Editor’s Note: This post on common product development challenges was originally published here on DevOps.com on November 6th, 2020, and was written by Josh Turpen, Chief Product Officer at Jama Software.
As products, systems, and software grow in complexity, so does the development process. This can lead to an increased risk of flaws and can result in expensive and potentially reputation-harming mistakes or recalls.
These new complexities have shifted the product development process entirely, requiring optimization from end to end. Engineering and design teams need solutions that answer the most common challenges they face in this process. This means being provided purposeful, structured collaboration tools; connecting distributed team members; and accurately capturing and facilitating feedback, decision-making and context for requirements under review.
Navigating Development Challenges
To do this, teams developing complex products, systems and software must first overcome some significant obstacles. To help navigate this journey, let’s examine some of the most prominent product development challenges engineers are facing today.
Outdated Legacy or Document-based Solutions
The traditional approach to managing risks and requirements is highly manual, operating in an old mindset in which numerous spreadsheets and versioned documents are shared via email. This method has serious drawbacks, including no guarantee that data is up to date. This results in valuable time lost deciphering different versions or painstakingly making changes manually to achieve cross-team alignment.
Additionally, without a clear path of traceability—which can be difficult to achieve for those who rely on static documents—teams often end up referencing older and often outdated versions of requirements. This inevitably leads to misalignment, increased risk and costly rework.
The solution? Uplevel your traceability practices. Moving on from outdated legacy solutions to a modern requirements management tool is the first step to bolstering creativity, productivity and collaboration.
Compliance, regulations and standards processes
Product, systems and software development has become much more complicated over time. As a result, so has product risk and the accompanying regulatory compliance required.
To ensure the long-term success of organizations developing these complex systems, software and products, strong collaboration between teams, knowledge of applicable regulations and effective requirements management platforms are necessities. These tools provide a simple path and single source of truth for defining, verifying and validating key regulations. However, despite numerous industry studies indicating that requirements issues are a prominent factor of project distress, not everyone is convinced their team needs to focus on requirements development and management. Further, they’re unsure of how it will all pay off.
To address these challenges, companies need to streamline their quality and risk management strategies. This can be done by incorporating detailed traceability across the development life cycle—from the high-level user needs and systems requirements through to validation and verification.
Effective Review Cycles
Review cycles are often time-consuming and fragmented. For example, when approaching requirements management manually and with disparate documents, a cycle can be repeatedly delayed due to versioning issues and lack of a single source of truth updated in real-time. It also reduces team visibility throughout the review process; individuals end up spending hours per week in review meetings just to ensure everyone is on the same page.
To up-level this process, it’s necessary to have:
- One source of truth for requirements and tests.
- A straightforward way to send items such as requirements, user stories or test cases for review.
- Best practices for each major role involved clearly outlined (i.e., reviewer, approver, moderator).
- Real-time collaboration within a shared, dynamic requirements management platform.
- An outline of a formal approval process to capture and record sign-off.
Collaboration is Key to Development Success
At the end of the day, collaboration is at the core of all product development work. The ability to effectively work together is critical to ensure innovation doesn’t stop. In this era of rapidly accelerating change, structured and strategic team collaboration is the means for improving the product development process for all involved. By updating your legacy traceability solutions, establishing effective review cycles, and streamlining your regulations, compliance and standards processes, your team will be well on its way to a much more effective and unified product development process.
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