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Saturday, June 23, 2012

#016 - Developing Exceptional Requirements: Lessons Learned from Ice Cream and the Spice Girls

One of the things I looked forward to most on my business trips from Canada to New Zealand was a little town called Pokeno, south of Auckland on the edge of the Bombay hills.

Pokeno is famous for two things: Bacon and Ice Cream, most definitely not in that order. Pokeno used to be right on SH1, and everyone travelling to or from Auckland and the Waikato went through it - right beside the butcher and two of the busiest ice cream stores you have ever seen, summer or winter. And even though these ice cream shops are literally side by side, neither of them suffers in the least. Today, even though the SH1 is a newer road bypassing Pokeno, it is still as busy as ever, with people making sure to take the off-ramp into the little town.

There is nothing special about the ice cream itself - you get the same brands in the grocery store. Nothing special about the service either - and you only get the one tiny napkin wrapped around the cone, and no spares on the counter.

What made Pokeno famous - and still does today - is that they have the cheapest, largest scoops in the country. And 42 flavours to choose from! Not only that - you can have up to 11 scoops at once (on one double cone base) - for only $8. I am not kidding. It would be literally about a foot high at least, above the cone. I haven't tried it myself, as 2 scoops is plenty for me, but you can be sure my kids have been sizing it up as a worthy challenge.

These are by no means tiny scoops either - in Canada and the US you generally get a modest scoop most places you go, except perhaps the "premium" shops, with premium prices. Here you get good, honest scoops, twice as wide as the cone itself - for once, actually bigger than the pictures suggest.

I am getting hungry just writing about it!

Anyway, this article is about writing Excellent Requirements - and yes, it does relate to the Ice Cream. One of the challenges in Pokeno is there is a lot of choice - 42 flavours, 11 configurations (1 to 11 scoops at once). That is a lot to wrap your head around, and don't forget the Sundaes.

We have similar issues with eliciting and documenting requirements on projects - we need to get down to the details of what is exactly needed by the customer. When everything is shiny and new, sometimes customers simply want it all...and sometimes they kind of know what they want but can't commit to a specific choice and option.

Chocolate, Dutch Chocolate, Dark Chocolate or Triple Chocolate Chip?

Cookies and Cream, Gold Rush, Peppermint or Goodie Goodie?

Wait, let me look at the other 34 flavours first...

And which one goes best next to Liquorice?

It is so hard to choose...we need some help!

What we need is...a good Requirements Definition Process.

Listen to the podcast or read the article on Gazza's Corner (

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