How to Write Good Engineering Requirements for Complex Hardware Projects

How to Write Good Engineering Requirements for Complex Hardware Projects

Producing well-written requirements is a vital part of any engineering endeavor. The success of any engineering endeavor, be it a gadget to clean up space trash, a large bridge, or an elevator to transport you to space, depends on well articulated needs.

But what does it mean to write good requirements?

What methods exist for ensuring that the requirements you draft are clear, measurable, and testable?

And what are some of the most typical pitfalls that engineers face while drafting requirements?

In this article, we will go into the basics of writing good requirements and offer advice on how to draft thorough specifications. We’ll go through some of the most typical blunders engineers make when drafting requirements, and show how failing to properly document product and functional requirements may lead to a failed project. 

This post will provide you with the information and skills you need to develop solid requirements that will assist assure the success of your engineering project, whether you’re a project manager, engineer, or team member working on such a project.

Guidelines for creating an effective engineering requirements document

Identify the stakeholders:

Find out who has a vested interest in the project’s outcome and ask for their feedback on the specifications. People at all levels of the organization, from clients to end-users to project managers to teammates, fall under this category.

Be specific and measurable:

To facilitate verification and testing, requirements should be as detailed and quantifiable as possible. It’s best to stay away from superfluous adjectives like “excellent” and “quick.” To characterize the needs more precisely, employ numerical and metrical criteria.

Use a consistent format:

If the requirements document follows a standard format, it will be less difficult to read, comprehend, and modify. Create a document with spaces for the requirement’s title, brief description, importance, and conditions for approval.

Prioritize requirements:

It is important to prioritize needs such that the most important ones are met first. A prioritizing matrix or ranking system can be used to rank the importance of the various requirements.

Use traceability:

Traceability is the process of following a requirement from its inception to completion. Connecting requirements with other project artifacts like as designs and tests is an integral part of this.

Validate requirements:

By discussing and analyzing them with potential users and putting them through their paces in prototype or simulated tests. This aids in making certain the expectations are reasonable and understandable.

Keep them flexible:

Requirements may shift as the project progresses, so it’s important to keep them adaptable and ready for updates.

Use tools:

Take Advantage Of Tools Requirements management software and other project management tools may both aid in the creation and administration of your requirements documents. You may use these tools to keep tabs on necessities, connect them to other project artifacts, and provide reports.

Use a standard: 

IEEE 830, ISO/IEC/IEEE 29148, and the V-Model are just a few of the many requirements-writing standards available. Adhering to these guidelines will help you draft requirements that are uniform, comprehensible, and tested.

Keep it simple: 

In order to ensure that the criteria are understood by all parties involved, it is important to keep them as straightforward as possible and to avoid the use of technical jargon.

Requirements tracing

Examples of well-written requirements

The following are some instances of well-written requirements that meet the aforementioned criteria, and which serve to eliminate ambiguity, streamline product specifications, and facilitate the early stages of engineering design.

  • Identify the stakeholders: “The system shall be user-friendly for both technical and non-technical stakeholders, as identified in the stakeholders list.”
  • Be specific and measurable: “The system shall have a response time of less than 2 seconds for 90% of user requests.”
  • Use a consistent format: “Requirement ID: R-001, Requirement Name: User Login, Priority: High, Description: The system shall provide a secure login feature for users, Acceptance Criteria: The login feature shall have a maximum of 3 attempts before lockout, and shall use encryption for password storage.”
  • Prioritize requirements: “Requirement ID: R-002, Requirement Name: Error Handling, Priority: Medium, Description: The system shall provide error handling for invalid inputs, Acceptance Criteria: Error messages shall be displayed in a user-friendly format and shall include instructions for resolving the error.”
  • Use traceability: “Requirement ID: R-003, Requirement Name: Reporting, Priority: Low, Description: The system shall provide a reporting feature for project managers, Acceptance Criteria: The reporting feature shall be linked to the task management module and shall be accessible only to users with the ‘project manager’ role.”
  • Validate requirements: “Requirement ID: R-004, Requirement Name: Usability Testing, Priority: High, Description: The system shall be tested for usability with a sample of end-users, Acceptance Criteria: Usability testing shall be conducted using a usability testing protocol, and the results shall be reviewed with the project team.”
  • Keep them flexible: “Requirement ID: R-005, Requirement Name: Scalability, Priority: High, Description: The system shall be designed to handle an increase in the number of users and transactions, Acceptance Criteria: The system shall have the ability to scale horizontally and vertically and shall be tested under high load conditions.”
  • Use tools: “Requirement ID: R-006, Requirement Name: Requirements Management, Priority: High, Description: The project shall use a requirements management tool to manage and track requirements, Acceptance Criteria: The tool shall be able to link requirements to other project artefacts and generate reports.”
  • Use a standard: “Requirement ID: R-007, Requirement Name: Compliance, Priority: High, Description: The system shall comply with the IEEE 830 standard for requirements documentation, Acceptance Criteria: The requirements document shall follow the IEEE 830 template and shall include a traceability matrix.”
  • Keep it simple: “Requirement ID: R-008, Requirement Name: User Interface, Priority: High, Description: The system shall have a user-friendly interface, Acceptance Criteria: The interface shall use simple language, and shall have clear and intuitive navigation.”

Dynamic requirements CTA


Historical examples of how poorly written requirements have led to project failures

Some notable examples through history how some poorly written requirements caused a big headache for some companies:

To better manage the flow of passengers’ bags and increase efficiency, the Denver International Airport (DIA) introduced an automated system in the 1990s. However, there were several issues with the system that caused it to go over budget. The main reason the system didn’t work out was because the stakeholders couldn’t agree on what the system’s primary purpose should be.

The Virtual Case File was an attempt by the FBI to establish a new case management system in the 2000s. There were many setbacks, including delays and cost increases, which led to the project being scrapped. The lack of consensus among the stakeholders on the system’s intended purpose and functionality was a major contributor to the failure.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a military aircraft development that has had significant setbacks, including delays and cost increases. The requirements for the planes changed several times over the years, which has forced designers to make adjustments and driven up the price.

These instances show how inability to properly document requirements may derail a project. Failure to establish and agree upon needs in advance can result in costly delays, cancelled projects, and wasted resources.

What to do with your well written requirements and specifications?

Assuming you have mastered the art of writing adequate hardware requirements, the next concern is how to maximize requirements during the engineering design process.

You presumably already know that requirements engineering requires a solid tool. However, did you realize that the vast majority of commercial software offers little flexibility in their requirements?

Valispace gives your requirements dynamism. In Valispace, all requirements (and components) may be associated with engineering data and values (such as power consumption, mass, etc.), providing more insight into the effects of requirement changes throughout the product development lifecycle. 

Want to learn more?

Find how Valispace can help you manage your project requirements.

Speak to an expert

Book a Valispace demo