Why the Holy Grail of Requirements and Software Management Paves the Way for Sub-PLM Specialists
Verdi Ogewell posted on May 01, 2019 |

Preamble

Messages that on the surface may seem quite easy to communicate have a tendency to become distorted when they are passed on in a chain of participants. In addition, the degree of distortion often increases exponentially with the complexity of the message for each link in the chain. Product development organizations are generally no exception. The question is: how can this problem be minimized?

There are many answers to this within the product lifecycle management (PLM) business, but an interesting one is provided by Jama Software. This Portland-based company that was founded in 2007 has developed a platform solution, the Jama Product DevelopmentPlatform, that CEO Scott Roth claims,“Empowers large enterprises to accelerate development time, mitigate risk, slash complexity, and verify regulatory compliance.”

This may generally be true, but the main points in Jama’s offering is the tracking, requirements and software management capabilities that the platform provides—issues that today are frequently occuring in the development of modern products. In fact, these areas, together with things like BOM management (Bill of Materials), have evolved to a near-holygrail level in product realization.

“Almost every single company on the planet right now that has a physical product is thinking about how do they build software and connectivity into that product. Once you’re going down the path in trying to do that, the product development process gets really complicated. Tons of people[are] involved—people with different methodologies, hardware designers, software experts—all trying to work together to get the product out on the market. We help them to workthrough the product development process and increase the pace of innovation so that they can do this in a safe and structured manner,” explained the Jama chief.

A Royal Treat: Jama CEO Scott Roth together with the Dutch Prince Constantijn. The Portland-based software company has great ambitions and is looking for business opportunities not only in the U.S. This picture was taken during a 2017 dinner that was a part of a Dutch economic mission to California,where Prince Constantijn, who serves as Special Envoy for Startups, was the guest of honor. The Netherlands has a reputation of being “The World’s High-Tech Startup Capital” and Jama is one U.S. company with existing operations in the Netherlands. The Jama Product Development Platform—which CEO Scott Roth claims, “Empowers large enterprises to accelerate development time, mitigate risk, slash complexity, and verify regulatory compliance”—has a promising future not only limited to the U.S. and last year received a $200M growth equity investment. While the U.S. is the dominating market for Jama, it has customers all over the world. U.K., Germany, Australia, and India are examples of markets where the firm has a number of customers, according to an iDatalabs study. (Image courtesy of Invest in Holland.)
A Royal Treat: Jama CEO Scott Roth together with the Dutch Prince Constantijn. The Portland-based software company has great ambitions and is looking for business opportunities not only in the U.S. This picture was taken during a 2017 dinner that was a part of a Dutch economic mission to California,where Prince Constantijn, who serves as Special Envoy for Startups, was the guest of honor. The Netherlands has a reputation of being “The World’s High-Tech Startup Capital” and Jama is one U.S. company with existing operations in the Netherlands. The Jama Product Development Platform—which CEO Scott Roth claims, “Empowers large enterprises to accelerate development time, mitigate risk, slash complexity, and verify regulatory compliance”—has a promising future not only limited to the U.S. and last year received a $200M growth equity investment. While the U.S. is the dominating market for Jama, it has customers all over the world. U.K., Germany, Australia, and India are examples of markets where the firm has a number of customers, according to an iDatalabs study. (Image courtesy of Invest in Holland.)

Introduction

It is no surprise that these areas have opened up a promising future for the Portland company. The software and electronics elements of today's products are growing toward the latest industry trends at the expense of the mechanical pieces, and Jama's platform is positioned in the middle of the track.

The ideas and solutions have attracted the venture capital market to bet hard on Jama. In June 2018 the company received a $200 million growth equity investment from Insight Venture Partners with participation from Madrona Venture Group

“Companies simply cannot compete at the level necessary to be successful in today’s marketplace while relying on yesterday’s development processes. The Jama Product Development Platform was created to help businesses overcome those challenges,” commented Scott Roth. He then pointed out that the firm’s flagship solution, Jama Connect, delivers a single source of truth for understanding the full product development lifecycle from up-front requirements gathering and definition all the way through to verification and validation.

”The platform as a whole gives teams full visibility into the development process and the ability to leverage the data they’re already generating to drive strategic insights and gain a competitive advantage,” Roth added. Furthermore, the Jama CEO claimed that the platform helps transform processes to break through siloed data and functions, identify and anticipate areas for optimization, and drive more strategic business efficiencies and outcomes.

