Requirements Management Tools and Six Steps to Success

Every business requires successful, efficient and utilitarian processes to perform the functions which earn it money.  The really simple way to describe this is those businesses which stick to successful processes thrive, whereas those which do not, fail. This is a gross over simplification, of course. However, a fundamental truth lies at the heart of that statement. This article will set out how requirements management tools and Six Steps to Success are the key to unlock successful project delivery.

Get it right at the start and success will come much more easily. The first steps are crucial.

Requirements Management Tools and Six Steps to Success is about starting  in the right direction and keeping going in that direction until success occurs.

Business success
Business success

The Six Steps for Success

There exists a very simple set of six steps for guaranteed success in any endeavour.  Personal development gurus and business leaders teach these steps at seminars all over the world.

The six steps:

  1. Be very clear of your outcome
    • Know the outcome in detail
    • Quantify the outcome with measurable metrics
    • Ensure that the outcome is possible, even if very ambitious
  2. Take an action to achieve that outcome
  3. Measure the result of that action and determine if it is getting you closer to that outcome
  4. If it is not, then change course
  5. Keep taking action, checking and if necessary, changing course, repeating steps 2 to 4
  6. Never give up, repeating steps 2 to 4  until that outcome is achieved

Whilst that list is very simple, completely lacking in applicable detail and at first glance, completely banal, or even vapid. It should not be dismissed entirely. That simplistic list of steps is applicable to every situation, from a toddler learning to walk, to ensuring an aircraft arrives at its correct destination, to landing a person on Mars.

For example, the aircraft flight computer is aware of its destination and its location and it compares that with the flight plan and takes action by correcting course continually, until it arrives successfully at its destination.

So Where Do Requirements Management Tools Come Into This?

The first step is to be very clear of the outcome. Knowing the desired outcome in detail to a very granular level is essential. It must be possible to describe every part of that outcome.  Listing every attribute required in detail.  These outcomes can become a repository of requirements and it is these requirements that are to be managed throughout the lifecycle of any project.  A Requirements Management tool will manage these requirements through defined processes to ensure that any project ultimately succeeds.

How to Create Requirements?

SMART requirements (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realisable, Traceable), are the best ways to define the specifics of your outcome as requirements. Each requirement should be either an item, piece of equipment, function, process etc. and linked in a hierarchy. For example, a cooling system is a requirement on an engine. That cooling system has a function, which is a requirement. That function must operate within pre-defined parameters, which are requirements. The cooling system is made up of various parts, like a radiator, pipes, pumps. Each of those are requirements with their own functions with operating parameters. All of those are requirements. Even a nut, or a bolt or a screw is a requirement with attributes of size, materials, strength, colour.

How to Manage Requirements?

As is evident from the above, any large system can rapidly become an enormous, labyrinthine mess of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of requirements of every aspect of your system.  Try keeping track of those during the systems engineering process from concept to creation.

unmanageable mess
Unmanageable mess

Every defined and agreed requirement must be met to guarantee the outcome of the project. Each part of the project must be linked back to a requirement, to ensure that the steps 2 to 4 above can satisfy and implement that requirement successfully. But when there are millions of requirements, then help is available.

The Solution

A tool designed to manage all requirements. It must be able to store and link all requirements to every relevant part of the system. That tool should also be able to trace every part of that system back to a requirement. This full checking of every item to every requirement keeps projects on track.  It should also be able to find any part of the system which does not link back to a requirement.  Such items that do not link back to requirements are evidence of wasted effort and expense.

Cradle is the only tool that has transitive linking, allowing full requirement redundancy checking and so can find wasted items that are not linked back to any requirements.

All your projects are kept fully under control. Cradle can handle all requirements traceability and coverage whilst also linking that into the rest of the  systems engineering project.  For full systems engineering solutions, with the entire requirements management control system built in, Cradle is the answer. Ensuring that every item is linked to a set of requirements, and no effort is wasted.

Cradle for all your requirements management needs

Start your six steps to success in order to feel the satisfaction of successful project delivery

Cradle – requirement management tools and the six steps to success.

Register and download Cradle RM-Desktop or Cradle RM-Pro now.

How Can Requirements Management Tools Ensure That You Avoid a Disaster?

Requirements Management Tools are Essential

Requirements management tools are at the heart of future development in tools for systems engineering. Organisations that are not following and implementing the developments in these tools and utilising them in their projects may well lose out significantly.

What are requirements management tools?

According to Professor Roland Traunmüller, requirements management is the systems engineering activity principally concerned with finding, organising, documenting and tracking requirements for software systems and products / projects in many different industries. Its focus is maintaining traceability, defined as the “ability to describe and follow the life of a requirement, in both forwards and backwards direction (i.e. from its origin, through its development and specification, to its subsequent deployment and use, and through all periods of on-going refinement and iteration in any of these phases).”

