Rapid JAD Advances Engagement Management


Why Engagement Management?

Engagement Management is all about business and information technology (IT) teams working together. This may sound easy. Just talk and draw some stuff up. But effective and efficient communication at the level needed for software systems development can pose many challenges. Perhaps you are familiar with this great cartoon which illustrates the challenge of clear communication?

All of these individuals–the project manager, the architect, the developer, the salesman–can read and hear what is to be built, carry on a discussion about the project, and then set about working on just what they think they understand.

However, as Erik Jul points out in Visible to All, communication can be difficult. The larger the project, the more complex the solution, the greater the risk when it comes to clear communication.

Rapid JAD has a solution we call Engagement Management.   

Engagement management tightens the communication link among team members, customers, and stakeholders because all communications are:

  • Planned in advance
  • Clearly documented
  • Revised as needed, and
  • Available to all.

Making project information such as action plans, risks, decisions made, tasks, designs, and workflows readily visible aids the essential two-way communication needed to go from project inception to successful project delivery.

Who Needs to Be Engaged?

A communication plan will identify the stakeholders, their interest in the project, the format of the communication, how often to communicate, and who is responsible for the communication. Of utmost importance is identification of the business expert who will, on a daily basis, be available to answer questions that come up from the IT team. This business expert will be appointed by the business as the Product Owner.

The Product Owner, representing the business and the Project Manager, representing the IT team, work together on details of the communication plan and who will be responsible for the various pieces of the plan. Even in a large organization where tools are readily available, there still needs to be discussion and planning between the business and IT around communication.

Where Should Engagement Take Place?

Rapid JAD addresses two types of engagement: people (meetings) and artifacts.

For people, the ideal place for engagement is in the same room with a projector or shared visual display. This is not always an option as teams can be geographically separated. When geographically separated a tool such as Go To Meeting makes it easy to share what is being seen in one location with team members in another location. Some tools also provide video conferencing which is a plus for geographically separated teams. Whatever tool is used, shared visibility is key for people who are getting engaged with the system development. You want all members of the engagement capable of viewing the same objects.

For artifacts, visibility is again a key factor. Not only is collaboration important, artifacts need to be visible to all. Where do you put the project vision? Where do you put the requirements? Where do you put the designs? The workflows? The tasks? The issues? Project artifacts must be readily accessible and visible to all who are part of the project.  This engagement factor is key to success. 

What Focuses Engagement?

Artifacts, and their related processes, focus engagement.

Regardless of what is being worked on, team members from both the business and IT need to be engaged and jointly developing and reviewing project artifacts. Key artifacts for engagement are:

  • Project Vision
  • Requirements
  • Definition of Done
  • Change Management Plan
  • Story Boards / Wireframes
  • Business Workflows
  • Technical Designs
  • Design Decisions
  • Issues
  • Tasks
  • Risks
  • Milestones and Timelines
  • Team Roster & Contact Information

How Do We Accomplish All of This?

Collaboration tools greatly enhance engagement.  While the use of Collaboration tools varies from company to company,  half of the 379 respondents to a poll on the Intranet Professionals LinkedIn group indicated that their company uses SharePoint. To ensure success, regardless of the collaboration tool used, both the business and the IT team must be able to access and use the tool.

Collaboration tools provide a way for everyone on the team to be engaged with the current artifacts. Whether you are concerned with business workflow, interface design, technical decisions, or even project vision, having one location with the current information is critical.

The tools you use for engagement will play a large part in implementing the Rapid JAD principles for accelerated system design: Capture Now, Document Once, Revise Quickly, and Visible  to All.

When Should Engagement Start?

Informal engagement starts before a project is approved, during development of the business case and associated cost benefit analysis. Once a project is approved Engagement Management should start with identification of the Product Owner for the business and the Project Manager for the IT team. Together the two take ownership of the project and collaborate on the Engagement Management plan.

Rapid JAD

Rapid JAD Principle – Capture Now


Rapid JAD - Faster to Production

Capture Now is the Rapid JAD principle which emphasizes the importance of creating artifacts in real time. Artifacts are the documentation and other items created in support of development.

You visit a Product Owner’s office for a discussion of business workflow and take copious notes. You return to your desk to draw up workflows (artifact) and wireframes (artifact). You print your workflows and wireframes, then return at a later time and present the workflows and wireframes for business validation. You note modifications then return to your desk and make adjustments to your artifacts. You make digital copies and email them to the Product Owner to validate that you have correctly captured the modifications. The Product Owner emails back a minor edit to be made. You make the adjustment and reply back with the adjusted digital copies.

A Typical Development Process

  1. Product Owner and Business Analyst have an initial business discussion
  2. Business Analyst creates initial artifacts (workflows and wireframes)
  3. Product Owner and Business Analyst have a follow-up meeting for business validation of artifacts
  4. Business Analyst makes modifications to artifacts based on business validation meeting
  5. Business Analyst emails artifacts to Product Owner
  6. Product Owner notes minor modification to artifacts
  7. Business Analyst makes minor modifications to artifacts
  8. Business Analyst emails artifacts back to Product Owner
  9. Product Owner approves artifacts

Faster to Production

Capture Now cuts this process in half by eliminating steps 5 through 9. With Capture Now the Business Analyst with the Product Owner are making adjustments to the digital artifacts together in real time. Capture Now eliminates the need for the additional review and modification cycles.

This means you are faster to the approved finished artifacts, speeding up time to delivery of the finished product. Additionally, you are freeing up both Product Owner and Business Analyst time which can now go to other business tasks.

In a business where speed to delivery of new products and features in the marketplace is critical, Capture Now and the other Rapid JAD© principles are difference makers.

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Visible to All


Are you listening?  Are you hearing?  Do you understand me?

Customers and clients wonder.

Did I hear you right?  Am I understanding you correctly?  Did I get it right?

Business analysts ought to wonder to themselves.  All the time.

Communication is not easy, as the familiar illustration of communication theory, below, illustrates.

Communication TheoryIn this model, communication seems fraught with peril. Here’s the problem:

“I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure that you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

More simply: Message sent may not equal message received, and this translates into risk.

The risk of specifying–or developing–a system that does not meet your users’ need, wastes time, and costs more.

Visible to All

Rapid JAD principle #3, Visible to All, increases the likelihood of achieving mutual understanding quickly.

Capture Now (principle #1).  Document Once (principle #2).

And while your doing that, make the process and the artifacts Visible to All whenever possible.  Your Rapid JAD participants can see (and hear):

  • That you are listening closely, and
  • Getting it right (Revise Quickly, principle #4)…in real time.

When posted to a common, shared platform, all participants–and even those not present in the Rapid JAD session–can access and view the emerging state of understanding.   Consensus grows.  Trust deepens.

And now you’re ready to Revise Quickly (principle #4) as new facts emerge and understanding deepens.