Ask the Experts: Reusing requirements with Eric Winquist

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Categories: interviews


In this edition of my occasional Ask the Experts feature, I talk to Eric Winquist, CEO of Jama Software, about how to avoid duplicating work and how reusing requirements can save companies time and money.

Eric, you did a survey recently in which 58% of respondents said their company frequently duplicates work when it isn’t necessary. What are the pitfalls of doing this?

Lack of efficiency is the main drawback to duplicating work—it takes 2-3 times longer to build a new product when yourecreate the wheel. When you consider multiple products in one overall line, you’ll note lots of overlap in functionality. Some new products only require small modifications, yet in many organizations, there’s no way to know that.

Recreating existing requirements over and over again increases risk. Multiple versions increase the chance that things get missed, which diminishes the quality of your product. The end result is a costly fix and potentially late delivery. Organizations that centrally manage requirements respond to change faster and catch errors earlier because they are leveraging requirements that have already been developed and tested.

A lot of knowledge thus goes to waste. By creating an environment of reuse, you can harness all that intellectual property, connect the dots and build enterprise libraries of strategic assets, which continually improve over time.

What do you mean by reusing requirements? Is it the documentation, or the code components that gets reused in order for companies to be more effective?

When we talk about reuse, we are not talking just cut and paste from one document to another. We are talking about everything that describes scope – text or visual requirements, mockups, use cases, epics, story cards, plus all associated context around it. So the test cases, the changes or updates, the documentation, traceability, or relationships, decisions around the requirement – at every stage in product delivery from elicitation to launch, a requirement goes through numerous phases. Requirements available for reuse are battle-tested and proven.

Would this work with projects that are not software projects?

Yes. Enterprise reuse works for any product deliverable, whether a software implementation, a web-based project, or an actual piece of hardware. For example, one of our customers manufactures hospital beds and wheelchairs; different hospitals have specific customization as to the specs, but the bed or chair has the same basic requirements. Reuse is an incredible asset for manufacturers as it simplifies and speeds pulling together new products from core components.

How can companies best archive/store/catalogue their requirements so that they can be reused again when required?

Companies can operationalize requirements – by that we mean they can create central repositories of items, including components, requirements and processes for use across the enterprise. For example, a product manager could use Enterprise Reuse in Jama Contour 3.6 to store core requirements, define the scope and vision for the entire product line.

Different project managers can then replicate the project hierarchy and copy related test cases and requirements for each individual product in the line. They have the advantage of having all the core requirements integrated into their projects and having them auto-sync, so their project is always up-to-date with changes and updates across every project that uses the same core requirements.

They would be able to automatically sync their requirements into their specific products, bringing along all the items’ tags, attachments, links and continuing to use all the relationships to any set of items.

How important is reuse to being able to deliver on time? What are the other benefits of reuse?

New projects that can pull core requirements are already partially completed, in the sense that so much of product success relies on solid requirements. We have one customer who, prior to reuse, spent six months with three people to stabilize a specification. With reuse, it now takes one person one month. We’ve seen companies reduce their time to market by two-thirds and increase efficiency by as much as 85%.

Power of Reuse

Click to see this image larger, and in .pdf format.

Wow, that’s impressive. Do you have any other examples?

SpaceX is a great example of requirements reuse. SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft. In 2012, SpaceX made history when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle to successfully attach to the International Space Station — a feat previously achieved by only four governments. Like many other large organizations tackling complex projects, SpaceX was challenged to meet aggressive launch schedules and turned to Jama Contour’s Enterprise Reuse capabilities to create common assets once to support parallel development efforts.

Reuse allows SpaceX to maintain all the common requirements—managed by a core engineering team ensuring?that they are current and accurate—in one central place. Engineers working on specific projects can access requirements quickly and easily. Additionally, if any of the common requirements change, the engineers are notified and can determine the appropriate action. This enables them to spend their valuable time on the requirements unique to each project. Using Contour, SpaceX has eliminated cumbersome spreadsheets to track requirements and other important details of projects. This allows the company to focus on design and development and missions to space.

Thanks, Eric!

About the expert: Eric Winquist is CEO of Jama Software. In July 2007, Eric founded Jama Software with the vision of providing customers a more collaborative way to develop new products and eliminate the common frustrations with traditional approaches to requirements management. Eric is an accomplished entrepreneur and project manager with over 15 years’ experience working with a wide range of enterprise organizations, teams and technologies.

About the author: Elizabeth Harrin is Director of The Otobos Group, a project management communications consultancy. Find her on and Facebook.

Posted on: February 16, 2013 08:54 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Thanks for sharing. ,Makes a lot of sense. We sell a software which we customize for most clients and I have seen duplication of efforts many time. Will keep in mind the advise about reusing requirements.

Very interesting article, reuse requirements is certainly a strategy that can be applied both in manufacturing world as in services. Thanks for sharing these considerations

Great interview, Elizabeth. As Eric is a fellow Portlander, I have met him and he is an extremely smart and cordial guy. You have captured the essence of him here.

Cheers,
Todd C. Williams

Great job Elizabeth. Requirements reuse is seriously undervalued at today's organizations. I would argue its higher than the figures above, at least at the organizations I have worked for. This is a real opportunities for business analysts to introduce significant cost savings and efficiencies to their organizations.

I recommend you do some homework on the solutions and see what fits best for your organization. There is a lot of potential here.

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