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"Changing a “should” to a “shall” can make a huge difference"

We in the West Link: Berndt Persson is a technology specialist working with requirements management on the West Link Project.

What is your job?

I am a technology specialist for the Swedish Transport Administration's major projects and am currently working on the West Link Project and the Gothenburg-Borås Project. I have previously been employed as a cook and an assistant cook, but later took a systems specialist course in Gothenburg, which I completed in 2001. After this, I worked with requirements management at Ericsson.

What does your work involve?

I deal with requirements management for both the West Link Project as well as the Gothenburg-Borås Project. My work primarily concerns infrastructure requirements prior to the construction phase. It could, for example, involve requirements for how thick or wide a tunnel wall has to be, but also requirements for maintenance space. In this context it could, for instance, concern requirements governing the dimensions of, for example, cleaning rooms, coffee break rooms or toilets.

I am not, however, a specialist with knowledge concerning the kind of requirements that need to be imposed – it is my task to deal with the language side. Consequently, I do not change requirements on dimensions, etc. – but instead, clarify the written requirement specification documents. Also included in my work is managing requirement and accessing statistics and reports that are of use to other employees working on the project.

What are the greatest challenges of the project from your point of view?

The language aspects. It is difficult to change requirement formulations, but at the same time it is important for them to be clear and concise so that the designers and contractors do not gain too much scope for interpretation at later stages of the project. In this way we can avoid misunderstandings or faults once the construction works commence.

There are examples from other projects within the Swedish Transport Administration in which they completely ignored imposing requirements for toilets and maintenance spaces. This has resulted in extra costs since it involves spaces that in one way or another have to be made available later once the construction work has already started. Another challenge that can also cause problems is when requirements from the railway side conflict with requirements from the road side – referred to as requirement conflicts.

How do you approach these challenges?

It is important that the written requirements are distinct – changing a "should" to a "shall" could, for example, make a significant difference in providing clear instructions and accentuating the requirement. In order to avoid hassles with the individuals who wrote the document, it is important to make it clear that it is not the content itself we want to change but rather its actual formulation. Together, it is then possible to arrive at the best way of expressing it. We frequently attend the project coordination meetings together with various specialists, where we discuss the various requirements that have been submitted. It is important to give consideration to and to sort out requirement conflicts at an early stage.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

It is good fun being able to participate in such a large social development project – in something that entails such a massive change. Then at the same time we learn a lot. There is so much we have to think about in order for society to be able to function during the construction a major project – talk about a challenge!