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How to Involve The Customer and Other Stakeholders in Project Design and Execution

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 7/24/2011

The JAD methodology is a process to collect user requirements when developing new systems. Of late, it is finding new use by involving users in fixing requirements at all stages of the project life cycle. The enhanced user participation expedites the project and improves both efficiency and quality.

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    The Concept

    JAD, the acronym for Joint Application Design or Joint Application Development, is a structured approach of bringing together developers, users, and other stakeholders of a software project to chalk out the software requirements, specifications, and other aspects of the software development life cycle.

    Chuck Morris, Raleigh, and Tony Crawford of IBM developed JAD in 1977 as a structured approach to requirements gathering and system design, to improve on the traditional requirements gathering method of interviewing each stakeholder separately and focusing on their opinions rather than group consensus or feasibility. JAD brings the various stakeholders together to fix the design in a team environment, through the process of consensus. Of late, the scope of JAD has extended considerably, and it now finds use as a management tool that involves the customer and other stakeholders throughout the project life cycle. The scope now extends to strategic business planning, business process re-engineering, process and data modeling, and general project management.

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    Basic Components of a JAD session

    JAD Methodology Requirements Gathetring The core of the JAD methodology is a JAD session or workshop, where the different stakeholders get together and discuss the project requirements to arrive at a consensus.

    The key actors in such a session are:

    1. The Executive Sponsor, or the system owner, who makes decisions and provides resources to execute the project.
    2. The Project Leader or Manager, or the leader of the project execution team, who is responsible for coordination, time-based deliverables, and resource utilization. The project leader may incorporate key members of the project team, with specific roles and responsibilities.
    3. The customers and end users. They provide the user input to the executive sponsor and the project leader, and the discussion is among these three groups to arrive at a consensus.
    4. Facilitator or Session Leader, who presides over the meeting, and ensures that the meeting covers all the required issues. A good facilitator tries to mediate when disputes or disagreements arise and bring about a consensus.
    5. The Scribe or Modeller, who records the proceedings of the meeting.

    One approach recommends substituting a manual scribe with computer aided software engineering (CASE) for this purpose. The complexity of using CASE tools however slows down the process and becomes the bottleneck, and as such the dominant view is to stick with a scribe, recording the proceedings with a word processor.

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    A Five Phase Approach

    A JAD session is a planned event, and the best approach to conduct it is with a five-step approach, with three of these five steps preceding the actual event.

    1. Defining the project: This is the planning phase, and defines session scope. It requires articulation of the purpose of the JAD meeting, such as whether to gather requirements for a new project, modify an existing project, conduct business process re-engineering, or anything else. Large organizations may finalize the executive sponsor at this stage.
    2. Understanding user requirement: Although the actual user requirements manifest at the JAD session, this phase includes identification of data, process, and system requirements, and developing a system prototype based on a broad and generic model that serves as a working model.
    3. Preparation for the session: The preparation phase involves scheduling the sessions, selecting the participants, informing them, conducting orientation, setting up training for new participants, making the physical arrangements such as acquiring materials and rooms, and directing related activities. This phase may also include a kick-off meeting, or an orientation.
    4. Conducting and facilitating the actual session. The success of the meeting depends on good planning and the competence of the facilitator to see through completion to all goals until a definite conclusion is reached.
    5. Follow up documentation. Preparing and circulating the final document that incorporates the decisions made is important, for otherwise the purpose of the meeting would fritter out. The scribe or modeller prepares the design document, gets approval from the executive sponsor, and circulates it to everyone involved.

    Finalization of the requirements for one phase may require more than one session. The success of the session depends on planning a detailed agenda and sticking with it, setting clear goals and objectives, the ability of the facilitator to cover all bases and steer the meeting to a positive conclusion, and finally the interest and commitment of the members attending the meeting.

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    The involvement of the customer and the presence of all stakeholders allow for accurate conceptualization of requirements incorporating technical limitations. This saves time by freezing requirements, eliminating the possibility of scope creep, improving quality, and reducing the chances of errors or misunderstandings.

    The proper application of JAD reduces process delays and speeds up the project or application development by 20 to 50 percent, and effects cost savings by reducing the time spent by experts, such as project leaders, on non-remunerative activities such as requirements gathering.

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    • Yacto, Mei C. “Joint Application Design/Development." Retrieved July 17, 2011.
    • Rottmann, Dave. "Joint Application Development (JAD)." Retrieved July 17, 2011.

    Image Credit: rizzuti