The need to be sure that any project is continuously and effectively moving towards the goal of satisfying all the required elements of that project is best and most effectively met with a dedicated requirements management tool.  This is a tool which is designed from the outset to impose requirements management principles upon the project from the start and continue to impose them through all of the project lifecycle.

What happens to your projects, or indeed, your business if you fail to follow good systems engineering practice? How can your systems’ design properly satisfy requirements that are imprecise or incomplete? How can you implement a requirements management process without the effective deployment of a fully integrated requirements management tool? The project stakeholders lose sight of the requirements in the maze of changes and developments that always naturally occur during the project lifecycle. Time, money and energy are wasted creating and implementing solutions to problems that do not exist.

Let us use an example

An engineering company has won a contract to design and install a heating system in a new office block. The company offering the contract seeks an environmentally friendly, carbon neutral system. It would be cheaper to use existing heating systems available ‘off the shelf’, but they want to win environmental awards for green technology and so they want a new design.

They award the contract to a company that uses fashionable green language, but that company is not using a dedicated and integrated requirements management tool. Their systems are based on taking notes on paper and mobile devices, then transferring them to Microsoft ® Word documents and spreadsheets. They say that this document-centric approach works well, as shown by their low development price.

As their system progresses, they have designated naming conventions for these documents to keep their system from becoming too complicated and losing documents. Inevitably, some employees forget the naming convention, or fail to apply it correctly, or overwrite documents with the wrong content. Before long requirements are lost or forgotten and not included as they pivot from the design phase, or “slip through the cracks” into the testing and implementation phases. These losses are further compounded when changes are required later and there is no communication between the design engineers and the installation engineers and decisions made on the spur of the moment to make changes are not checked against the system’s requirements. Equipment gets designed and installed only then to discover, “Oh no!” when a part does not comply with the new corporate environmental regulations created by the Chief Environmental and Climate Change Officer. Such regulations were incorrectly entered into the manual, document-based process, so the design team didn’t ever see them and the installation engineers were utterly unaware of them! Disaster! The project runs over schedule, over budget, delivers the wrong system and the company’s reputation is tarnished!

All of this could have easily been avoided had they used a fully integrated requirements management tool such as Cradle. Not only does Cradle provide full end-to-end traceability and coverage of all requirements, it is also fully integrated into its Systems Engineering package that handles every part of your full project lifecyle. That means that whatever size or scale of project you are delivering, Cradle can be trusted to hold all your data securely and gives you the confidence to know that every single requirement that is gathered and entered into Cradle. All these requirement scan be tracked throughout your design, testing, implementation, maintenance phases and through to eventual upgrade/replacement or retirement. Any changes and their impacts can be managed fully and properly throughout the entire project lifecycle from concept to creation.

And that means you can enjoy the confidence that your projects can deliver what you promise to deliver on time every time.

Start your journey to success by clicking here to register and download a free trial of Cradle now!

SpeedUpSolR – Review

Solar Power Productivity

We were interested to be provided with a SpeedUpSolRTM unit. We thought we’d test the claims and share them with you.  The device works by “capturing ambient light waves and amplifying productivity software enhancements” We suspect a little has been lost in translation, however the blurb goes on to explain that generally workers want to complete their work more quickly in the daylight saving summer months (in our case anything after GMT turns to BST), in order to make the best of the rest of the day. By capturing the increased sunlight during these hours it can help speed up a your work by using their proprietary algorithm to assist and second guess the text or keys you are about to press. Once finished employees will have completed their schedule ahead of time and will be able to leave earlier benefiting their well-being.

The Unit

SpeedUpSolR device

Comprising a “bubble matrix silicon cell panel” which uses lenses based on omnidirectional fly eyes, maximum sunlight is captured in unit around 150mm long. The interface is s standard USB connector. The drivers download automatically, as it supports plug and play.

Testing

SpeedUpSolR video in useWe connected the SpeedUpSolRTM to a standard desktop and installed a copy of Cradle. We then closed the blinds on the window to simulate a darker time of day. The unit is balanced atop the monitor facing the window, to achieve maximum exposure. The staff member was then asked to simulate entering data for the requirement they were working on. You’ll see their usual speed of typing. We then opened the blinds to allow maximum light onto the SpeedUpSolRTM. This allowed the software to start its word guessing and action assisting operations. We think you’ll concur, there is a marked increase in speed.

Software

SpeedUpSolR softwareThe software bundled with the SpeedUpSolRTM includes an average light level monitor with a rolling 7 day count. It suggests that this can be used to co-inside with maximum productivity bursts for employees. It is also noted that by monitoring the peaks, in winter months people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be able to time their coffee breaks outside to maximise benefit.

