Tag Archive for: Digital Thread

Airborne Systems

Last month we held a webinar with two of our in-house aerospace experts titled, “Transformative Airborne Systems Development.

This webinar was well received by our customers building airborne systems, and we wanted to make sure nobody missed out on this great content. Below, you’ll find a recording of the webinar and an abbreviated transcript.


David Ewing: When we talk to our friends in the field, customers, peers, subject matter experts, we hear a lot about the increasing complexity required to design new products and systems. Some of the things we tend to hear, we hear about development cycles, they’re increasingly complex. And this is driving need for automation and more modern tools. Cross domain collaboration is not really happening very much, there’s different tools and processes in the different groups, and different domains, and things that they use that they really don’t play nice together. 

The connected products and systems that we’re developing right now, they’re not just complicated, they also inject significant risk into the certification process. Ensuring compliance and safety systems is difficult and time consuming. That is just not changing, and all these different items it’s just piling on there. The regulatory environment is changing, we’re seeing changes coming from things like Urban Air Mobility and other technology drivers that’s driving changes to the regulatory environment. 

And we’re really seeing rapid changes within the market itself. So there’s a number of different drivers that are changing the dynamics of system development. A couple of examples, the push into electric propulsion, it’s very rapid. Right now the improvements in battery technology is really driving down costs, and the idea of commercial hybrid electric flight is very much insight. 

Technology is Driving Change in the Regulatory Environment

Urban Air Mobility, I mentioned that is one of the new things coming out in the last slide. Those vehicles are expected to accelerate over the next decade. However, there’s a lot of challenges that need to be worked out and the regulations need to be established. So back to that idea of the regulatory environment is changing over time. And this is to make sure things are air worthy, and also the use of the airspace itself over our heads. 

So the question is, are you ready to meet these new challenges? Are your requirements tools and processes ready? So, I thought we’d take a look, a little bit of a walk through the idea of Requirements Management Maturity, just to set the table. The most basic approach that we tend to see is a document-based approach. And even if the documents are digital, your typical Microsoft Office formats, Word, PowerPoint, things like that. The utility to the firm is limited. 

RELATED: MBSE Made Easy – Overcoming the Organizational Challenges 

“Documents tend to get stuck in silos.”

Quite often things are just thrown into SharePoint. And this really doesn’t get you where you need to go. The visibility and collaboration across your organization is limited, those that are in the know, those that have the right access. And then we if we’re talking about scalability – well, it’s non-existent. I mean, think about having to bring together all the various domains, while managing the access control, the editing rights, revisions over time. It’s just not achievable. And compliance, it’s herculean. Folks have to throw massive amounts of time trying to pull together all this information from all these different sources, to try to present the package of information that’s necessary to achieve certification. 

Legacy Tools Have a Limited Ability to Support Agile

The next area that we tend to see is the idea of legacy tools, and those using legacy tools tend to be very much straddled with outdated technology. The modern multi-domain system development processes, they’re not supported with legacy tools. And this extends into the world of software. We’re seeing software everywhere, everything has software in it now. Legacy tools have very limited ability to support variants of Agile, like say for or Scrum, depending on the flavor, the variant that your firm might use. 

The Most Mature Process is Data-Centric

A data-centric approach isn’t just a goal– this is available today. Firms that are data centric, they’re able to ensure they have a single source of truth, they don’t have multiple versions of those documents that are floating around an email, or in shared folders, or different SharePoint collections. They’re able to use model based approaches to allow their teams to digitally model and relate information together. 

This gains a lot of benefit from those digital connections of the different artifacts and information. You can extend this into integrations with the other systems in the design cycle, and there’s more than one tool used to design products. And being able to feed those requirements to the mechanical folks that use CAD, feeding it to the simulation folks that are doing high fidelity and low fidelity simulation, and downstream to the folks that are doing testing, this adds more value. 

And this really feeds right into having those integrated and data centric processes. Those firms now have traceability. Now we can look back from the physical product, the finished product that comes off the assembly line with a serial number, we can look back to the individual design features that were determined, that are necessary along the way and back to the individual requirements that drove the decisions to design a product. And collaboration is enhanced, and is supporting real time feedback, knowing what’s going on, having modern capabilities like at-mentions, as you’re able to chat right within your tools, having the ability to review things in a much more robust manner. 

Digital Transformation is the Goal for Most Airborne Systems Firms

If you want to lead the industry, and if you want to transform the airborne industry, digital transformation is a must. How are you going to get there with document-based legacy processes and tools. You’re not. If you want to change the game, you need to bring digital processes and data together. You want to use those to drive your innovation. That’s the definition of digital transformation. 

