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JAD Planning and Training

JAD Planning and Training

Joint Application Design (JAD) is used by knowledge workers and IT specialists to resolve problems between the team of developers and end users, related to a new information system. It focuses on the use of highly structured, well-planned meetings to identify the key components of system development projects. This article will give you more information about JAD's planning and training.
Buzzle Staff
Did you know... ...
that in the mid-1970s, the term Joint Application Design (JAD) was formalized by Chuck Morris and Tony Crawford, who were working with IBM around that time.

Joint Application Design (JAD) is used for collecting business requirements while designing a new information system for a company. It is used in the prototyping life cycle area of the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). It is undertaken by JAD knowledge workers for improving quality, understanding requirements and specifications, enhancing the user participation, and expediting the development process. It enables the Corporate Information Services departments to work more efficiently and deliver solutions faster.

The JAD process is based on four simple ideas, namely:

▸People who actually do the job have the best understanding of that job
▸People who are trained in information technology have the best understanding of the possibilities of a particular technology
▸Information systems never exist alone
▸The best results are obtained when both these groups work together on a project

JAD focuses on the use of highly structured and well-planned meetings for effectively executing development projects. It centers on a structured interactive workshop session and eliminates many problems which exist during traditional meetings. The JAD sessions are:

Very focused
▸Conducted in a dedicated environment
▸Quick to drive solutions

JAD Planning Process

Define Session Objectives

The first step for the facilitator, together with the project leader or manager, is to define the session objectives. It is important that all the participants are aware of the scope, solutions, implementation limitations, feasibility, complexity, and duration of the project. It also helps in deciding which business functions and participants will help in completing the project. It is always better to have a result-oriented approach with a well-designed agenda for all the days of the workshop.

Prepare for the Session

The facilitator has the primary responsibility for the preparation of the JAD workshop. He has to conduct pre-session research, create a session agenda, arrange session logistics, and prepare the participants. Composition of the problem statement and requirements analysis should be conducted earlier. It is better that all the participants are briefed at least a few days prior to the workshop. This can be communicated through a meeting, mail, or teleconference. The briefing documents may include a familiarization guide, briefing guide, etc. The facilitator should give details about the purpose, scope, and expectations of the workshop. This kind of session mentally prepares the participants and they are trained to be in sync with the workshop.

Location of Workshop

It is better to hold the workshop at an off-site location. Hence, you will have to make arrangements for the session logistics. Also, ensure that props like projectors, computers, screens, tables, electronic whiteboards, flip charts, etc., are in place. There should be a power connection at the venue. The theme of the room should encourage effective interaction and communication.

Know the Success Parameters

It is important to identify and pursue the factors which are critical for the success of the project. There should be a success evaluation mechanism which will enable to measure the results, duration, and implementation of the project. This kind of result assessment is essential to measure the effectiveness and quality of the new system, and the success of the planned changes if any.

Workshop Design and Documentation

The most crucial step to be taken before the workshop is planning its details and getting all the documentation in place. Using the CASE tool for diagramming is recommended. It is also important that the facilitator has an engaging and cogent narrative which will keep the participants interested in the proceedings of the workshop.

Schedule the Activities

The workshop may be conducted for a single day, or may even extend for a week. In the initial phase of the project, it is important that the workshop is conducted for at least 3 days. It takes at least a day for the participants to get comfortable with their roles and the new team. On the second day, usually they get to know each other better, and a common platform to communicate the issues and concerns is developed. On the third day, there is an enhanced team work synergy in approaching the subject and finding a solution. You may also host small workshops from time to time throughout the project at various stages of design, development, implementation, and testing of the systems.

Selection of Participants

It is essential to call all the parties who will be involved in the project, right from the conceptualizing stage to the 'go live' stage. This includes the end users, design experts, documentation expert or a scribe, the executive sponsor, senior management, the project manager, systems expert, observers, external and internal subject matter experts, etc. This helps in the smooth planning, development, and execution of the project. Subject matter experts foresee the hindrances in the process and try to tackle them right at the beginning of the process.

