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Functional Allocation III

The figure below shows the movement from the abstract to the concrete through a nested “allocation” process designed for big and complex products (thus, hackers and duct-tapers need not apply). “Shalls” are allocated to features, which are allocated to functions, which are allocated to subsystems, which are allocated to hardware and software modules. Since allocation is labor intensive, which takes time, which takes money, are all four levels of allocation required? Can’t we just skip all the of the intermediate levels, allocate “shalls” to HW/SW modules, and start iteratively building the system pronto? Hmmm. The answer is subjective and, in addition to product size/complexity, it depends on many corpo-specific socio-technical factors. There is no pat answer.

Levels Of Abstraction

The figure below shows three variations derived from the hypothetical six-level allocation reference template. In the left-most process, two or more product subsystems that will (hopefully) satisfy a pre-existing set of “shalls” are conceived. At the end of the allocation process, the specification artifacts are released to teams of people “allocated” to each subsystem and the design/construction process continues.   In the middle process, each SW module, along with the set of shalls and functions that it is required to implement is allocated to a SW developer. In the right process, which, in addition to custom software requires the creation of custom HW, the specification artifacts are allocated to various SW and HW engineers. (Since multiple individuals are involved in the development of the product, the definition of all entity-to-entity interfaces is at least as crucial as the identification and definition of the entities themselves, but that is a subject for another future post.)

Allocation Variations

Which process variation, if any, is “best”? Again, the number of unquantifiable socio-technical factors involved  can make the decision daunting. The sad part is, in order to avoid thinking and making a conscious decision, most corpo orgs ram the full 6 level process down their people’s throats no matter what. To pour salt on the wound, management, which is always on the outside and looking-in toward the development teams, piles on all kinds of non-value-added byzantine approval procedures while simultaneously pounding the team(s) with schedule pressure to compplete. If you’re on the inside and directly creating or indirectly contributing to value creation, it’s not pretty. Bummer.

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