“A Little Bit Like Aras PLM”

It’s a little bit like Aras PLM’s success: Both large corporations and SMB’s often have excisting PLM systems like Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE, Siemens’ Teamcenter, or PTC’s Windchill as backbones. However, these solutions are not always able to effectively manage all the links in product realization chains. This opens windows of opportunities for smaller, niched and dedicated solutions like Aras PLM suite Innovator(cPDm, collaborative Product Definition management) or Jama’s platform. The point is simple implementation, ease of use and uncomplicated updating processes, while the solutions in parallel are more capable than competitive extensive platform’s corresponding abilities. They both produce highly competent sub-PLM solutions that can beat the bigplayer options in slightly different perspectives. In the case of Jama, it happens to be about tracking, requirements and software management.

A Sole Focus: One of Jama’s customers is eSilicon, a US semi-conduct or company. “The development in product realization certainly brings opportunities to the table for solutions like Jama’s,” says Hugh Durdan, who deployed Jama’s platform both in previous companies in addition to his current one, eSilicon. ”I appreciate the fact that they have a sole focus,” he added. (Image courtesy of Design &Reuse.)
A Sole Focus: One of Jama’s customers is eSilicon, a US semi-conduct or company. “The development in product realization certainly brings opportunities to the table for solutions like Jama’s,” says Hugh Durdan, who deployed Jama’s platform both in previous companies in addition to his current one, eSilicon. ”I appreciate the fact that they have a sole focus,” he added. (Image courtesy of Design &Reuse.)

“Right, it’s no doubt an advantage that they are focused,” said Hugh Durdan, vice president at eSilicon, a semiconductor company that has been a Jama customer since 2017.

Its product platform is what the company works with, and it means everything to eSilicon and means that the development resources will not be split in a battle of budget shares between different internal departments. “We’re not talking about, as often is the case, a small product in a large corporation. Jama and their product are going to be around tomorrow with a sole focus,” he added.

The Hardship of a Consistent Documentation Model

Here’s the point: in the semiconductor business, things mainly work the same as they do in many other industry segments, at least in B2B. The marketing people have the basic contact with the customers. What they discuss with the customers in terms of product requirements is then passed on to engineering and design departments,where the technological aspects of—in this case, as they are related to the eSilicon story–the ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) are evaluated and eventually result in a design. An ASIC is customized for a particular use, rather than intended for general-purpose use.

What can be done or what cannot be done is resolved during extensive discussions that go back and forth in several stages. The problem is that these discussions often take place by phone or by email conversations and are described in Word documents and are completed with long feature lists on Excel spreadsheets—that is, when they are documented—which doesn’t always happen. Furthermore, these exchanges contain tons of information.

All of this raises questions: What was really decided on a detailed level? How easy is it to find the documentation that shows what happened a couple of weeks later? What does the history of the discussion look like? Or, can we find the relevant information when a customer comes back a year later with an additional order?

This way of administrating can turn out to be costly in terms of issues like hard-to-track facts, not documented details, misunderstandings, unrealistic promises and technological impossibilities.

Extensive Discussions with Customers: What can be done or what cannot be done is resolved during extensive discussions that go back and forth in several stages. The problem is that these discussions often take place by phone, by email, or in physical conversations between people. The results are often described in Word documents and completed with long feature lists on Excel spreadsheets—that is, when they are documented, which doesn’t always happen. So, what exactly was said during the discussions? What were the details? What does the history look like? Questions like these often) occur and one of Jama’s advantages is the ability of the firm’s solutions to solve these problems.(Image courtesy of eSilicon.)
Extensive Discussions with Customers: What can be done or what cannot be done is resolved during extensive discussions that go back and forth in several stages. The problem is that these discussions often take place by phone, by email, or in physical conversations between people. The results are often described in Word documents and completed with long feature lists on Excel spreadsheets—that is, when they are documented, which doesn’t always happen. So, what exactly was said during the discussions? What were the details? What does the history look like? Questions like these often) occur and one of Jama’s advantages is the ability of the firm’s solutions to solve these problems.(Image courtesy of eSilicon.)

Almost All of Jama’s Customers Have PLM Backbones from the Big Three

Sure, there are subsystems for requirements definition in what the big PLM players offer in their arsenals, but generally these modules are smaller parts of big systems,which makes it a lower priority to develop the solutions when different departments in the big PLM organization are battling over the resources. All in all, this opens a window for runner-ups like Jama Software.

