In systems engineering and requirements engineering, a non-functional requirement (NFR) is a requirement that specifies criteria that can be used to judge the operation of a system, rather than specific behaviors. They are contrasted with functional requirements that define specific behavior or functions. The plan for implementing functional requirements is detailed in the system design. The plan for implementing non-functional requirements is detailed in the system architecture, because they are usually Architecturally Significant Requirements.
Broadly, functional requirements define what a system is supposed to do and non-functional requirements define how a system is supposed to be. Functional requirements are usually in the form of "system shall do <requirement>", an individual action of part of the system, perhaps explicitly in the sense of a mathematical function, a black box description input, output, process and control functional model or IPO Model. In contrast, non-functional requirements are in the form of "system shall be <requirement>", an overall property of the system as a whole or of a particular aspect and not a specific function. The system's overall properties commonly mark the difference between whether the development project has succeeded or failed.
Non-functional requirements are often called "quality attributes" of a system. Other terms for non-functional requirements are "qualities", "quality goals", "quality of service requirements", "constraints" and "non-behavioral requirements". Informally these are sometimes called the "ilities", from attributes like stability and portability. Qualities--that is non-functional requirements--can be divided into two main categories:
A system may be required to present the user with a display of the number of records in a database. This is a functional requirement. How up-to-date [update] this number needs to be, is a non-functional requirement. If the number needs to be updated in real time, the system architects must ensure that the system is capable of updating the [displayed] record count within an acceptably short interval of the number of records changing.
Sufficient network bandwidth may be a non-functional requirement of a system. Other examples include:
Templates and examples
Modeling non-functional properties in SOA
Agile non-functional requirements
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