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How is requirements engineering (RE) perceived and staffed in practice? What is the job title of the position doing RE? Which further tasks does this position include? How many further tasks does this position include? Which qualifications are demanded?
In order to answer these questions, job offers in a German online job portal have been analyzed for 2009, 2012 and 2015. In 2015, freelancer positions were also analyzed and compared. The results of 2009 and 2012 have been published at the REFSQ Conference 2013 . Now, the study has been repeated with data from 2015 and enhanced by the freelancer data.
In this study, we define a person to be a natural person with an individual name. When a person is employed in an organization, (s)he is integrated into the hierarchical system which is modeled by the organization´s organigram. The organigram´s leaves are positions which have hierarchical relations with each other. Each position is identified by a job title, and usually specific expectations in terms of responsibilities, tasks and authority (and salary) within the organization are linked to each job title. A position´s definition usually is organization-specific and is described in a job description. It can be used as the basis for a job offer and in the work contract. We have grouped position job titles into position categories which are similar, because a large variety of job titles can be found.
The concept of role describes a set of tasks and responsibilities within a project or business process and skills needed for them, but is usually not identical with the position. While the position is attributed to a person permanently until change of position (e.g. promotion), project roles are attributed to persons dynamically, according to the current need. Several roles can be assigned to one person at the same time, but one person has only one position at a time. Figure 1 describes the metamodel.
In the present study, we analyze job offers which are an official model of how practitioners integrate RE in their organizations and which qualifications they believe to be critical for this task. Ideally, these job advertisements also reflect previous experience, i.e. they demand such qualifications which in the past had been shown to be critical.
The questions listed in the abstract were answered based on such job offers in 2009, and again in 2012 and 2015.
These questions were:
A job advertisement typically has the following parts:
The job offers to be analyzed were chosen like this: On the German job portal stepstone.de, within the categories of IT jobs, all offers were read, starting with the newest. The jobs were searched under category “IT”. The sub-categories which the portal offers were changed between the searches. In 2009, the four sub-categories considered were software engineering, application analysis, IT consulting and IT systems analyst. In 2012, the sub-category considered was “Consulting, Engineering”. It seemed that the four sub-categories from 2009 were merged into this one. In 2015, the category was “IT”, without selecting sub-categories.
The search included the countries Germany, Switzerland and Austria, all application domains, and all types of jobs (permanent job, temporary appointment, etc.; only internships were excluded). Those offers, which in the task description contained activities related to RE, were included in the further analysis. We defined RE to include the activities of “elicitation, documentation, validation/negotiation plus the management of requirements” . However, RE is rarely called RE in all job offers, but can have many names.
The most frequent keywords that were found to be an indicator of RE tasks were: customer requirements, process modeling, problem analysis, functional specification, clarification of requirements with customers, analysis of business processes, communication of requirements to the development team. However, the following activities were considered not to be part of RE: making decisions about requirements, technical specification, solution design (e.g. security concepts, database designs), solution development, software customizing, consulting in the meaning of selling the company´s specific product, process improvement.
Table 1 lists how many job offers were analyzed in each year to find out those which contain RE tasks. In the second row, it describes how many of these contained RE tasks and in the third row which percentage of all job offers analyzed this is. Only those offers containing RE tasks have been included in the following analysis.
|Number of job offers analyzed||1378||589||800||500|
|Number of job offers related to RE||141||67||149||46|
|Job offers related to RE||10.2 %||11.4 %||19.6 %||9.2 %|
In what follows, we discuss the answers to the four questions one after the other, first comparing the three points of time with each other and then comparing job offers for employee positions with those for freelancers.
