1 month, 26 days ago

CFO and CTO Versus CPO

The CFO and CTOIn this age, 1990 to 2020, the Chief Financial Officer (a financial engineer) is boss in most companies and corporations and the goal is “INCREASING STOCKHOLDER VALUE”.  This includes everything from selling the company, to cooking …

3 years, 8 months ago

If You Want to Create an Enterprise Architecture; Don’t!

One of the last presentations I made as an Enterprise Architect for a major DoD contractor was to the Chief Architect of the US Veterans Administration.  I walked in with a fully prepared presentation that was to take about 10 minutes of the time …

3 years, 9 months ago

If You Want to Create an Enterprise Architecture; Don’t!

One of the last presentations I made as an Enterprise Architect for a major DoD contractor was to the Chief Architect of the US Veterans Administration.  I walked in with a fully prepared presentation that was to take about 10 minutes of the time allotted to our team only to find the Chief Architect cutting the presentation off with a question, “How do we go about creating an IT architecture for the VA?”  Even though I had a very good answer and had applied it on a couple of occasion, my mind blanked.  I want to share with you his problem and the answer I should have given.


The Problem

The problem that the Chief Architect of the VA has is the same problem that plagues CA’s of all large organization and most of medium and smaller organizations.  That question is base on the very logical idea very much the analog of the idea that before you start changing the plumbing, you should know design of the current plumbing; that is, before you can create a “to be” or “next step” architecture you need to have a “current architecture”.  Obviously, if you don’t know which pipes connect where and start making changes to the plumbing you could end up with some very interesting and exciting results for which you may need to call your insurance company.  Likewise, if you want to improve the effectiveness and/or the cost efficiency of the organizational processes and information systems, most Enterprise Architects assume they must first define and delimit the “as-is” processes and information systems for the organization.


The conundrum is that, in today’s technological environment, by the time an IT architecture team has mapped out (structured and ordered) an “as is” architecture, some, most, or all of the elements and data of the architecture will be obsolete and out of date.  For something as large as a major corporation, a department within a state or the federal government, the cost and effort involved would require a tour de force on a very large perhaps unprecedented scale.  This cost and level of effort would be such that the senior management would cut funding to the effort as a waste of time and money, since having an “as-is” architecture by itself produces little in value to the organization.


As can be found in the literature, there are many ways to “solve” or at least ameliorate the problem of creating an “as-is” architecture.  For example, one of the best, that almost works, is to chop the organization into its components and create an “as-is” architecture for each component separately.  Then try to stitch the architectures together.  I’ve tried this and it works up to a point.


There is a truism in Systems Engineering, Systems Architecture, and Enterprise Architecture, “Optimizing the sub-systems will sub-optimize the system”.  I have demonstrated this to many people many times and experienced it several times.  But this is crux of the problem for those that try to create an Enterprise Architecture for a large organization.


The Solution

The simple answer is “Don’t”.  That is, “Don’t attempt to create an “as is” architecture for an organization, especially a large organization, because it will create itself with the proper procedures in place.  So how would I do it?


1.
 Define, delimited, and structured an initial set of classes and attributes for the Organization’s Enterprise Architecture.  These should include:

  • Its Charter, Mission, Goal

  • Its Strategies for achieving its charter, mission, or goal

  • Its Processes supporting its strategies

  • Its Tooling and infrastructure

  • Its Governance that affects any of the above, including:

  • Internal Policies and Standards

  • External Regulations and Standards

I worked with one Enterprise Architecture database that had over fifty classes, each class with ten or more attributes.  This was a fairly mature architecture.  My recommendation, don’t try to think of all the classes you may need or all of the attributes for each class; that’s way over thinking.  Instead, start simple and add through the cycles

2. Once you have designed and structured the initial set of classed and attributes, create a data base structured according to the design.


3.
 Here is the key to creating an “As-Is” Architecture by not creating it…Huh?  Design and implement processes to capture the current state of strategies, processes, and tooling/infrastructure as part of review of funding for revision and upgrades to the current systems and processes.  


4.
 When personnel in the organization propose a project insist that these personnel demonstrate the value of the process or procedure that they intend to update or upgrade. The “value” would include demonstrating which of and how the current product, system, or service enables the processes, strategies, and charter, mission, or goal of the organization. My experience has been that the initial attempts will be fuzzy and incomplete, but that as the number of proposed projects in the database (which is generally called the Asset Management System and on which the “as-is” architecture is built) increases both the completeness and clarity of the current enterprise architecture will increase.


