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Rapid JAD Requirements Software Development

Start with the End in Mind

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finish-2When developing systems and software, how do you know when you’re done?

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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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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Uncategorized

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 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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