Requirements Competency Drives Successful Projects

There is a new study out by IAG Consulting that confirms many previous studies and the gut-level feeling that most of us have around requirements, namely that companies with poor requirement gathering processes are going to have more project failures than successes.  In fact, the new IAG study points out that companies with poor business analysis capabilities will have 3 times as many project failures as successes.  The report also went on to state that effective business requirements are a process and not a “deliverable”.

One of the more telling graphics pointed out that the competency of the business analyst team had a significant impact on successful projects.  Companies in the lower 3rd of competency classified only 10% of their projects as successful or unqualified successes.  On the other hand, companies in the upper 3rd of competency described more than 70% of their projects as successful

IAG also quantified the inefficiency of poor requirements using an average project size of $3 million.  Companies with poor requirements processes will:

  • Be on budget less than 20% of the time
  • Be massively over budget in time and budget about 50% of the time
  • Spend about 75% per project more than companies who follow best requirements practices

The survey focused on larger companies with development projects with budgets in excess of $250,000 and that delivered significantly new functionality and the average project size in the study was $3 million.

The Executive Summary is available from the IAG website.  The full text report can also be downloaded by registering at the IAG Research Library and the press release on the study can be found here.

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How To Develop a Sure-fire Stakeholder Communication Strategy

In the Catalyze community webcast this week, Barbara Carkenord from B2T Training talked about ways to improve communication with project stakeholders and create a “Sure-fire Communication Strategy”.  As is the case in many initiatives, being successful comes down to paying attention to the People, Project and Process.

The keys to a sure-fire strategy are:

  • Understand the unique characteristics of each project
  • Support the organizational standards and processes of your company
  • Get to know the people, their roles and both the subjective and objective characteristics

She also outlined “The 7 Golden Rules” for creating a sure-fire communication strategy:

  1. Identify the people
  2. Get to know them
  3. Engage them early and communicate often
  4. Identify potential problems and risks
  5. Reduce problems with a communication plan
  6. Fit that knowledge into your work plan
  7. Review alignment to project goals and adjust as necessary

During the Q&A, two other interesting topics were discussed.  While answering a question about what to do when you realize that a project should not continue, Barb referenced a book called Death March by Ed Yourdon about surviving “mission impossible” projects.  She also talked about how great managers must employ “intelligent disobedience” to be most successful.  Intelligence disobedience requires taking risks, creativity, flexibility and perseverence and not ’sugar coating’ conversations with stakeholders.  An article by Bob McGannon has been posted to Catalyze on the topic.

Be sure to check Catalyze for copies of Barb’s presentation and webcast.

All of Us Need To Become Design Thinkers!

I’ve spent some time over the last few months pondering the idea of design thinking.  Part of it was driven by the webcast that Linda Yaven gave on “Making Thinking Visible” for the Catalyze Community and part of it was driven by what I see are the key competitive pressures in marketplace.  It seems that more companies and organizations are starting to talk about increasing their innovation and improving time-to-market instead of cutting costs and reducing errors in their software development process.  But there seems to be a gap in the discussion about how they’re going to get there – which brings up design thinking.

What is Design Thinking? Design thinking is a creative process of ‘building up’ ideas (vs. critical thinking which is generally associated with ‘breaking down’ ideas).  Design thinking is inherently collaborative as groups of people from different disciplines get together to brainstorm, communicate and develop new and creative solutions to problems.  Since there are no judgements or fear of failure in the design thinking process, design thinking encourages maximum input and participation.

In Linda’s webcast, she noted that design thinking is not a genetic trait, but that all of us are capable of learning how to be design thinkers.  She also pointed out that design thinking is a method and a mind-set, and involves learning by doing or what she referred to as immersive thinking.  While design is subject to personal tastes and whims, design thinkers share a common set of values that drive innovation.  These traits include creativity, curiosity, ability to visualize, neutrality, environmentally centered, optimism and teamwork.

Why is Design Thinking Important? Design thinking improves collaboration and will drive innovation.  Companies that apply design thinking will become the market leaders that develop new and innovative products and services.  Since they will be able to test and experiment with many ideas, they will have a built-in evolutionary advantage over companies stuck in a purely analytical mindset.  As noted in an article on Design Thinking by Tim Hyler (referenced below), “Design as an innovative problem-solving methodology is fast becoming an imperative business strategy.”

How Does Design Thinking Relate to iRise? Design thinking includes the following processes or stages (courtesy of Wikipedia):

  1. Define
  2. Research
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Choose
  6. Implement
  7. Learn

iRise fits squarely in the middle of the design thinking process as we enable companies to rapidly prototype or simulate different ideas and alternatives.  In fact, it could be argued iRise is the tool that makes design thinking practical and possible for most companies.

Where Can I Learn More About Design Thinking? Design thinking is just starting to gain mainstream visibility in the business world and there are many sources with additional information.  Here are a few to get you started:

From the Catalyze Community:

iRise Blog Entry – Are You A Design Thinker?