Almost all of Jama’s customers have PLM systems, generally from the big three. A look at the company’s list of customers reveals that more than 650 product-centric organizations, including NASA, Rockwell Collins, John Deere, Boeing and Caterpillar use the company’s software as one component for bringing complex products to market faster and in an orderly fashion.

Of the companies mentioned above, for example, Boeing works with both Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE and with Siemens’ Teamcenter. But despite the basic standpoint to use only apps on the Dassault platform in the product development work, other platforms (Siemens TC) and a number of other software, such as Jama's requirement solution, are used. The same is true for Carterpillar, which has PTC’s Windchill as backbone. To be effective, “best-of-breed”solutions are added,and Jam aclaims that they are one of them.

So, how do you connect JAMA to these PLM systems? "Jama provides an open and flexible environment for exchanging data with other important tools within the product development ecosystem. As an example with PLM systems, through pre-built integrations and a REST API framework, Jama customers are able to create a link between requirements definition data and product data so that critical information stays in sync as the system or product evolves throughout the lifecycle," commented Scott Roth. 

THE FLAGSHIP PRODUCT. Jama Connect is the flagship product. It gives product, engineering and project teams the ability to manage requirements, achieve complete traceability and streamline business process while meeting internal and external compliance needs. By integrating requirements, collaborative review, test management and data analytics, your teams will see improved quality, decreased time to market and lower cost across the entire product development lifecycle. Image: eSilicon
The Flagship Product. Jama Connect is the company's flagship product. It gives product, engineering and project teams the ability to manage requirements, achieve complete traceability and streamline business processes while meeting internal and external compliance needs. By integrating requirements, collaborative review, test management and data analytics, your teams could see improved quality, decreased time to market and lower costs across the entire product development lifecycle. (Image courtesy of eSilicon.)

A Background to the Increasing Need for RM Solutions

Engineering life isn’t easy—in a world of growing product complexity,one solution simply cannot do it all. To be effective, you need complementary solutions and, in some cases, Jama can do the job.

To provide an example, a recent report from Forrester concluded that highly regulated industries can benefit from an agile approach to requirements management. And according to a recent report from engineering.com, despite growing product complexity and intense regulations, the majority of design teams don’t have a dedicated requirements management (RM) solution in place. About half use a tool that’s not purpose built for requirements management, while almost a third have no system in place at all, relying instead on email and shared documents. Only 15 percent of teams surveyed by engineering.com had invested in a dedicated RM solution—but that number should be (and will be) much higher, as more organizations come to understand the long-term value of successful requirements management. In terms of product complexity, development is paving the way for this. The engineering.coms report revealed that the products of responding companies had become more complex over the last five years. Driving this increase in product complexity are many factors, including how development teams have been:

  • Integrating more electronic components, embedded software and microprocessors
  • Increasing the intricacy of mechanical designs
  • Using different materials
  • Reducing weight and shrinking size
  • Building connected products (IoT)
  • Incorporating AI or machine learning
EXAMPLE OF A HYPER SCALE DATA CENTER ASIC. Meeting the power, performance and density requirements of advanced networking-class ASICs is a significant challenge for system OEMs. Next-generation 12.8, 25.6 and 51.2 Tb/s switches and routers demand extreme flexibility in system architecture, I/O bandwidth and memory subsystems to achieve the required performance at a commercially acceptable power and density. eSilicon’s 7nm IP platform delivers a complete ecosystem of networking-optimized IP with high configurability designed in. All IP in the platform is “plug and play,” using the same metal stack, reliability requirements, operating ranges, control interfaces and DFT methodology. Image: eSilicon
Example of a Hyper Scale Data Center ASIC: Meeting the power, performance and density requirements of advanced networking-class ASICs is a significant challenge for system OEMs. Next-generation 12.8, 25.6 and 51.2 Tb/s switches and routers demand extreme flexibility in system architecture, I/O bandwidth and memory subsystems to achieve the required performance at a commercially acceptable power and density. eSilicon’s 7nm IP platform delivers a complete ecosystem of networking-optimized IP with high configurability designed in. All IP in the platform is “plug and play,” using the same metal stack, reliability requirements, operating ranges, control interfaces and DFT methodology. (Image courtesy of eSilicon.) 