 

10 Rules for Requirements Management Mastery

Requirements management mastery is a process of ensuring that the goals of any project or endeavour are successfully realised, are timely and that waste, avoidable redundancy and “feature creep” are eliminated. Managing the requirements of any project throughout the lifecycle of that project is essential to save time, money, effort, resources and successfully arrive at the business goal.  For this reason, requirements management mastery must be a key focus of all projects.

Following the steps ahead, any project will stay on track, save money and deliver what the client needs as the process itself ensures that outcome. Requirements management mastery is a goal that your business will thrive from.

Rule One: Design the Requirements to be of Most Use

Ensure that all requirements derived from the client are SMART:

        1. Specific
        2. Measurable
        3. Attainable
        4. Realisable
        5. Traceable

 

Rule Two: Manage the Requirements

Identifying the user’s needs, through user’s needs statements which are then processed to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Traceable, are used to create user requirements, then system requirements should be developed from these user requirements. These ought to be linked to maintain full traceability and coverage throughout the project lifecycle and store all the requirements in a central requirements repository. Cradle is designed from the ground up to manage all requirements with full coverage and traceability, end-to-end, backwards and forwards through its unique transitive linking mechanism for full traceability and coverage from every requirement to every outcome, and from every outcome back to every requirement.

Rule Three: Ensure Constraints are Accounted for

Non functional and non system requirements such as for legal or regulatory compliance must be accounted for and this is useful for ensuring quality is maintained and indeed, built into the system.

Rule Four: Model Requirements

Various modelling tools (built into Cradle) are very useful for understanding requirements in a broader and more understandable way. It can reduce ambiguity and create a much better understanding of how requirements can be achieved.

Step 5: Test Requirements

Ensure that requirements can be tested, through test cases, tests, test results all linked transitively back to the requirements being tested. Cradle’s TEST module (Test, Execution & Recording (TER)) allows you to directly link Test Cases to your requirements, needs, or design elements. You can then define Test Plans and Test Executions to group and run these tests and the tool will record the Test Results against each Test Step.

Gathering requirements
Requirements management mastery

Rule Six: Be Aware of Business Needs

By analysing business needs, requirements can be optimised to ensure that essential stakeholders are made aware of opportunities to enhance the business and improve innovation.

Rule Seven: Ensure that Changes are Controlled

During any project lifecycle, changes occur which impact requirements. Having tools that manage those changes, tracks them through full traceability and coverage and notifies stakeholders of which parts of the project are impacted by those changes, gives the business a clear advantage, reducing errors, saving time and lots of money.

Rule Eight: Monitor and Track Metrics and Trends

Make use of Cradle to ensure that metrics are identified and learned from. Continuous improvement in requirements definitions and utility leads to better implementation.

Rule Nine: Keep a Repository of Good Requirements

Ensure that a repository of requirements is stored for future analysis and learning. These can be reused or used as templates in the future. Especially non-functional requirements relating to compliance with government or legal standards.

Rule Ten: Ensure that Requirements are Reused

Save time, money and effort by reusing requirements that are still useful. Why re-invent the wheel? Requirements that have been used before will hold useful lessons. Were they changed, amended? Why? What was learnt? Cradle’s Adaptations for reusability is very useful here.

 

 

Why is Requirements Management Essential for your Business?

Why is Requirements Management Essential for your Business?

Imagine you are renovating an old live-aboard boat. You have to ensure that the hull is sound and has no leaks. That the ballast is in the correct place to keep the vessel balanced, you need to upgrade the plumbing, the electric circuits, the gas installations, all whilst designing the living quarters, the saloon, the galley, bathroom and bedrooms.

There are many interesting videos on YouTube created by people doing precisely that and what stands out most, is that none of their original plans survive first contact with reality. Discovering that the constraints of the boat safety certificate means that they must have a specific number of brackets per foot for gas pipelines, or cost of materials suddenly rising threefold mid-renovation, or discovering that fittings simply will not fit where they require them, means mid refit changes to their plans. Buying a water pump for waste water, only to discover the inlet and outlet are different sizes, requires buying new adapters or pipes.  Often this means waiting longer for parts to be delivered before a task can be completed and the budget rising.

Each of the areas of the boat to be renovated is a requirement. How many leisure batteries do you need? Without doing a power audit, and knowing the full wattage of all your electrical equipment, that is guesswork. You do not want to be out on a month’s cruise, only to discover that your washing machine will not work due to inadequate electrical supply, so creating a set of fully researched requirements, and how those requirements will be met, is essential to a successful renovation.

