Modeling Products and Projects

I think many PM tools suffer from the problem of conflating multiple domain models, most likely in the attempt to shoehorm them into the same tool The simple PM tools I talked about (and reviewed previously) suffer from the additional problem oversimplifying, and provide inadequate domain elements to really model the process.

I’ve come up with two (mostly) parallel models that cover the main process domains of product development. It helps me to think in terms of products and projects.

I’m not the first to make the distinction, and certainly not the first to have conflated them. Separating them and managing both in parallel helps me. I use the following two hierarchies:

Product -> Release -> Features -> Requirements

Project -> Milestone -> Tasks -> Work

Definitions and notes:

  • A product is the artifact that exists as a result of the development process.
  • A release is an iteration of the product development process tied to one or more products.
  • A feature is the implementation of one or more requirements.
    • Features may consist of sub-features or components.
  • A requirement is the definition of a business or functional needs.
    • A project is an instance of that development process, the goal of which is to deliver a product.
      • A project may have one more milestones.
      • A project has a definite start and ending
    • A milestone is an enumeration of tasks to be completed in a certain timeframe.
      • A decision needs to be made whether the timeframe or the task list determines the milestone.
        This exercise is called “scoping.”
      • The list of features defines the scope of a product.
    • A task is an element of work that needs to be accomplished.
      • Tasks may have one or more sub-tasks
      • Tasks are assigned to one person
      • Tasks also have dependencies (i.e., other tasks that must be performed first.)
        Dependencies could be an attribute, but there are potentially multiple dependencies.
        (That may just be a flaw in XML-centric thinking. I can’t think of a reason an attribute can’t be a list.)
    • A unit of work is an amount of time spent by one person on a task.
      • A task may have mutliple units of work before being complete.
      • Tasks can track estimated and actual work — measured in units of time — which can be used for time tracking and schedule planning.
        • There should be an initial and a current estimate.
        • The current estimate should equal actual work at the completion of a task

    Notes:

    Scope is the enumeration of features that will be implemented in a release.  Scoping takes into account the time required to complete the tasks required to complete each feature in a release, as well as any additional tasks (e.g., related to testing, deployment, etc.

    A deployment is a release to an environment.  E.g., deployment to test, staging, or production.

    Issues block tasks.  An issue can result in additional tasks.  It can lead to the  documentation of a defect or enhancement.

    Requirements may be separated from features.  (I can sense, based on my guidelines in the post before that my model might not be entirely correct.)  (I think the issue here is that there are mutiple meanings for the word “requirement”.)
    Catchall features such as “security” or “usability” may be used — though I don’t like that practice.
    It makes it too easy to make what should an overarching requirement into a feature that can be cut.
    I think it is better to specify the security or usability requirements for each features (and for the product in general)

    Example:

    The product is a web site. The site will be built in stages. The current release will implement several features, including a shopping cart. The shopping cart has several requirements including “ability to add products from the catalog to cart” and “credit card information will be handled securely.” These requirements may have implementation details. The difference between a business requirement and a functional requirement is whether it it tied to the implementation.

    The project is to develop the website. A milestone may the release of a set of features to production (or test). The tasks for that milestone may include implementing the shopping cart, and fixing certain existing defects.  Tasks required for completing the shopping cart feature might include design, development, testing, and deployment.

    A milestone may indicate a the completion of a stage such as planning, design, development, testing, or deployment.  Or it might mean the completion of certain features.  A release is typically a milestone.

    — I’m getting some conflation here.

    Feedback:

    I’d be curious to know if others have different ways of modeling it, or if they see flaws or advantages in what I’ve outlined.

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    4 thoughts on “Modeling Products and Projects

    1. Pingback: New site design with ModX content management « ONE SHORE INC

    2. Pingback: Release philosophies « Fiji Ecuador Seattle Greece Montana

    3. There are two different philosophical approaches to when a release should occur.

      1) Release at time X
      2) Release when featureset Y is complete

      Agile literature talks about turning the “normal” develpment process on it’s head by cutting features to meet timeframe. But in reality, time is always the deciding variable (as anyone who has been through a waterfall deathmarch can attest.)

      [Quality and budget are other variables, but can be thought of as special cases of features and time, respectively.]

      One thing Agile does try to stress is the awareness of this reality up front, and the mitigation of it by using frequent iterations of small featuresets, so that you have a limited set of completed, and hopefully high quality features at any point in time — in case the budget (time) runs out; rather than a larger featureset of incomplete and potentially lower quality features.

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