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The Business Need

Determine the Road to Completion

The client, a U.S.-headquartered biotech company, manufactures molecular biology products used for research purposes. Their proprietary manufacturing process includes third-party equipment, internally developed software, and internally developed and manufactured hardware. Synthesized genes were a growing part of their product line. They believed that enhancements to their infrastructure were needed to support this growing segment of their business.

These enhancements fell into several areas. First, the client needed to improve on their gene manufacturing process through automation, and wanted to process manufactured genes in batches for greater efficiency. They also wanted to identify and track exceptions to the process. An additional goal was to improve on the customer experience in ordering genes. Genetic products would be ordered through an automated interface, and the order should be traceable throughout the process.

The first set of software enhancements had been implemented, but the process was stalled because of a lack of clear requirements from the manufacturing team.

A clear understanding of the project and what it would take to accomplish its goals was needed.

After attending a public Getting PredictableSM Definition Seminar, the client’s CIO approached Geneca because he believed Geneca’s best practices could help the IT team and the manufacturing team to work more effectively together.

Using its requirements best practices, Geneca was engaged to help the company define the following goals:

  • Automating the process of genetic product orders
  • Improving the customer experience in the ordering process
  • Improving the traceability of the orders
  • Improving the manufacturing process through automation efficiency
  • Creating a common language that defines requirements and quantifies need and effort
  • Creating an agreed-upon definition of success using common metrics between the manufacturing and IT teams

The Requirements Challenge

The IT team had recently completed some enhancements to its manufacturing software and process. The manufacturing team wanted to further define and refine specifications on how the software would work before the team moved forward. Both teams agreed that the project needed to advance and be put into production, but felt stymied by the project requirements. A different approach for clarifying and defining enhancements was needed.

One of the upfront challenges was finding time for the teams to sit down together and discuss requirements. The business was growing, and it was hard to get the manufacturing, IT, and business teams together to go over requirements. The Getting Predictable sessions brought them together in workshop sessions to focus on shared goals.

The Getting Predictable Solution

The first project deliverables, the business process diagram and scenarios, were presented, and the IT team became excited about what it had learned from the business. They felt that the project deliverables would work well with their agile development process. Both teams felt they had found a way of communicating about enhancements that would further the goals of both teams. After three weeks, both teams agreed that additional project work to create an interface catalog and release plan were not needed. The software team felt they had what was needed to resume the development process.

During the Getting Predictable sessions, the client’s IT team learned to focus on the business need first and then dig deeper to define functionality, rather than only focusing on the technical aspects. Getting Predictable also allowed the teams to communicate better throughout the requirements definition process, eliminating guesswork on the part of IT. Everyone agreed: In order to get the requirements right and move the project forward, they would have to be involved in ways they might not have been before.

The Rewards

The Value of the Upfront Requirements Effort

By the end of the engagement, project stakeholders had a clearer vision of the requirements for the new software. Roles and accountabilities were more clearly defined. Gaps in business process and technical functionality were identified.

The IT and manufacturing teams became better aware of the goals of the project from a business perspective, allowing them to better define the requirements.

Exposure to Getting Predictable has increased this client’s awareness of why requirements definition must be part of the discussion between business, manufacturing, and software IT, allowing them to define project success criteria before development begins. This understanding will change the way this client approaches requirements definition for future projects.