The reason I say “Don’t” try to create an “as-is” architecture is that
 every 3 to 7 years every component of the organization’s information system will need replacement.  This means that within 3 to 5 years simply by documenting and structuring the inputs from all of the efforts the organization’s “as-is” architecture will be synergistically created (and at minimal cost) [Sidebar: There will be some cost because the project proposers will need to think through how their current charter, mission, or goal and the strategies they support links to and supports the overall charter, mission, or goal of the organization.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.]  For large organizations, no matter how much time or effort is put into attempting to create an “As-Is” Enterprise Architecture, it will take a minimum of a year and a great deal of funding; so it simply makes no sense.


As this Enterprise Architecture evolves you will begin to see a number of things that managers want to obfuscate or hide completely.  For example, a number of processes and component or sub-organizations will be demonstrated to be obsolete.  In this case obsolete means that the process or component organization no longer supports any of the organization’s strategies or its goal.  Since managers want to build or at least keep their fiefdoms they will not appreciate this much.  Additionally, it will demonstrate which internal policies, regulations, and standards help the organization and which hurt it in meeting its goal.  Again, the gatekeepers of these policies, regulations, and standards will object–strenuously.  


But there are two more insidious problems that a good “As-Is” Enterprise Architecture will reveal, nepotism and the famous “Catch-22s”.  


Nepotism

Nepotism in this case is more broadly defined than what most people think of as “nepotism”.  In the sense I mean, nepotism can include creating a non-level economic playing field. In all large organizations, but especially in the U.S. Federal government (probably in all governments) the type of nepotism I’m identifying is rampant.  In fact a December 2016 report from the Department of Defense highlights what most federal employees and DoD contractors have known for years, because representatives and senators will only vote for a large program if their district or state gets a part of it, the DoD estimates that the cost of the program increases approximately 20 percent.  This is “jobs welfare” on a massive scale.  Some major defense contractors have plants in every state for just this reason, not because it make any sense from a cost efficiency perspective.  Further, Congress had passed laws to ensure that minority and female owned businesses.  The reason is that minorities and women scream that the good old boy network doesn’t allow them to compete for sub-contracts [Sidebar: Actually the reason for the “good ole boy” network is that the prime contractors have sub-contractors that actually know what their doing.  In my experience, many times primes will “encourage”–read subsidize–inexperienced and frequently incompetent minority and female owned businesses in order to meet these regulations imposed on their proposals.]  Again, this is a form of social welfare to ensure all political constituents that scream loudly are appeased.  This adds up to the DoD being one of the larger governmental welfare organizations. [Sidebar: While, seemingly, I’ve picked on government organizations, especially the U.S. DoD, and while I have found that all governmental organizations in a democracy will have this type of nepotism.  This is what lobbing is all about.  Only when it goes so far that it’s plain to all and when it’s not openly enacted into law that we call it graft and corruption.]  And it’s not only governments that suffer from this type of nepotism, all large organizations have the same problems, though generally on a smaller scale.  For example, sometimes the nepotism is written into union contracts.  Along with finance engineering, the auto industry in Detroit suffered a near collapse due to contractual nepotism.

This presents a problem for any Enterprise Architect.  The as-is architecture will highlight the nepotism of this type more clearly than any report.  The Enterprise Architect won’t need to report it to the management, it will be self-evident.  I’ve experienced a situation, as I suspect many of you have, where the management kills the messenger in order to not address the problem.  In my case, three times I’ve been chased off programs when I reported that the effort was subsidizing silliness.


Catch-22

The second significant problem that policies, regulations, and standards become contradictory to each other or in combination make it impossible for the organization to achieve its goal.  Again, a good enterprise architecture will highlight these, though frequently, when management from one generation of technology with its set of policies and standards, finds the next upon them, they will refuse to resend or modify the existing regulations, preferring instead, again, to kill the messenger.  So like Systems Engineers, I’ve found that enterprise architects are only respected by other enterprise architects.


