Rapid JAD in Large Projects


Rapid JAD: Accelerated System Design Processes

Rapid JAD (Joint Application Design) in large projects provides Vision Development and encourages business leaders to think outside of their box.

Setting The Stage

The business has completed a Cost Benefit Analysis and approved development of a new system. The requirements for the system have been documented, an RFP (Request For Proposal) was issued, and now there is a contract in place. This process can take a long time and the team leading the development may not include the same people who documented the requirements of the system. This means there will be many instances where the development team and the business leaders have a different understanding of the requirements. The development team only has what was documented, and while this may be clearly written, words still leave room for variation in interpretation. The business leaders know what they need and have a background which adds to their understanding when they read a requirement, yet still there can be requirements which they are not clear about as they read.

JAD sessions provide the opportunity for both teams to discuss their understanding of the requirements and work to a mutual agreement of what needs developed to meet the needs of the business. In Rapid JAD sessions this will include discussions about the Definition of Done.

Vision Development

A new software project means change and change can be difficult. Not everyone likes change. Rapid JAD sessions provide a framework for creating an atmosphere of enthusiasm toward the coming change through Vision Development. Shaping a vision of the system to be developed, including improvement in processes, provides a source for motivation which will be needed as work on the project moves forward.

Having a vision for the new system is exciting. The business will be able to complete work in a new way and the business leaders are helping to shape that new system.  Processes which are not efficient today will be improved. This is Exciting! With excitement and enthusiasm business leaders armed with a clarifying vision of the system to be developed share and ask for input from co-workers. As this continues the vision and enthusiasm toward the coming change spreads.

A clear vision of how things will be improved drives a motivation for change. Without this motivation both development and change are much more difficult. Vision Development is one part of the Rapid JAD sessions which set a large project on a course for success.


People who have done things the same way for a long time develop habits. The way they complete work becomes a process. They complete one process and proceed to the next. It may have been taught to them to do it just as they have been for as long as they can remember. Their goal is to accurately and efficiently complete the process. When their process is done the next process can start.

Rapid JAD sessions are led by a development team which is not entrenched in the current process. Therefore the development team will see ways to complete the requirement with a different perspective. What is the purpose of the requirement? What is the end goal? What is the best way to complete the end goal? As a result of viewing the requirements from a different perspective new process possibilities are introduced. This assists the business leaders in thinking about different ways to complete their goal. The business leaders start thinking outside of their box, becoming creative and designing new processes. This too is exciting!


Through discussion of requirements and the creation of new processes both a clarification of vision and a positive enthusiasm for change is developed using Rapid JAD. These are two important factors needed for success in large projects.


Revise Quickly


Practicing the first three Rapid JAD principles–Capture Now, Document Once, Visible to All–creates artifacts of all sorts such as requirements statements, definitions of done, process flow diagrams, wireframes, system state diagrams, technical specifications, and myriad other documents, diagrams, charts, pictures, lists, and tables as may be required.

And they will all need to be revised. Quickly.

The fourth Rapid JAD principle–Revise Quickly–accelerates learning and helps to build consensus and shared understanding.

Be prepared to modify artifacts based on the discovery of new information, feedback from others, or your own deepening understanding.

Whenever possible, plan to modify artifacts during JAD sessions. This real-time revision evidences a dedication to attentive listening and capturing new learning. If the occasion allows you to display the process on screen, making it visible to all, you can be more confident of gaining consensus agreement or creating a shared vision before the session is over.

Yet even such artifacts may continue to be living documents for some time, subject to frequent, if minor, revision.

Figure 1, below, illustrates a smoothed learning curve over time.

Figure 1. Typical Learning Curve
Figure 1. Typical Learning Curve

Learning is rarely this predictable, and is more typically incremental, with chunked learning interspersed with periods of consolidation (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Incremental Learning
Figure 2. Incremental Learning

Learning in the Rapid JAD model incorporates frequent feedback followed by quick revision and deepened learning.

