Large, multi-year projects like Intelligent Transportation Systems, Health Care Exchanges, new factory construction, road and bridge constructions, etc. involve significant collaboration between teams. There are typically three primary roles that participate in these collaborations. The Client is the individual, public sector or private sector organization who has the goals, needs and expectations that are to be addressed. A client represents the demand side of an initiative, and is often the source of requirements for the initiative, and the funds to pay for it. Another role is the Solution Provider who actually builds components of the solution. Solution providers represent the supply side of the equation, delivering the outputs having the value propositions, capabilities and commitments that meets the goals, needs and expectations of the client. Solution providers often organize their work into one or more projects required to deliver the outputs, including systems and software, that meet the client requirements.
A large project may involve many solution providers. In some cases, the client may choose to work directly with the solution providers through their own Project Management Office (PMO). In other cases, the initiative may be sufficiently complex, requiring unique skills that the client does not need to establish and maintain in-house. In these cases, the client may engage with a program management consulting organization to provide the necessary skills, and to act as a mediator between the client and the many solution providers. The solution providers are responsible for delivering outputs to the program manager who is in turn responsible for ensuring the program outcomes are delivered to the client. The collaboration between the client, program manager and solution providers manages the information and material flow in a supply or value chain connecting supply and demand. In the rest of this post we’ll be examining some sources of waste and inefficiency in this supply chain, in particular the challenges with document-centers communication and collaboration.
Large initiatives follow a fairly typical lifecycle. The client assesses business influencers, their goals and strategies, and envisions initiatives that will achieve the desired results. The initiatives are then elaborated into requirements that are collected into one or more RFPs issued to potential solution providers. The solution providers study the RFPs and develop proposals including detailed output descriptions and SOWs that estimate the cost and delivery schedules they are willing and able to commit to. The client examines the proposals, assessing them against some criteria and eventually awards the contracts to the winning bidders.
Then the projects begin. During their lifecycle, the solution providers deliver interim outputs which the program management organization assess against the requirements to determine the gaps. Additional work is then done to close the delivery gaps. This is repeated until the program management organization delivers an acceptable result to the client who signs off on the deliverables and the program is completed.
Now let’s look at how the collaboration and communication between the client, program management, and solution provider organizations typically takes place. The RFPs and SOWs are the primary means of communication and represent the formal agreements between the parties. In the past these documents were delivered on paper through the mail and were marked up through the review process, edited and republished until accepted. Then the determination of the requirements/solution gap required the program management organization to assess deliverables against requirements in the final accepted documents. If the requirements changed, the change order process describes how the documents are updated, reviewed and accepted by all the involved parties.
We’ve made some real improvements this process by leveraging typical electronic office documents and email to reduce the development and delivery time for managing these documents. However, these improvements are relatively insignificant compared to the time and effort required to develop, maintain and use these documents to manage the overall projects and program. There has been little substantial change in how clients, partners and suppliers interact in the supply chain, even through there is extreme pressure on them all to do more with less.
There are many sources of waste and inefficiency in the supply chain. Lean value streams is a way of determining these sources of waste and assessing different opportunities for process improvements. It is beyond the scope of this post to examine the whole value stream involved in these large initiatives. But we can focus on the particular challenges of document-centric collaboration and communication, and propose specific solutions that address these challenges.
Document centric collaboration and communication has a number of challenges that create latency in the value stream. Documents focus on presentation for human consumption, commingling the view with the underlying data. This makes the information in the document harder to reuse to support other stakeholder needs. Business analysts and solution architects have to spend time on presentation creation, making compromises on information organization, style and content in order to balance different stakeholder needs with a single document. In the meantime, these highly skilled resources are not spending their time on eliciting, using, and managing requirements and other rich program information. Even in cases where documents are at least partially generated from other information, they can still take a long time to develop and maintain.
Documents tend to copy rather than link to reused information. This redundancy results in the same information being reviewed multiple times. Redundancy also increase document maintenance costs since the copied information has to be updated in multiple places, and the updates also have to be reviewed multiple times.
