Reducing Risk in Software Projects Using Behavior-Based Requirements


Jeffrey S. Davidson



Requirements are the key to implementing the vision of a business or client. Software project failures are a significant factor to lost capital and operational expenses, lost time, and eventually lost opportunity and revenue. While project failures have been well documented, less attention is paid to the similar costs from unused and underutilized features within software projects.

With upwards of 45% of software features never used and an additional 32% rarely used it is time to pay attention to the core needs and jettison the wasted effort, expense, and code that is bogging down project success.

A key methodology in correcting this problem is Behavior Driven Development (BDD). Originally developed to help developers understand the business needs, it has grown beyond its roots and is capable of making a significant impact on curbing excess demands, requests, and gold plating.

Often seen as solely an Agile software development technique, this toolset provides insight into the core functionality of a software product and can lead to significant improvements in user experiences by removing unnecessary functionality before it becomes embedded in modern and future systems.


Understanding the goals and objectives should be the first step of every project. In traditional project delivery, the outcomes and quality of a project stems from a firm understanding of the basics, i.e. time, scope, and cost. While each of these three may be fixed outside of the project, the final deliverables depend on how well they are understood and implemented within the project.

When discussing the success and failure of software projects, there are more references to the CHAOS Report by the Standish Group than any other metric. I want you to look at the following table and understand software projects now, and apparently always have, do not deliver on their initial objectives. Compared to their objectives, 63% of projects are challenged or fail! This number would be shocking if it was a one-time event, but it’s not. It is just the latest number in a 20-year trend line.


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Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 6th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2012.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and UT Dallas.

About the Author

Jeffrey Davidson


Jeffrey Davidson, CSPO, PMC is a Principal Consultant with ThoughtWorks, a leading international Agile development firm with a passion to improve how businesses design, build and evolve software. He regularly consults in the transportation and finance industries. He also serves as the current President of IIBA Dallas Chapter.

Jeffrey has had many titles and pseudo-titles, including Director of Business Analysis & Quality Assurance for UTI, Business Analyst for Dell Financial, Systems Engineer for Raytheon, and Product Manager for Ebay.  Jeffrey’s multiple contact points are probably easiest to find by checking out his profile on LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreydavidson or his personal blog, http://goodrequirements.com/.

His very favorite resources on this topic are available at http://goodrequirements.com/bdd/