Narrowboat Cruising
Requirements Management for Narrowboat Cruising

The same problems arise when renovating cars, houses or anything that requires a multitude of interconnecting and inter-dependent parts. Often A cannot be completed until B is completed, then whilst completing B one discovers that C, D and E are needed too, but they cannot be completed until A is completed. Around in circles one goes, spending ever more time and money until the project fails and has to be sold off for someone else to attempt to fix it.

Achieving and maintaining control over all the requirements is even more essential in business. Every project your business undertakes, requires analysis, design, implementation and testing phases. Without having a firm understanding of each and every requirement within that analysis, unplanned, forced changes will have a dramatic effect upon timescales, deliverability, functionality and costs. It can be the difference between a successful project and total failure.

The cost of a project requires a deep, granular level of understanding of exactly, in detail, every requirement of that project. It is necessary to know how each requirement will be satisfied and implemented, how much it will cost, how long it will take and a risk register for if any of those requirements cannot be met within the project plan. It also requires knowledge of how such a requirement can be changed during the project, what impact that change will have upon other parts of the project and how much time and money it requires to implement that change.

Requirements Management is the Key to Unlocking Success in all Projects

Requirements management is the key to unlocking success in all projects.
Requirements management is the key to unlocking success in all projects.

Not only does having a full requirements management system allow your business to ensure that all requirements are identified, assessed, agreed, costed, time allocated, tested, implemented, tested again and signed off, it also gives you magical powers when changes to requirements are forced upon you. A fully integrated requirements management plan within a project plan, that includes full coverage and traceability, backwards and forwards, with transitive linking, gives you magical powers to see, at any point in the full project, the status of all requirements at any point in time, but which functions, objects or other parts of the project have crept in, for which there is no requirement at all, exposing the project to unnecessary risk, cost and problems. Why are you spending time and money on something that is not required?

But the client keeps changing their mind…  It is a very common problem. As a project progresses, the client comes back with changes. Regulations change, requirements change, personnel change. This cannot be prevented, sadly, but what this means is that you have an opportunity to see very quickly what impacts such changes will have upon all areas of the project.

How can someone magically know which parts of a project are impacted with changes in requirements?

Cradle provides a fully integrated requirements management system within a full lifecycle product. One product that supports your entire systems engineering lifecycle. Cradle covers everything from initial requirements gathering, through analysis, design, testing, implementation with full baselining. Cradle is designed to control many variants and projects, with full traceability and coverage, end-to-end with unique transitive linking. This grants you full and complete control over every requirement at every point in the project and gifts you the ability to see how every part of the project can link back to any requirement, and if any requirement changes, to see what effects that has on other parts of the project and to see if any part of your project is NOT linked to any requirement and is therefore redundant effort and expense.

3SL Cradle - From Concept to Creation
3SL Cradle

Always in control, always on top of every part of your project at all times.  Do not be the person who has to sell up, because requirements spiraled out of control and the project failed.

Six Marketing Tips

Promise What You Can Deliver

Porridge 'just right' based_on_klara-avsenik--eLS9k_uhUc-unsplash
Just right porridge

Don’t over promise and under deliver. This will win no favours or repeat business. Over engineering may keep your customer happy but will cost you dearly. When expectations are met precisely and on time, that’s just right.

Know Your Audience

Car Park Ticket Advertising - Not appropriate for all products
Car Park Ticket Advertising

If you are selling burgers, advertising on the back of a car park ticket to customers who are in town makes complete sense. It would be fairly ineffective for a sub sea valve manufacturer to take the same stance.

Equally even if you are a country or worldwide retailer, advertising your Autumn range of formal attire in a national farm supplies journal is unlikely to make many sales. That’s in no way implying our farmers don’t dress for occasions. However,  at the time they are looking through a trade magazine looking for a replacement slurry pump impeller, the Rotary Club** harvest dinner is not going to be top of their mind.

Use Multiple Avenues with the Same Message

3SL QR codeIf you hand out a leaflet at a trade fair, there’s nothing wrong with having a matching landing page with the QR code on the back of your business card.

Email Campaign screen shot
Email Campaign

Emails with the same matching message can be a ‘reminder’ of the previously seen message. Additionally posting a related story on your social media re-enforces the message and makes it easier for a customer to find the details they need.

Select Related Imagery

Fell Chips logo based on based on_pexels-miguel-á-padriñán-343457
FellChips

Pictures invoke a speedier reaction in the brain compared to text alone. However, it should be something connected with your product or service.  An electronics OEM (Original equipment manufacturer)  might find the image of an IC (chip) a bit lacklustre as an advertising image, a whole PCB (printed circuit board) or related components would be better.

Fell Chips Fell logo based on carlitos-Generic-40-pins-IC_pexels-jude-mitchellhedges-8409988
Associated Image

However, a view of a lovely landscape, just because they are based near the fells* is going to confuse. However, used in the right way could be a distinguishing identity.

