Product Delivery Resources

Traceability, Product Delivery Data, and Learning to Cook

How to keep up with the complex, time pressured product development world in a changing environment of rules and regulations

Robin Calhoun | November 17, 2016

Recently I decided it was time I improved my cooking skills. Being an analytical person, I spent a considerable amount of time deciding on an approach. One must have a strategy, measurements for success, and a repeatable pattern of course! (Right?) Given that I like to run repeated experiments, I decided to take a set of dishes I wanted to master, find a few variants (similar recipes), and repeat them until I understood what specific ingredients, tools and techniques were essential.

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The act of repeating recipes itself turned out to be the valuable lesson. Following the steps, not isolating the science behind it each decision, allowed skills to be internalized in concert. There is no single essential technique, or secret ingredient. Having a full toolbox of interrelated skills and past decisions to call upon is what works. While it’s hard to measure the exact causes for success, my larger goal is being met as my cooking improves!

Using modern traceability in product development, those that allow you to connect data and people across an organization, follows a similar pattern. Some complex situations call for traceability recipes, others just common sense. It’s a collection of related tools and behaviors used for a purpose – successful product delivery. It’s flexible, adaptable, and evolving to keep up with the demands of building high quality products fast. While I might have tried to limit or isolate traceability like it’s a single secret ingredient, I’m finding it’s more valuable to consider its many forms together as I did learning to cook.

Below are some of the goals our customers have found traceability can in fact solve. Recipes from master chefs, if you will.

Finding the Source of a Decision – Before you get to work making a change, use traceability to understand the why behind decisions.

  •  Use Modern Traceability to keep conversations connected as context, and do so continuously. This reduces the time required to find the source of past decisions, and doesn’t rely on flawed human memory to answer the question “why did we decide that again?”
  • What’s connected: Track decisions associated to requirements changes as closely to the requirement itself as possible, such as in the comments. Use tools like Jama’s Review Center to keep comments all related to the same set of data clearly saved in one spot, and referenceable later.

Adapting to Challenges and Change – When a major change does need to happen, easily see the ripple effect up and downstream at any point in a project, not just milestones.

  • Use Modern Traceability to see potentially risky changes coming. When you track and relate requirements as you work, it’s much easier to see the impacted data when a change is proposed. Teams can adapt more quickly because the map of how your product is built exists throughout the project, not just at major milestones.
  • What’s connected: Associate people to the requirements themselves. Use this to quickly see who’s related to data, tests, requirements, etc. connected 1-2 levels in either direction. Notify connected people automatically when major things change.

Managing Risk – Keep track of risks and mitigations as you work, in a shared tool so re-use of similar data is easy and visibility is high.

  • Use Modern Traceability to reduce the heavy lift of managing risk data. Update your tracking of risk dynamically, tied to requirements, and visible to the entire team working on your product. Generate a view of how you’re doing along the way, and share it long before an audit.
  • What’s connected: Configure your teams’ traceability map to include links from requirements to risks, mitigations, environmental context, and test data.

“Are we there yet?!” Status Updates – Everyone needs to know how the team is doing, at different times and at different data granularities.

  • Use Modern Traceability to shared dynamic views of progress, at the level of data that makes sense for the audience. Skip generating manual static reports, and instead share live, accurate ones.
  • What’s connected: For this to work you need a common language, and that is derived by connecting all the levels of product data so everyone has a familiar anchor point. Create relationships from the highest level market requirements, to draft designs, to requirements, to passed test in Jama. This gives every use the ability to pick a data type they are familiar with and see progress at that level, whether that means seeing the status of the requirements a marketing goal decomposes to, or looking at all the downstream test status for a particular hardware component.

Referencing Similar Past Projects – By maintaining data and relationships throughout a project, by the end that project will be full of rich insights that can be used in the future.

  • Use Modern Traceability to look at past projects as a whole, across all the data types from requirements to comments. Find projects that were successful, and use that as a starting point for new projects.
  • What’s connected: Everything! Data should be explore-able, like a map, so anyone can self-serve when they want to know answer to questions like “what did we do last time?”

The product development world is getting more complex, time pressured, and all in a changing environment of rules and regulations. To keep up, your traceability practices need to adapt, to take into account how humans and teams actually think. As your team adopts new traceability practices, though, I humbly encourage you to approach it like learning a complex skill such as cooking. It’s not any one practice, ingredient or tradition that leads to success. Think of how many moving parts there are on a successful team release! Integrating traceability skills and tools into daily work in a way that continues to value traditional Traceability (we still need reports for regulatory bodies, for example!) but also leaves room for new complex skills to emerge that mirror your specific favor of product delivery!

Read Forrester Report about the use of Modern Traceability and how it improves developers’ ideas, processes, and software.