Empirical Software Engineering, 22(5):2298-2338, 2017. Paper doi abstract bibtex
Requirements Engineering (RE) has received much attention in research and practice due to its importance to software project success. Its interdisciplinary nature, the dependency to the customer, and its inherent uncertainty still render the discipline difficult to investigate. This results in a lack of empirical data. These are necessary, however, to demonstrate which practically relevant RE problems exist and to what extent they matter. Motivated by this situation, we initiated the Naming the Pain in Requirements Engineering (NaPiRE) initiative which constitutes a globally distributed, bi-yearly replicated family of surveys on the status quo and problems in practical RE. In this article, we report on the qualitative analysis of data obtained from 228 companies working in 10 countries in various domains and we reveal which contemporary problems practitioners encounter. To this end, we analyse 21 problems derived from the literature with respect to their relevance and criticality in dependency to their context, and we complement this picture with a cause-effect analysis showing the causes and effects surrounding the most critical problems. Our results give us a better understanding of which problems exist and how they manifest themselves in practical environments. Thus, we provide a first step to ground contributions to RE on empirical observations which, until now, were dominated by conventional wisdom only.