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Change Management Requirements Software Development

Prime the Pump

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pumpBy the time a Business Analyst (BA) shows up, many decisions have already been made. Things are in motion. Change is afoot.

It could be, for some in an organization, that the arrival of a BA is the first indicator of change. After all, one might think, why are you shadowing me, putting my life’s work into tidy swim lanes, drawing bony fish skeletons, and asking so many questions? What’s up? What’s in it for me?

It’s true. BAs are often among the first on the ground when the project team ramps up, gathering, defining, and managing the requirements that will become the foundation for future system development. But they should not be the vanguard of change messages.

Prime the Pump

Renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to tell the story, “Prime the Pump.”

Ziglar used that story of the hand pump to teach many lessons, one of which is “you need to put something in here (pointing to the pump mechanism) to get something out there (the spout).”

Organizations should “prime the pump” when it comes to managing change by communicating information about change initiatives early and frequently with stakeholders. What is changing? Why? When? In what ways? What happens if we do not change? These are natural questions, and they WILL be in the minds of stakeholders.

By sharing what can be known as soon and as transparently as possible, leaders help to set direction, increase awareness, and build desire for the change.

This primes the pump for the BAs and everybody else involved in the change initiative.

The effective BA understands the fundamentals of organizational change management (OCM) and, through their interactions with SMEs, front-line associates, managers, and executives, can help carry out the change tactics even as they ply their BA skills.

If the pump is primed, the BAs can work the pump handle nice and easy, information will flow like water, and the environment will be readied for successful Rapid JAD processes.

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Document Management Rapid JAD Requirements Software Development

Blow Your Mind Requirements For Results

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The Magic 6 is a black ball with the number 6 on it

Six components of a well-written requirement are so powerful that I call them magical. Missing any one of these six requirement attributes will cost your project.

Capture them up front to save money, time, help communication, and minimize frustration. Have you hired a company to gather requirements? They should provide these six.

Because I love practical examples and keeping it simple I will provide a short explanation with a real life example. This example comes from a centralized system that tracks issues for a company with multiple locations.  

1. A Unique ID

This is the first attribute of a good requirement. In addition to being unique, the identifier for each requirement should capture an area or grouping as well as a count. The grouping communicates the area within the entire project and provides context. For a system that tracks and communicates issues, a View Updates group was created. The unique identifier, uses an abbreviation and a numeric. For this group I used VU.01 for the first requirement in the group View Updates.

2. Identification of who needs the requirement

This is typically a group name, such as Customer. This communicates the group needing the feature, which provides use context as well as an idea of security level. This system has customers who need to view issues affecting their multiple locations.

3. Statement of what is required

A statement of what is required identifies the task to be accomplished or the action to be performed. For customers with multiple locations, “Search by location is needed for issues.” This communicates an action a customer needs to take.

4. Statement of why the requirement is needed

The market for a product as well as competitor products can be the impetus for rapidly changing a requirement. Communicating why something is required also provides information on when it may no longer be needed. For issue tracking, search by a specific location is needed so that the customer can see all issues affecting a location.

5. Acceptance Criteria

Ideally acceptance criteria is communicated by a business owner. This provides clear communication to the development team when the business will agree that work on a requirement is fulfilled. When a customer can search by a specific location and all results are displayed, this requirement is complete. For more information on this topic, see The End Goal – Removing Ambiguity in Requirement

6. Business Owner

This identifies the person who can answer questions regarding a specific requirement, Matt Murdock. All requirements should have a point of contact in the business. It can be months after a requirement has been captured and development questions arise. In addition to clarification, there may be impacts from other events that come along and you will need to get input the right person in the business. 

Blow Your Mind

If you are looking at a requirements document and the Business Analyst captured all six of these attributes, that should blow your mind. Take them to lunch and thank them, they are going to save your project time and money.

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Rapid JAD Requirements Software Development

Start with the End in Mind

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Here are some proven failing methods:

  1. When time is up
  2. When the budget is exhausted
  3. When a sponsor or client demands the product
  4. When the project is cancelled or suspended

These are arbitrary, and sometimes brutal, measures, none of which necessarily correlates with either a complete or quality product.

Agile, test-driven development focuses on building to a testable goal, and then rapidly fixing what’s needed until all tests pass.

The business/requirements analyst can play a key role in helping to develop acceptance criteria, working with:

  • the product owner (What really meets the need of the customer?)
  • the developers (What exactly am I building, and how will I know that my code implements the desired features?)
  • and the testing/quality assurance lead (How can I test to demonstrate required functionality?)

