Tag Archive for: Structured Collaboration

Structured Collaboration

Any engineering team working in a regulated industry understands the complex nature of product development and management. In areas like automotive, aerospace, defense, and medical device manufacturing, it’s a high-stakes effort navigating tight operational margins with little room for product integrity errors. In fact, it requires them to operate at different cadences and with new methodologies and practices to continuously deliver these products to the market quickly and safely – no easy feat!

Many of these organizations, however, have a difficult time keeping pace with the rapidly changing product development environment, especially when their teams work in silos using legacy requirements management systems. As businesses continue to shift focus to faster time-to-market and customer-driven product development, deeper structured collaboration amongst teams is not only desired but necessary. 

What is Structured Collaboration

Structured collaboration is centered around the idea that people can work and interact with one another, moving toward specific and measurable goals. This approach works in two parts, utilizing technology and process frameworks to settle on new and innovative ideas that drive business outcomes. 

By combining presence and unified collaboration with elements of content management (content about your product or system), development process management, and task management — all integrated into a workflow process that coordinates multiple activities from several teams — workers can produce the results that drive the business forward.

Lacking structure at the forefront for product development can lead to wasted time, untraceable changes, lost context for decisions that were made, and missed opportunities for innovation.

RELATED: How to Realign Engineering Teams for Remote Work with Minimal Disruption

Innovation is Dependent on Structured Collaboration

Bringing together innovators across cultures, institutions, and geographic regions to create a new way of accomplishing goals can revolutionize a sector. We’ve experienced this first-hand watching the automotive and healthcare sectors come together to produce life-saving products amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It also presents unique challenges with each group having their own standards and entrenched way of tackling the task at hand. So, how do these teams tackle complicated divides seamlessly? 

Unify Their Goals: When cross-organizational teams have clear and unified goals for developing a product, innovation, or service, they can better overcome challenges inherent to collaborating in a complex environment. 

Clarify Their Roles: Clearly communicating expectations for how and when each team member will be asked to participate helps alleviate the uncertainty that comes with collaborating in a new way. By documenting goals and tracking collaboration each step of the way, it will keep programs moving forward smoothly. 

Encourage Expression of Unique Points of View: Unlocking the creativity needed for innovation requires harnessing insights and unique perspectives across different stakeholders. By bringing in contrasting points of view and encouraging team members to speak up, it will result in robust and better-considered ideas for implementation. Having representation from across the team will also help better assess the impacts of decisions made and identify issues before they become problems. 

Use the Right Tools: We’re fortunate these days to have a plethora of choice in collaboration tools from Slack and Microsoft Teams to Zoom and Google Hangouts. As teams seek input and feedback critical to capturing insights in real-time, these tools begin to serve a vital purpose. These only scratch the surface in eliciting the type of collaboration necessary for modern systems engineering, though.

Enable Cross-Team Alignment with Living Requirements

While meetings, emails and instant messaging channels serve a purpose, they are simply not sufficient enough for making and tracking key decisions that impact an entire team. Especially when decisions need to be made at the drop of a hat. Modern systems engineering must include means for live data to be shared and accessed by teams anywhere in the world  at any given time. 

As members of the product team seek to communicate requirements and project status across departments, roles, and geographic boundaries, the golden age of sharing documents and spreadsheets will no longer serve its purpose. Without a digital thread that connects people and processes — from definition to delivery — development teams face increased risk, challenges meeting compliance, and delays that can impact time-to-market and product and systems safety. 

Living requirements provide a single-source of truth, cross-team collaboration and end-to-end visibility which forms the digital thread through siloed complex product, systems, and software development.   

Eliminate Collaboration Silos to Enable More Strategic Partnerships

Today’s market demand requires companies to consider strategic partnerships as they seek solutions with more specialized materials. With this comes greater sharing of data across distributed teams, partner organizations and business units. Living in the era of rapidly accelerating change, teams that still operate in silos with legacy systems will not be equipped to meet demands set by the market. 

For engineers so accustomed to working in internal, siloed groups, these new partnerships present previously unforeseen challenges. Structured and strategic team collaboration is the key to improving the product development process for all team members – and this includes everyone across the supply chain.

People working together is at the very core of all product development. For companies to turn the research of today into the products of tomorrow, it is critical that their teams stay connected, synchronized and unified. By aligning business objectives with a system in place that allows for structured reviews and collaboration, teams can elicit feedback, review product features with stakeholders in real-time and track critical decisions across teams and locations. Simply put, it gives complex manufacturers the edge they may otherwise be lacking. 

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


Optimize Product DevelopmentEditor’s Note: This post about how to optimize product development was originally published here on DevOps.com on July 31st, 2020, and was written by Josh Turpen, Jama Software’s Chief Product Officer. 

Systems engineers have faced complexity since the dawn of time. And while bringing complicated projects to market under old rules, methods and technologies was never a walk in the park, today’s highly competitive market presents new challenges to prove the old rules of product development are defunct. In fact, a recent report from Machina Research, now part of Gartner, estimates the number of connected machine-to-machine devices will increase to 27 billion by 2024, up from 5 billion in 2014. The sheer increase in machine devices alone provides a clear picture of the importance placed on systems engineers to stay the course when navigating product development’s complex nature.

Within the constantly evolving modern product development system comes an increasingly intricate development process. Today’s system engineers are fighting to fit a square peg into a round hole by using old tactics to solve new challenges. This includes an accelerated rate of innovation, increasingly complex end user asks, tighter deadlines and ever-changing regulations. Alongside these challenges, Forrester Consulting found that product development is facing five main obstacles in keeping teams from true optimization:

  • The confusing and constantly changing nature of requirements and a lack of quick development for solutions.
  • Stakeholders providing conflicting priorities, assumptions and unclear objectives.
  • Difficulty collaborating across globally distributed teams.
  • Unnecessary handoffs and delayed decisions.
  • The increased need for collaboration across diverse roles.