From the Case Book of Jama: A World-Class Semiconductor Producer—eSilicon

“The development in product realization certainly brings opportunities to the table,” agreed Hugh Durdan, who deployed Jama in previous companies in addition to his current one, eSilicon.

Durdan is responsible for defining eSilicon’s market and product strategies with the objective of delivering a best-in-class F in FET ASIC design platform that will allow eSilicon to maximize its competitive position and market share at target accounts. With more than 30 years of systems, semiconductor, and ASIC business experience, the eSilicon VP knows what he is talking about. Most recently, he was vice president of design IP marketing at Cadence Design Systems, and prior to that he was vice president of portfolio and solutions marketing at Xilinx.

“In eSilicon we primarily work with custom chips for networking in data centers. In addition to doing the chips for the customers,a key part of our value add is the intellectual property that goes into those chips,” he said.  

The company was founded in early year 2000 and has approximately 600 employees today. It’s a privately owned movement and does not reveal its revenues. The company bought the solution from Jama approximately 1.5 years ago. Prior to that, how did eSilicon manage things?

“Before we bought Jama, and in the context of product definition we were collecting the requirements from customers and putting it together in an MRD, marketing requirements document. Prior to Jama, it wasn’t consistent between different groups,but the two main tools were either Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel, usually a Word document with a written description of the product and an Excel spreadsheet with a long list of features. Together it comprised the definition of the product. Overall, it is a process of interaction between marketing and the engineering team during the definition phase,” Durdan explained.

This is the product definition process that is followed by the design work of the engineering departments. The design is executed with tools for semiconductor design like Cadence, Synposis and Mentor Graphics.

The Weak Spots with Word and Excel Spreadsheets

At its “manual” level, Microsoft Word and Excel worked at eSilicon but had their weak spots, according to Durdan.

“Those tools are not great in catching revision history, and they aren’t tailored to catch the dialogue between marketing people and engineers in conversations around a product. Furthermore, they don’t have any kind of workflow built in to them, and since the exchange of ideas and solutions generally is executed via emails, it was hard to follow.”

These are all things that are part of what Jama’s software offers.

“We now know not only where we ended up but also why and how we ended up there, which a lot of times is valuable. For example, if you want to look into an issue a couple of years later to findout how the decisions were made, Jama has a tremedous value,” said Durdan.

But why did he choose Jama? What were the challenges that this solution could help his firm solve?

“A couple of things: one is what I mentioned above, capturing all the dialogues between marketing and engineering during the definition process; another thing is the workflow. We have a formal sign-off on all the requirements agreed by the parties on a detailed level. Everything is there, logged and saved in a detailed way, meaning that there is no confusion on what has been agreed to and what has not.”

Maintaining the Link Between High-Level and Detailed Requirements

“Another advantage of Jama is that we do require things in an hierarchical way, so we have high-level requirements which all the products need to perform to and below that each product has its own unique requirements. And we need to maintain the link between the high-level requirements and the detailed requirements of a specific product because we want to make sure that every product performs to those high-level requirements,” said Durdan.

In the past this was a manual process.Employees at eSilicon viewed documents and tried to ensure that they were consistent.

“In the case of Jama, you can enter those high-level requirements, and then you can link to them and inherit them into the individual product,” asserted Durdan.

Did you have any other options in terms of Jama competitors?

“Yes, there were a couple of them. One was status quo—stick to what we had, which as I said earlier was not very ideal. But we also looked at a couple of other solutions, but from the flexibiliy and ease of use point of view, Jama was superior.”

Durdan adds that eSilicon appreciated the fact that Jama had this focus. Its product is what it solely works with, and it means everything to the company, so it follows that developing resources will not be split to compete with other areas.

