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Do Requirements Matter?

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Software Requirements by The Requirement Company

Project Approval

You go to the company president requesting $500,000 for a project and they say, “Sure. No problem and please do not bother me with details such as why you need it.”

Blind approval as described above is not likely to happen. There may or may not be a formal cost benefit analysis completed. It is after a project is approved that more information about the project is detailed in the requirements.

Skip the Requirement Phase

What about skipping the requirements phase? Requirements can take a lot of time to put together, thus adding cost. Why not be Agile and get rid of this initial requirements phase of the project and jump right into coding. Shape the system as it is being developed. This will reduce time and cost.

Do Requirements Matter?

What is the purpose of requirements? There are two major reasons to have requirements:

  1. Define the business needs
  2. Identify what is to be built (A.K.A. project scope)

Can someone just start coding the new system when the business need has not been defined?  How will they know what is to be built? If the project is small, then yes they can. Someone from the business can verbally communicate what needs built and a developer can build it. How does this work on a large project?

The larger the project, the more difficult and more risk the project will take on when skipping the initial requirements phase. A project might achieve savings early on by skipping the requirements phase, but that savings is now going to be spent in excess of the early savings, due to loss of potential revenue and developing features which were missed or need changed.

How Much Do Requirements Matter

According to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report

  • The #2 most cited reason projects fail is due to poor requirements management
  • Inaccurate requirements gathering remained a primary cause of project failure (37 percent) in 2014
  • For projects which do not fail, 4% of project budget is wasted due to poor requirements

According to IAG ‘s 2009 Business Analysis Benchmark Report

  • 74 percent of companies reported having a low level of requirements management maturity
  • These companies achieved their business objectives 54 percent of the time, while taking 35 percent longer to deliver their results.

If you are going Agile and thinking of going lite on requirements, perhaps the statistics above are worth noting. You may want to invest more time in quality requirements. For additional information on Requirements visit Requirements Engineering Magazine

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IIBA Professional Development Day 2015 – Conference Presentation

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Rapid JAD: Getting more of what  you really need — faster — in JAD sessions

#rapidjad

IIBA-2015-Conference

What’s Behind Rapid JAD?

  1. Advanced collaborative planning
  2. Single-source documentation
  3. High design visibility

Actionable Development Specifications

  • More Complete
  • Faster
  • More Engaging

Capture Now

  • Interpreting even your own good meeting notes can be challenging
  • Interpreting someone else’s notes can be even harder
  • Basic content and relative importance can be muddled or lost altogether
  • Time for revising or transcribing information is limited, and never a much as you were counting on
  • Memory fades (if I’m remembering correctly!)
  • Video
  • Transcribing
  • Audio

Document Once

  • Why do anything twice?
  • Put the information into the environment where it’s going to live long-term
  • “Document once” does not mean “one document”
  • One Note

Visible to All

  • Visible means in real time and at any time. Visible to all is not time bound to a meeting.
  • “Audible” is “Visible.” Capture what was said and you can read back to those in the room for validation
  • Push or pull
  • This provides instant feedback.
  • This increases confidence and agreement
  • Shortens the feedback loop
  • Seeing things can help to identify gaps

Revise Quickly

 

What are the risks if you’re not revising quickly?

  • Other rely on the documents; may make incorrect decisions based on old information
  • Revise Quickly means in real time and at any time
  • Document management repository
  • Send notification of changes or ask for changes

Benefits of Rapid JAD

  1. More time for critical thinking by Business Analysts & Designers
  2. Shorten Time to Development
  3. Increase Business Buy-In
  4. Others?

What is Rapid JAD?

Use #rapidjad to Tweet a definition of Rapid JAD in your own words: Search Twitter.com for #RapidJAD

I Want to Start Now!

 

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Do it Now or Do it Later?

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Three Simple Note-Taking Tips
Guaranteed to Make the Most of
Your Meetings

“Tomorrow.  Tomorrow. I love you, Tomorrow.  You’re only a day away.”

So sings Annie in the eponymous movie or Broadway musical.