Watch the full webinar to learn more about transformative airborne systems development. 


Digital TransformationDigital transformation is an urgent priority for businesses in 2021. Many organizations accelerated their digital transformation efforts during the pandemic and rapidly adopted a variety of tools; but looking to the future, it’s critical that you take a deep dive into what digital transformation can offer your business — and the best tools to achieve your goals. Digital transformation is not just about adopting more tools, it’s about adopting the right tools.

A critical area of opportunity is product development. Processes in this area are often fragmented across a variety of teams, all working in silos. This puts organizations at risk for product delays, defects, cost overruns, failed verifications and validations, recalls, and more. Two major challenges are:

  1. Critical information is fragmented. Product development processes are fragmented and siloed within teams.
  2. Critical data is trapped. The requirements that specify dependencies and outcomes are trapped within static documents.

Many organizations still use document-based requirements management workflows, which creates fragmentation and doesn’t help companies better serve their customers or get products to market faster. Additionally, product development teams don’t have visibility into what they need most, and communication is siloed and disconnected. Adopting end-to-end visibility supports stronger digital transformation and helps you get products to market faster and with greater efficiency.

Why Document-Based Requirements Management Isn’t Designed for the Future

Over half of product launches (55%) don’t happen on time. The root cause is often product development issues, such as missed bugs or “feature creep.” Using document-based requirements complicates challenges because there may be many different versions of the same document floating around an organization. Stakeholders struggle to connect, give feedback and provide timely approvals. Additionally, as a company grows, managing documents in this way is not scalable.

The result is product teams spending a large amount of time on manual tasks, in some cases more time than they would spend developing and managing the actual requirements. Improved collaboration is possible if organizations use solutions that enable real-time interactions, shorter review cycles and a consolidated system of record. This creates a single source of truth that supports more efficient product development and digital transformation.

RELATED POST: What is the Digital Thread?

How creating a single source of truth supports digital transformation

Fragmentation and confusion occur when project activities are spread out across many different communication channels. Teams face difficulties creating a cohesive workflow and getting everyone on the same page. A few potential challenges of not having a single source of truth are:

  • Projects evolve in an “out of sync” environment. Key updates manually circulating in lengthy documents may be lost in inboxes. A disconnected communication process complicates the tracking requirements and can even change them, resulting in different versions of the truth.
  • Stakeholders are confused about which document is the latest version. Lack of cohesive communication may leave confusion about which version of a document is the most up to date. Teams may work in silos and make time-consuming errors due to this issue.
  • A document-based approach creates extra manual work. A document-based approach, such as one using Word or Excel, isn’t designed for managing requirements, leaving additional manual work. For example, teams may need to create their own processes for adhering to industry standards.

A platform that centralizes everything in a single system of record offers a single source of truth that is often missing from many product development processes.

RELATED POST: Requirements Management – Living, Not Static

Centralizing Your Requirements in a Single Platform

Digital transformation is about delivering value through improved understanding of data, alignment of data and the ability to act on that data. Achieving a single source of truth by centralizing your requirements in one platform enables you to secure a competitive edge in the market.

As product development processes become more complicated, traditional document-based requirements management has revealed its age and limitations. To successfully move from a document-based process, you need a solution that can do the following:

  • Supports real-time communication and provides the full context of conversations.
  • Provides a single system of record for requirements, risks and tests.
  • Supports risk analysis throughout the entire development process.
  • Allows for easy exporting of reports to prove compliance and pass audits.
  • Offers end-to-end traceability that enables you to view the impact of a change prior to its being made and ensure product quality with complete coverage.

Jama Connect enables real-time collaboration in one convenient location and replaces fragmented workflows spread across multiple documents and communication channels. Collaborators can easily manage requirements and risks in a single system in real time, which results in a single source of truth. This helps you prevent many of the challenges that arise from emailing collaborators with new changes or requirements, or requesting that comments be left in a Word or Excel document.

RELATED POST: The Importance of Centralizing Your Requirements in One Platform

Moving Into the Future

True digital transformation requires organizations to evaluate how technology can support the right strategy, generate accurate insights and foster informed decision-making. When looking at strategies to integrate digital transformation into your organization, consider leveraging a competitive advantage in the area of product development.

Doing this successfully enables you to simplify complex development cycles, bridge collaboration gaps, build quality products, get to market faster and reduce risk around compliance.