5.
 When the development and implementation team completes a project, and once it goes into operation, then as a final step in their effort, they should review the data they gave to the enterprise architect, revising the data to accurately reflect the “as-built” instead of the “as-proposed”.  The as-built documentation must include all component, assembly or functional, and customer acceptance testing, and all post production required changes.  This documentation will inevitably lead to additional class attributes of the Asset Management System and structure in the enterprise architecture.


6.
 As the Asset Management System and the Enterprise Architecture matures, management should prepare for a paradigm shift in the way projects and other efforts are proposed.  This is where Enterprise Architecture really demonstrates how it can make the organization both more effective and cost efficient.


A mature enterprise architecture can serve as the basis for a dynamic business or organizational process model for the organization.  Management can use this model to identify obsolete processes, (and as discussed) policies, regulations, and standards; ones that the organization should eliminate.  Additionally, with the help of the Enterprise Architect, management can identify missing or inhibiting processes and tools, and identify bottlenecks and dams in process flows.


Further, they can model what happens when the missing and inhibiting processes and tools are added or when the bottlenecks are eliminated or reduced.  This modeling will then indicate where there is a need for new efforts and to some degree the effectiveness and cost efficiency of such efforts.  It’s a paradigm shift in that no longer to component or sub-units of the organization propose changes.  Instead, senior management working with the Enterprise Architect and the component or sub-units will identify and fund efforts.  They now have a way to measure the potential of the change in meeting the organizational goal, which means senior management has a better way of managing organizational change.


Finally, once management has identified targets for change or upgrade, the enterprise architect together with a system architect can define alternatives to meet the effort’s requirements.  They can model alternative process and tooling changes to forecast which has the lowest potential risk, the highest potential return, the least disruption of current activities, lowest initial cost, lowest lifecycle cost, the most adaptable or agile, or any number of other targets defined by the senior management.  This will make the organization much more cost efficient, and perhaps more cost effective; and this is the purpose of Enterprise Architecture,


To sum up, using this six step, high-level process is an effective way to create both an Asset Management System (an “As-Is” Architecture) and an effective Enterprise Architecture process; perhaps the only way.  

8 years, 8 months ago

Enterprise Portfolio Management and Enterprise Architecture Paper Available

I have added another paper to my list of papers.  This one is on the central role of the Enterprise Architect in the Enterprise Portfolio Management Process and how Systems Engineering, System Architecture, and Enterprise Architecture are inter-re…

8 years, 8 months ago

Enterprise Portfolio Management and Enterprise Architecture Paper Available

I have added another paper to my list of papers.  This one is on the central role of the Enterprise Architect in the Enterprise Portfolio Management Process and how Systems Engineering, System Architecture, and Enterprise Architecture are inter-re…

8 years, 11 months ago

The Chief Process Office of an Agile Organization

The IDEF0 Pattern and the Organization’s Value EngineIn my book, Organizational Economics: the Formation of Wealth, I use the IDEF0 pattern to model the organization.  This pattern has three internal components, Control, Process, and Mechanisms (t…

9 years, 1 month ago

The Cost of Rockets Built by NASA: Waterfall Process vs Short-cycle and Agile Processes

ShortcomingsThis post is really not about the shortcomings of NASA, it’s more about the inevitability poor, high cost deliverables when a) an organization looses its focus because of a constantly changing Vision and Mission; b) a development process fo…

9 years, 2 months ago

Short Cycle, Agile, Level of Effort efforts, and Changes in Roles and Responsibilities

In a recent post I briefly discussed the changes in roles and emphasis when a development or transformation effort changes from a waterfall (Big Bang) effort to a short cycle-agile effort.  This post will discuss the topic in more detail in terms …

9 years, 3 months ago

Systems Engineering, Product/System/Service Implementing, and Program Management

A Pattern for Development and Transformation Efforts

Recently a discussion started in a LinkedIn Group that recruiters, HR, and Management was using the term “Systems Engineer” indiscriminately.   The conclusion was that the discipline of Systems Engineering and the role of the Systems Engineer in Development and Transformation Efforts is poorly understood by most people, and perhaps by many claiming to be Systems Engineers.  In my experience of building a Systems Engineer group from 5 to 55, I can attest to this conclusion.
Currently, I am working on a second book, with the working title of “Systems Engineering, System Architecture, and Enterprise Architecture“.  In the book, I’m attempting to distill 45+ years of experience and observation of many efforts, from minor report revisions to the Lunar Module, F-14, B-2, and X-29 aircraft creation efforts, to statewide IT outsourcing efforts.  This post contains excerpts of several concepts from this manuscript.
The Archetypal Pattern for Product/System/Service Development and Transformation
At a high level there is an architectural process pattern for Product/System/Service development and transformation.  I discuss this pattern in my current book, Organizational Economics: The Formation of Wealth, and it is one key pattern for my next book.  This pattern is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1–The Three Legged Stool Pattern