Keep Your Brand Clear

Logo confusion with a large mix of styles
Logo confusion with a large mix of styles

There is no point building a brand only to have it confused with others brands. It is important to look at, your competitors, those with a similar name, logos of a similar nature. A few years back the trend for a ‘swish’ under the company logo swept across a number of re-brands. For each brand they may have believed they were modernising, indicating a forward moving company. However, it became difficult to tell some of these brands apart.

Logo adaptations
Brand Variants

Once you have done your research and decided you have a stand-out identity, keep plugging the brand to build familiarity. You don’t want your customers to be confused as to whether there is more than one company with a similar product. If you do rebrand, gradual changes can work well, otherwise a huge investment into establishing your new identity is needed.

The Unrelated Can Work

Campaigns with outside the box imagery, songs or unexpected tales can catch people’s attention. This can drive traffic to your real goal. In B2C (business to customer) marketing it can be very effective. Unless that is to become your trademark marketing though, it should be used with caution, as over use can tire.

It is not found as often in B2B (business to business) marketing, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t try. You, after all, are trying to provoke a reaction and get noticed. (Oh yes and apparently cute animals sell)

Cradle SaaS Cat
SaaS Cat

 

*Fells: Mainly Northern British: An upland stretch of hills. From the old Norse word ‘fell’ which signified the parts of the mountains that are usually located above the endpoint of the alpine trees.

**Rotary Club: Part of the rotary.org/en organisation usually involved in local community / charitable operations

Investment in Requirements Management and Systems Engineering by Sector 2020/21

A Wide Range of Sectors

We’ve seen investment from a wide range of market sectors, all of whom have very differing products. However, there are many similarities in the processes that they use, based on their need to manage the same types of complexity.

Project Needs and Goals

Which industries invest in RM / SE
Your Industry

Every project seeks to satisfy a set of requirements in a way that maximises compliance and minimises time, effort and cost. All projects must demonstrate that they have met the requirements by passing a variety of acceptance or validation checks. Therefore,  RM (requirements management) is not unique to any individual industry.

Depending how you classify your ‘system’, the concepts and activities of Systems Engineering are also not ‘industry specific’. SE (systems engineering) may sound a little grandiose for some projects, but that depends where you draw your system boundaries. You could be modelling sensor data and control signals coming in, describing how these are manipulated and what outputs are expected. Alternatively you could be describing goods inward, shelving process and booking out.

What constitutes a ‘system’ depends on your industry sector, but the need for careful engineering of systems is common to all sectors.

Sector Investment 2020/21

Discover which industries are investing

Using 3SL’s end of year results grouped by sector we have highlighted an interesting change in RM and SE investment over the last year. Whereas aerospace, and military and defence projects had dominated in the past, construction and energy industries have made a heavier investment this year.

Percentage spend on RM SE by by sector 2020/21
Percentage spend by sector 2020/21

Is Requirements Management and Systems Engineering Right for Your Industry?

If you make, design, or maintain a product, process or a development area, the answer is likely yes. Projects are most successful when; they can capture the needs of the stakeholders; help plan and develop the solution;  provide traceability and reporting at the end. Rather than asking whether you need a RM and/or SE tool, ask why you wouldn’t want to keep control of your project operations.

Available Options

    • Ignore Systems Engineering principles and do nothing
    • Document using spreadsheets, word processor documents, paper files, cloud drives.
    • Invest in an integrated tool
Nothing

This first choice is hardly an option at all. How do you explain to your customers and stakeholders that you don’t really know what needs doing? You don’t know what the risks or boundaries are? You don’t know what you think you need to do to get to your undocumented goal?

Disparate tools

Electronic or paper documents are a great start. They can support a basic set of activities, the skeleton of a process. At the very least you have notes as to what, how and where your project is going. The major problems are:

    • Managing complexity
    • Recording changes and defining the consequential effects of change
    • Recording dependencies between documents and using these dependencies to ensure that consistency, once it has been achieved, is maintained as the information in all documents changes
  • Your workload increases enormously as your documentation grows and you must keep each individual element under configuration control and then providing links between each of those documents. How long do you need to spend in that document reference register keeping each need linked to the appropriate design spreadsheet entry……
    Integrated Solution

    It is no surprise that we would suggest that an integrated tool as the most appropriate and efficient way to work; to link all parts of your design lifecycle together; provide the means to capture, store and process those requirements; optionally link in system engineering designs;  provide full traceability to the output. (Report, document, views etc).

    Cradle

    When selecting a tool it is important that it is a good fit for your process. It must meet the needs of your process without being so complex to use that it becomes self-defeating by transferring large amounts of work to manually maintain your documentation set into large amounts of work to manage the complexity of your software tools. This is the main reason why multiple tools can be a substantial drain on your resources, even assuming that you can actually interface the tools to each other.