Download our eBook to learn how optimize product development with strategic team collaboration.


Digital Transformation

Digital transformation helps companies secure a competitive advantage through improved productivity, greater customer loyalty, happier employees and a larger bottom line. It’s the foundation on which companies build more value for their customers. In the past, digital transformation may have been considered an IT project, but the reality is that it ripples throughout every part of the business.

Digital transformation has become more critical during the pandemic as companies are challenged with working remotely and delivering on customer expectations without missing a beat. One study found that over half of IT decision makers (59%) reported plans for accelerating digital transformation efforts when previously, only 15% of companies were prioritizing digital transformation.

As companies move forward, they need tools that support the delivery of what their customers expect, whether it’s faster, more connected experiences or getting the products they need delivered at record speed.

Why is digital transformation important?

Digital transformation helps your company secure a competitive edge that delights your customers and streamlines back-end operations. For example, you may need greater traceability across a product’s life cycle, the ability for employees to collaborate in real time or greater visibility into risk management. It’s the strategy that underpins your decision about what tools are essential. A few benefits include:

Improves the customer experience.

Even if you’re using the tools to develop better products, a digital-first culture has a direct effect on the customer experience. And improving the customer experience is key, since 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. During 2020, the customer experience overtook product and price as the key brand differentiator.

Builds a stronger employee experience.

Most companies know that employees are their greatest asset, and by providing your people with the tools they need to do a better job, you create a more engaged and efficient workplace, which translates to happier customers.

Optimizes processes.

Digital transformation helps you optimize existing processes and make them more efficient. You can streamline workflows, improve digital processes, automate time-consuming tasks and overall make your workplace more efficient.

Creates greater profitability.

Research shows that 80% of organizations that completed digital transformation reported improving profits, and 85% reported improvements in market share. On average, leaders forecast 23% higher revenue than that of their competitors.

Improves agility and productivity.

During 2020 companies learned that agility wasn’t important; it was essential. Tools that support digital transformation help your company innovate faster, streamline workflows and improve productivity.

RELATED POST: The Importance of Centralizing Your Requirements to One Platform

How can companies embrace digital transformation and achieve better results?

Developing a digital transformation strategy, or revisiting an existing strategy, is a good place to start in creating more agility and success in your plans. What tools will help you meet digitizing requirements or, if you’re developing products, meet complex product requirements? Consider doing the following.

Define what it means to your company.

What is your desired outcome once your digital transformation strategy is deployed? It’s all about the end game, so define your goals well upfront. Consider examining the people, processes, data and technology that you use now, and then align those elements with your goals. Where are the gaps? Are you struggling with efficient collaboration? Is product development inefficient? Identify the areas that matter most.

Foster a digital culture.

Digital adoption comes from the top down. Share your strategy with employees, and get buy-in. How will their jobs improve due to the changes, and how will they be able to serve customers better? Share these details to get everyone on board.

Define value.

A key goal for any digital transformation strategy should be to provide value. How does the strategy serve your overall business vision? Do you need to streamline processes, drive greater revenue or develop larger customer value? You need a baseline and the ability to successfully measure those changes while staying agile.

Support agility.

It’s critical to stay fluid enough to adjust to fast-changing market conditions and respond quickly. Rigid KPIs need to give way to more flexible and agile requirements that have room for iteration. Adaptive design allows you to pursue more frequent changes to transformation strategies and thereby generate the best results.

RELATED POST: Why You Should Swap Documents-Based Requirements Management for Real-Time Collaboration

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

As you define your strategy, it also helps to be aware of a few potential pitfalls so that you can avoid them. For example, more technology isn’t always the answer. Success lies in adopting the right technology. Consider these common pitfalls:

Failure to define a digital transformation strategy.

Digital transformation must start with a vision, and adoption of technologies and tools must directly stem from that vision. How can the technology support the goals and objectives?

Not asking the right questions.

Asking the right questions can help you shape your digital transformation strategy. For example, what do you truly need to better meet customer demands? Do you need to streamline complex product development through improved collaboration? Do you need real-time collaboration to improve workflows? Look at overarching goals and narrow down the tools that make accomplishing those goals easier.

Lack of leadership support.

Digital transformation isn’t a “one and done” project but instead a living, breathing process of iteration. It requires leadership support in continuously revisiting the strategy and making changes as needed to improve the strategy.

Creating strategy in a silo.

The IT department may have largely been responsible for digital transformation in the past, but that is no longer the case. It’s a cross-functional project that affects leaders, as well as employees, from all parts of the business.

