Community Blog Business-Driven Collaboration - Alibaba DevOps Practice Guide Part 5

Business-Driven Collaboration - Alibaba DevOps Practice Guide Part 5

Part 5 of this 27-part series introduces business-driven collaboration.

This article is from Alibaba DevOps Practice Guide written by Alibaba Cloud Yunxiao Team

After you define the requirement hierarchy and clarify the value implied by each layer, you need to define the collaboration process for each layer to ultimately serve the goal of delivering high-quality business requirements smoothly. How can we organize the collaboration process for each layer to achieve this goal? This will be described throughout this article from the following aspects:

  1. Collaboration Layers and the Positioning and Objectives of Each Layer
  2. Overall Collaboration Driven by Businesses

Collaboration Layers and the Positioning and Objectives of Each Layer

As shown in the following figure, the collaboration process is divided into three layers based on the hierarchy of requirements: business operation layer, product delivery layer, and technology implementation layer. Among the three layers, the upper layers are more business and objective-oriented, while the lower layer is technology and engineering-oriented.

Three Layers of Business Requirement Delivery

Business Operation Layer

As the top layer, the business operation layer is the core source that drives overall collaboration. We want to establish a business-driven collaboration mode that can streamline and coordinate the overall product delivery and technical work through businesses.

Business personnel are responsible for this layer. The core object they manage is business requirements, and the goal is the efficiency and effect of business requirement delivery.

At the business operation layer, the first thing is to manage the end-to-end delivery process of business requirements, which includes creating or receiving business requirements, planning requirement releases and versions, managing and tracking the requirement delivery, checking and releasing business requirements, giving feedback, and improving business design and planning.

When facing upwards, business requirements can be aligned to objectives. They can be created and planned based on objectives. They can also be translated into business requirements in response to customer demands. After a business requirement is released, a closed feedback loop should be formed based on the objectives and customer demands.

When facing downwards, business requirements are split into product requirements and assigned to the corresponding product delivery team. Meanwhile, it is also necessary to coordinate the delivery processes of relevant product requirements, align their progress, find bottleneck problems on time, and accelerate the implementation of business requirements.

The following three core capabilities must be built for the business operation layer to ensure business delivery efficiency and effectiveness:

  1. Business Planning Capability: Business planning refers to the capability of making trade-offs based on business objectives, customer demands, market conditions, and resource constraints and deciding the content and time.
  2. Delivery Coordination Capability: This refers to the capability of splitting and allocating product requirements based on business requirements, coordinating the delivery process of product requirements, identifying and handling problems and bottlenecks, and ensuring the smooth delivery of business requirements.
  3. Business Feedback and Adjustment Capability: This refers to the capability of collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback from users and markets immediately after requirements are released. It also refers to the capability of adjusting subsequent business evolution plans based on the feedback to ensure the effectiveness of business evolution and iteration.

These three capabilities form a complete closed loop of planning, delivery, and adjustment. Organizations can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business delivery to meet customer demands and achieve business objectives by accelerating this closed loop and improving its effectiveness. This is also a long-term goal of the business operation layer.

Product Delivery Layer

The product delivery layer is managed by the Product Delivery Team, which includes product managers and the development team. They focus on and manage product requirements. The goal is to improve the continuous delivery ability of the product requirements, including the speed, predictability, and quality, to serve the delivery of business requirements.

At the product delivery layer, the first thing is to manage the end-to-end delivery process of product requirements. The process includes accepting product requirements split from business requirements, planning product requirements, scheduling or making iteration plans for product requirements, tracking and managing the delivery process of the product requirements, giving feedback, and improving product delivery efficiency. The product delivery layer associates with business delivery in the upper layer and technical and engineering activities in the lower layer.

When facing upwards, product delivery should be aligned with business delivery. First of all, the content, plan, and implementation progress of product requirements are aligned with the ongoing business requirements to ensure the business delivery speed and quality. Secondly, products should be planned and evolved in a future-oriented manner to ensure long-term efficiency. For example, the product layout should be planned, and preparation should be made in advance for future business development. Product restructuring should be carried out to eliminate technical debts.