    Cradle can support some or all of your process… it is your choice. You decide which part or parts of your process could be helped by Cradle’s automation, its ability to link and cross reference information, and its ability to automatically track changes. The schema that you build in Cradle reflects how much of your process is Cradle to support, such as to manage and link:

      • needs -> user requirements
      • user requirements -> acceptance criteria
      • user requirements -> system requirements
      • system requirements -> validations
      • ⁣⁣system requirements -> SBS
      • system requirements -> functions / behaviour
      • SBS -> architecture
      • architecture -> functions / behaviour
      • architecture ->  verifications
      • functions / behaviour -> test cases
      • test cases -> test results

     

  • These process elements exist in the creation of aerospace / defence platforms, traditionally the main user of these sort of tools and methods.  The design of process control systems, and the specification of I&C (instrumentation and control) systems in power plants has many parallels, and this is where we have noticed growth. However, we are pleased to say looking at the detailed data it can be seen that the processes are being applied in  a wide range of other situations in so many sectors. The discipline of systems engineering is being applied to great effect to help to manage all their issues in so many industries. We build Cradle to try to automate and simplify the application of these systems engineering techniques, no matter what industry you are working in. Cradle provides our customers with the functionality giving them RM and SE power at their fingertips.

    Convinced?

    Still not sure whether you could benefit from an RM / SE tool? We’d be more than happy to discuss your projects and processes and make a recommendation. Book a webinar now.

Play video on YouTube

The Right Mix

A Measure of Quality

“This porridge is too hot, this porridge is too cold, this porridge is just right”

Goldilocks knew exactly what she wanted. Even if she’d not shared her requirements with the bears beforehand.   However the measures made were fairly subjective.

Sand castle right mix
Sandcastle – Right Mix

In other situations it is much more important to get the mix right. Try building a sand castle with sand that is too wet, or too dry and the product fails, and that’s not just an opinion. If that was part of a concrete mix for a new building, you’d want to be sure it was “just right”.

What Is Quality?

Magna Carter image from national archive used under open licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/ http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/37.-Magna-Carta-1297-DL10-197.jpeg
Magna Carter

What constitutes ‘quality’ will vary by product and stakeholder. Some may consider a luxury leather bound volume a ‘quality’ product. It would be wasteful and excessive to use such an expensive resource to write shopping lists. It would be more appropriate to use it to record pledges of office for city officials that will be kept in a permanent archive.

Quality may be best judged by the longevity of writing preserved in the volume’s pages. It will be of little use if its writings fade to invisibility in a few years. Copies of the Magna Carta written on parchment have lasted for over 800 years. This would be unlikely had it been written on cellulose based paper with a disposable ball point pen.

How Do You Measure It?

As part of our validation activity, we will need a way to measure the characteristics that we have decided will be used to describe quality. In our example, we could subject our ledger to an accelerated weathering simulation with cycles of varying intensities of UV light, humidity and temperature. We could then check the integrity of the volume’s bindings, its pages and the contrast of the ink and the page.

With defined quality metrics and measurable values for each metric, the quality of each product can be judged against the metrics and accepted or rejected.

What If I Can’t Measure It?

Ruler Segment - illustrating "Measure"
Measure

There are some things that are much more difficult to quantify. However that should not stop us trying. A customer requirement to have a soft-touch finish on their product could be met by covering it in foam padding, or a velvet cover. These might be acceptable for a chair, but not much use on the handle of a cold chisel. For this quality metric, the customer wanted something to absorb vibrations and so make the tool more comfortable to use. There may be measures of ‘softness’ in terms of compressibility and stiffness, but these may be difficult to use as quantities; You could argue velvet feels ‘softer’ than a rubberised plastic handle, but the latter will compress more than the former.

Be SMART

In some cases to make the requirement SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realisable, Traceable) the specific and measurable aspects may be done by comparison, or actually specifying part of the ‘solution’ in the requirement. Whist well written requirements should not mandate the solution. They should be a detailed expression of the needs, allowing the design and production to choose the most appropriate solution. However, this is not always possible. “The chair must be covered in velvet“, is really a constraint, it is unambiguous and would allow the end product to be undeniably validated. However, we could still debate the “plushness” and whether it is made from artificial or natural fibre.

Be Clear

In the case of the chisel, the main product finish may be specified by meeting a design constraint; such as British Standard BS 3066. This will ensure hardness of the cutting edge impact resistance will be suitable. However, the optional handle would not be covered.

