the
requirements analysis phase, especially requirements
elicitation, a key process of successful project
ï‚· The budget is much more subject to requirement changes
in waterfall projects than in agile ones. Thus, waterfall
projects are more sensitive to mistakes made during the
requirements elicitation process and their correction.
ï‚· Not always the project success depends only on the
selected SD methodology and quality of the requirements
elicitation. The total amount of work also plays a crucial
role. If the project has small-scale capability or a largescale project is optimised, the successful outcome of the
project is much easier to be achieved.
ï‚· User interviews can be equally effective in any of the SD
B. Implications
Even with so small number of projects covered in the case
study, the authors have confirmed the initial assumptions, and
this once again confirms the topicality of the research.
Searching for information on the case study theory, the
authors have faced the problem that there are a few studies
devoted to the following topics:
 How to improve stakeholders’ preparedness for the
conversation with a developer – how to properly formulate
their needs and highlight the basic formalities, what
should be mandatory?
ï‚· Should the requirements elicitation methods be chosen
according to the developer’s knowledge and experience or
what is the initial stage?
 What is the role of “bridge person” between business
people and developers? How a “bridge person” can affect
project outcome?
Interviews Old system study Prototyping User story Document analysis Analysis of legal
Agile Waterfall
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It should be noted that a relatively few success stories have
been identified. However, most papers were devoted to failed
projects. There was no information found about successful
projects and the applied methods.
C. Limitations
As it has already been mentioned, the case study has covered
only 12 SD projects implemented within the same company.
This gives information about directions of the applied
requirements elicitation methods at the company under
analysis, but it is too general to identify common trends in
Latvia. More projects are needed to be analysed.
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Requirements Management — A Core Competency for Project and
Program Success. [Online]. Available:
[27] S. Sheppard, “The Principles of Product Development FLOW: Second
Generation Lean Product Development,” 2016. [Online]. Available:
Līga Bormane holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and IPMA
Certified Project Manager (Level C) certificate. This is her first publication, but
her main interests are project requirements analysis phase, problems related to
requirements analysis phase and role of “bridge person” between business
people and developers. She works as a Project Manager at one of the largest
companies of Latvia.
E-mail: [email protected]
Jūlija Gržibovska holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. At the
moment, she is studying at the professional Master study programme
“Information Technology” at Riga Technical University. This is her first
publication. Her main research interest is related to requirements elicitation and
its methods. She works as a System Analyst at one of the largest companies of
E-mail: [email protected]
Information Technology and Management Science
_______________________________________________________________________________________________ 2016/19
Solvita Bērziša holds a Doctoral degree and is an Assistant Professor and
Researcher at the Institute of Information Technology of Riga Technical
University (Latvia). She obtained her Dr. sc. ing. (2012), B.Sc. (2005) and
M.Sc. (2007) degrees in Computer Science and Information Technology at Riga
Technical University. Her main research fields are IT project management,
implementation and application of project management information systems, as
well as project data analytics. She also works as an IT Project Manager at
Exigen Services Latvia. She holds a PMP and CBAP certificate. She is a
member of PMI and Latvian National Project Management Association.
E-mail: [email protected]
Jānis Grabis holds a Doctoral degree and is a Professor at Riga Technical
University (Latvia) and the Head of the Institute of Information Technology.
His main research interests lie within the application of mathematical
programming methods in information technology, enterprise applications and
system integration. He has published more than 60 scientific papers, including
a monograph on supply chain configuration. He has led a number of national
projects and has participated in five projects in collaboration with the University
of Michigan-Dearborn (USA) and funded mainly by industrial partners, such as
SAP America and Ford Motor Company.
E-mail: [email protected]
Copyright of Information Technology & Management Science is the property of De Gruyter
Open and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv
without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print,
download, or email articles for individual use.

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