So what is the solution to these problems, you ask? One could argue strategic team collaboration is the best way to address both the challenges of the modern product development landscape and the obstacles systems engineers are facing. Let’s dig into that a bit deeper.

RELATED: How to Realign Engineering Teams for Remote Work with Minimal Disruption

Team Collaboration: An Enabler of Innovation

Teams that are still operating with outdated strategies and systems find themselves unable to adapt and adjust quickly when the market changes. With rapid growth predicted to stay at a steady rate, strategic collaboration allows companies to build partnerships and seek solutions that are adaptable and specialized. This includes sharing data throughout your whole business, including distributed teams and partner organizations, which allows transparency to reach the entire supply chain. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing supply chain halts and the backup of product releases, it is now more important than ever to ensure communication throughout the entire development process.

With the country leaning on a remote workforce more heavily this year, virtual meetings and emails are not sufficient enough as communication tools for a team that has to coordinate across departments, roles, companies and geographic boundaries. As a first step to meet these demands, system engineers should consider the following strategies:

  1. Ask your team the question, what does success look like? If each member has a different end goal, you will end up wasting valuable time. By defining what success looks like, you can align your teams on what you are building and clarify expectations upfront. This saves time and allows for better communication across teams.
  2. Support better decision-making through situational awareness. When you have communication upfront about a team’s end goal, they are far more likely to make decisions that work toward achieving that. Without situational awareness, employees are unable to comprehend the impact of their decisions or clearly define their roles and responsibilities. This makes it difficult to settle on the right choice when faced with a bump in the road.
  3. Ensure you’re up-to-date with your traceability practices. Especially for those who need to adhere to regulations, traceability analysis allows you to ensure your system holds up under regulatory demands. Further, it meets contractual terms before you encounter a problem.
  4. Create collaboration with a purpose. Ensure relevant data is accessible to everyone to whom it may be relevant, and keep them in the loop on decisions that happen outside the process as much as possible. When you keep your teams in the know, they are able to work collaboratively and with greater situational analysis.

At the end of the day, your goal should be to empower your whole team through data sharing, transparency and a clear definition of success. When you are able to do this, your team will be better positioned to make decisions that benefit the project and work symbiotically across diverse roles.

We may not be able to predict exactly where the product development industry is going, but know that there will be rapid innovation. It’s best to prepare your teams now; otherwise, it will be a bumpy ride.

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


Team Collaboration

In an environment where modern systems are getting “smarter” and more complex every day, the product development process required to build them is also growing increasingly complicated. 

Today’s engineers face new challenges such as: 

  • Tight operational margins 
  • Accelerating rate of innovation 
  • Increasingly complicated end-user demands 
  • Heightened focus on getting to market faster 
  • Increased and changing regulations

RELATED: A Project Manager’s Guide to Negotiating Stakeholder Priorities like a Pro

For early-phase documentation and for coordinating small, simple projects, Word and Excel remain effective tools. But as product development grows more complex, teams need solutions that provide purposeful, structured team collaboration; connect globally-distributed team members; and accurately capture and facilitate feedback, decision making, and context for requirements under review. 

Increasingly, teams are augmented with many different types of players through contract manufactures or acquisitions or even strategic alliances. The benefits of team collaboration are rarely lost on industry leaders. Bringing together innovators to create a new way of doing things can revolutionize a sector, but without the correct support and infrastructure, collaborations often fail. 

Support Structured Collaboration with Modern Requirements Management   

Research conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Jama Software identified five obstacles to optimized product development: 

  • Unclear or changing requirements coupled with lack of timely feedback for solutions 
  • Lack of focus caused by conflicting stakeholder priorities, assumptions, and unclear objectives 
  • Difficulty collaborating across globally distributed teams 
  • Unnecessary handoffs and delayed decisions 
  • Increased collaboration across diverse roles, including executives, operations, marketing, and quality assurance 

Companies with teams spread across the world, increasingly complex products, and expanding product lines require a centralized system to manage requirements. These teams must be able to trace requirements from concept through design and implementation. Plus, given the disparate locations for teams, ease of use around a shared solution is a critical factor. 

When it needed a collaborative software solution for managing requirements within its Border Management portfolio, SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques), a multinational company providing IT and telecom services to the air transport industry, selected Jama Connect™ because their expanding portfolio of products brought added complexity.  

SITA makes a suite of products, and while individual releases can work on their own, they also must effortlessly integrate together. This, in turn, makes SITA’s products more complicated, and they grow even more so as customers request new customizations to fit their individual needs. “Keeping track of what customizations every customer uses on an already expanding portfolio was proving extremely complex,” says Alistair McBain, Sr. Business Consultant, SITA.  

[Jama Connect] has allowed us to get more people from our other offices involved in the collaboration process because we’re not all having to sit on a conference call at awkward times. People can come into the system at a time that suits them and review things. And we know their comments will be seen by everybody else.” 
Alistair McBain, Sr. Business Consultant, SITA 

Jama Connect provides SITA’s Border Management portfolio team with a centralized, accessible repository for all its requirements. As the team’s single source of truth, Jama Connect ensures everyone from business analysts to developers and testers — no matter where they are located in the world — are all working off the same set of current requirements.  

In an environment that introduces so much complexity into the product development process, a more strategic approach to team collaboration offers one of the best ways to address the challenges and obstacles of the modern product development landscape. 

Download the full eBook to learn how optimize team collaboration to streamline product development processes.