As shown in Figure 1, the architectural process model posits that all development and transformation efforts are based on the interactions of three functions (or sub-processes), Systems Engineering, Design and Implementation, and Program Management.  This is true whether a homeowner is replacing a kitchen faucet or NASA is building a new spacecraft.  Each of these sub-processes is a role with a given set of skills.

Consequently, as shown in Figure 1, I call this process pattern “The Three-legged Stool” pattern for development and transformation.  I will discuss each sub-process as a role with requirements.  Therefore, this is what I see as the needs or requirements for the process and the skills for the role.  In my next book, I will discuss more about how these can be done.

As shown in Figure 1, the program management role is to enable and support the other two roles with financial resources and expect results, in the form of a product/system/service meeting the customer’s requirements.
Systems Engineering (and System Architecture) Role
The first role is the Systems Engineer/System Architect.  This role works with the customer to determine the requirements–“what is needed.”  I’ve discussed this role in several posts including Enterprise Architecture and System Architecture and The Definition of the Disciplines of Systems Engineering.  Three key functions of this sub-process are:
These are the key responsibilities for the role, though from the posts, cited above, “The devil (and complexity of these) is in the detail“.
The key issue with the Systems Engineering/System Architect role within a project/program/effort is that the requirements analysis procedure becomes analysis paralysis.  That is, the Systems Engineer (at least within the “waterfall” style effort, that assumes that all of the requirements are known upfront) will spend an inordinate amount of time “requirements gathering”; holding the effort up, to attempt to insure that all of the requirements are “know”–which is patently impossible.
 I will discuss solutions to this issue in the last two sections of this post.
Design and Implementation Role
When compared with Systems Engineering, the Design and Implementation functions, procedures, methods, and role are very well understood, taught, trained, and supported with tooling.  This role determines “How to meet the customer’s needs“, as expressed in the “What is needed (requirements)”, as shown in Figure 1.  These are the product/system/service designer, developers, and implementers of the transformation; the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) that actually create and implement.  These skills are taught in Community Colleges, Colleges, Universities, Trade Schools, and on-line classes.  The key sub-processes, procedures, functions, and methods are as varied as the departments in the various institutions of higher learning just mentioned.

There is a significant issue with designers and implementers, they attempt to create the “best” product ever and go into a never ending set of design cycles.  Like the Systems Engineering “analysis paralysis”, this burns budget and time without producing a deliverable for the customer.  One part of this problem is that the SMEs too often forget is that they are developing or transforming against as set of requirements (The “What’s Needed“).  In the hundreds of small, medium, and large efforts in which I’ve been involved, I would say that the overwhelming percentage of time, the SMEs never read the customer’s requirements because they understand the process, procedure, function, or method far better than the customer.  Therefore, they implement a product/system/service that does not do what the customer wants, but does do many functions that the customer does not want.  Then the defect management process takes over to rectify these two; which blows the budget and schedule entirely, while making the customer unhappy, to say the least. The second part of this problem is that each SME role is convinced that their role is key to the effort.  Consequently, they develop their portion to maximize its internal efficiency while completely neglecting the effectiveness of the product/system/service.  While I may be overstating this part somewhat, at least half the time, I’ve seen efforts where, security for example, attempts to create the equivalent of “write only memory”; the data on it can never be used because the memory cannot be read from.  This too, burns budget and schedule while adding no value.

Again, I will discuss solutions to this issue in the last two sections of this post.

