I have thought for some time that for enterprise software to be successful it needs to be aligned with business processes. This was my experience with knowledge management in the 90s and early 00s. With the arrival of some of the new enterprise 2.0 tools from the consumer market, this business process focus has been, at times, lacking. Now some tools are moving to more tightly align themselves with business processes. Jama is a great example as they are providing a collaboration platform that is focused on supporting one business process, product development.
I spoke with John Simpson, the Vice President of Marketing, about Jama Software and their new capability, the Review Center. Jama is a provider of collaborative requirements management software optimized for managing product innovation. It recently announced the availability of the Review Center module along with its new version of Jama Contour. As John said, “It is collaboration with a purpose.”
The Jama Review Center provides teams with a fast and agile way to review requirements to gain consensus with stakeholders. It provides visibility into the decisions made during the product planning and development process. It captures all the relevant feedback in one place instead of siloed in email attachments and multiple applications. It allows project teams the control to discuss, review and approve requirements with their stakeholders in real-time within a private and completely secure Web-based solution. Current users include several Fortune 500 companies and government agencies such as the US intelligence community.
Since collaborative features are starting to creep into project management software, I asked John about how they see the difference between project management and product management and how this is reflected in Jama. John said that project management software is usually for when you have already decided what to do and are in the execution stage. It has scope, scheduling, and budget components and is usually more tactical.
Product management generally covers a broader scope and involves more frontend work defining the vision and requirements for the product. It is often more strategic. There is market and opportunity analysis that can include listening to customers via direct communications or conversation on the Web. There is gaining feedback from many stakeholders, both inside and outside the enterprise, and consensus building on the vision. One of the key challenges
The new Review Center in Jama Contour follows a series of steps in the product planning and development process to help teams to agree to the scope and stay in sync on the specifications as new requests come in or as changes occur during development. First, you initiate a review. The leader, typically the product manager or business analyst within the team, selects requirements for feedback on and invites people to participate. Approval authority is assigned to key team members so they can electronically sign-off on the requirements they approve. You can see team members and approvers in the sample screen within this process as shown below.
The next step is to gather feedback from all the relevant stakeholders. The project team members begin to input their feedback on the individual requirements. They check off the items as they review them. Approvers mark when requirements need more work, and they vote for the requirements they consider high priority. This occurs in a common workspace so the process and actions are transparent to all who need to know. A sample feedback screen is shown below.
The third phase involves monitoring progress. The leader tracks progress and views team statistics to focus on the requirements with most feedback, questions and issues. A sample monitoring screen is shown below.
Now the team can incorporate feedback into the product design and development effort. When changes are made to individual requirements a new revision is sent out. The changes are automatically updated in the project within Contour. Then, the reviewers are automatically notified of the new revision and asked to approve the change. Changes are made by the leader rather than have a more general wiki-like free for all. However, the changes are aligned with the comments that drove them. I like this. As you can see in the screen below, the related comments are shown in the right side column and highlighted.
Electronic signatures are gathered from the designated approvers and recorded. The product development process can continue to iterate through as many of these cycles as necessary.
I have just touched on some of the capabilities at each step but I think you can get the general idea. I really like the vision to apply the enterprise 2.0 approach to specific business processes and I think that Jama has done a great job. I was involved about ten years ago in creating a product development portal for a major UK consumer products company. I wish I had the capabilities of Jama in those days. The application of collaboration to business process has come a long way since then.