Because of the production and maintenance costs, documents are often out of date shortly after they have been published resulting in consumers working with incorrect information. Using email as the primary means of information sharing also increases the chances that stakeholders are working with incorrect or out of date versions of the documents.
But perhaps the most significant challenge is that it is not practical to support fine-grained linking between elements across documents, manual hyperlinks are just too difficult to maintain. As a result, it is difficult to process information in documents through automation, and documents support informal, poor, course-grained change and impact analysis.
The fundamental issue is that information that should be shared between the stakeholders is being communicated indirectly through published documents instead of used directly. Let’s explore a different approach. IBM Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management (CLM) tools were designed to facilitate collaboration between stakeholders in typical Solution Delivery and Lifecycle Management (SDLC) or Systems and Software Engineering (SSE) processes. These tools provide support for requirements management, change and configuration management, and quality management. We can use these tools to reduce wastes in the supply chain for large initiatives. Since the tools are used by many stakeholders, across different organizations, they can be provided as SaaS through a hosting provider to make them accessible as needed while also reducing the tool installation and maintenance costs.
Let’s take another look at the initiative lifecycle, and see how it might be improved by utilizing CLM tools to decrease communication latency and errors. The client assesses business influencers, their goals and strategies, and envisions initiatives that will achieve the desired results. The initiatives are then elaborated into requirements that are captured directly in the CLM requirements management tool, DOORS-NG. Modules can be used to organize the same requirements in different ways to meet different stakeholder needs, but without copying the requirements. Diagrams and text can be easily linked based on semantically rich relationships that are easily navigated directly in the tool. Reviews can also be created in DOORS-NG, and the results of the reviews and review comments are stored directly in the database attached to the applicable requirements. When the client is ready to issue RFPs, they simply publish a link to the appropriate requirements modules in the DOORS-NG database. There’s no need to create an RFP document – the solution providers can access the requirements directly.
The solution providers study the requirements and develop proposals including detailed output descriptions, project plans and work items in Rational Team Concert (RTC) that estimate the cost and delivery schedules they are willing and able to commit to. The plans and work items are directly linked to the requirements they are intended to fulfill. And the work items and requirements can also be linked to the test cases in the quality plan that will be used to determine the requirements/delivery gap. Solution providers submit their bids as links to RTC project plans. Clients can now utilize portfolio management tools such as Rational Focal Point to objectively assess the bid proposals against initiative criteria, and easily visualize which bids have the lowest costs, risks, time to value, etc. This is because the SOWs are now in a form that can be processed by Focal Point instead of being trapped in documents that can only be read by humans.
During the program lifecycle, the solution providers deliver interim outputs which the program management organization assess against the requirements to determine the gaps. The IT outputs can be delivered directly in RTC using the source code management facility. RTC change and configuration management provides rich capabilities for managing change on multiple streams to support different needs. Rational Quality Manager (RQM) can be used by the program management organization to capture test results, and connect the tests to the requirements and new work items required to close the delivery gaps. This is repeated until the program management organization delivers an acceptable result to the client who signs off on the deliverables and the program is completed.
In summary, Rational CLM can be used to eliminate the documents and enable collaboration and communication directly through shared information, stakeholder specific dashboards and views, subscription and notification, and full lifecycle traceability and impact analysis. CLM capabilities can be used to significantly reduce waste and risk in projects and programs. Providing these capabilities through SaaS reduces the infrastructure and startup costs that would normally have been born by all of the clients, partners and suppliers to create their own lifecycle management solutions. Since these facilities would be siloed and fragmented too, they would still limit the access to shared information. All touch points between clients, partners and suppliers in the supply chain is through the CLM shared information. RFPs are replaced by requirements management. SOWs are replaced by project plans and work items that are directly connected to requirements and validating test plans.The PMO uses quality management as the primary means of assessing the gap between delivered solutions and requirements by connecting test results to new work items and requirements.