Program Management Role
As shown in Figure 1, the role, procedures, and methods of Program Management is to support and facilitate Systems Engineering and Design and Implementation roles.   This is called Leadership.   An excellent definition of leadership is attributed to Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher of approximately 2500 years ago.  As I quoted in my book, Organizational Economics: The Formation of Wealth:
  • The best of all leaders is the one who helps people so that, eventually, they don’t need him.
  • Then comes the one they love and admire.
  • Then comes the one they fear.
  • The worst is the one who lets people push him around.
Where there is no trust, people will act in bad faith.  The best leader doesn’t say much, but what he says carries weight.  When he is finished with his work, the people say, “It happened naturally“.”[1]
[1] Lao Tzu, This quote is attributed to Lao Tzu, but no source of the quote has been discovered.
If the program manager does his or her job correctly, they should never be visible to the customer or suppliers; instead they should be the conductor and coordinator of resources for the effort.  Too often the project and program managers forget that this is their role and what the best type of leader is. Instead, they consider themselves as the only person responsible for the success of the effort and “in control” of the effort.  The method for this control is to manage the customer’s programmatic requirements (the financial resources and schedule).  This is the the way it works today.

The Way This Works Today: The Program Management Control Pattern

There are two ways to resolve the “requirements analysis paralysis” and the “design the best” issues, either by the Program Manager resolving it, or through the use of a process that is designed to move the effort around these two landmines.

The first way is to give control of the effort to manager.  This is the “traditional” approach and the way most organization’s run development and transformation efforts .  The effort’s manager manages the customer’s programmatic requirements, (budget and schedule), so the manager plans out the effort including its schedule.  This project plan is based on “the requirements”, most often plan includes “requirements analysis”.

[Rant 1, sorry about this: My question has always been, “How is it possible to plan a project based on requirements when the first task is to analyze the requirements to determine the real requirements?”  AND, I have seen major efforts (hundreds of millions to billions) which had no real requirements identified…Huh?]

The Program or Project Manager tells the Systems Engineer and Developer/Implementer when each task is complete; because that’s when the time and or money for that task on the schedule is done, regardless of the quality of the work products from the task.  “Good” managers keep a “management reserve” in case things don’t go as planned.  Often, if nothing is going as planned, the manager’s knee jerk reaction is to “replan”; which means creating an inch-stone schedule.  I’ve seen and been involved in large efforts where the next level of detail would be to schedule “bathroom breaks”.  This method for resolution of “analysis paralysis” and “design the best” will almost inevitably cause cost and schedule overruns, unhappy customers, and defective products because the effort’s control function to control costs and schedules.

The Program Management Control Pattern
Figure 2 shows the Program Management Control Pattern.  The size of the elipse shows the percieved importance of each of the three roles.


Figure 2–The Program Management Control Pattern

First, the entire “Three Legged Stool” Pattern is turned upside down is the Program Management Control Pattern.  Rather than the Program Manager enabling and supporting the development process by understanding and supporting the development or transformation process, the Program Manager “controls” the process.  In Lao Tzu leadership taxonomy, this process pattern makes the Program Manager one of the latter increasingly ineffective types.  It also reverses importance of who produces the value in the effort.

To be able to “Control” the effort, the Program Manager requires many intermediate artifacts, schedules, budgets, and status reports, which use up the resources of the efforts and  are non-valued work products, the customer might look at these artifacts once during a PMR, PDR, CDR, or other “XDR” (Rant 2: Calling these review Program Management Reviews, instead of some type of Design Review”, Preliminary, Critical, etc., demonstrates the overwhelming perceived importance of the programmatic requirements by Program Managers.)  I submit that all of these intermediate artifacts are non-value added because 3 months after the effort is completed, the customer or anyone else will not look at any of them except if the customer is suing the the development or transformation organization over the poor quality of the product.  All of these management reviews require resources from the Developers/Implementers and the Systems Engineers.

One extreme example of this management review procedure was the procedures used in development of new aircraft for the US Air Force and Navy during the 1980s and 90s–sometimes facts are stranger than fantasy.  The DoD required some type of “Development Review” every 3 months.  Typically, these were week-long reviews with a large customer team descending on the aircraft’s Prime Contractor.  Program Management (perhaps, rightly) considered these of ultimate importance to keeping the contract and therefore wanted everyone ready.  Consequently, all hands on the effort stopped work 2 weeks prior to work on status reports and presentation rehearsals.  Then, after the “review” all hands would spend most of an additional week reviewing the customer’s feedback and trying to replan the effort to resolve issues and reduce risk.  If you add this up, the team was spending 1 month in every 3 on status reporting.  And I have been part of information technology efforts, in this day of instant access to everything on a project where essentially the same thing is happening.  Think about it, these aircraft programs spent one third of their budget, and lengthened the programs by 1/3 just for status for what?  Intermediate artifacts of no persistent value–Who looked at the presentations of the first Preliminary Design Review after the aircraft was put into operations?  [Rant 3: Did the American citizen get value for the investment or was this just another Program Management Entitlement Program funded by the DoD?]