With a focus on the end in mind, the business analyst can insert this bit of magic:

  • “This requirement is fulfilled when it is demonstrated that…”

This “definition of done” comes before the product owner signs off on the requirement, and the requirement is not fully written without this statement.

So, as you are implementing Rapid JAD processes, remember, you are not done unless you have started with the end in mind.

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Rapid JAD Requirements Software Development

How To Get More of What You Need Faster

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As a business analyst or system developer, do you want to get more of what you need– accurate, complete, testable requirements that meet the customer’s needs–faster?

Like any good business analyst, I often use graphical tools to explore an idea, discover logical relationships, simplify concepts, or present findings.

Consider the following:rapid-jad-2x2

This simple 2-by-2 chart plots speed and accuracy in determining functional requirements for software development.  Both are desirable goals.

It’s obvious: avoid quadrants 1-3.  Ever been there?  These are not happy places for any project.

Quadrant 4 is everyone’s goal.  Get more of what you need, faster. But how to get there? Reliably? Repeatedly? Quickly?

In my years of project experience I’ve come to rely on the four simple, actionable steps we call Rapid JAD (see quadrant 4, above).

How quickly you begin realizing benefits simply depends upon how quickly you adopt and begin practicing Rapid JAD.  Regardless of the size, complexity, duration, or project phase, start now.  Or, if you’ve already started using Rapid JAD (congratulations!), then seek opportunities to learn, reflect, improve your practice, or share with others.

You will get more of what you need, faster.  Guaranteed.

For an introduction or refresher:

Capture Now
Document Once
Visible to All
Revise Quickly

Start getting more of what you need, faster. Use the 2X2 chart, above, to plot your own success!

 

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Rapid JAD Requirements Uncategorized

Fllng n Th Blnks

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Fill In the Blank

By Erik Jul

If you read the title, you probably already have a sense of the topic: Filling In The Blanks.

How did you know that? In response to visual stimuli (the title), your brain did you a favor by filling in the missing letters (the vowels, in this case) in order to make sense of what you were seeing.

Take a minute to thank your brain…

…for making it easy to read an incomplete string of letters, form words, and make meaning. And for the billions of other times just today that your brain has taken much more complex and equally incomplete sensory data and rendered for you a version of the world that makes sense. Mostly.

At least, to it.

Neuro- and cognitive scientists refer to a principle of closure:

“The mind’s tendency to see complete figures or forms even if a picture is incomplete, partially hidden by other objects, or if part of the information needed to make a complete picture in our minds is missing”

Take another minute to thank your brain. It’s doing the best it can, and it certainly hopes that you appreciate it.

You see, the brain practically lives just to make sense of things, and it loves doing so in the most efficient way possible. Which often means using limited data to predict the reality that the data represent. In fact, as soon as the brain has a “good fit,” having matched sensory input against a memory bank of possibilities, it serves up it’s best offering.

Now, better take another minute to be concerned about what your brain is telling you.

And, if you are a business or requirements analyst, take a long minute to ponder the thousands of times you and others, in perfectly well-managed joint application development sessions, have thought that you understood the customer’s need based on your acceptance of the meaning that your brain provided based on limited information.

And if you are now taking a minute to wonder, “How can we decrease the chance that we are accepting in our requirements workshops as “true and complete” what our brain is providing based on incomplete information? I would completely understand.

And I would recommend practicing the Rapid JAD principles.

Now, scientifically approved.

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Requirements Software Development

The End Goal – Removing Ambiguity in Requirements

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Clarity

When you are done reading this post the importance of knowing the end goal will have been communicated:

• Definition of Done
• Acceptance Criteria
• What does success look like?
• What happens?
• What gets completed?
• What is the result?
• The end goal

These bullets all represent one concept. As a systems developer, I want to know up front what is expected of the system when I am done developing what was requested. What am I to deliver?

I can read what a requirement states, but do I understand what is to be accomplished by the requirement? What is the purpose? The goal? The reason this requirement lives?

This is a critical piece that is often missed when requirements for system development are captured. Without this piece it is difficult to measure success. Let’s look at an example.

User Story
As a Customer I want to follow “issues” of interest as a priority so that I can focus on important issues as a priority.

This User Story is clearly written. I can read it. I understand all of the words. Yet, this is still vague. How should this be developed? What is result? What happens? It would be nice to have an answer to these questions from the person who wrote this User Story. Something such as the Acceptance Criteria, which when met, the person who wrote the User Story could say, “Hey it is working. It did what I was wanting.”