“We’re not talking about—as often is the case—a small product in a large corporation. Jama and their platform are going to be around tomorrow with a sole focus,” he explained.

eSILICON AT OFC 2019. This demonstration shows a complete high-bandwidth memory Gen2 (HBM2) solution in 7nm operating at 2.4Gbps. The subsystem includes: * eSilicon’s latest 7nm HBM2 PHY. * Northwest Logic memory controller. * HBM DRAM stack from a leading memory supplier. The test chip uses leading-edge interposer technology to interconnect the integrated PHY and controller with the 3D DRAM stack. The firmware, combined with a user-friendly graphical interface (GUI), allows test and validation of the HBM subsystem. Among other tests and monitoring tools available, this board demonstrates the link margin of the complete subsystem with the internal eye monitor and schmoo. Image: eSilicon
eSilicon at OFC 2019: This demonstration shows a complete high-bandwidth memory Gen2 (HBM2) solution in 7nm operating at 2.4Gbps. The subsystem includes: eSilicon’s latest 7nm HBM2 PHY,  Northwest Logic memory controller, and HBM DRAM stack from a leading memory supplier. The test chip uses leading-edge interposer technology to interconnect the integrated PHY and controller with the 3D DRAM stack. The firmware, combined with a user-friendly graphical interface (GUI), allows test and validation of the HBM subsystem. Among other tests and monitoring tools available, this board demonstrates the link margin of the complete subsystem with the internal eye monitor and schmoo. (Image courtesy of eSilicon.)

A Smooth Implementation Process

As mentioned above, one of the “perks” that sharpens Jama is its simple implementation. How did this work at eSilicon?

“From an IT prespective it was very smooth,” said Durdan, who went on to explain that,“Jama has two models; you can either license the tool and install it on your own site on premise, or you can use a cloud-based model. In an implementation at another company that I worked in, we used the on-premise installation. There were some problems with this that we didn’t want to go through in eSilicon. This was a few years ago in the early days of the cloud with concerns around security among other things. Today those concerns are not there. We have a thorough audit process that our IT group goes through and proper safeguards are in place protecting the information, so we applied the cloud-based model because it was much easier. Furthermore, we outsource most of our IT systems to the cloud, so we’re pretty comfortable with that model. It’s a norm for us.”

Consistency Demands Structures and Fixed Flows

What took a little more work was customizing the tool.

“But it’s not really customizing,” Durdan said. “Jama didn’t do anything different for us, but setting up templates and so on always take a little time to get in place. We have a bunch of products to develop and we want them to be consistent, and so there are structures and flows that we want to have and follow which had to be set up into Jama before we deployed it to the team.”

From the decision to go with Jama until the system was up and running, how long time did the process take?

“It took us about three months. The scope of what we do is a little bit narrower than in the company I worked in earlier, but that organization was larger and from some aspects they had a more complex product development process.”

Were there any lessons learned?

“No, it was really smooth. The outcome was almost exactly what we expected it to be. On the other hand, I had the experience from the other company I mentioned, which also installed Jama. That made things easier; it was quite successful.”

Are there any next steps?

“Yes, we have some plans around engineering for task tracking. We use Gira (an electrical installation system) and we want to link it to Jama, so that you can take the things you do in Jama and push it into the engineering system.

How many people are currently working in the system?

“Between 25 and 30 I would say. It’s mainly the marketing team, management, and the design engineering team.”

ROCKING THE RM BOAT. Competitors are working hard on rocking the RM and software management boat that Scott Roth and his 200 coworkers are currently sitting in. However, last year’s $200 million investment gives Jama, “A long runway to make growth happen and will help Jama achieve its business goals,” said the Jama CEO. Image: Portland State Graduate Business Blog
Rocking the RM Boat: Competitors are working hard on rocking the RM and software management boat that Scott Roth and his 200 coworkers are currently sitting in. However, last year’s $200 million investment gives Jama, “A long runway to make growth happen and will help Jama achieve its business goals,” said the Jama CEO. (Image courtesy of Portland State Graduate Business Blog.)

In the Longer Term, Can Jama Maintain a Competitive Edge?

Given the rapid increase in product complexity, design teams need a structured information system to handle requirements throughout each stage of product development. The growing software-related part of the product development process is still in many cases not effectively integrated and documented. Without a dedicated solution, teams are stuck within effective requirements and software management, resulting in things like product outcome failures—as was one of the key findings in the engineering.com survey: 83 percent of respondents had experiences of this kind. Additionally, 62 percent of the respondents experienced reprimands by regulatory agencies.

These figures speak for themselves. As things are, Jama can play a significant role to help address these issues. On the other hand, competition is fierce and it would be surprising if the competing large system developers and others aren’t working hard on rocking the RM and software management boat that Scott Roth and his 200 coworkers are currently sitting in. However,last year’s $200 million investment gives Jama—as Roth formulates it—“a long runway to make growth happen and build an enterprise software business of significant scale that will help Jama achieve its business goals.”


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