Positions and their tasks depend on the process model or standard used, but often are adapted specifically to satisfy an enterprise´s needs. RE can be executed by a specific requirements engineer, but can also be done by persons in other positions or in other roles. Table 2 shows the positions and the respective job titles of those who do RE (according to the job offers). We have grouped them into categories, because a large variety of job titles can be found. Some examples of the position job titles included in each category are also listed in the table. RE is done by consultants, software engineers, developers, and many more.
|Position category||Typical examples of positions in this category||Percentages of job offers for a position of this category (employees)||Percentage among freelancer job offers|
|Requirements Engineer||requirements engineer, requirements manager||0.7||4.5||4.7||10.9|
|Consultant||consultant, (business) analyst, business process manager, system planner, user experience specialist||51.0||43.3||17.4||23.9|
|Product Owner||Product Owner||0||0||4.0||4.3|
|Architect||(solution) architect, design expert, IT infrastructure consultant||8.5||16.4||6.7||4.3|
|Developer||(software) developer, project member, member of development team, programmer, technology associate||25.5||7.5||21.5||15.2|
|Sales Person||engagement manager, lead engineer, sales support||1.4||0||4.7||0|
|Project Manager||project manager, technical IT project leader, sub-project manager, project coordinator||2.1||3.0||8.1||21.7|
|Software Engineer||software engineer, systems engineer, product manager||7.1||10.4||10.1||2.2|
|Double role||Architect/analyst, senior software developer/software architect, software architect/requirements engineer, project manager/consultant||3.5||10.4||3.4||6.5|
|Others||graduate, expert [for a standard or application domain], IT coordinator, system administrator, project team member, interims manager, service delivery coordinator||0||4.5||19.5||10.9|
The job title „Requirements Engineer“ hardly exists. In 2009, only one such job title was found among 141 job offers which described RE tasks; in 2012, it was 3 out of 67 and in 2015 there were 7 out of 149 and 5 out of the 46 freelancer jobs. So, the ratio has risen from practically zero to almost 5% for the employees and 10% for the freelancers. Table 2 shows the distribution of job titles of those persons who do RE, in 2009, 2012 and 2015. The largest group of people doing RE had the job title of a consultant in 2009 and 2012 and among freelancers in 2015. Among the employees in 2015, the largest group doing RE were the developers. When comparing the years with each other, it is difficult to see clear trends. It seems that the trend is towards more requirements engineers, product owners, sales persons and project managers, but less consultants.
The only large differences between employees and freelancers in 2015 are that among the freelancers there are more requirements engineers and project managers, but less consultants and software engineers. When comparing the domains, we found requirements engineers only in transport and logistics (4 among 12 job offers), IT and software industry (2 out of 38) and in consulting and training (1 out of 8), but none in vehicle manufacturing (out of 40 job offers), mechanical engineering (out of 11), electrical engineering (out of 3), or telecommunication (out of 3).
We also investigated whether larger enterprises rather offer requirement engineer positions than smaller ones. For 115 enterprises out of 149 (for the employee positions), the company size could be determined. Table 3 show how many job offers in each size category were included in the analysis, and how many requirement engineer positions were found there. The largest organizations of more than 100,000 employees offer pure requirements engineer positions much more often.
|Company size||Number of job offers||Number of requirement engineer positions in absolute numbers||Number of requirement engineer positions in percent|
RE is no full-time task. Most of the positions doing RE do not have the RE in their job title. Instead, their main tasks seem to be others, while RE is done additionally to the other work. The task descriptions in the job offers list many non-RE tasks. We have grouped them along the following categories:
Table 4 shows how many percent of the job offers mention a certain task group. Solution design and realization are most frequently combined with RE. Next are quality assurance and project management. There are no clear trends with time visible, but it looks like those who do RE with the years do more project management, more documentation / training and more often feasibility analyses.
|Percentage in 2009||Percentage in 2012||Percentage in 2015||Percentage in 2015|
|feasibility analyses, cost estimation||12.1||10.4||20.1||0|
|procurement||Was not included in this year||Was not included in this year||9.4||2.7|
While the average number of tasks which are done additionally to RE went down from 3.2 in 2009 to 2.8 in 2012, now in 2015 it was as high as 3.4% for the employees and 1.8% for the freelancers. In 2015, there was no single offer for a position which does RE exclusively. All offers mentioned at least one further task. There are large differences between employees and freelancers. Among the freelancers, 10 out of 46 (i.e., 22) were hired for doing RE exclusively. Only 10% (among the employees) and 20% (among the freelancers) had only one additional task. Freelancers are rather experts and are hired for RE plus an average of only 1.8 further tasks. However, among these solution design and realization also are most frequent and next are quality assurance and project management.
