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Surviving Developer Decision-Making Hell

Jama Software this month bids to enrich our lives with the release of new features in its SaaS product delivery platform.

Targeting the evil triumvirate of compressed cycle times, complexity, and organizational misalignment, this product delivery software relies on traceability to connect "everyone" across an organization.

According to research from Forrester Consulting (in partnership with Jama it appears), delayed decision-making is the second biggest cause of product delays, behind issues with requirements. Really yes, it's that important, honest, Forrester says so.

Of more practical substance perhaps is commentary here from the analyst firm pointing to delayed decision-making actually arising from "common situations" such as meeting-intensive processes, loss of intelligence from one project to the next, and general lack of context into upstream and downstream impacts of decisions themselves.

"Using Jama, our agile product team captures 350-400 product decisions per release — conversations that would otherwise be lost in meetings, in email, or buried in documents somewhere," says Derwyn Harris, Jama cofounder and product manager. "Now imagine you're a 20,000-employee enterprise with a product portfolio of more than 100 products and a workforce that's 40 percent remote. Thousands of decisions get lost in the shuffle if not captured in context to the work."

Visualization features new in the Jama Spring 2014 release offer visual displays of an individual's work, down to the item level, which connects to both the tasks of every other team member as well as to how the task rolls up to the business objectives defining the outcome of the overall product.

This function is visible from nearly every view in Jama (via pop-up modals, activity palettes, and in the stream); users see their work in context of the whole, which is critical to efficient product delivery.

A "Conversation Indicator" graphically displays the scope of conversations and associated decisions, and the identities of users engaged with a work item. This indicator layers-on actionable insight to the Jama stream, so users can see everyone connected to the item and immediately reach out — via @mention — to the right person with questions and answers or to elevate the discussion to those who need to know.

When it comes to Indirectly Connected Users, a view into an entire community invested in the product success is possible. This level of insight into the people talking about a feature under discussion aims to help individuals communicate in real-time and make more strategic decisions. If a CEO, for example, has commented on an item, everyone downstream would understand its impact on the business objectives and (in theory) be able to prioritize accordingly.

Also featured here is a relationship rules diagram to show how information needs to be related together so that everyone has a clear picture of how their work relates holistically. A relationship status indicator flags when a rule is broken and provides insight into how to fix it. When orphan items such as stories or test cases are missing downstream, users can drill into the epic and get details on the broken relationships.

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