If you’re looking ahead to a future IT project, or are undertaking one presently, chances are you’ll be involved in a Joint Application Design session (or JAD, for short). A JAD is a structured, facilitated workshop in which multiple teams of stakeholders (e.g., the IT vendor and customer) collaborate to discuss the development of the desired system, producing deliverables and tracing RFP requirements to business rules. (If you’re not too familiar with the concept, a quick internet search will net you a smorgasbord of information.)
Since their original development by IBM in the 1970s, JAD sessions have become a standard—and critical—part of many IT vendors’ development methodologies (Sagitec’s included). Why? Because they offer a number of key project benefits, including the big three:
1) Better Team Dynamic
The typical RFP for a pension administration system is not unlike a tangled web of varying goals, expectations, and requirements. It bundles the interests of two distinct stakeholders—technical staff and business staff—into a single document, and the fate of both groups relies on the successful translation of that document into a viable IT solution. But technical staff and business staff don’t always understand one another—and misunderstanding can lead to conflict. Conflict can lead to risk.
According to this article from Building Meaning, “Technical staff prefer to focus on implementing solutions using technology” but “non-technical staff find it difficult to express their needs in a way that technical staff can understand and implement.” Luckily, this so-called communication gap can be bridged by bringing both groups together in a mutually supportive, mutually beneficial effort—otherwise known as the JAD session. PMComplete writes that the JAD session “engenders ownership (“buy-in”) of the solution by both business staff and technical staff” and “establishes a reasonable expectation with each individual that their requirements are going to be addressed.” Getting everyone in a room together, letting their voices be heard and their concerns addressed (i.e., the “cross-pollination of ideas”) can go a long way to building a stronger team.
2) Fast Development
As noted in this article from the Bright Hub website, JAD sessions can dramatically speed up development of the application because “the customer is continuously involved in the project.” Bringing both technical and business staff together in the same room allows for each stakeholder to see the big picture. Conflicting requirements can be addressed on the spot. Issues that could potentially take weeks or even months to resolve over back-and-forth email correspondence and telephone calls can instead be put to rest in days—maybe even hours.
In this way, JADS make evolutionary methodology more viable as a process for developing applications. Resources provided by the IT Project Management Certificate Program tell us that “JAD sessions are an integral part of Evolutionary Development. Without the accelerated start that a JAD session provides, the early project initiation and specification work on a project cannot be accomplished in a short enough time frame.” In Sagitec’s case, the JAD session has proven an invaluable tool enabling us to leverage the full benefits of evolutionary methodology and deliver projects on time.
3) Improved End Product
In their RFPs, most retirement funds list excellent customer service—whether for members, retirees, or employer organizations—among the driving factors for undertaking a pension system modernization. In fact, mission statements often cite this as the fund’s top priority. If this is true, then it stands to reason that nothing will define a project’s success better than the functional quality of the to-be solution (i.e., its ability to provide enhanced service). And JADs have been proven remarkably effective at improving the overall quality of a solution.
As noted in an article by PMComplete (not to mention in previous entries on this blog), one of the leading causes of project failure comes from incomplete or changing requirements. Poor requirements are more difficult to tie to business rules that govern system functionality. Thus, they create a risk of reducing overall quality. JAD sessions can help overcome this threat by providing a venue for clearly defining—and refining—requirements. They result in a “reduction, sometimes dramatic, in the number of specification-level defects, and thus in later changes and rework.”
Additionally, JAD sessions leverage the input of multiple individuals which, when taken in aggregate, lead to an end product that is fundamentally more sound. This site from the Holon Institute of Technology reports that “input from numerous people provides different perspectives on the desired system and often generates creative ideas.” If issues do arise (and they will), JADs offer a better chance at finding creative solutions. As the proverbial saying goes, two heads are better than one.
The Joint Application Design session is a powerful tool that offers significant business benefits towards driving the successful development of a pension administration system. In later articles, we plan to look at guidelines for making the most out of a JAD session, as well as identifying some pitfalls to avoid.
Have you participated in a JAD session? Was it a positive experience? Did it benefit your project? We’d love you to share your experience with us.
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About Sagitec Solutions:
Sagitec Solutions, LLC designs and delivers tailor-made pension, provident fund, and unemployment insurance software solutions to clients of all sizes. Sagitec has the expertise necessary to help their clients achieve strategic business objectives, enhance service offerings, and lower operating costs. Find further information by visiting http://www.sagitec.com. For more information, contact Rick Deshler at (651) 335-3406 or at rick.deshler@Sagitec.com.