Something such as the following takes only a minute to capture, but adds a wealth of clarity to the User Story

Acceptance Criteria
I can hit a “button” and that issue automatically goes to the top of my view queue.

Without the clarity of the end goal, the Acceptance Criteria, development could go in any number of directions. By adding Acceptance Criteria, to User Stories or Requirements, the desire of the person who wrote the user story is clarified and it provides a measurement for the completeness or success of the delivered product.

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Requirements

I Don’t Like to Write

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DoNotWrite[1]

By Erik Jul

A colleague of mine once said, “I don’t like to write, but I love having written.”

And so, with a deft change of tense, the author had leaped over the pain of writing to the future perfect satisfaction of having written.

Some business leaders or software developers are like my friend and do not like to write functional requirements.

Do not like to write may mean:

  • Do not want to take the time
  • Do to want to spend the money
  • Do not think it is necessary
  • Do not know how to write a good functional requirement

Rarely would a business sponsor approve a project without requiring requirements. All too often, however, even with good intentions, the requirements produced look as though the author(s) did not like to write.

The requirements lack fundamental qualities of correctness, completeness, clarity, concision, and consensus (among others).

I don’t like to write, either, if poor requirements result.

My safeguard against poorly written requirements includes using the fundamental Rapid JAD principles:

When practiced routinely, these methods greatly assist my writing process and I produce better requirements. By capturing findings during Rapid JAD sessions, I am more likely to snare the essence of a discussion.  By documenting once, I create a single source of truth accessible to others, and by making these processes visible to all, I rapidly gain and confirm consensus.  Finally, by revising quickly, I am able to refine requirement statements as needed to ensure that they are in good order.

I might not like to write, too, if I did not use Rapid JAD techniques.

But as it is, with Rapid JAD, I love writing (requirements) and I love having written!

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Rapid JAD Requirements Uncategorized

Bundling

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By Erik Jul

Bundling is a tidy idea.  Consider the humble bundle of sticks.

Bundle of Sticks

Useful.

Or the Roman fasces, shown here on the reverse of a U.S. Mercury dime, or Winged Liberty Head, dime.

Fasces

Powerful.

What makes each bundle desirable?

  • Utility
  • Fitness for a purpose
  • Ease of use
  • Similarity or complementarity of components, or
  • Some other bundle-making attribute that ties the individual pieces together

When selecting from a backlog of functional requirements, product owners and developers must select and form a bundle for the next development sprint.

This may seem like–or it may be–and easy job.  More often than not, however, it is fraught with decisions, trade-offs, and compromises.

What makes a good bundle?  Something must tie them together.

  • They implement a coherent feature.
  • They trace to user stories or epics.
  • They build upon a prior bundle.
  • They are required for a subsequent bundle.
  • They match the velocity of the development team.
  • They can be implemented in the current environment.
  • The account for any technical debt from previous bundles.

Of course, any bundle is only as good as its constituent requirements, which must be clear, correct, complete, consistent, unambiguous, verifiable, traceable, and testable.  Rapid JAD techniques greatly assist these objectives.

Creating the right requirement bundle is the basis for a successful development sprint, and a good bundle starts with a strategically stocked product backlog selected from a bank of user stories or epics.

Executing these challenging business analysis and project management tasks can prevent a bundle from becoming a bungle.

What’s in your bundle?

 

 

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Requirements

TV Dinner Requirements

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TV Dinner Requirements

TV Dinner Requirement have the following characteristics

  • Conveniently pre-packaged
  • Tasty like cardboard
  • Surprising when there is something good inside

Already Packaged

TV Dinner Requirements come to you already packaged and ready to go. A business has hired an analyst to define their requirements and package them up in a document. The company then puts their TV Dinner Requirements out for other companies to bid for the work, sometimes called a Request For Proposal (RFP)

If you find yourself working with TV Dinner Requirements, then you are beyond the defining of requirements typical of Classic JAD and are on to the next phase:

  • Validation of requirements
  • High Level Design

Remove the Plastic and Heat

Pull off the plastic wrap and validate the requirements. They may have become stale sitting around in a frozen package as time goes past.  How old are these requirements? Have they become stale like cardboard? Are there any good requirements in the package? Can someone in the business tell you why the requirement is in the package? Often the reason something is in the package is unknown! For these reasons a good business analyst will validate the requirements in the package.

Things should heat up as you share the TV Dinner Requirements with business leaders and developers and put together high level designs as a proof of concept. Everyone will like talking about the good stuff they find inside as well as the bad stuff.

Keep in mind that TV Dinner Requirements can be fast and easy, not necessarily good.

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