Friday, June 15, 2007

Cooking with OUM

The other day I had a really challenging discussion about how to apply OUM (Oracle Unified Method) / UP (Unified Process) on a running project. As with all projects, it had to be decided what needed to be done to deliver a system, no surprise there. The challenging part first of all was in that we tried to fit an incremental approach into a waterfall-like offering. Secondly the approach had to be supported by people that had no previous exposure to OUM nor UP. So how can you bring that to a success without boiling peoples brains?

Let me start with the good news, which is that we reached a point that people have an idea about what they are going to do, and made that plan themselves rather than me telling them what to do. That is exactly how you want things to be in the end, so what more do you want? I should be happy!

The bad news is that something 's nagging the back of my head, being that I made a couple of mistakes along the road, resulting in me not having the feeling the message was understood properly. But as a famous Dutch philosopher once said: "every disadvantage 'as it's advantage", in this case being that that me feeling miserable is not your problem, and we all might learn from it.

In retrospect I think the one and only real mistake was skipping the part in where you explain the principles behind OUM and UP, and being so naive to think I could do that along the road. OK, I jumped on a running train and the approach needed to be there yesterday, so maybe I'm excused, but boy, what a mistake that was as it made discussions so difficult. But let's skip the nag whine part and let me explain what I would do differently next time.

First of all I would explain very well the difference between a task and a deliverable. When that is clear, I would be ready to explain how iterations go in OUM. Pretty important when you need to explain how exactly you do high-risk activities first (a principle that I luckily did not forget to explain up-front).

Unfortunately, I presented all tasks using the name of what OUM calls 'work products', giving the impression that every task results in a deliverable that actually is going to be presented as such to the customer. As in my proposal there were quite a few tasks to do, it looked like I proposed creating a pile of deliverables, scaring the hell out of people.

In OUM the term deliverable is reserved for a "product" that we actually present to the customer and that you likely will find in the project proposal or project plan. In order to get to that deliverable, you sometimes do multiple tasks, like creating an initial version of some document, reviewing that with the customer, in a next phase adding details using some diagrams, reviewing it again, etc., before you finally come up with one concrete deliverable.

Every (intermediate) task results in a "work product" that might or might not be presented to the customer as a deliverable. The important thing to notice is that, although the tasks might have different names and associated codes, you actually work on multiple iterations of the same deliverable.

Below an example of how the Use Case Model is created in three iterations (I left out any review tasks between each iteration). The rounded boxes are the tasks, the iterations of the work products are the square ones. By drawing a box around the three Use Case Model iterations I express these will be combined into one single deliverable.



How many work products you plan to combine into one deliverable, is up to you. Three words of advice, though.

First try to prevent multiple people working on the same document at the same time, because that unnecessarily introduces the risk of people needing to wait on each other. When you anticipate this might happen, that’s a strong contra-indication for combining work products.

For this reason, in the example the Use Case Realization has not been combined with the Use Case Model, as in this case the assumption is that the Use Case Realization will be worked out by a Designer, while the Use Case Model has been worked out by a (Business) Analyst, both having different responsibilities.

Secondly, do not iterate the same work product over a long period of time, because you might get the feeling it never finishes. You definitely should not let deliverables iterate cross phases that need to be signed-off. Not many customers want to put their signature on a document in a state of “draft”. I always try to prevent this kind of signing-off way of working as it can be killing for agility, but when there is no other option, be aware that after signing-off normally a deliverable can only be changed after a formal change request procedure (and that takes valuable time).

In the example, this is one of the reasons the MoSCoW-list has not been combined with the Use Case Model, as the assumption is that the MoSCoW-list has been used to define the scope and priorities of high-level requirements, providing the baseline for the activities during the Elaboration phase.

Finally, wherever you combine work products, keep track of the link to the tasks that create them, and make explicit in what iteration the deliverable is, for the following reasons:

  • When keeping track of the original tasks you can make use of the work breakdown structure the method offers, supporting estimating and progress tracking (for some silly reason some managers like to know how far you are from time to time).
  • Knowing what task you are performing facilitates using templates and guidance the method offers for that task.
  • It allows for people outside the project to understand what you're trying to achieve with a specific work product, enabling them to have the right perspective when reviewing it. Otherwise there is a big risk of expecting the wrong thing and not talking the same language. I have seen this going nasty a couple of times when the customer brought in their own experts, believe me.
  • Whenever you want to know how a specific workproduct should look like, you can ask questions like: "does anyone have a good example of a RD.011 High-level Business Process Model for me?" and surprise everyone around you. You might even get what you asked for rather than some document that you have to study for an hour or so to finally conclude it's not what you need. Have you been there, done that?
These are benefits you directly start to profit from right here right now. But what about some next time? Would it not be nice when you could reuse your deliverables as an example for one of your next projects? Or even better, would you not be proud when one of your deliverables ends up in the company-library of outstanding examples, giving you the feeling you have achieved all there is to achieve, quit your job, sell your house and go and live like a king in France, as we Dutchmen say?

Hmmm... Suddenly I start to understand why sometimes it is so hard to get good sample deliverables in some organizations. It may be because of some company policy forbidding such a library.

19 comments:

andreldcastro said...

I'm very interested in Oracle OUM.

I've been using RUP im my development projects for a long time, but now I'm involved in Oracle Applications customizations.

According to "Oracle Forms - Oracle Reports - Oracle Designer (Statement of Direction - September 2005)" in my future developments my best options are in JEE and SOA world, so I think that my best choice in development method is Oracle OUM.

Where can I find white papers about Oracle OUM? I have already downloaded Oracle papers about UML from OTN site, but I'm really ansious about information concerned to Oracle's new method.

Jan Kettenis said...

Unfortunatly we do not yet sell OUM to customers. I'm really trying hard to get it that far, and your inquiry helps me to do so, but it's not my call.

Currently the only way of getting it would be to do a project that involves Oracle Consultancy that could bring OUM with them. What you can do is contact your local Oracle representative to discuss this.

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