• Posted Dec. 14, 2018

Requirements acquisition from hard-to-reach populations

Study: Population targeted requirements acquisition


The development of services, products, and information systems should focus on customer needs and preferences. Understanding the customers requires frequent interactions with them. However, this procedure is often perceived costly, difficult, and even unproductive. Because of these issues, companies may fail to acquire important requirements from potential key customers. Missing such valuable insights during design and development is likely to lead in sub-optimal performance of the outcomes.

How it was studied:

The design and evaluation of this framework resulted from the engagement with more than 200 participants in five organizations. Since its introduction, the framework has been applied in more than 20 projects in various organizations and industries. The study was conducted in five stages: (1) identifying specific problems related to requirements acquisition for different populations; (2) building the theoretical foundations from five social science theories; (3) apply the theoretical foundation in addressing practical objectives; (4) formulating a framework for acquiring the system requirements from a specific customer population with five key principles and (5) evaluating the framework with practitioners.

Take away:

We propose a framework for acquiring the requirements from a specific customer population. Five key principles of the framework are identified: 

Principle 1: Knowledge capture

  • DISCOVER the implicit architecture of the population knowledge;
  • AGGREGATE knowledge with architecture that preserves the population’s knowledge structure;
  • RETAIN individual requirements data with the resulting aggregated preference and reasoning information
  • Outcome: OPTIMISE decision makers’ and designers’ understanding of a selected population

Principle 2: Subpopulation knowledge capture

  • IDENTIFY meaningful subpopulations;
  • ANALYSE requirements data for each to capture preferences and reasoning
  • Outcome: UNDERSTAND preferences and reasoning for selected subpopulation(s)

Principle 3: Ability to inspire beneficial functionality

  • CONSTRUCT non-representative samples of motivated participants whose ideas will be predictive of the population;
  • SUPPORT effective participation for the targeted sample of experts
  • Outcome: ELICIT requirements from selected participants of a population

Principle 4: Participation ability

  • ENABLE participation by accommodating technical limitations in ability to participate;
  • CHANGE the economics of participation through technical and procedural accommodation;
  • RECOGNISE preferences and values that differ because of population members’ abilities or limitations
  • Outcome: CAPTURE preferences and values that differ because of population members’ ability to participate or due to limitations in abilities

Principle 5: Convergent understanding

  • TAILOR communication media to effectively acquire preferences, reasoning, and values;
  • GAIN concordant understanding of preferences and their value for decision making
  • Outcome: DEVELOP system requirements that reflect well-understood preferences for functionality, value, and priority among population

Tuure Tuunanen

Tuure Tuunanen (D.Sc. in Econ., Aalto University School of Business 2005) is a Professor of Information Systems, Faculty of Information Technology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He is also a global faculty fellow of the Center for Service Leadership at W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University. His research has been in the cross-sections of information systems, software engineering, and service marketing and he is interested in multidisciplinary research in the area of digital service design and innovation. Currently, he is working on cyber-physical services and how value is co-created and co-destructed by service users and service systems.

Ken Peffers

Ken Peffers (Phd, Purdue 1991) is Professor of MIS, Lee School of Business, University of Nevada Las Vegas. His research has followed three broad themes: evaluating value and strategy in IT investments, research methodology and practice, and designing IS methodology. A theme of his research has addressed requirements acquisition problems with hard-to-reach subjects. This led to the development of new RA methods.

Publication Details

European Journal of Information Systems
  • Year: 2019
  • Volume: 27
  • Issue: 6
  • Pages: 686-711

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