We could write, “The handle should be soft to the touch providing good grip and absorbing at least 50% of the impact force when compared to an uncovered chisel. Properties comparable to the material used on the Club hammer CLBHM002 in the same range should be considered.” This time the requirement is not mandating the same material, it is allowing practical consideration as to what is possible in the manufacturing environment. It does invoke a measurable aspect whist not needing to meet specific values. It also highlights the reasons for the specification, to provide grip. If this came to a point of discussion and the supplier covered the handle in PTFE encased foam, it may be soft but would not be considered an aid to grip. However, a rubber, or texturized plastic would both pass muster.

Strive Towards Acceptance

A cold chisel
Cold Chisel

The book on requirements management might tell you about being precise. Even in the trivial examples given we could all spot flaws. How long does the handle need to last? Does the product have to be water repellent? It would be terrible using a chisel with a lovely shock absorbing handle, if it became cold and soggy at the first sign of rain, or when rinsing it clean.

As either a customer or supplier we can mitigate against these problems, by taking a more agile approach to the whole design. Before final design and definitely before production, a round of review of design and validation criteria should be undertaken. Samples of the handle material can be shared with the customer. The baselined requirement can be updated with a new version, to explicitly state “The handle shall be manufactured from a suitably damage tolerant material, providing a good non-slip grip such as EVA – an ethylene polymer“. We have then full traceability that the requirement was updated as a result of design review. We also have a constraint that can be validated.

A Word of Caution

Whilst communicating with  potential suppliers, you also need to ensure a building of trust. Ensure each side has all the correct confidentiality agreements signed. Make sure it is clear who owns the IP on any design. Whilst researching this article, the need to keep your discussions under wraps was highlighted, by Footprint Tools. If details are handed out too freely, you may find a supplier you end up not using plus a competitor buyer,  beats you to market. Unfortunately you may also find if your chosen supplier is less than trustworthy they  could  use your design to create product for another buyer.  Quality in this case applies to the contract and the trust of everyone in the engineering lifecycle chain.

Reference:

Will your product be around in 2039?

Where is your product’s future?

Future Vision Harsch Shivam via PEXELS
Future Vision

If this year in 2021 you’re designing flashing wrist bands for the FIFA World Cup in 2022, then it’s unlikely you’ll be worried about your product’s next ‘development stage’ in 2023. Should you be building a house you’d expect greater longevity. You’d hope the architect had designed it to still be standing in 2039, but you would not have expected them to design elements of your house to provide facilities for you to easily add an extension. If you’re designing a router, it’s unlikely that the product will still be in use in 2027, but it is likely that an iteration of your current design will be shipping to your customers.  If you are creating a factory, its likely that decisions you make now will affect how flexible your production line is and how able it is to cope with future developments.

Longevity or Variant Flexibility

There is a difference between designing for a product or product line that needs to last into the future and one that needs to provide a base for a number of variants. They are not mutually exclusive but both have an impact on the effort and cost. Without being mindful of the intended product route, it is not possible to plan for this flexibility. Longevity can also be divided into product longevity and design longevity, both of which can affect your product’s end date.

Flexibility

LEDs on development board Marc Mueller on PEXELS.com
LEDs

Considering the examples above, if you are creating the flashing  wristband and know that you need red, and yellow variants. That’s what the organisers have asked for,  a different colour for the opposing teams. It is also possible, but not yet confirmed, that you’ll need green, orange, and blue variants for the semi and finals, but this is only being ‘talked about’. It would be short-sighted  ordering your integrated chip-on-board circuit with a ‘built in drive resistor’ to provide the 1.8v needed for the LEDs; only to find the green and blue models can not be made.

It would be much better to add a requirement to allow this flexibility by designing the current regulating resistor as a separate component allowing the 3.2v needed for the other colours. This is a flexible design variant, it is known about and has a high probability of being needed. The impact of this on the design is minimal. The cost saving; allowing many different bands to be produced with the same chip-on-board IC; far outweighs the cost of the extra pick and place operation to add the separate resistor.

It would, however, be very unlikely that producing a variant that could be connected to a sounder to ‘beep’,  as well as flash would be produced. Just imagine how annoying the stadium would be filled with beeping noises. The extra cost of designing the chip to have that facility would not produce pay back. That said, if your company  produces other novelties; which include a kids toy that needs flashing and beeping; then you may be able to justify using the same chip design across two product ranges.

In house building,  the variants are likely to be 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms or left and right hand versions of semi-detached, properties. The commonalities providing cost benefits, when ordering anything from windows to staircases.

Design Longevity

Factory Internals on PEXELS.com
Factory

Whilst we expect the house to be still standing, and the factory to still be producing; we’d not be overly surprised if the router had stopped working.

The house design is essentially static. It does not change, unless the architect is commissioned to oversee new builds. In that case they may need to be altered to meet changing building regulations.

The concepts of the router should still be good; there should be aspects of our original design in any current products.

