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Tuesday, 29 November 2016 22:47

Requirements for Digital Transformation

Requirements are fundamentally important as they are about building the right system.

Yet the failure of requirements is the primary cause of project failure.

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How many times do we forget passwords AND user names? This is a clear example of the risk associated with the reliability of the human memory and associated human error. Let's consider the management of the myriad detail accumulated throughout the requirements planning process and the steps of Eliciting, Documenting, Analysing and Communicating. Oh, and let's not forget Tracking, Validating and Verifying!

So spare a thought for the Business Analyst, whose whole focus is on capturing requirements, to ensure successful project outcomes. Or to put it another way, the task of translating the needs, wants and expectations, of all user stakeholders, into technical language for the developers and others, to ensure that they - the users - are are going to get the functionality, that they need, want and expect from a system. This is not a petty task and it can take months. Meanwhile, there is the probability, due to complexity, that not all of the requirements are going to be addressed because of a number of factors, not least, their having been lost or forgotten.

Requirements Coques2 175x100However if effectively managed, requirements identification and supporting traceability improves the overall project outcome, simply because time will be saved, less money will be spent, and most importantly, the customer will be happier.

The Requirements management process has seen much change in the past 20 years and two of the most obvious are the involvement of the customer in all phases of the process and that the requirements process itself is now dynamically linked into an agile culture of continuous integration and delivery. The increase in software defined business, is driving the growth and importance of application delivery within encumbent enterprise and with ever more startups disrupting their industries, enterprise needs greater levels of automation to compete and to deliver quality, quicker than competitors.

In the past Requirements were captured in hand written paper documents, which in time, were augmented with spreadsheets and word documents. The rigour of the process left space for improvement. Today, requirements associated material is held in a central repository and updates are visible to all stakeholders. Enterprise Architect can capture all of the different information that records requirements information, be it from Word, Excel, Visio, handwritten notes, video or audio.

Requirements Coques3 175x100In the past Requirements was an isolated process that had built in “wait” or handover periods before being consumed by the other phases of the project life cycle. Today these gaps are closed with automation and requirements are integrated across the development life cycle, with many other functions. The end result is less time to delivery.

Organisational cultures of resistance to change, identified by a bulwark of divisional and departmental silos and a reluctance to co-operate, increased the risk of failure for the change process. Today, technology based collaborative platforms are increasingly being adopted as they are inclusive, breaking open silos, empowering stakeholders and drawing them together.

The progress of development projects lacked transparency for most key stakeholders, right to the point when business took delivery. Whatever visibility the stakeholders had, was gathered from assumptions, rather than from objective data. Today, key stakeholders form an integral part of the development team and have access to progress charts and dashboard metrics.

In the past, the management of shareholder supported organisations held tightly to the overarching goal of ensuring change was minimised or avoided, so as to maintain the value of their shares. Today the digital imperative, as opposed to the business imperative, says be prepared to change, or risk oblivion.

Requirements Coques 175x100These examples are a reflection of the changes in the Requirements Management process, which in the development model of today, supports iterative requirements gathering and continuous delivery of software. It has become an Agile practice approach, being adopted to address the challenge of digital transformation. This collaborative, iteration based business lifecycle, between requirements and stakeholders, has given rise to DevOps, a strategy for managing continuous change.

Enterprise Architect is unique in its ability to support Requirements throughout the development lifecycle and to deliver the benefits of the Agile practice approach. Requirements can be defined in the model, or imported from other tools including Visio.

Recently, through agreement with IIBA, Sparx Systems is in the process of developing the Enterprise Architect Guide to BABOK Implementation. Through the power of this collaborative, visual modeling platform, the extension provides the Business Analyst with a fully augmented BABOK user experience.

Published in Sparx Insights
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 02:15

Collaborative Evolution

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"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." 

- Henry Ford


Ten years ago, Gartner published the Emerging Technology Hype Cycle Report, and identified “collective intelligence” as a technology that would have “the greatest impact” on business over the following decade. Now in 2016, a convergence of technologies has conspired to create a miasma of complexity so engulfing that there is no alternative but to adapt to it. Old responses to new norms are inadequate. So how is this challenge to be addressed to retain existing market share and build on achieved success?

 

A recent article “Let Go of What Made Your Company Great” in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) discussing organisational response states that “the appropriate solution to employ depends on the magnitude of the challenge and how much of the organization is affected by the challenge”.


The very organisational structures that sufficed to create success in the past now present the greatest risk to adaptive organisational response to the complexity challenge. The HBR goes on to demonstrate with business examples, that letting go of entrenched thinking requires bringing “the organizational reflex circuitry out of auto-pilot.” A survey on business agility recently reported that almost fifty percent of survey participants blamed opposition based company culture or philosophy for agile failures.

 

In “Collective Intelligence in Teams and Organizations” a paper by lead author Anita Williams Woolley from MIT, the team explores the ingredients required for the development of collective intelligence and describes collective intelligence as including “a group’s capability to collaborate and coordinate effectively” stating “this is often much more important for group performance than individual ability alone”.


