Data & Intelligence

Center of Excellence – Solution Assessments

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The goal of a Practice Center of Excellence (CoE) Solution Assessment is to conduct an impartial review of a particular component (or components) of an identified solution or architecture or to address a particular application design pattern strategy concern.

The assessment team will identify the purpose and scope of the assessment prior to beginning the assessment as well as outline any specific assumptions that will be considered while carrying out the assessment process.

Once the assessment process is completed, the results will be published for review and response.

Who is the Assessment Team?

CoE Assessments will be conducted by 1 or more members of the CoE Solution Assurance team (based upon expertise and availability). The assessment team members will be introduced to the development team prior to performing the assessment. During that introduction the development team will be given an overview of the assessment process. Typically, when there are more than 1 assessment team member, one will be designated as the lead and liaison between the assessment and the development teams.

Scope

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It is absolutely essential that the assessment’s scope be clearly defined and aligned to before the assessment process begins. It is not acceptable to say “the assessment will review the solution architecture” (this is much too wide or vague of an objective). If an assessment scope is too vague, it will either never be completed or the results of the assessment will be just as vague and add little or no value. Think of defining the assessment scope as you would define the solution requirements: “the better the requirements the better the solution, the better the scope the better the assessment”.

Assessment Assumptions

Every assessment must state the key assumptions. Key assumptions validate all observations. For example, based upon specific business requirements a design pattern may not meet “typical” industry best practices. In addition other more generic considerations may influence the severity of an assessment observation. Some examples might be:

  • The solution development is not yet complete
  • Unit testing by developers has not taken place
  • Application performance testing has not occurred

Observations

At the conclusion of an assessment, the assessment team will formulate any and all observations and, where possible, provide reasonable suggestions for each observation. Each observation and suggestion should be described in detail and include a reason for making the observation. For example, “historic data is currently being loaded into a central reporting cube by TM1 Rules. Consider converting (this specific) business logic from a TM1 Rule to a TurboIntegrator script to reduce memory consumption and improve performance…”

Keep in mind that suggestions should not be requirements or include estimates of effort or risk – these are to be considerations for the development team and the development team will need to way the expected result (for example increased performance) and the cost (hours spent modifying the solution and performing regression testing).

Finally – always, always, always keep the observations and suggestions neutral and impartial! The feedback of the assessment should always be well received by the development team or it will not be successful.

Assessment Responses

Once the assessment team completes and presents the solution assessment it is the responsibility of the development team to respond to the assessment observations within a reasonable (determined by the scope of the assessment and the number of observations made) amount of time. Also keep in mind that the only thing “guaranteed” is that the development team will acknowledge each suggestion and provide a “response”. A response does not mean making a change to the solution – it may simply mean a formal response of “we agree with your observation but due to cost (time, money, policy, technology, etc.) we are not addressing this item”. Also, it is okay for the development team to “respectfully disagree” with an observation.

Conclusion

Solution Assessment is a serious part of successful development. It should part of your next project!  For help setting up a solution assurance assessment policy or process,

please give me a call.

jm

About the Author

Mr. Miller is an IBM certified and accomplished Senior Project Leader and Application/System Architect-Developer with over 30 years of extensive applications and system design and development experience. His current role is National FPM Practice Leader. His experience includes BI, Web architecture & design, systems analysis, GUI design and testing, Database modeling and systems analysis, design, and development of Client/Server, Web and Mainframe applications and systems utilizing: Applix TM1 (including TM1 rules, TI, TM1Web and Planning Manager), dynaSight - ArcPlan, ASP, DHTML, XML, IIS, MS Visual Basic and VBA, Visual Studio, PERL, Websuite, MS SQL Server, ORACLE, SYBASE SQL Server, etc. His Responsibilities have included all aspects of Windows and SQL solution development and design including: analysis; GUI (and Web site) design; data modeling; table, screen/form and script development; SQL (and remote stored procedures and triggers) development and testing; test preparation and management and training of programming staff. Other experience includes development of ETL infrastructure such as data transfer automation between mainframe (DB2, Lawson, Great Plains, etc.) systems and client/server SQL server and Web based applications and integration of enterprise applications and data sources. In addition, Mr. Miller has acted as Internet Applications Development Manager responsible for the design, development, QA and delivery of multiple Web Sites including online trading applications, warehouse process control and scheduling systems and administrative and control applications. Mr. Miller also was responsible for the design, development and administration of a Web based financial reporting system for a 450 million dollar organization, reporting directly to the CFO and his executive team. Mr. Miller has also been responsible for managing and directing multiple resources in various management roles including project and team leader, lead developer and applications development director. Specialties Include: Cognos/TM1 Design and Development, Cognos Planning, IBM SPSS and Modeler, OLAP, Visual Basic, SQL Server, Forecasting and Planning; International Application Development, Business Intelligence, Project Development. IBM Certified Developer - Cognos TM1 (perfect score 100% on exam) IBM Certified Business Analyst - Cognos TM1

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