Moving Into the Future with Greater Success

Digital transformation is a critical element on the path to the future. Few businesses will stand the test of time without a strong plan to adopt beneficial technologies, such as those needed to digitize requirements management and complex product development. For example, as product development processes become more complex, traditional document-based requirements management has shown its age and limitations. This alone is a powerful opportunity in digital transformation strategy.

However, many organizations haven’t upgraded their requirements and risk management processes to keep pace with innovation, putting them at risk for slow development cycles, costly changes and regulatory recalls. Identifying opportunities such as this will help your company adopt digital transformation with great strength and success into the future.

Check out Part II of this blog series, “How Jama Connect Can Help with Digital Transformation.

Download our eBook to learn how optimize product development with strategic team collaboration.


Digital Thread Defined

Digital Thread Definition – a data-driven architecture that links together information generated from across the product lifecycle and is envisioned to be the primary or authoritative data and communication platform for a company’s products at any instance of time.

This is the best definition of Digital Thread we are aware of and is from an excellent 2018 paper by Singh and Willcox at MIT entitled Engineering with a Digital Thread. The term Digital Thread was first used in the 2006 with the publication of the Global Horizons report from USAF Global Science and Technology Vision task force. (If you have an earlier reference please share in the comments). In this document, Digital Thread is defined as “the use of digital tools and representations for design, evaluation, and life cycle management.”

As with many business terms, Digital Thread has now become over-used by consultants and software vendors. The definition of it — and how it differs from Digital Twin — have been interspersed with more general concepts of integration, simulation, data, and analytics and has lost the original, more precise meaning.

Digital Thread Components

Let’s break down the definition of Digital Thread into its components to better understand the concept and share the most common approaches we see as companies move to make the Digital Thread a reality. Here is the definition breakdown:

1 – a data-driven architecture

This recognizes that the use of a single common platform is impossible across all engineering disciplines (software, hardware, electrical, systems, risk, QA, etc.). Instead, a data-driven approach is required that determines the key information required from multiple tools. It’s important to remember that data-driven does not mean “gather all your data” but rather that you should be using data to answer questions. In other words, do not fall into the trap of tool focus, but rather focus on the questions and collect data to provide the answer.

2 – that links together information generated from across the product lifecycle

From initial requirement definition through to product release, significant information is generated across multiple tools. The challenge is to identify what information is most relevant and how to best link the information to make it actionable. The most common link we see is the definition of value to be delivered (user and system requirements). The most typical information captured across the product lifecycle are process statuses and exceptions (e.g., requirements that have not been approved, require rework, or are not fully addressed, gaps in testing or risk analyses). By linking these process statuses to requirements and tracking them through the product lifecycle it is possible to reduce the risk of negative product outcomes (e.g., delays, defects, cost overruns).

3 – and is envisioned to be the primary or authoritative data and communication platform

Most companies refer to this as a “system of record” or a “single version of the truth.” A Digital Thread is much more than simply integration or a data lake. By tying the definition of what is to be delivered (requirements) to the most critical downstream process meta-data, a Digital Thread create the ability to understand the state of the product development process, what risks are visible and what corrective actions should be considered. Without a Digital Thread, a company is flying blind in terms of the risks it faces in product development.

4 – or a company’s products at any instance of time

For a Digital Thread to be truly useful it must always reflect the current state of the product development process. The value is in seeing the product development process for the first time across fragmented teams and tools, to be able to identify process exceptions and early indicators of potential downstream risks. A static database of days or weeks old data will not be sufficient for a process that is changing rapidly across multiple, siloed teams.

Why the Digital Thread is So Important

The product development process is often fragmented across siloed teams and tools which leads to significant risk of product delays, defects, cost overruns, failed verification and validation, recalls, etc. End-to-end process visibility is required for better cross-team collaboration and the early detection of anomalies to reduce these risks. To solve for this, organizations often attempt to force everyone to use one common software platform, forgoing their choice best-of-breed tools. This solution is neither practical — nor particularly realistic — since engineers are (and should continue to be) allowed to choose discipline-specific tooling which optimize their activities.

What is required is a loosely coupled approach that ties together the necessary metadata across these disparate tools in a way that connects the desired outcome (user and system requirements) to downstream activities – the Digital Thread. The Digital Thread is the best approach to reduce the risk of negative product outcomes while preserving engineering autonomy and productivity.

To learn more on the topic of requirements management, and more specifically, living requirements, we’ve curated some of our best resources for you here.