DIVE, which is an acronym for Discover, Innovate, Validate, and Empower, is the project management way of life here at Dispatch Integration. It’s our branded methodology which communicates that our process is paramount to successful projects. This 4-part series will break down each component of the DIVE methodology to provide project leaders with an inside look at these 4 critical areas of project management.
This month, we jump into the first of these 4 phases, (and in my opinion the most critical phase), which is that of Discovery.
By definition, Discovery is the act of finding or learning something for the first time. While we may not be inventing the wheel or landing a lunar rover on the moon, we can apply this basic concept when it comes to learning what it is that makes our customers tick.
A successful project has roots that are planted in a well-rounded and well-planned requirement gathering phase. One of the most common reasons why projects fail can be traced back to the very beginning due to inadequate planning and execution within the Discovery Phase. Often this phase is overlooked or rushed through to hit a timeline, or because people just aren’t aware of the importance to do a proper discovery and alignment exercise before committing resources to the project.
When quality planning and requirements gathering is absent, several downstream impacts can arise in rapid succession. These can include scope churn, which therefore could result in resource restriction to complete the new or “unknown” scope in the same time frame that was established at the beginning of the project, which then drives budgets well beyond their capacity.
Here are a few key deliverables that Dispatch ensures are completed prior to engaging in the second phase of DIVE, the Innovate phase.
- Solution Architecture Documentation: The Integration Solution Architecture (ISA) is the source of record that captures the requirements of every integration. This requires a joint effort between the Architect and the Business Analyst. The ISA includes details such as Business Drivers, Integration Scope, System Relationships, Business Context (Use Cases), Design Overview, Processes, Topology and Testing Strategy. This phase is reliant upon the customer’s knowledge of their systems and the Architect’s integration expertise.
- Initial Backlog: The project manager can build the Backlog as requirements are gathered from our clients and stakeholders in the Discovery sessions. During this exercise, the project Sprint schedule begins to form. Epics, Features, User Stories and Tasks take shape which allow the team to estimate the amount of effort that will be required to carry out the project (see #6 for more detail). This backlog will be refined throughout the Sprint lifecycle as tasks are completed and new tasks are added.
- Preliminary Failure Modes and Effects Analysis: This is a step-by-step approach for identifying all possible failures in a design, product, or service. It is a common process analysis tool. “Failure Modes” refers to the ways, or modes, in which something may fail. In the software development industry, these would constitute as errors or defects, which likely have downstream impact. “Effects Analysis” refers to studying the consequences of those failures and the resolution of them as well. We go into further detail regarding FMEA’s in a separate blog and the fourth blog of our series covering the Empower Phase.
- Environment Plan: It is critical that a preliminary environment/tenant has been secured, with correct accesses granted to the correct resources, to carry out development and testing, prior to the code merge to the Production environment. It is also critical that the test environment configuration mirrors the configurations that are found in the Production environment so that testing can be carried out with accuracy. Protecting sensitive consumer data is also a critical piece of the environment planning. Often, clients choose to scramble the client information to protect the identity and confidentiality of the data.
- Development and Implementation Estimates & Resource Plan: Before Discovery sessions can be conducted with the client, our project team is established. We select our project team based on the skill sets that we believe are required to successfully carry out the project, in combination with resource availability at the time of the project. Estimates are given for each task that we create in the project backlog. These tasks range from coding, to unit testing, to meeting attendance, and project management administration. Once our bottoms-up estimate has been established, we are then able to engage in conversation with our client to determine if the corresponding monetary value aligns with their vision. If it does not, we work closely with the client to see where scope can be reduced, or where the ‘art of the possible’ lies.
- RAID Log: This log is used to track Risks, Actions, Issues and Decisions (RAID) and is a key point of ongoing discussion between the internal team and the client. This log ensures that all critical items are tracked for reference. This platform is a useful tool and opportunity to drive discussions with customers about common items where projects have a high likelihood of facing roadblocks. Often our Project Managers will expand upon the RAID log and create a Risk Action Plan specific to addressing Risks, the probable impacts, risk likelihood, impact severity, and mitigation response plan.
- Acceptance Criteria and Test Scenarios: Based on the requirements discussed, test scenarios are developed for review and sign off by the client. Test scenarios are a key deliverable, as they reflect our understanding of the requirements, and form the basis for the detailed test cases that will be developed and executed by the client for acceptance testing.
Part 2 of the DIVE methodology series will discuss Innovation and how Dispatch uses it to bring the needs of customers to life.
Contact us to learn more about our products and services.
Dispatch Integration is a software development and professional services firm that develops, delivers, and manages advanced data integration and workflow automation solutions. We exist to help organizations effectively deal with the complex and ever-changing need to integrate data and optimize end to end workflows between cloud-based, mission-critical applications.
Read More from Dispatch Integration:
What’s an FMEA, and Why We Use It
Contract Allocation Co-processing for SAAS Company
Data Integration: Life in Production
Stephen Fontana is a seasoned Project Manager with experience in managing projects for international financial services institutions. He specializes in the software development life cycle and Scrum/Agile Methodology.