Aileen Quinn singing Tomorrow in the 1982 movie Annie
“Annie” – 1982

But waiting even a day, or any time, really, may be too much when you are capturing information in a Rapid JAD session or any information-gathering interaction.

And tomorrow is much too far away to start getting value out of any business meeting.

Using just three simple Rapid JAD principles can guarantee greater value–faster–from any information-gathering session.

Who Will Take Notes?

From the beginning of time, note-taking in meetings has a long history of modest improvements at best (OK, the creation of writing was a big step forward) and long-lived deficiencies at worst.

You’ve been in that meeting where the note-taker, or scribe, is drafted as an afterthought.  “Anyone willing to take notes?” goes the plea.

Silence.

Assuming any notes are taken, here are some glaring problems:

  • Interpreting even your own good meeting notes after the meeting can be challenging
  • Interpreting someone else’s notes can be even harder
  • Basic content and relative importance can be muddled or lost altogether
  • Time for revising or transcribing information is limited, and never as much as you were counting on
  • Memory fades (if I’m remembering correctly!)

There is a remedy: whenever possible, ensure that you are capturing input as fully as possible in real time during the Rapid JAD session.

“Taking Notes” Just Grew Up

No one would think that listening closely and then relying upon memory would be an acceptable substitute for even the most rudimentary note-taking in a JAD session.

Of course we take notes! But not all notes are created equally.

What makes a good note?

  • Accuracy
  • Completeness
  • Consensus

What makes a good note possible?

1. Captured Now

Most would say that note-taking is a real-time event by definition.  Almost always true, yes.  So how can we improve upon what’s going on during a real-time note-taking session?

Capture the note in its final resting place such as a meeting minutes template, a requirements document, a wireframe or process-flow diagram or other artifact.  This can eliminate transcription or copying, and if a note belongs in two or more artifacts, go ahead and put them there now, that is, during the note-taking session.  Why wait?

2. Made Visible to All

Now that we’re capturing information, consider the value of letting others in on it.  By projecting the notes (on a screen in the meeting room or on a networked computer screen for remote participants, or both), all can see the note-taking process.

Yes, it gets suddenly harder to spell while typing in front of others.  Use this as a humorous moment and then get on with the task.

This facilitates an immediate feedback loop: listen, type, view, read, respond.  Beyond demonstrating that you are capturing key information (or not), this transparent process helps ensure that the notes are, in fact, accurate and complete.  And when they are, you will have won consensus (if not unanimity) and the trust of your team.

But wait! There’s more!

3. Revised Quickly

I’ve already mentioned the real-time typo that will be pointed out (and corrected) in real time, but revising quickly has a greater, more liberating quality: it relieves you from the tyranny of having to get it right the first time.

If your first take is not perfect, revise!  Expect it.  Welcome it.

Revising quickly has a second liberating quality: note-taking is really information shaping.

Add. Delete. Revise. Until, by consensus, and to the best knowledge of those participating at the time, the captured information is as accurate and complete as possible.

So don’t wait.  Make capturing information the center of every Rapid JAD session. Whenever possible and practical, display notes on a screen for all to see.  Revise, revise, revise, and confirm notations with participants to ensure accuracy, completeness, and consensus.  Store in an accessible collaboration tool and notify or distribute artifacts to parties according to the project’s communication plan.

When capturing notes in this fashion, you’ve used the Rapid JAD session–and the Rapid JAD principles–to create an artifact accepted by those present and ready for action or wider review, as appropriate.

All of a sudden, doing notes later–today or tomorrow–seems silly.

Sorry, Annie.

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Rapid JAD Advances Engagement Management

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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.

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Rapid JAD Principle – Capture Now

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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

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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.

4-Rapid-JAD-Principles

 

 

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Rapid JAD in Large Projects

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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.

Change

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!

Summary

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.

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Revise Quickly

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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.

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Return on Investment

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ROI

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.

Why?

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?

 

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Rapid JAD Principle – Document Once

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Time & Money

Background

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.

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