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Requirements Engineering in German Job Advertisements

A statistical analysis and trends from 2009 to 2015

4 Comments
Written by Andrea Herrmann, Marcel Weber
Estimated Reading Time: 16 minutes, 27 seconds
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objectiF RPM – Requirements Engineering and Agile Development

www.microTOOL.de

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 [1]. Now, the study has been repeated with data from 2015 and enhanced by the freelancer data.

Definitions of terms used: person, position, role, task

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.

Figure 1: Meta model
Figure 1: Meta model

Research approach

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:

  • Q1: What is the job title of the position doing RE?
  • Q2a: Which further tasks does this position include?
  • Q2b: How many further tasks does this position include?
  • Q3: Which qualifications are demanded?

A job advertisement typically has the following parts:

  • Job title (used here to answer Q1, classified into categories like “consultant” and “developer”)
  • Company presentation (used here to find out the company´s size and the application domain)
  • List of tasks (We coded them according the software engineering phases and then counted their number per position, see below at Q2)
  • Competencies demanded (also coded according to categories, see at Q3)
  • We offer (further information not analyzed here)
  • Application process and contact address (not analyzed, but sometimes necessary to find out the company name, size and domain)

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” [2]. 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.

employees freelancers
2009 2012 2015 2015
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 %

Table 1: Number of job offers analyzed, number of job offers related to RE


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.

Q1: What is the job title of the position doing RE?

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
2009 2012 2015 2015
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

Table 2: Results for Q1: What is the job title of the position doing RE?


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
< 1,000 24 2 8.3
1,000-10,000 43 4 9.3
10,000-100,000 24 1 4.2
> 100,000 24 5 20.8

Table 3: Requirements engineer positions in enterprises of different sizes


Q2a: Which further tasks does this position include?

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:

  • Feasibility analysis: feasibility analysis and cost estimation
  • Solution conception: design, technical specification, solution design (e.g. security concepts, data base designs), architectural design, improvement / optimization of business processes, analysis and assessment of IT architectures, specification of optimizations, specification of standardizations
  • Realization: implementation, development, programming, software customizing, system integration
  • Quality assurance: testing, specification of test cases, reviews, quality management, integration testing, functional tests, load tests, usability tests
  • Documentation / training: documentation, (user) training
  • Deployment: installation, data migration, rollout
  • Maintenance / hotline: (user) support, technical support, coaching, trouble-shooting, problem management
  • Project management: project management, management of sub-project, dead-line monitoring, risk management, leading the software development team, status reporting
  • Sales: sales, sales support, identification of business opportunities, networking, bid proposal management, observation of market

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.

Task employees freelancers
Percentage in 2009 Percentage in 2012 Percentage in 2015 Percentage in 2015
solution design 77.3 61.2 63.8 14.8
realization 53.9 44.8 63.8 10.1
deployment 41.1 23.9 23.5 2.0
quality assurance 37.6 38.8 42.3 10.7
project management 34.8 31.3 43.6 9.4
maintenance/hotline 24.8 23.9 21.5 3.4
documentation/training 22.7 25.4 33.6 2.0
sales 19.1 19.4 15.4 1.3
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

Table 4: Results for Q2a: Which further tasks does this position include?


Q2b: How many further tasks does this position include?

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.

Q3: Which qualifications are demanded?

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 %

Table 5: RE competencies demanded


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.

Competency employees freelancers
2009 2012 2015 2015
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 6: Further competencies demanded


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.

Competency employees freelancers
2009 2012 2015 2015
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 %

Table 7: Soft skills demanded. Given are percentages with respect to all offers of this year.


Summary and Outlook

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 [3] 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. [5] 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 [4] 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 [6] 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.

References and Literature



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Feedback-

From Frank Rabeler

Thank you for this article.
To me this article proves that there is still a long way ahead for IREB.
IREB wants to professionalize Requirements Engineering. More than 27,000 certifications are a huge success so far but still companies are not explicitly searching for requirements engineers.
Why? I guess because many companies simply don’t know about the profession “Requirements Engineer”. I am convinced that in reality not 4.7% REs were searched in 2015 but at least 10%.
Job portals like stepstone.de should guide those who are about to place a job offer in a better way. Users should be guided in a way they say “Oh well, they are right. I’m not looking for a Consultant. Instead I’m looking for a Requirements Engineer”. This would be a win-win situation for users and portals.
My questions:
How can we achieve this guidance in job portals? Any ideas? Or do you think this is not the point?

From Stefan Sturm

Hi Frank,
you’re perfectly right – but it’s not an easy task. Recently IREB started to talk not to the RE community only, but to trade groups in order to inform their members about Requirements Engineering and the importance for project success. That way we try to reach out to a broader audience.

In fact, we have as well tried to reach out to job portals, but that was not very successful. They do not add roles/knowledge areas proactively. They watch what head hunters are looking for and what skills candidates do enter and if that reaches a critical mass they implement it. We were no yet successful – but we keep on trying!

From Maurice Spee

Interesting article. Confirms my opinion about how many companies look at requirements engineering. That is: it is certainly not a job, it is some kind of role that can be performed by every teammember who has medium to good communications skills. It is about talking with some persons we call stakeholders, write down what they say, prioritize the list and we are ready to go.

So, if we want to professionalize RE our first step should be in convincing organizations and companies what the pitfalls are of the above mentioned approach and what the advantages are of RE done by a professional.
By neglecting this, RE as we see it will never be adopted.

I think we can learn a lot from our collegues in the field of testing: in former days, testing was also something every teammember could perform. But over the years, our testing collegues managed to stress out the importance of testing. This not only lead to widely adopted testing methods such as TMAP Next and ISTQB, but - more important - the adoptance of professional testing in all projects. Nowadays, there is no need in convincing organizations about the importance of testing. Let us make an effort in 2017 to achieve to same for RE.

From Maurice Spee – Author

Dear Maurice,

IREB is working on this. ISTQB just is some few years ahead. I will repeat this study regulary, so we can observe the development!

Best regards, Andrea

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