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Functional Allocation VI

Every big system, multi-level, “allocation” process (like the one shown below) assumes that the process is initialized and kicked-off with a complete, consistent, and unambiguous set of customer-supplied “shalls”. These “shalls”  need to be “shallocated” by a person or persons to an associated aggregate set of future product functions and/or features that will solve, or at least ameliorate, the customer’s problem. In my experience, a documented set of “shalls” is always provided with a contract, but the organization, consistency, completeness, and understandability of these customer level requirements often leaves much to be desired.

Focus On Shallocation

The figure below represents a hypothetical requirements mess. The mess might have been caused by “specification by committee”, where a bunch of people just haphazardly tossed “shalls” into the bucket according to different personal agendas and disparate perceptions of the problem to be solved.

Reqs Ambiguity

Given a fragmented and incoherent “mess”, what should be done next? Should one proceed directly to the Shall-To-Function (STF) process step? One alternative strategy, the performance of an intermediate step called Classify And Group  (CAG), is shown below. CAG is also known as the more vague phrase; “requirements scrubbing”. As shown below, the intent is to remove as much ambiguity and inconsistency as possible by: 1) intelligently grouping the “shalls” into classification categories;  2) restructuring the result into a more usable artifact for the next downstream STF allocation step in the process.

Classify and Group

The figure below shows the position of the (usually “hidden” and unaccounted for)  CAG process within the allocation tree. Notice the connection between the CAG and the customer. The purpose of that interface is so that the customer can clarify meaning and intent to the person or persons performing the CAG work. If the people performing the CAG work aren’t allowed, or can’t obtain, access to the customer group that produced the initial set of “shalls”, then all may be lost right out of the gate. Misunderstandings and ambiguities will be propagated downstream and end up embedded in the fabric of the product. Bummer city.

CAG

Once the CAG effort is completed (after several iterations involving the customer(s) of course), the first allocation activity, Shall-To-Function (STF), can then be effectively performed. The figure below shows the initial state of two different approaches prior to commencement of the STF activity. In the top portion of the figure, CAG was performed prior to starting the STF. In the bottom portion, CAG was not performed. Which approach has a better chance of downstream success? Does your company’s formal product development process explicitly call out and describe a CAG step? Should it?

Shallocation

No CAG

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