Collecting requirements: non-functional requirements and other considerations

Listed below are some of the key questions that will help you identify your non-functional system requirements. They will also help reveal other things you should consider while implementing your new system. The list is not exhaustive, nor will all of it apply to your situation. It is here to help jog your memory about requirements. You will need to work on many of the items to clarify your requirements; for example, you’ll have to figure out how long you can be without your system and how much data you can afford to lose.

Ease of use

  • Is the system easy to use for novices, and efficient to use for expert users?

Support

  • Is the vendor’s helpdesk available to answer calls and provide support staff during core working hours (for example, 8am – 5pm Monday-Friday)? You may wish to explore whether your vendor has any response or resolution targets.
  • Do easily understandable end-user documentation and support resources (such as online help) exist so users don’t have to call the helpdesk/service desk?
  • Are administration guides available to guide advanced users to undertake more complex configuration tasks?

Security

  • Do you have specific requirements to control user access e.g. by user type, individual and/or by certain type of information (e.g. mental health information)?
  • Do you require audit trails with history of changes with user ID, date and time stamps or similar?
  • What security protocols exist protecting transmission and storage of information (and what do you require)?
  • Do you have specific password requirements such as ensuring they are appropriately complex?

Hosting and availability

  • Where is the data stored (e.g. New Zealand or overseas), and does this meet your requirements?
  • How long can you afford to be without the system or what availability target should the system meet – e.g. must the system be available for 99.9% of the time, or 99.95%, etc?
  • If a disaster occurred and the vendor had to restore data from backup, what is the maximum amount of time that this could take, and would any data be lost (e.g. the last minute or hour or day of work)?
  • Are there any specific security provisions regarding the hosting environment that must be met?

Operational speed

  • How can you best determine whether the system operates at an acceptable speed, both for users and for report generation, remembering that your internet connection speed and traffic can have a significant impact on system performance?

Administration and configuration

  • Are there any key system configuration or administration functions that you wish to undertake yourself such as changing passwords, creating new forms and the like?

Implementation considerations

Considering your organisation – your services, size, range of services, etc – does the vendor have recommendations about:

  • your organisation’s internal effort to adequately support the implementation
  • the process and timeframe for implementing the system
  • the effect of changes to the way people work throughout the implementation
  • the approach to training users, administrators and support for the new system
  • the approach to data cleansing and migrating data to the new system?

After talking to the vendor’s customers, what are your opinions on these questions?

Other considerations

When talking with the vendor, make sure you understand other considerations such as:

  • their approach to providing ongoing training throughout the life of the system
  • the frequency of system upgrades and how these occur
  • their approach to requests for specific customisation of the system or development of unique functionality; how this is achieved and the likely timeframes, the situation with ownership, support and so on.