27 June 2011

Requirements Collaboration

Today many people are involved in capturing, analyzing and maintaining the requirements of a certain project. File-based approaches like MS Word documents or MS Excel spreadsheets do not allow working on the requirements in parallel.

Professional requirements management solutions support collaboration on requirements by increasing granularity: each single requirement can be accessed independently from the others.

In many cases a particular user – having a certain task – does not need the whole document. Instead, he may only need a small subset of the information in order to fulfil his task. Why spending hours for finding the relevant information from within a huge Word document?

Requirements management solutions are capable to define role-based views allowing to work on the relevant requirements far more efficiently.
Providing web-based access to the actual requirements data helps communicating latest changes to the requirements to the whole organization.

By: Andreas Plette

17 June 2011

Challenges in Systems Engineering

What are the typical challenges you are faced with in Systems Engineering?

  • Systems are getting more and more complex (http://bit.ly/jB8WSL)
  • Systems are often composed of hardware and software
  • Systems must have certain mechanical and/or electrical characteristics
  • Systems are developed by distributed teams
  • Communication between these teams is often weak
  • Systems – or at least parts of them – are safety-critical
  • Systems and their development must comply to certain standards and regulations
  • Systems are developed under increasing competitive pressure
  • Systems need to be delivered in several variants

Anything else? Please let us know!

To overcome these challenges organizations today use appropriate tools supporting the different phases of systems development. Let’s take some easy examples: do you believe that a worker in a car factory is using a simple screwdriver? No, he will definitely use a pneumatic wrench being able to tighten hundreds of screws per day. How about technical drawings of systems like cars or air planes? Without a professional CAD solution hardly imaginable.

But when it comes to requirements professional tool support is often missing although requirements form the base for all other Systems Engineering disciplines. Introducing a centralized requirements management solution improves communication between the different development teams (e.g. hardware development / software development) because all the requirements and their relationships are accessible for all of them. Whenever a hardware requirements needs to be change the software developer are able to see which of their requirements might be affected. Requirements Management solutions do also help identifying safety-critical parts of the system on which developers need to pay special attention (e.g. risk management).

Think about it!

By: Andreas Plette

15 June 2011

Tools – all-in-one solutions or best-of breed?

Actually two major trends can be seen on the market of tools supporting the entire development process: on the one hand there are a couple of vendors providing so-called ALM or PLM solutions (ALM = Application Lifecycle Management, PLM = Product Lifecycle Management) trying to support a variety of development disciplines (project management, requirements management, change management, configuration management, test management, bug tracking,...) in a single offer, on the other hand there is a huge number of vendors providing tools specialized on a dedicated discipline.

Although ALM solutions may provide benefits with respect to integrating the different disciplines of the lifecycle these solutions typically do not provide the same powerful functionality in all disciplines than is provided by a best-of-breed solution focussing on a dedicated discipline of the development lifecycle. Most ALM solutions today evolved from best-of-breed solutions thus being strong in their original discipline but often being weak in others.

If using an ALM solution a company is highly depending on its vendor. As soon as problems (critical bugs, vendor crashes or is being acquired) arises this may affect the whole development cycle.

On the other side best-of-breed vendors need to integrate their tools into the overall tool chain which may consist of a set of best-of-breed solutions. And those integrations may need to be updated each time a new version of the integrated tool is released. The same holds of course for vendors providing a set of integrated best-of-breed tools.

But what is easier? Integrating a best-of-breed solution improving a specific part of the development process dramatically while the rest of the development process remains unchanged? Or turning the whole development process on its head by introducing a new unknown environment to everyone in a single step?

Do you have a preference? Share your view with us!

By: Andreas Plette

06 June 2011

Lost in complexity? – Act now!

Nowadays it’s no secret anymore that products getting more and more complex regardless whether it is an aircraft, a medical device, a car, a mobile phone or just parts of them. It’s also no secret that many people from different departments – or even companies – having different educational background are involved in the development of such products. Ideally their efforts should have a common base: the requirements describing the product to be built.

There is no doubt that proper requirements management is key to the success of projects. We all know since more than 20 years that it also helps identifying possible issues, problems and mistakes earlier in the development cycle saving us a lot of effort and money fixing them. So why most companies still don’t use professional requirements management solutions? Why they stick to Word and/or Excel based approaches which only work well up to a certain level of complexity?

It is widely accepted that professional requirements management solutions would increase efficiency and bring tremendous benefits to the whole development lifecycle over time thus saving time and money. Nevertheless you will often get the following answer: “We don’t have the time now to introduce a new tool because our project is under time pressure.” I’ve seen dozens of projects in my life but there wasn’t a single one not having time pressure. One thing is as sure as death and taxes: complexity will continue increasing as well as time pressure will not become less if you don’t start thinking about improvements in your development process today! Requirements management is a good place to start...

By: Andreas Plette