When facing downwards, product requirements will be split into technical tasks, and different personnel will be responsible for them. At the product delivery layer, the responsible personnel coordinate the progress of technical tasks, find bottlenecks and problems on time, and ensure smooth and high-quality delivery of the product requirements.

You must build the following three core capabilities for the product delivery layer to improve the efficiency of the product requirement delivery:

  • Planning and Evolution Capability: Product requirements should respond to immediate business requirements, and long-term efficiency should be paid attention to.
  • Scheduling and Delivery Capability: This refers to the capability of determining the requirement delivery sequence and pace, managing the delivery process, and ensuring the rapid delivery of the product requirements.
  • Delivery Efficiency Improvement Capability: This refers to the capability of improving team collaboration, product architecture and design, and engineering and technical practices.

These three capabilities form a closed loop from planning to delivery and improvement to ensure the efficiency of continuous product delivery.

Technology Implementation Layer

Technical engineers, including developers and testers, are responsible for the technical implementation layer. The core object of the technical implementation layer is the changes of the system (application). Engineers split tasks or create changes based on product requirements and complete the development, testing, joint commissioning, and change release.

At the technical implementation layer, good tools, environments, and mechanisms should be offered to developers first, so they can finish their work efficiently and ensure the delivery quality. On this basis, the tasks of the technical implementation layer should be aligned with the tasks of the product delivery layer so the product requirements can be completed and delivered as soon as possible.

In summary, based on the requirement structure, the requirement delivery can be divided into three layers. Each layer has responsible roles. They must focus on completing their work and cooperate with each other to achieve a smooth and high-quality delivery of business requirements. Business is the source that drives this collaboration process and the goal of collaboration.

Drive the Overall Collaboration with Business as the Source

The previous section analyzed the collaboration layers. Each layer has objectives and special responsible roles, and the management objects and tasks differ at each layer. They should have an exclusive collaboration space to enable them to work more efficiently.

Business-Driven Hierarchical Collaboration

The preceding figure shows how business-driven collaboration is achieved. Collaboration is also divided into three layers according to the requirement layer. These three layers are interconnected to form a whole:

  1. Create a dedicated workspace for each layer
  2. Connect each layer to achieve efficient collaboration
  3. Use requirements to connect and structure process assets

Create a Dedicated Workspace for Each Layer

Workspace for Different Roles by the Responsibilities

The table above lists the features of each layer. The manager (or team) of each layer is different, and the objective, managed object, and job responsibilities vary at each layer. Relevant roles must have their own workspaces to improve the work efficiency and quality of each layer, including the business workspace, product delivery space, and developer workbench. These spaces can be configured in different digitization tools. Different R&D management tools are implemented in different ways. They can be an independent project or a logical view.

In a digitalization tool, the workspaces are distinguished by:

  1. Different supported demand types
  2. Different workflows of different types of requirements (the implementation phases of a requirement from the beginning to the end)
  3. Different functional services (such as version planning and iteration scheduling) used in different workspaces

The business workspace supports the business requirements and product requirements. Most of the requirements in the workspace are business requirements, which are split into product requirements. A business requirement workflow needs to be clearly defined in the business workspace (please see Figure 2). The typical functions used in the business workspace include requirement splitting, business planning, and business review.

The product delivery space supports product requirements and work tasks. Most of the requirements in this workspace are product requirements, and they can be split into tasks. A product requirement workflow needs to be clearly defined in the product delivery space (please see Figure 2). The typical functions used in the product delivery space include iteration scheduling, task splitting, and progress statistics.

Connect the Requirements of Each Layer and the Requirement Processes to Achieve Efficient Collaboration

The workspace for each layer helps relevant roles focus on their work. At the same time, each layer is interconnected to form an organic whole. The following figure reflects the connections among them.

