Three core concepts.

Three core concepts.

My model for scaling traceability is based on an assumption that there is a relationship between customer involvement, criticality and complexity.  This yields the level of documentation required to achieve the benefits of traceability.  The model leverages an assessment of project attributes that define the three common concepts.  The concepts are:

  • Customer involvement in the project
  • Complexity of the functionality being delivered
  • Criticality of the project

A thumbnail definition of each of the three concepts begins with the concept of customer involvement, which is defined as the amount of time and effort applied to a project in a positive manner by the primary users of the project.  The second concept, complexity, is a measure of the number of project properties that are outside the normal expectations as perceived by the project team (the norm is relative to the organization or project group rather than to any external standard).  The final concept, criticality, is defined as the attributes defining quality, state or degree of being of the highest importance (again relative to the organization or group doing the work).  We will unpack these concepts and examine them in greater detail as we peal away the layers of the model.

The Model

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The process for using the model is a simple set of steps.
1.    Get a project (and team members)
2.    Assess the project’s attributes
3.    Plot the results on the model
4.    Interpret the findings
5.    Reassess as needed

The model is built for project environments. Don’t have a project you say!  Get one, I tell you! Can’t get one? This model will be less useful, but not useless.

Who Is Involved And When Will They Be Involved:

Implementing the traceability model assessment works best when the team (or a relevant subset) charged with doing the work conducts the assessment of project attributes.  The use of team members acts to turn Putt’s theory of “Competence Inversion ” on it head by focusing project-level competencies on defining the impact of specific attributes.  The use of a number of team members will provide a basis for consistency if assessments are performed again later in the project.

While the assessment process is best done by a cross functional team, it can be also be performed by those in the project governance structure alone.  The smaller the group that is involved in the assessment the more open and honest the communication between the assessment group and the project team must be or the exercise will be just another process inflicted on the team.  Regardless of the size, the assessment team needs to include technical competence.  Technical competence is especially useful when appraising complexity.  Technical competence is also a good tool to sell the results of the process to the rest of the project team.  Regardless of the deployment model, diversity of thought is generated in cross functional groups that will provide the breadth of knowledge needed to apply the model (this suggestion is based on feedback from process users).  The use of cross functional groups becomes even more critical for large projects and/or projects with embedded sub-projects.  In a situation where the discussion will be contentious or the group participating will be large I suggest using a facilitator to ensure an effective outcome.

An approach I suggest for integrating the assessment process into your current methodology is to incorporate the assessment as part of your formal risk assessment.  An alternative for smaller projects is to perform the assessment process during the initial project planning activities or in a sprint zero (if used).  This will minimize the impact of yet another assessment.

In larger projects where the appraisal outcome may vary across teams or sub-projects, thoughtful discussion will be required to determine whether the lowest common denominator will drive the results or whether a mixed approach is needed.  Use of this method in the real world suggests that in large projects/programs the highest or lowest common denominator is seldom universally useful.  The needs for scalability should be addressed at the level it makes sense for the project, which may mean that sub-projects are different.

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