Value Engineering
of Requirements
What, Why, When, and How of Value Engineering?
What Is Value Engineering?
Up until this point we have had very little discussion of the costs of certain fea-
tures that customers may wish to include in the system requirements. Part of the
reason is that it made sense to separate that very complex issue from all of the other
problems surrounding requirements elicitation, analysis, representation, validation,
verification, and so on. Another reason for avoiding the issue is that it is a tricky
ere is a fundamental relationship between time, cost, and functionality.
Project managers sometimes refer to this triad as the three legs of the project man-
agement stool. at is, you cant tip one without affecting the others. For example,
you have already finished writing and agreeing the specification and have provided
an estimated cost to complete in response to some RFP (request for proposal). If
the customer asks you to incorporate more features into the system, shouldnt the
price and estimated time to complete increase? If not, then you were likely padding
the original proposal, and the customer will not like that. Conversely, if you pro-
pose to build an agreed-upon system for a price, say $1 million, and the customer
balks, should you then respond by giving her a lower price, say $800,000? Of course
not, because if you lower the price without reducing the feature set or increasing
190 Requirements Engineering for Software and Systems
the time to complete, the customer will think that you gave her an inflated price
originally. e correct response, in this case, would be to agree to build the system
for $800,000, but with fewer features (or taking much longer time).
To properly manage customer expectations, deal with tradeoffs between func-
tionality, time, and cost, it is therefore necessary to have some way of estimating
costs for system features. Making such estimations is not easy to do accurately at
the early stages of a project, such as during the requirements engineering activities.
However, it is necessary to make such cost effort and estimations. e activities
related to managing expectations and estimating and managing costs are called
value engineering.
When Does Value Engineering Occur?
Value engineering occurs throughout the system lifecycle and is typically consid-
ered a project management activity. But for the requirements engineer value engi-
neering has to take place to help manage customer expectations concerning the
final costs of the delivered system and the feasibility or infeasibility of delivering
certain features.
During the early stages of elicitation, it is probably worthwhile to entertain
some value engineering activitiesbut not too much. For example, you may wish
to temper a customer’s expectations about the possibility of delivering an elaborate
feature if it will break the budget. On the other hand, if you are too harsh in pro-
viding cost assessments early, you can curtail the customer’s creativity and frustrate
them. erefore, be cautious when conducting value engineering when working
with user-level requirements.
e best time to conduct the cost analysis is at the time when the systems-level
requirements are being put together. It is at this time that better cost estimates are avail-
able, and this is a time at which tradeoff decisions can be discussed more successfully
with the customer, using some of the negotiating principles previously mentioned.
In the following sections, we’ll look at some simple approaches to assist in the
value engineering activity for requirements engineers. ese sections provide only
an introduction to these very complex activities that marry project management,
cost accounting, and system engineering. Really, a set of experts with these skills is
needed to provide the most accurate information for decision making.
Estimating Using COCOMO and Its Derivatives*
One of the most widely used software cost and effort estimation tools is Boehm’s
COCOMO model, rst introduced in 1981. COCOMO is an acronym for con-
is section is adapted from Phillip A. Laplante, Software Engineering for Image Processing
Systems, CRC Press, September 2003, with permission.

Get Requirements Engineering for Software and Systems now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.