The consultant – the all-in-one solution?
Requirements engineering in job advertisements
The elicitation of requirements, their documentation and management is an extremely important activity in IT projects: the consultant collects the requirements for the product and coordinates them with those involved and affected. Only in this way can exactly the right result be delivered purposefully and efficiently on this basis.
In order to investigate who is usually hired for requirements engineering, what other tasks they are given and what previous knowledge is required for this, I conducted my first job advertisement study on this topic in 2009. I analysed IT job advertisements from German-speaking countries. This became a series, with me repeating the study every three years. To compare with the situation in other countries, colleagues have conducted corresponding studies in the Netherlands, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and China. The results are quite similar worldwide.
Consultants work in requirements engineering
First, it was investigated which position was indicated in the title of the job advertisements if tasks from the field of requirements engineering were mentioned in the job description. Although in some – especially in larger – companies there are positions for
- requirements engineers and
- product owners
whose main task is requirements engineering (only a few percent of the jobs), this work is mostly done by
- consultants (or analysts),
but also by
- software engineers and
- project managers,
- administrators and
(in that order of frequency). Requirements engineer is therefore not a position, but one role or activity among many within a project.
Requirements engineering as one of many activities
According to the job advertisements, requirements engineering is done in addition to numerous other tasks, on average three more. The most common are
- solution design (60-80%) and
- implementation (40-70%), then
- project management (30-50%) and
- quality assurance (35-45%).
This can be advantageous because it allows knowledge to be reused, but such dual roles also bring conflicting goals. As a requirements engineer you want to make the users happy, as a project manager you want to save the budget.
Requirements engineering knowledge not required
Only about one third of the job advertisements explicitly demand requirements engineering competences such as a specific notation, experience with a tool or a certificate. If they do, then mostly “experience with requirements engineering” or “requirements engineering knowledge” is demanded in general terms. The job in requirements engineering is also increasingly advertised for career starters. The proportion of job advertisements that require previous professional experience has fallen from 72% (2009) to 48% (2018).
In contrast to requirements engineering skills, which are underestimated, the two most frequently requested skills are a list of five soft skills on average (around 90% of adverts) and technical knowledge (just under 80%). The five most frequently mentioned soft skills are:
- ability to work in a team,
- self-organisation and
- communication skills.
And in practice?
A job advertisement is not yet a job description. In times of a shortage of skilled workers, it makes sense to mention more possible tasks and fewer necessary competences in the job advertisement than later belong to the position. However, studies on requirements engineering in practice show a similar picture to the job advertisements, albeit less dramatic. Multiple roles are common, requirements engineering is rarely the only task. The skills not required in the job advertisement are sometimes retrained.
International comparison and trends from 2009
In an international comparison with similar studies and also in a temporal comparison from 2009, no clear differences or trends emerge, and this despite the fact that requirements engineering has made great progress and changed: New standards have emerged, tools and methods. An increasing professionalisation of requirements engineering in practice and the spread of agile development should actually be reflected in job advertisements, which has not yet been observed. Either the practice is lagging behind its possibilities or the job advertisements are lagging behind the practice by reusing earlier texts.
All in all, the job advertisements indicate that the importance and difficulty of the requirements engineering job is still underestimated in practice. The employee who elicits and manages requirements is chosen primarily for his technical knowledge and works on numerous other tasks. As if there were only one way of doing requirements engineering, no specific prior knowledge is demanded of him, only general experience in this activity. The consultant as a all-in-one solution.
Perhaps the company does not have a coordinated, prescribed procedure anyway, but hopes that the newcomer will do everything right because of his experience. A reference to the company’s usual procedure model and requirements engineering techniques and tools would give the applicant a clear picture of the way of working, just as the list of required technical knowledge (programming languages and tools) does.
Andrea Herrmann (2020) Stellenanzeigen spiegeln die Evolution der Kompetenzbedarfe im Requirements Engineering. In: Ronny Fürst (Hrsg.): Digitale Bildung und Künstliche Intelligenz in Deutschland – Nachhaltige Wettbewerbsfähigkeit und Zukunftsagenda. Springer https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-658-30525-3_5
Andrea Herrmann, Maya Daneva, Chong Wang, Nelly Condori-Fernandez (2020) Requirements Engineering in Job Offers. Requirements Engineering Magazine, 16. September 2020, https://re-magazine.ireb.org/articles/requirements-engineering-in-job-offers
Maya Daneva, Andrea Herrmann, Nelly Condori-Fernández, Chong Wang (2019) Understanding the Most In-demand Soft Skills in Requirements Engineering Practice: Insights from Two Focus Groups, In Proc. of the Evaluation and Assessment on Software Engineering (EASE 2019), Copenhagen, Denmark, April 15-17, ACM, pp. 284-290.
C. Wang, P. Cui, M. Daneva, M. Kassab (2018) Understanding what industry wants from requirements engineers: an exploration of RE jobs in Canada. In Proc. of 12th International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement (ESEM’18). ACM, Oulu, Finland, 41:1-41:10.
M. Daneva, C. Wang, P. Hoener (2017) What the Job Market Wants from Requirements Engineers? An Empirical Analysis of Online Job Ads from the Netherlands. Proceedings of ESEM.
Calazans, R. Paldês, E. Masson, I. S. Brito, K. F. Rezende, E. Braosi, N. I. Pereira (2017) Software Requirements Analyst Profile: a descriptive study of Brazil and Mexico. Requirements Engineering Conference 2017, pp. 196-204
Andrea Herrmann, Marcel Weber (2016) Requirements Engineering in German Job Advertisements. Requirements Engineering Magazine, Issue 3, https://re-magazine.ireb.org/issues/03-an-eye-for-detail/requirements-engineering-in-german-job-advertisements/
Andrea Herrmann (2013) Requirements Engineering in Practice: There is no Requirements Engineer Position. REFSQ 2013 Konferenz, April 2013, Essen. Proceedings of REFSQ Requirements Engineering: Foundation for Software Quality, LNCS Volume 7830, pp. 347-361, http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-642-37422-7_25
Dr Andrea Herrmann regularly blogs about requirements engineering and software engineering at http://www.herrmann-ehrlich.de/.
Everything important about requirements engineering on 37 pages now as a download to take away.
Dr Andrea Herrmann has published further articles in the t2informatik blog, including
Dr Andrea Herrmann
Dr Andrea Herrmann has been a freelance trainer and consultant for software engineering since 2012. She has more than 20 years of professional experience in practice and research. She is currently a substitute professor at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences. She has published more than 100 professional publications and regularly gives conference presentations. Dr. Herrmann is an official supporter of the IREB Board, co-author of the IREB syllabus and handbook for the CPRE Advanced Level Certification in Requirements Management.