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 Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 9/11/2003

This is your bi-weekly e-Newsletter from Effective Engineering Consulting Services (www.effectiveeng.com).  If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are published, please send an email to e-newsletter@effectiveeng.com, and we will add you to our distribution list.


Development Methodology Basics: Management of Development
  By Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [tdennis@effectiveeng.com]

Development Methodology is a framework for, and is essential to, proper product development.  Such methodology covers the appropriate Stages of Development, which include Requirements & Architecture, Build & Test, and Release & Support (see eN-030828 – Development Methodology Basics – Stages of Development).  It also covers the Management of Development, which will be addressed here.  As stated in the previous e-Newsletter, the subject of development methodology is broad, and can be very complex.  This and the previous e-Newsletter simply attempt to cover, very briefly, what many of the elements of a Development Methodology are.

Management of Development:

Many elements of a development effort must be managed if the development is to proceed to a successful conclusion.  While many engineers would like to believe such Management of Development is not really necessary, it is, and without it, bad things can, and likely will, happen.  We will very briefly discuss some of the elements here.  Subsequent e-Newsletters will go into more detail on individual elements.

Planning Documentation – This includes planning documents covering how the development effort will be approached, and includes all aspects of the development effort, including marketing plans, sales plans, project plans, development plans, test plans, documentation plans, customer support plans, sustaining engineering plans, etc.  These plans demonstrate that all aspects of the development have been thought through and have been agreed to in advance.

Development Documentation – This covers all aspects of development documentation, including Marketing Product Definition (see eN-030703 – Product Definition: Define What It Is and What It Isn’t!), functional product specifications, high-level design specifications, detailed design specifications, module and sub-module design specifications, test specifications (unit, module, integration, functional, system-level, etc.), performance specifications, usability specifications, etc.  These documents, updated as required, establish the historical and current record of what is being developed, and enable people new to the development to quickly get up to speed.

Development Standards – Some level of “formal” development standards are needed so that design reviews can be conducted efficiently, and so that new people can learn quickly about what is being done in a uniform fashion.  Such standards include design standards (coding standards, CAD standards, drawing standards, etc.), test standards (unit, module, integration, functional, system, etc.), documentation standards (standard documentation approach to ease learning by customers), usability standards (standard approach to make use by customers intuitive and easy to understand), etc.  The degree of standardization may vary from organization to organization, but some level of standardization and uniformity is required.

Project Documentation – Development projects require good organization.  This requires the establishment of project plans, personnel plans, other resource plans, project milestones, project schedules, dependencies, determination of critical paths, etc.  As the saying goes, “Failing to plan means you are planning to fail.”

Project Control Systems – It is essential that mechanisms be put in place to control and track what is happening during the product development process.  This includes elements such as design control systems (source code control systems, design capture systems, etc.), bug reporting and tracking systems, bug review committees/meetings, linkages between design control systems and bug reporting and tracking systems, configuration management systems, product release control systems, test processes (unit, module, integration, functional, system, negative, regression, etc.), metrics (design, test, documentation, etc.), and much more.  Such control systems provide the information necessary to make informed decision about how to best proceed.

Change Control Systems – Change is inevitable in any product development effort.  New information becomes available, new ideas are generated, problems arise, people leave or arrive, budget problems occur, and other sources of change come up.  At the same time, changes impact delivery dates, quality, features, and more.  While change is inevitable, it must be controlled.  Some impedance to change is required, and this comes in the form of a formal change control system, which must be invoked before any changes are accepted.  It is essential to understand the cost of changes before making any changes.

Project Management Systems – Without proper management, projects have a tendency to careen out of control.  Project control systems can provide the information on the status of the product/ project, but only provide the raw data.  Product/ Project review meetings, typically held weekly, provide the forum for bringing this information together.  Effective project management depends on informed decisions by qualified people.  A steady hand must be maintained to ensure that all relevant information is available and understood, and that reasoned decisions are made which are best for the company.  A formal Phase-Gate Review Process that calls for formal reviews at specific milestones, with proceed or stop decisions made at the gate, and sign-off by all relevant parties, can be a very effective project management approach.

Constraints on e-Newsletter length have forced this discussion of Management of Development to be overly brief.  Much more needs to be discussed in far greater detail, and this will be done in subsequent e-Newsletters.  Comments are welcome and encouraged.

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