The factory product may well alter, if it’s set up to assemble routers that are around 200mm long by 150mm wide; it would be very short-sighted to design all the conveyors and packing systems to only handle that one size. As soon as the new router design of 150mm by 100mm is required, the whole line would need to be changed. So designing for longevity; making as many of the elements of the system configurable or generic as possible; will allow you to accommodate future variants, even if their details are not yet known. Again a balance needs to be struck; designing  the conveyors and packing systems that ‘might need’ to handle 3000mm wide packages, would plainly be overkill.

Product Longevity

Our house design could be thrown away after the estate is complete. It may not be possible to keep building the same type of house for twenty years. The product, does however need to be designed to last that long. The system requirements must specify materials which will last, no one would seriously want a house built of straw. Just ask the three little pigs… The products we make on the factory line will have their own longevity, this should have been specified at concept. Some elements of the factory may still be the same. It’s the overall design and operation that we needed to last, not necessarily the products being made. If we’d been assembling the wristbands, by now they will hopefully have been recycled, else they clutter in the attic of our house with not a flash left to give.

A Balance

Router by rawpixels on PEXELS
Router

We should not consider longevity and flexibility separately. Take the router itself; designing the board to allow the flexibility of adding  support for a USB device to future variants is good planning. Adding a spare memory socket to allow more caching, to assist with the expected line speed increase with a switch to FTTP is prudent. Designing software and board layouts to cope with an experimental processor and protocols; that only exist in a university study; are likely to be a waste of effort given the expected lifecycle. Designing the software that could still be in use[*] or the basis of the router you will release in 2030, to cope with dates beyond 2038[**] is likely to be worthwhile!

Tool Support

Ensure your design tool allows you to collate, process, link and trace your variants and plan for longevity. Whether this is via an inbuilt mechanism, such as Cradle variants, or by linking longevity requirements as separate items to your main system requirements.

 

*Extremetech.com:Microsoft Windows XP Is Finally Dead, Nearly 18 Years Post-Launch Last official variant (Windows Embedded POSReady 2009) support dropped.

**Wikipedia:Year 2038 problem Seconds since 1970 32 bit integer seconds overflow

 

Test, Execution and Recording

“It will work…” (Probably)

Based on Photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels
Passed?

No product manager wants to be confirming their solution’s viability without the backup of evidence. It is imperative to test and assure your process or product. Tests should demonstrate conformance with, all the vital parameters that comprise your design; regulatory compliance; ongoing quality.

This whole quality cycle should include test, execution and recording functions.

Appropriate Testing

Cradle TER module - Test Case
Test Case

We should accept that these tests, and the effort used, should be commensurate with the importance of the design element. There’s every reason to test whether a product can place components with sub-millimetre accuracy if we’re designing a circuit board pick and place machine, but within a few mm is probably good enough for a machine placing variable size apples in a packing crate. When testing the same product used in different situations the complexity and accuracy of the test will change. Measuring the slump and hardness of concrete for a garden path, is probably judged by eye, three level compaction in a cone testing for a road, but you’d expect samples to be taken and lab tested it is being poured to form the main tower of a suspension bridge.

Scope

It is also important to test not only for the expected criteria, but the off-norms (off from normal) too. “The program shall accept user input of their weight in kilogrammes and their height in metres. Their BMI shall be displayed as a ratio of their (weight / height) to two decimal places” The previous requirements can be thoroughly tested for a full range of human weights and heights, but then fall over at the first hurdle when a user enters 0 for their height.

Executing

Cradle TER module - Test Run
Test Run

Once developed, the set of tests may need to be run multiple times on the same product as development tweaks are made, or once on each batch of product to ensure ongoing conformity. Services, procedures and physical products can all be tested. Whether that’s timing the office evacuation during a fire drill or the alcohol content of a batch of whiskey. It is also important to recognise that each execution set may need to be full or a partial set of the tests.   Every safety harness may be subject to visual inspection and, checks on fastener operation. Every tenth to a set of detailed measurements and every two hundredth to a full destruction test. The ability to execute a set of tests from our full suite is therefore important.

 

Recording

Cradle TER module - Test Result
Test Result

Finally the test execution will produce a set of results which should be recorded. Not only does the recording provide the traceability your QA (Quality assurance) plan should aim for, but it will allow you to investigate trends. How many failures were there last month? Were there more or fewer than the previous month. Is investigation required?

 

Cradle

Cradle’s TEST module  (Test, Execution & Recording (TER)) allows you to directly link Test Cases to your requirements, needs, or design elements. You can then define Test Plans and Test Executions to group and run these tests. And as you’d expect the tool will record the Test Results against each Test Step.

For more information download an evaluation copy of Cradle or book a webinar now.

TER video