The Goal Diagram. The basis for good requirements.

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A goal diagram is a graphic representation of goals, the relationships among stakeholders and among goals themselves.

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Stakeholders: people who, for example are interested in a new solution or pursue goals. The weighting is an expression of how important a goal is to a particular stakeholder.

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Goal diagrams are also described as AND/OR graphics. An AND connection elaborates on the various other sub-goals that need to be achieved to make the larger goals possible.

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Conflicts can arise between two goals when they contradict each other in part or in full. Recognizing these as early as possible is an important aim of goal diagrams.

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OR connections: when one goal has sub-goals, only one of which needs to be achieved to make the larger goal possible.

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What are goals?

Stakeholders have objectives. They want a planned or existing system to help them achieve these objectives. Consequently, a system has to possess certain characteristics and functionalities. The description of such a charateristic or functionality (also called feature) on the basis of stakeholder objectives is what we call a goal. Klaus Pohl summed it up briefly and concisely in his book Requirements Engineering – Grundlagen Prinzipien, Techniken:

A goal is the intentional description of a characteristic feature of a system to be developed, or of its accompanying development process.

Why are goals important?

Goals are the best way to elicit the requirements for your system. They express what a stakeholder wants – sounds simple, doesn’t it? In practice, it isn’t, because knowing your stakeholders goals is the only way to find out what he or she expects from a system, and what to develop.

The success of a project can be ascertained by looking at whether or not the goals were achieved. That means that the goals are not just signposts at the beginning of a project but they offer orientation throughout the undertaking as well as at the end, when a product has been created, a solution has been found or a service rendered. The achievement of the goals and the communication with stakeholders about them is an important part of taking advantage of its benefits.