Connections between Each Layer

Business personnel manage the end-to-end delivery process in the business workspace. They create, accept, analyze, and plan requirements. The planned business requirements are split into product requirements, which are usually completed jointly by business personnel and product managers of each product. A split product requirement is assigned to the corresponding Product Delivery Team.

In the product delivery space, the Product Delivery Team accepts the split product requirements or creates requirements independently, carries out product design and requirement clarification, completes requirement scheduling, splits technical tasks, develops and integrates requirements, and completes the deployment.

Technical developers work in their personal workspace. They accept or split technical tasks, create changes, perform system development, integration, and joint commissioning, submit the code, complete continuous integration verification, and release changes.

The interaction between the business workspace and product delivery space is listed below:

  1. A product requirement split from a business requirement is assigned to the corresponding product delivery space. Then, the product requirement belongs to the business requirement.
  2. After a product requirement is scheduled, the corresponding business requirement enters the in development state.
  3. After all product requirements under a business requirement are completed, the business requirement enters the pending acceptance state.

The interaction between the product delivery space and the personal workbench is listed below:

  1. Product requirements are assigned to individuals, and tasks split from product requirements are also assigned to individuals. These requirements and tasks will appear in the personal workbench automatically.
  2. The updates made to requirements and tasks will be reflected in the business and product delivery workspaces automatically.
  3. When a task starts to be developed, the corresponding product requirement enters the in development state.
  4. When all tasks under a product requirement are completed, the product requirement enters the pending testing state.

These three layers are decoupled from each other, allowing different roles to focus on their respective responsibilities and goals and complete their work. They are interconnected to form an organic whole. With this organic whole, we drive the end-to-end delivery process by businesses, ensure the process quality, align the work at all layers, and achieve a smooth and high-quality delivery of business requirements.

Connect and Structure Process Assets through Requirements

Requirement delivery involves knowledge, and a large number of outputs are generated, such as discussion records, temporary or formal documents, UE/UI design, code, test cases, and application change records. All of these are important knowledge assets.

How can we manage the process of creating, organizing, and indexing these assets in a structured way? This is an important challenge. It is related to the efficiency of communication and cooperation and the value of the organization's intellectual assets.

Correlation between the Output and Requirements in the Delivery Process

As shown in the figure above, an asset should be associated with a value unit in the R&D process. A value unit refers to the hierarchy of requirements introduced in the previous sections. In the value flow of the requirement delivery, we create and associate with related assets. For example, associate with the original business demand description when you create a business requirement, associate the business requirement analysis with relevant business analysis documents, associate with relevant documents and test cases during the product design process, and associate with relevant applications, changes, and code during task delivery.

On the one hand, this allows R&D digital assets to connect to customer value directly. On the other hand, it connects to value creation activities. The connection of different information avoids information islands and improves the efficiency of communication and cooperation. It accumulates assets in an orderly and structured manner, which is helpful for information retrieval and use. It also makes the most of digital assets in the R&D process.

Summary: The Overall Delivery Process and Closed Feedback Loop

Overall Delivery Process and Closed Feedback Loop

This article introduced and defined the collaboration process driven by businesses. As shown in the preceding figure, this process involves three aspects: business, product, and technology.

The first part is the business delivery and closed feedback loop (the orange part in the figure). It focuses on the rapid response and delivery of businesses and the achievement of business objectives. The second part is the product delivery and closed feedback loop (the blue part in the figure). Its core focus is the rapid delivery of product requirements, product evolution, and the continuous improvement of product delivery efficiency. The third part is the technical and engineering practices (the green part in the figure). Its core focus is the basic setup and continuous improvement of technical and engineering capabilities to lay the foundation for product and business efficiency.

This delivery process is layered, decoupled, and interconnected, helping us connect all phases and layers of delivery. It coordinates the entire organization to maximize efficiency and achieve accurate business response, rapid iteration, and evolution.

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