It was also analyzed whether larger companies more often have specialized positions while smaller enterprises rather search for generalists who can do many different sorts of tasks. So, we calculated the average number of tasks mentioned for different size categories and in fact found a trend towards a demand for generalists in smaller companies, but larger organizations do not offer very specialized jobs. In the smaller companies of less than 1,000 employees, an average of 4.8 non-RE tasks was listed, while in the size 1,000-10,000 there were only 3.0, but for the larger companies, this number rose again to 3.8 for 10,000-100,000 and 3.7 for larger than 100,000.
Only about one third of the job offers demand RE-specific competencies: 37% (51) in 2009 and 34% (17) in 2012. In 2015, the ratio was 23% among the job offers for employees and 37% for the freelancers. RE knowledge was demanded mainly by those who are employed as requirements engineer explicitly. In each application domain, analyzed separately, usually only 1 or 2 more job offers asked for RE knowledge from someone not employed in the position of a requirements engineer. Only in two domains was this different: In the IT and software industry, 11 offers demanded RE knowledge (compared to 2 requirements engineer positions), and in vehicle manufacturing 6 job offers demanded RE knowledge although no requirements engineer was employed.
Which RE competencies were demanded is shown in Table 5. The demand for specific modeling methods or tools diminished, but also the demand of RE knowledge in general. In 2015, practical experience with RE was demanded most, especially of the freelancers.
|RE competency||Job offers which demand RE competencies demand this one|
|In 2009||In 2012||In 2015, employees||In 2015, freelancers|
|experience with RE||39 %||17%||46 %||71 %|
|modelling methods||41 %||43 %||26 %||12 %|
|RE tools||31 %||30 %||11 %||35 %|
|experience in process analysis||25 %||30 %||Not included in this year||Not included in this year|
|RE&M (requirements engineering & management) knowledge||20 %||30 %||17 %||6 %|
|RE processes||Not included in this year||Not included in this year||11 %||12 %|
|RE-related certification||Not included in this year||Not included in this year||11 %||0 %|
The most remarkable fact here is that so little specific RE knowledge or experience is demanded of those who do RE. The fact that those persons also have other tasks is not a sufficient explanation. Compared to the other tasks, RE competencies are demanded at a lower rate. Those (employee) offers which mention the solution conception demand technical knowledge at 82% (in 2009), 76% (in 2012) and 82% (in 2015); those who do realization must have technical knowledge at 86% (in 2009), 83% (in 2012) or 84% (in 2015). Of those ads which mention project management tasks, only 26% demand project management knowledge (in 2009), 14.3% (in 2012) or 40% (in 2015). This can be interpreted as a lack of awareness that RE methods exist or are needed, or it is assumed that RE competencies are taught at universities and during apprenticeship anyway. Studies or apprenticeship are expected at 89% (in 2009), 85% (in 2012) and 95% (in 2015). However, RE is no task for job beginners: 72% (in 2009), 73% (in 2012) and 54% (in 2015) of the advertisements wish or demand previous work experience.
Again, we wondered whether larger enterprises rather look for specialists and smaller enterprises for generalists. However, one cannot say so as in 2015 RE knowledge was demanded in 29% of the job offers from smaller enterprises (<1,000 employees), but at 26% in 1,000-10,000, only 13% in 10,000-100,000 and 21% in >100,000 employee enterprises.