Agile encourages enhanced communication, sharing of information and collaboration. A report in Forbes from 2015 by Steve Denning discusses how “Agile, Scrum and Lean arose as a deliberate response to the problems of hierarchical bureaucracy that is still pervasive in organizations today: falling rates of return on assets and on invested capital, a dispirited workforce, a decline in competitiveness and widespread disruption of existing business models.” In hierarchical models subordinates report upwardly to the bosses. In horizontal agile structures the team focusses on the customer and as Peter Drucker has stated, the single goal of a business is to create a customer.


The collaborative behaviour between self organising, cross functional teams has recognised similarities in swarm intelligence or stigmergy, the stimulation effect that individual effort has in guiding the work of co-workers and the behaviour that creates the shared outcome.

 

Through the agile software development methodology, the evolution of requirements and solutions supported by the collaboration activity patterns of agile teams is similar to those exhibited in stimergy. Team members are stimulated by the performance that they have achieved and they are also stigmergically stimulated by their environment which, apart from collaboration enabling technologies also includes management support.


Organizational theorist Ikujiro Nonaka suggests that innovation comes from serendipity. Knowledge is not created by information processing, but by “tapping the tacit and often highly subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches of individual employees and making those insights available for testing and use by the company as a whole". He adds “The key to this process is personal commitment, the employees’ sense of identity with the enterprise and its mission.”


Silos are the nemesis of serendipity. Different team members and stakeholders must be able to input information that is relevant to their roles and activities and that is useful to the other members of shared projects. This implies the necessity to capture this information in a model that is available to all team members overcoming their geographical limitation.


The emergence of new ideas, or innovation, through collaboration, has been commented on extensively. A single idea can lead to breakthroughs and competitive advantage and the idea of one person can be used by many others who can make small refinements or improvements to the idea or spark completely new ideas. These in turn become the normal as creativity destroys long accepted convention.


Collaboration is becoming a new enterprise standard. In the face of the challenges being presented by market uncertainty, successful transition to the most effective use of strategic information technology, is a priority for many organisations. Collaboration enables the enterprise to leverage the strengths of all its parts and by harnessing creative energy and increasing the chances of success, while reducing or eliminating process overlap and resource redundancy. The shared awareness of issues promoted through collaboration encourages trust and builds confidence in group stakeholders and synergises the collective response to problem resolution.


The mutual dependency of collaborative culture and Agile approaches, is essential for successful project delivery, which is ultimately decided by the customer. Whether the organisation is large or small, has not yet adopted Agile or is Agile progressive, a handful of factors are critical to success.


Flexible Planning
In a business environment where innovative disruption is encouraged and fail fast is the short term goal, it is essential that situational change gets a nimble response and to that end, flexibility must be built into planning. The World Development Report 2013 published by the World Bank notes that creative destruction is the mainstay of economic growth. A plan is essential but it is not indispensable and ought to be replaceable when a better idea presents itself. Adaptive schedule planning identifies milestones, but, maintains a flexible approach to get to them, while making allowances for the milestones to change.

 

Evolutionary Development
The evolutionary development approach is iterative and is accepted practice for Agile software development. Agile development principles are different. Change is accepted and expected and because Agile software developers accept change as a constant, they choose to work in this way. A central tenet of agile teams is that it is okay to fail and to try another method. Collaboration unites individual efforts enabling the team to accomplish goals. Failure is foundational to these efforts, as it provides opportunities for teams to review and re-organise strategies.

 

The Global Innovation Index (GII) has established itself as a leading reference on innovation and in 2015 published the eighth report titled “Effective Innovation Policies for Development”. This report stated that “Innovative enterprises are shown to be economically more successful than firms that rely on tried and true processes and approaches.” Agile processes embrace change, which translates as the customer’s competitive advantage.


Early Delivery
Early delivery is seen as a leading measure of progress and depends on several factors. Frequent releases of working software, to ensure shorter feedback cycles which in turn facilitate collaboration with customers. This development cycle also encourages discussion which reveals the status of development, uncovers problems and identifies ways of implementing solutions, while supporting learning and development of an understanding of the function of the system.

 

As implied earlier, higher revenue from stepped delivery is supported by Agile development philosophy which also promotes a culture of ‘perpetual beta’ or early and frequent releases. This high frequency iteration allows the customer to provide valuable feedback on a regular basis.


Continuous Improvement
Process improvement underpinned the successful growth of Toyota from its small company genesis to a global auto industry leader, over a relatively short period. Also known as Kaizen, continuous improvement, a lean based manufacturing approach, systematically seeks to achieve incremental changes in processes, in order to improve efficiency and quality.


Embracing Change
When change is viewed as an asset within an organisation, survivability and competitiveness are supported and the process of evolving to a future state is a cultural constant for such organizations. In the past, stability was seen as a positive attribute within an organisation and was the bulwark against change, which if possible was to be averted.

 

Today that strategy has been obliterated. Agile is the adaptability and responsiveness to change that is essential to successfully compete in the new competitive landscape. The iterative approach of customer driven Agile development teams, while reducing the size of the changes related to a software release, also increases the change frequency. Agile processes embrace change, which translates as the customer’s competitive advantage.

Published in Sparx Insights