Second, as shown in Figure 2, the Systems Engineering role is substantially reduced  in the perception of the Program Manager.  An example of this was brought home to me on a multi-billion program, when I asked the chief engineer where the requirements were stored, he quoted the Program’s Director as saying, “We don’t need no damn requirements, we’re too busy doing the work.”  This Director underlined this thinking; he kept hiring more program management, schedule planners, earned value analysts, and so on, while continuous reducing then eliminating the entire Systems Engineering team and leaving only a few System Architects.  He justified this by the need to increased control and cost reduction to meet his budget [Rant 4: and therefore to get his “management bonus”–no one ever heard of the Design or a System Engineering Bonus].  Actually, I’ve seen this strategy put into play on large (more than $20M) three programs with which I was associated and I’ve heard about it on several more within the organization I was work for and in other organizations, over the past 10 years.  

Another program that I worked on as the Lead Systems Engineer that had the same perception of the Systems Engineer (including the System Architect’s role within the Systems Engineering discipline/role).  It is an extreme example of all that can go wrong because of lack of Systems Engineering.  This effort was development of a portal capability for the organization.  It started with a that had 10 management personnel and myself.  They articulated a series of ill-thought-out capability statements, continued by defining a series products that had to be used (with no not identification of Customer System or IT Functional requirements), with a 6 weeks schedule, and ended with a  budget that was 50 percent of what even the most optimistic budgeteers could “guessitmate”.  They (the three or four levels of management represented at the meeting) charged me with the equivalent of “Making bricks without straw or mud in the dark”, that is, creating the portal.  Otherwise, my chances of getting on the Reduction In Force (RIF) list would be drastically increased.

Given that charge, I immediately contacted the software supplier and the development team members from two successful efforts within the organization to determine if there was any hope of the effort within the programmatic constraints to accomplish the task.  All three agreed, it could not be done in less than 6 months.  Faced with this overwhelming and documented evidence, they asked me what can be done.  The result was based on their “capability” statements, and “Requirements (?)” documents from the other two projects, I was able to cobble together a System Architecture Document (SAD) that these managers could point to as visible progress.  Additionally, I used a home grown risk tool to document risks as I bumped into them.  Additionally, I instituted a risk watch list report on a weekly basis, which all the managers ignored.

At this point one fiscal year ended and with the new year, I was able to have the whole, nationwide, team get together, in part, to get everyones requirements and design constraints.  Additionally, I presented an implementation plan for the capabilities I understood they needed.  This plan included segmenting the functions for an IOC build in May, followed by several additional several additional builds.  Since this management team was used to the waterfall development process, the rejected this with no consideration; they wanted it all by May 15th.  In turn, I gave them a plan for producing, more or less, an acceptable number of functions, and an associated risk report with a large number of high probability/catastrophic impact risks.  They accepted the plan.  The plan failed; here is an example of why.

One of the risks was getting the hardware for the staging and production systems in by March 15th.  I submitted the Bill of Materials (BOM) to the PM the first week in February.  The suppliers of the hardware that I recommended indicated that the hardware would be shipped within 7 days of the time the order was received.  When I handed the BOM to the PM, I also indicated the risk if we didn’t get the systems by March 15th.  On March 1st, I told him that we would have a day for day slippage in the schedule for every day we didn’t receive the hardware.  The long and the short of it was that I was called on the carpet for a wire brushing on July 28th when we had the program held up because of lack of hardware.  Since I could show the high-level manager that, in fact, I had reported the risk (then issue) week after week in the risk report she received, her ire finally turned on the PM, who felt he had the responsibility.

The net result of these and several other risks induced either by lack of requirements or lack of paying attention to risks resulted in a system that was ready for staging the following December.  Management took it upon themselves to roll the portal into production without the verification and validation testing.  The final result was a total failure of the effort due to management issues coming from near the top of the management pyramid.  Again, this was due to a complete lack of understanding of the role of Systems Engineering and Architecture.  In fact, this is a minor sample of the errors and issues–maybe I will write a post on this entire effort as an example of what not to do.