Figure 3. Feedback Loop
Figure 3. Feedback Loop

Revised frequently, often in real time, and made visible to all, discovery can be a shared experience, consensus grows, understanding is firmed, and the learning cycle can be accelerated.

Revise quickly.


Return on Investment



Rapid JAD Spells ROI

If the major obstacle to success for major IT change projects is employee resistance, then a major cause must be the ineffective management of the people side of change.

Defining ROI

Organizations undertake change to achieve specific goals, and realizing those goals is the “return on investment” (ROI) of money, time, effort, and organizational disruption.

The desired return is usually quantified by lower costs, greater efficiency, more sales, higher margin, or some other good including less measurable assets such as good will or competitive advantage.

Simply put, ROI justifies the project’s expense.  No ROI, no approved budget, no project.

Yet, when the project budget is approved, ROI is, at best, only a likely outcome expected to be realized in the future.

From project planning onward throughout all project phases, project sponsors, the project manager, and other stakeholders must work together with a clear focus to achieve the ROI.  It is the project’s mission.

Too often, however, projects fail to realize ROI or results are disappointing.


Project planners and sponsors, who define the ROI, often fail to plan a complete path to realizing ROI, which comprises:

  1. Project objectives–How many objectives are implemented on time and on budget?
  2. Speed of adoption–How quickly do people get on board to create or use the new IT solution?
  3. Ultimate utilization–How many users ultimately adopt the solution?
  4. Proficiency–How effectively do users realize improvement?

These Rapid JAD© principles can help focus and maintain attention on ROI throughout the project lifecycle:

  • Capture Now
  • Document Once
  • Visible to All
  • Revise Quickly

When implemented and carried out in practice, these principles quicken the pace and sharpen the focus for all engaged in defining, designing, developing, testing, implementing, instructing, and, ultimately, using the solution and realizing its benefits.

How do you establish and maintain focus on ROI?



Rapid JAD Principle – Document Once


Time & Money


I had just finished one of my development planning meetings and I sat down at my desk to document the minutes. I was transcribing from my written notes along with recall from memory the important points, agreements, and action items. An hour and a half later I had documented everything that took place in the one hour meeting. I sent the minutes out to all participants and interested parties for review and comment. The year was 2001 and I vowed to stop this silly practice.

Putting together meeting minutes and notes from a meeting then sending them to all participants and interested parties is a fairly common practice. It is important to document:

    • Decisions made
    • Reasons for going with one option over another
    • Action items
    • Distribution to interested parties

What I vowed not to do was repeat the process. And should feedback come regarding the minutes, work on them again and send out corrections. Yes, I put an end to this as well.

There is an easier and more accurate way to do all of these things. A way that does not waste time documenting the same thing twice. Thus was born the principle of Document Once.

Document Once

I now schedule all of my meetings in a room with a projector and bring in hand my portable laptop. As the meeting progresses along the agenda, participants discuss the topics and do something new. The participants now watch and read all of my documentation as the meeting moves along. If there is any correction to be made, it is done on the spot.

Participation in these meetings becomes more active as participants names and their ideas are put down in the minutes. People want to contribute, even the quite people, and now their ideas and key points on various topics are documented with their name as the contributor. Documented for all interested parties to read at a later time. Accuracy, oh yes! People will not let you document their name next to something that is not accurate. They speak up immediately to let you know if the documentation is not accurate or if clarifying additions are needed. When diagrams and wireframes are involved, they are updated on the spot.

No Corrections

This practice ensures accuracy. At the end of meeting or immediately afterwards the minutes and any attachments are sent to all interested parties. Included is the message, “Attached are the minutes and documents from today’s meeting. If there are corrections to be made, you should have spoken up during the meeting.”

Document Once is a principle to try and follow so that you are not doing the same thing twice. Doing things twice wastes valuable time and time has a cost. It is better to use your time in more high level thinking and problem solving than repeating documentation of things which could have been documented once.