Table 6 shows which further competencies are demanded. Soft skills and technical knowledge are most important, and also to have previous experience with the corresponding task. The importance of project management knowledge has increased over time, and the demand or wish for domain knowledge went down from 50% (2009) to 34% (2012) and then to 19% (2015). There are large differences between employees and freelancers (in 2015), or at least between the respective job offers. For instance, domain knowledge and previous experience with a task are much more important for freelancers, while project management knowledge and soft skills are demanded less.
|Soft skills||92 %||94 %||91 %||59 %|
|Technical knowledge||79 %||76 %||74 %||65 %|
|Experience with a task||49 %||55 %||43 %||54 %|
|Experience with a method||31 %||13 %||34 %||26 %|
|Experience with a tool||27 %||12 %||38 %||24 %|
|Project management knowledge||17 %||16 %||28 %||13 %|
|Domain knowledge||50 %||34 %||19 %||57 %|
Table 7 shows which soft skills are explicitly demanded in detail. The soft skills often make up a long part of the ad´s competencies section. The average number of soft skills per advertisement was 5.6 in 2009, 7.8 in 2012 and 4.9 in 2015 (counting only those employee job offers where soft skills were mentioned). The most important soft skills in all years were English language skills, communication skills and capacity for teamwork. The major changes are observed in that English and self-organization are much more frequent now and teamwork capacity, result orientation, sense of responsibility, commitment and self-confidence have been asked for less frequently.
|English language||57 %||72 %||62 %||35 %|
|Capacity for teamwork||57 %||52 %||38 %||13 %|
|Communication skills||55 %||60 %||47 %||20 %|
|Analytical skills||43 %||40 %||36 %||11 %|
|Sense of responsibility||43 %||33 %||21 %||2 %|
|Commitment||37 %||13 %||18 %||13 %|
|Self-confidence||35 %||30 %||15 %||2 %|
|Result orientation||30 %||18 %||21 %||7 %|
|Flexibility||29 %||28 %||23 %||7 %|
|Customer orientation||28 %||39 %||18 %||9 %|
|German language||28 %||33 %||33 %||24 %|
|Willingness to travel||27 %||45 %||27 %||0 %|
|Conceptual skills||26 %||18 %||15 %||2 %|
|Self-organization||14 %||10 %||35 %||20 %|
|Intercultural competencies||Not included in this year||Not included in this year||7 %||0 %|
|Leadership abilities||Not included in this year||Not included in this year||13 %||4 %|
|Presentation skills||Not included in this year||Not included in this year||11 %||4 %|
This study analyses 141 job advertisements from 2009, 67 from 2012 and 149+46 from 2015, with respect to the practice of RE. Which job titles are given to jobs involving RE, what additional tasks are included and which competencies are demanded?
The job title “Requirements Engineer” hardly exists and only some freelancers are hired for doing RE exclusively. RE tasks are done by people who have different job titles and an average of 4.2, 3.8 and 4.4 (in 2009, 2012 and 2015 respectively) additional tasks. RE is most often done by people with the job title consultant. RE is most often combined with solution conception, realization, quality assurance and project management.
For those doing RE studies or apprenticeship are important preconditions, as well as work experience. However, specific RE knowledge is demanded explicitly only at 37% in 2009, 34% in 2012 and 23% in 2015 from employees, and at 37% from freelancers. RE knowledge was demanded least in enterprises of a size of 10,000 to 100,000 employees with only 13% and highest with 29% in small enterprises of less than 1,000 employees. Further competencies demanded are soft skills, technical knowledge and previous experience with a specific task. The most important soft skills are English language, communication skills and capacity for teamwork.
The findings of this study are consistent with those from other empirical studies. Neill and Laplante  in their RE survey found the following positions to be involved in RE: executive, architect, consultant, project manager, system designer, analyst, and technical specialist. Zowghi et al.  in their field study also found persons with many different job titles to be involved in RE: marketing, engineering and technical management, product development, support, customer support center, customers, product users. We can expect that not only software development companies look for RE personnel, but also the customer side. An interview study in 25 German SMEs  found that none of the 25 organizations had established an explicit role of requirements engineer. This study shows three groups of actors within RE: business department (=user perspective), developers and external consultants. A survey among practitioners  found that in the enterprises investigated, all (12%) or most persons (51%) who do RE acquired their RE knowledge by self-education. In 36% of the enterprises, the persons responsible for RE had no or only a few further tasks (unlike in our study), and in 39% of the enterprises they spent less than 50% of their work time on RE.
Future studies could analyze similar data for other countries to compare internationally how RE is integrated into the organization. Furthermore, the study can be repeated in 2018 to observe trends for a longer period of time.