DESIGN THINKING FOR REQUIREMENTS ENGINEERING - DT4RE

 

WHO WE ARE

We are a community of researchers and practitioners who share the same passion and dedication for Design Thinking and Requirements Engineering for product-, service- and business model development. Our experience roots back to the year 2005 when the Institute of Information Management at the University of St.Gallen (HSG) started a long-term collaboration with the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford University to pursue a human-centered approach to solving wicked problems. Since then, we have run a multitude of projects in nearly every industry, mainly focusing on software products and services. This is why we are constantly working on enhancing the innovativeness and creativity of software solutions by applying a Design Thinking mindset with a good dose of pragmatism and curiosity.

 

Given the increasing challenges that arise in context of the development of innovative, software-intensive products, we are now systematically integrating Design Thinking with Software (Requirements) Engineering approaches in collaboration with the Department of Informatics at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). The overall long-term objective is to harmonise Design Thinking and software development processes to systematically tackle problems that are beyond the scope and possibilities of “classic” agile development methods.

 

OBJECTIVE

With "Design Thinking for Requirements Engineering" (DT4RE) we want to actively share our knowledge and experiences, and we want to foster the dialog between practitioners and researchers from both communities, Requirements Engineering and Design Thinking.

 

The collection of methods and templates has been developed, continuously refined, and tested over 10 years in various research and industry projects. Currently, the collection comprises the step-by-step introduction of 18 methods and complementing templates to allow for a systematic application in projects and workshops. But this is just a starting point. In the future, we want to upgrade DT4RE with even more useful and practical methods. And, we will add tutorials of how to use them in particular project settings.

 

Please feel invited to become part of this community. Send us your feedback, comments, or contributions to jennifer.hehn@unisg.ch

DESIGN THINKING

 
 

METHODS

DEFINE

NEEDFINDING

SYNTHESIS

IDEATION

PROTOTYPE

TEST

 
 
 
 
 
 

Design Thinking is a human-centered method for solving wicked- and ill-defined problems. The typical outcomes are products, services, processes or newly designed business models. It applies iterative techniques for making prototypes in order to test them as soon as possible in the field together with humans. Design Thinking is successfully used in B2C and B2B settings across all industries.

 

In the context of Requirements Engineering, Design Thinking seems to be a viable approach to elicit user and customer needs as well as requirements for software systems in fast paced environments.

Design Thinking is a cyclic, iterative process which comprises six different phases. The Design Thinking phases are ordered as illustrated in the following schematic and a brief description of every phase is provided in the following "METHODS" section.

The objective of the Define phase is to set the project challenge, to draw the scope of the project and to analyze the market landscape through benchmarking.

The objective of Needfinding is the early identification of direct and indirect customer and user needs. Design Thinking applies interviewing, observation and engaging techniques to explore the customer and stakeholder space. It utilizes extensive field research with customers and other stakeholders / participants. The Design Thinking team mostly visits real locations. Depending on the challenge the team travels globally. Typical outputs are insights and concrete observations from the field.

The objectives of the Synthesis phase are manifold: first, structuring interviews and observation. Second, analysing the content and results. Third, applying frameworks in order to identify patterns and new insights. The general approach is the structuring of interviews and observation on foam boards or other walls with Post-its and the application of common or new frameworks on the topic. Results are learnings and insights. Both give directions for the ideation and brainstorming phase.

The Ideation phase represents the process of “going wide” which enables to explore a broad solution space. Brainstorming and other creativity methods to generate a large quantity of diverse ideas are usually applied. A strong focus lies on listening and building on each other’s ideas to leverage collective thinking. Professional teams can achieve hundreds of diverse ideas which provide the fuel for building rapid prototypes.

Make ideas real and tangible is the motto of the Prototyping phase. The goal is to make ideas and concepts as soon as possible testable for customers and other stakeholders. Furthermore, it helps to communicate ideas in the team and the company. In the beginning of a project we use low fidelity prototyping in order to be fast and quick. Later in the process we build high fidelity prototypes that demonstrate the full functionality of a product or service. Typical outcomes are business models, services, products or processes which can be tested with customers and other stakeholders.

Permanent testing of ideas and prototypes with customers, users and other stakeholders. Testing helps to fail in early project stages and to involve the customer in your own ideation process. Interviews and other field research techniques can be used for testing but also in-house testing methods like focus groups. A steep learning curve for successful elements and early identification of failures is guaranteed.

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