In fact the DoD has acknowledged the pattern shown in Figure 2 and countered it by creating System Engineering Technical Advisory (SETA) contracts.

The Utility of Program Management

[Rant 5: Here’s where I become a Heritic to many, for my out of the warehouse thinking.]  In the extreme, or so it may seem it is possible that projects don’t need a project manager.  I don’t consider that a rant because it is a fact.  Here are two questions that makes the point.  “Can an excellent PM with a team of poorly skilled Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) create a top notch product?” and  “Can a poor PM with a team of excellent SMEs create a top notch product?”  The answer to the first is “Only with an exceptional amount of luck”, while the answer to the second is “Yes! Unless the PM creates too much inter-team friction.”  In other words, except for reducing inter-team friction, which uses resources unproductively, and for guiding and facilitating the use of resources, the PM produces no value, in fact, the PM creates no value, just reduces friction, which preserves value and potential value.

None of the latter three types of leaders, as described by Lao Tzu, can perform perform this service to the team, the ones I call in my book, the Charismatic, the Dictator, or the Incompetent. In other words, the PM can’t say and act as if “The floggings will continue until morale improves”.

Instead, the PM must be a leader of the first type as described by Lao Tzu and as I called in my book as “the coach or conductor”.  And any team member can be that leader.  As a Lead Developer and as a Systems Engineer, I’ve run medium sized projects without a program manager and been highly successful–success in this case being measured by bringing the effort in under cost, ahead of schedule, while meeting or exceeding the customers requirements  Yet, on those none of the programs, for which I was the lead systems engineer and which had a program manager and who’s mission was to bring in the effort on time and within budget, was successful.  On the other hand, I’ve been on two programs where the PM listened with his/her ears rather than his/her month and both paid attention to the System Requirements; those efforts were highly successful.

The net of this is that a coaching/conducting PM can make a good team better, but cannot make a bad team good, while a PM in creating better projects plans, producing better and more frequent status reports, and creating and managing to more detailed schedules will always burn budget and push the schedule to the right.

A Short Cycle Process: The Way It Could and Should Work
As noted near the start of this post, there are two ways to resolve the “requirements analysis paralysis” and the “design the best” issues, either by Program Management Control, or through the use of a process that is designed to move the effort around these two landmines.
This second solution uses a development or transformation process that assumes that “Not all requirements are known upfront“.  This single change of assumption makes all the difference.  The development and transformation process must, by necessity, take this assumption into account (see my post The Generalize Agile Development and Implementation Process for Software and Hardware for an outline of such a process).  This takes the pressure off the customer and Systems Engineer to determine all of the requirements upfront and the Developer/Implementer to “design the best” product initially.  That is, since not all of the requirements are assumed to be known upfront, the Systems Engineer can document and have the customer sign off on an initial set of known requirements early in the process (within the first couple of weeks), with the expectation that more requirements will be identified by the customer during the process.  The Developer/Implementer can start to design and implement the new product/system/service based on these requirements with the understanding that as the customer and Systems Engineer identify and prioritize more the of the customer’s real system requirements.  Therefore, they don’t have to worry about designing the “best” the first time; simply because they realize that without all the requirements, they can’t.
 
