Requirements Clarity Increases Release Rates

Visiting with the outgoing functional analyst in our shared cubicle, I learned that this project was to bring me the significant challenge of reducing design waste. Furthermore, there was significant distrust from both Engineering and the internal customers. Engineering was given in-depth functional specs, and then pressured by customers to quickly consume and implement them. Apparently the customers’ expectations on the length of this process was not made clear. As a result, Engineering either didn’t read or didn’t understand the specs, and delivered functionality that was both off-design and late.
The solution I implemented included an agile process, monthly incremental releases, streamlined functional specs, and alignment with customers. The agile process replaced a quarterly release cycle, which sometimes slipped a couple months. The agile process included weekly joint requirements planning (JRP) and joint application delivery (JAD) sessions, daily stand-up meetings, and sprint review meetings. The monthly incremental releases were driven by prioritizing minimal marketable features (MMF), designing for extensibility, and using test-driven development. Functional specs retained only those topics that were vital to the next release. Typically this included data model, flow diagrams, use cases, and error messages. Customers were aligned by working through JRP sessions until everyone was satisfied that the top-priorities of all customers were represented by a release’s scope.
The agile process lead the end results of the solution. Even though a release had less time, there was less pressure and greater trust because the scope was jointly controlled. Developers read and understood the specs because there was less time-pressure, and they had significantly contributed to the specs. Design waste was reduced as measured by the focused specs having an average of 70% less content. Finally, the team was able to deliver the expected design on time — every time — and at a rate 200% faster.


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