Communicating Effectively

The project manager and workshop facilitator conduct research and analysis for effective communication. They then decide the material required for the workshop. This may include presentations, documents, diagrams, notations, films, animations, brochures, leaflets, etc., that will provide assistance to the participants in understanding the workshop in a better manner. It is essential that these visual materials are available for easy understanding of the participants. The communication should also cater to technical and managerial agenda pertaining the new systems. It is better to solve issues which may get debatable, early in the session itself. Through these sessions, the entire team comes to a consensus about the various things discussed in the workshop.

Organizing the Workshop

The initial steps in conducting the workshop involve communicating the starting and ending time, distributing and following the meeting agenda, gaining consensus on the purpose and explaining ground rules at the beginning of the meeting. The exercises and activities in workshop should be targeted towards providing the deliverables and should be based on a result-oriented approach. Often pre-workshop activities help in laying the foundation of workshop exercises. The facilitator conducts the session, leading the developers, end users, and other participants through a planned agenda. The exercises can be serially-oriented or can be parallel, based on the issue to be discussed. Many times high-intensity exercises are used by the facilitator to direct the group towards a specific goal. Low-intensity exercises are used for detailed discussions before taking decisions. The facilitator can either integrate all the participants, or make sub-groups based on their expertise. The facilitator has to achieve the organizational and technical goals through the workshop.

Processing the Documents

It is critical for the success of any JAD session that the information on flip-charts, foils, whiteboards, etc., and other important discussions, are recorded and reviewed by the participants. Each day of the session, the facilitator and scribe should create a draft of the day's results. The final documents from the JAD workshop should be completed as soon as possible after the session. It is the primary responsibility of the facilitator and the scribe to organize the final document for easy use by project members. He has to complete a 'Final Draft' document which he has to send to selected individuals for review. He has to then incorporate revisions as necessary and distribute the final copy for participant sign-off.

JAD Training

The success of a JAD workshop depends on the skill of the facilitator. In order to undertake a JAD session effectively, it is essential to have an understanding about its techniques and facilitation. The training teaches the facilitator about the pivotal skills required for planning and organizing a JAD session. Hence, it is advisable to undergo professional training before conducting a workshop. Most of the JAD seminars provide in-depth information about requirement gathering, how to create agenda and scripts for deliverables, conducting the session, assessing the feedback of the end-user, documentation, etc. It also helps in composing the communication aids required for the easy comprehension of the end-user. Generally, a JAD training will have the following course content, though it may vary with each training program.

▸The role of workshop facilitation in business analysis
▸Workshop facilitation and the systems development life cycle
▸Information gathering techniques
▸What is JAD?
▸JAD principles
▸Planning a workshop
▸Identifying and involving stakeholders
▸The roles of workshop participants
▸The role of workshop facilitator
▸Conducting workshop sessions
▸Applying JAD facilitation techniques
▸Handling workshop problems
▸Building consensus and resolving problems
▸Developing listening and speaking skills

Tips for Conducting a JAD Workshop

✔It is advisable that the JAD facilitator and project manager undergo JAD training before planning a workshop.

✔If you are a facilitator, you must treat all the participants equally and respect their opinions.

✔A U-shaped table facing the screen in a large room will be most suitable for the JAD session, as it discourages hierarchy and provides an unrestricted view.

✔Focus your attention on the scope of the workshop, avoid straying the discussion from its core purpose.

✔It is important that all the stakeholders and management know about the objectives of the workshop.

✔The feedback or vision of the stakeholders should be documented along with analysis.

✔It is important that the conclusions are communicated to all the participants for their confirmation and action.
At the end of the session, a plan for the new information system will be created which will be feasible and acceptable for both, the end users and the developers. JAD improves the final quality of the product by keeping the focus on the development cycle, thus reducing errors that are likely to cause delay and incur large expenses. However, the technique is based on the observation that the success of a project can be hampered by poor intra-team communication, incomplete definition of requirements, and lack of consensus. Hence, it is essential that the people conducting the JAD workshop have undergone a JAD facilitation and requirements gathering training to have a successful session.