Changing this single assumption has additional consequences for Program Management.  First, there is really no way to plan and schedule the effort; the assumption that not all the requirements are known upfront means that if a PM attempts to “plan and schedule” the effort is an “exercise in futility.”  What I mean by that is if the requirements change at the end/start of the new cycle, then the value of a schedule of more than the length of one cycle is zero because at the end of the cycle the plan and schedule, by definition of the process, change.  With the RAD process I created, this was the most culturally difficult issue I faced with getting PM and management to understand and accept.  In fact, a year after I moved to a new position, the process team imposed a schedule on the process.
Second, the assumptions forces the programmatic effort into a Level Of Effort (LOE) type of budgeting and scheduling procedure.  Since there is no way to know what requirements are going to be the customer’s highest priority in succeeding cycles, the Program Manager, together with the team must assess the LOE to meet each of the requirements from the highest priority down.  They would do this by assessing the complexity of the requirement and the level of risk with creating the solution that meets the requirement.  As soon as the team runs out of resources forecast for that cycle, they have reached the cutoff point for that cycle.  They would present the set to the customer for the customer’s concurrence.  Once they have customer sign off, they would start the cycle.  Sometimes a single Use Case-based requirement with its design constraints will require more resources than are available to the team during one cycle.  In that case, the team, not the PM, must refactor the requirement. 
For example, suppose there is a mathematically complex transaction, within a knowledge-based management system, which requires an additional level of access control, new hardware, new COTS software, new networking capablities, new inputs and input feeds, new graphics and displays, and transformed reporting.  This is definitely sufficiently complex that no matter how many high quality designers, developers, and implementers you up on the effort, it cannot be completed within one to perhaps even three months (This is  the “9 women can’t make a baby in a month” principle).  Then the team must refactor (divide up) the requirement into chunks that are doable by the team within the cycle’s period, say one to three months.  For example, the first cycle might define and delimit the hardware required and develop the new level of access control; and so on for the number of cycles needed to meet the requirement.
Third, with this assumption of “not having all the requirements”, the PM must pay most attention to the requirements, their verification and validation, and to risk reduction.  All of these functions lay within the responsibility of the Systems Engineer; but the PM must pay attention to them to help best allocate the budget and time resources.
Fourth, there is no real need for PMRs, status reports, or Earned Value metrics.  The reason is simple, high customer involvement.  The customer must review the progress of the effort every month at a minimum, generally every week.  This review is given by the developers demonstrating the functions of the product, system, or service on which they are working.  And if the customer is always reviewing the actual development work, why is there a need for status, especially for an LOE effort?
Fifth, rolling a new system or service has significant implications for the customer.for the timing and size of the ROI for the development or transformation effort.  With an IOC product, system, or service, the customer can start to use it and in using the IOC will be able to, at a minimum, identify missing requirements.  In some cases, much more.  For example, in one effort, in which I performed the systems engineering role, during the first cycle the team created the access control system and the data input functions for a transactional website.  During the second cycle, the customer inserted data into the data store for the system.  While doing this, the customer discovered sufficient errors in the data to pay for the effort.  Consequently, they were delighted with the system and were able to fund additional functionality, further improving their productivity.  If the effort had been based on the waterfall, the customer would have had to wait until the entire effort was complete, may not have been as satisfied with the final product (more design defects because of unknown requirements), would not have discovered the errors, and therefore, would not have funded an extension to the effort.  So it turned out for a win for the customer– more functionality and greater productivity–and for the supply–more work.
In using a short cycle process based on assuming “unknown requirements”, there will always be unfulfilled customer system requirements at the end of this type of development or transformation process.  This is OK.  It’s OK for the customer because the development or transformation team spent the available budgetary and time requirements in creating a product, system, or service that meets the customer’s highest priority requirements, even if those requirements were not initially identified; that is, the customer “got the biggest bang for the buck”.  It’s OK for the team because a delighted customer tends to work hard at getting funding for the additional system requirements.  When such a process is used in a highly disciplined manner, the customer invariably comes up with additional funding.  This has been my experience on over 50 projects with which I was associated, and many others that were reported to me as Lead Systems Engineer for a Large IT organization.
Conclusions and Opinions
The following are my conclusions on this topic:
  1. If a development or transformation effort focuses on meeting the customer’s system requirements, the effort has a much better chance of success than if the focus is on meeting the programmatic requirements.
  2. If the single fundamental assumption is changed from “All the requirements are known up front” to “Not all the requirements are known up front” the effort has the opportunity to be successful or much more successful by the only metric that counts, the customer is getting more of what he or she wants, and that increases customer satisfaction.
  3. If the development or transformation effort can roll out small increments will increase the customer’s ROI for the product, system, or service.
  4. Having a Program Manager, who’s only independent responsibility is managing resources be accountable for an effort is like having the CEO of an organization report to the CFO; you get cost efficient, but not effective products, systems, or services.  [Final Rant: I know good PMs have value, but if a team works, that is because the PM is a leader of the first type: a coach and conductor.] Having a Program Manager that understands the “three legged stool” pattern for development or transformation, and who executes to it will greatly enhance the chance for success of the effort.

9 years, 3 months ago

Types of Requirements

Definition of a RequirementA Requirement is a measurable expression of what a customer wants and for which the customer is willing to pay.  Therefore, a requirement has three attributes:It has a description of what the customer wants or …