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Functional Allocation V

Holy cow! We’re up to the fifth boring blarticle that delves into the mysterious nature of “Functional Allocation”. Let’s start here with the hypothetical 6 level allocation reference tree that was presented earlier.

Levels Of Abstraction

Assume that our company is smart enough to define and standardize a  reference tree like this one in their formal process documentation. Now, let’s assume that our company has been contracted to develop a Large And Complex (LAC) software-intensive system. My fuzzy and un-rigorous definition of large and complex is:

“The product has, (or will have after it’s built) lots of parts, many different kinds of parts, lots of internal and external interfaces, and lots of different types of interfaces”.

The figure below shows a partial result of step one in the multi-level process; the Shall-To-Feature (STF) allocation process. Given a set of 5 customer-supplied abstract “shalls”, someone has made the design decisions that led to  the identification and definition of 3 less-abstract features that the product must provide in order to satisfy the customer shalls.We’ve started the movement from the abstract to the less abstract.

Just imagine what the model below would look like in the case where we had 100s of shalls to wrestle with. How could anyone possibly conclude up front that the set of shalls have been completely covered by the feature set? At this stage of the game, I assert that you can’t. You have to make a commitment and move on. In all likelihood, the initial STF allocation result won’t work. Thus, if your process doesn’t explicitly include the concept of “iterating on mistakes made and on new knowledge gained” as the product development process lurches forward, you’ll get what you deserve.

stf example

Note that in the simple example above, there is no clean and proper one-to-one STF mapping and there are 2 cross-cutting “shalls”. Also, note that there is no logical rule or mathematical formula grounded in physics that enables a shallocator (robot or human) to mechanically compute an “optimum” feature set and perform the corresponding STF allocation. It’s abstract stuff, and different qualified people will come up with different designs. Management, take heed of that fact.

So, given the initial finished STF allocation output (recorded and made accessible and visible for others to evaluate, of course) how was it arrived at? Could the effort be codified in a step-by-step Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) so that it can be classified as “repeatable and predictable”? I say no, regardless of what bureaucrats and process managers who’ve never done it themselves think. What about you, what do you think?

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