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Change Management Engagement Management Software Development

Avoid Project Management Pain

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stingProject managers drive change. They sit at the helm of a chartered operation intended to deliver specified high-quality business benefits on time and within budget.

Project management is a noble and difficult endeavor—part science, part art—and effective practitioners must be skilled and experienced in a host of related disciplines too numerous to list here (but look here).

Various bodies of knowledge, certifications, and best practices arise and proliferate with increasing frequency intending to help increase the project manager’s likelihood of success.

Avoid Some Pain

Here’s the bad news: despite concerted and well-intentioned efforts, projects often fail to realize expected results. The perceived gap between delivery and expectation may prompt some project managers, sponsors, and would-be benefactors to consult the Schmidt Sting Pain Index for a scientific ranking of their pain.

Worse yet, much of that pain is avoidable. The key? Providing appropriate levels of organizational change management (OCM) to positively affect the people side of change.

Why? Because even the best IT project that meets quality, time, and budget objectives can still fail to deliver desired business results and return on investment by failing to address user adoption, utilization, and proficiency.

Prosci presents evidence gained through longitudinal surveys indicating that projects with excellent OCM are six times more likely to meet or exceed objectives than those with poor or no OCM (96% compared to 16%).

Brilliant! Because most IT projects implement solutions that must be adopted and used for business benefit, focusing on accelerating and improving user adoption, utilization, and proficiency makes sense.

In fact, not integrating OCM planning with project planning is like asking to be stung.

That’s what Schmidt did.

How integrated are your project and OCM plans?

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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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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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Content Management Document Management Engagement Management Rapid JAD Time Management

Rapid JAD in Pictures

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by Erik Jul*

capture-now
Capture Now. No time is better, and certainly not later.

document-once
Document once. Don’t do the work multiple times. Whose got the time?

visible-to-all
Visible to all. Everyone has to see. Why? They might have more perfect knowledge, opinions, suggestions, have approval authority, or just need a sense of comfort.

revise-quickly
Revise quickly. With all best efforts, you might get close to a final, correct, and complete artifact. But don’t count on it. Just change it as quickly as possible.

Rapid JAD really is simple. Execution is the key: decide (it starts with you), implement (start somewhere, but just start), adjust (learn as you go), practice (build the Rapid JAD habit), multiply (share the revolution and bring others along with you).

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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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Software Development

Tee Up! How Building Software is Like Playing Golf

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Golf Course

The Course Layout

We have a course laid out and we are moving along the course. Not all courses are the same, but they have the same basic structure and flow as we play:

  • Tee off on hole 1
  • Move along the fairway
  • Hit onto the green
  • Sink the putt
  • Move on to the next hole and repeat

The golf course structure aids us by its layout and keeps us moving along in the proper direction doing things sequentially. Similarly software development methodologies have a structure which keeps development moving in the proper direction with a repeating sequence.

Playing the Par 4 Hole

For a par 4 hole, the plan prior to tee off is to drive onto the fairway. Put the second shot on the green. One putt for birdie.

However, things do not always go according to plan. We may hook or slice a shot, hit the rough, a sand trap, land in the water, and even a hit out of bounds is possible.

This is when the golf course structure pays off in that you can be moving along the fairway toward the green even though you are not necessarily in the fairway. There are rules to follow, you have the direction to head, and you know the goal.

Similarly as a golf course is broken into 18 holes, software development is broken into pieces, often referred to as an iteration. And while you have a plan at the start of each iteration things do not always go according to plan. However, with the structure of your chosen software  development methodology in place you know the direction to head, have rules to follow, and you know the goal of the iteration.

Summary

For many finishing with a 72 after 18 holes is the goal, but one which is not often reached. Still, you have a goal before the game starts and from experience you realize that many things can come up as you play.

Software development is similar, in that you can plan out everything you want to do for the entire 18 holes before you step up to tee off on hole one, but there are many things that happen along the way to finishing.

Understand that golf is like software development. It is likely not going to go as planned prior to tee off. Do not get shaken when you hit a sand trap or other obstacle. Pull the right club and play on.

With a good software development methodology in place you will recover when things do not go as planned. Expect things can happen up front and smile big when things go as planned!

Scramble anyone?

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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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Document Management Rapid JAD

Getting It Right

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by Erik Jul

When specifying requirements for a new system, large or small, how much do we have to get right?

Isn’t “All of it” the right answer?

Not always, and maybe never.

Concepts such as “minimally viable product” (which carries the moniker MVP as if it were some sort of champion), “iterative solution scoping,” and “progressive elaboration” decry the notion of completeness and possibly even that of correctness.

Of course, no one wants to deliver, or attempt to use, a system that does not work or is ill-suited to the task. So “getting it right” must matter to some degree: the system must work as specified.

But how much of what the user needs or wants has been identified and correctly specified in functional and other requirements? And of that, how much was correctly implemented?

Relying upon a Six Sigma approach (a methodology driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) may reduce defects, but may still fall short of identifying a customer’s true problem and its best solution.

Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Agile, and the Three Amigos Scrum Alliance. These, plus approaches already forgotten or yet to be proposed, try to help us “get it right.”

In successive waves of innovation and reinvention, practitioners attempt to narrow the gap between what’s needed, what’s specified, what’s delivered, and what solves the customer’s problem.

Along that path, from problem to solution (scope, time, and cost notwithstanding), the professional solutions team—sponsor, business owner, project manager, business analyst, QA /tester, solution architect, developer, trainer, change management lead—all focus on “getting it right.”

Common software development and project management practices such as change requests, expectation management, phased releases, bug fixes, cumulative updates, and new versions testify that “getting it right” remains a noble goal seldom reached and maybe never reasonably expected.  For now, these are our best tools for getting it right, eventually.

To increase the likelihood of getting more right now rather than eventually, try these Rapid JAD principles: Capture Now, Document Once, Visible to All, and Revise Quickly.

Simple. Proven. Effective.

How much do you want to get right?

 

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Uncategorized

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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