Computer System Development Project Management

With the ATS Computer System Development Methodology (ATSCSDM)

ATS has honed the Systems Development Lifecyle Methodology described below through decades of computer system development experience.

Computer system development is often complicated and expensive and the last thing you need is a computer system development project which suffers partial completion, cost overruns or complete failure (E.G. the Obama Care website). That is why computer system development is best performed with a thorough understanding of the objectives and the problems it will solve before the computer system development project begins, or in short a Full System Development Lifecycle approach. ATS emphasizes the importance of working directly with customers up front to build a detailed understanding of how the expensive system development will pay for itself, and hopefully realize profits many times its cost. ATS has honed the ATS Computer System Development Methodology (ATSCSDM) below because it has a proven series of processes and deliverables which minimize wasted efforts and maximize the chance of success. ATSCSDM begins with the Full System Development Lifecycle approach and evolves into an Agile, Continuous Delivery approach after version 1.0 of the system is implemented. Below is an outline of the ATSCSDM. Be aware that the ATSCSDM is scalable. Smaller projects are best accomplished with fewer ATSCSDM deliverables, large projects benefit from all of the ATSCSDM deliverables.

Phase 1 -Survey Project Scope and Feasibility Deliverables
The purpose of Survey Project Scope and Feasibility Phase is to estimate the size and feasibility of the project. First, the Problem Statement summarizes what the customer expects the system to achieve for them from a pure business perspective. For example, the Problem Statement should describe exactly what problems the system is expected to solve. In addition the Problem Statement should describe how solving the problems will directly increase profits, lower costs, increase quality or speed up production. This Problem Statement should quantify the performance expectations such as how many dollars that profits should increase, how many dollars costs should be lowered or how many minutes it will take for a widget to be produced after the problems are solved by the new system. Once the business problems and objectives are defined, the Scope and Feasibility Assessment examines the basic system level requirements, estimates the available resources, and from that determines if the objectives are feasible with the estimated available technology and resources. Premature commitments to budgets, expectation and solutions shall be avoided at this stage.
  • Problem Statement
  • Scope and Feasibility Assessment
  • Level 1 Project Plan
Phase 2 - Study Deliverables
The purpose of Study Phase is to analyze the current system. ATS recommends that adequate time is invested to study the current system, or lack of a system, to properly describe the business entities, processes and associated data flows in detail. After an understanding of the existing system, along with it's associated entities, inputs, outputs and operations is accomplished, the causes, effects, opportunities, and directives shall be addressed in subsequent phases. The findings of the Study Phase are documented in very detailed system diagrams and descriptions which are in themselves assets which benefit the customers. Premature commitments to budgets, expectations and solutions shall be avoided at this stage.
  • Updated Scope and Feasibility Assessment
  • Updated Problem Statement
  • Level 2 Project Plan
  • Overview of Existing System
  • Existing System Architecture Diagrams
  • Existing System Data Flow Diagrams
  • Existing System Process Descriptions
  • Existing System Data Dictionary
  • Existing System Flow Charts
  • Existing Database Entity Relationship Diagrams
Phase 3 - Propose New System Deliverables
Once the existing system and the associated problems are understood, solutions can be explored and presented in the New System Proposal. The New System Proposal typically describes two or more possible solutions, one of which is the recommended solution. The New System Proposal is often accompanied by an Executive Presentation in which a prototype of the recommended solution is demonstrated if possible. Following the executive presentation, the customers are asked to select which of the solutions in the New System Proposal is preferred. Once the solution is selected the Project Budget and Resource Acquisition are planned out in more detail.
  • Updated Scope and Feasibility Assessment
  • Updated Problem Statement
  • New System Proposal
  • New System Architecture Diagram
  • Executive Presentation
  • Budget and Resource Acquisition Plan
  • Level 3 Project Plan
Phase 4 - Requirements and Design Definition Deliverables
In the Requirements and Design Definition Phase the detailed requirements of the new system are formally documented by the System Requirements Specification (SRS). The SRS is written like a users guide of the new system, describing the system features and how the users shall interact with them and what the resulting output within specified performance parameters shall be. Once the SRS is reviewed by and accepted by the customer, the System Design Specification (SDS) is written. The SDS is filled with precise technical diagrams and descriptions of the hardware and software components of the system. The SDS also includes a preliminary, step by step, Implementation Plan describing how, who, what, where and when the new production system is installed. The Implementation Plan may also describe running the old system and the new system in parallel for some time period if that is required. These diagrams and descriptions sometimes reveal un-foreseen expenses in the form of more specific hardware, system and resource requirements. These may prompt changes to the Project Plan and Budget. In other cases, the design may answer questions which enable costs to be reduced. Before proceeding to the next phase, any Project Plan and Budget updates must be presented to the customers for approval.
  • System Requirements Specification
  • System Design Specification
  • Implementation Plan
  • Level 4 Project Plan
  • Updated Budget and Resource Acquisition
  • Overview of New System
  • New System Architecture Diagrams
  • New System Data Flow Diagrams
  • New System Process Descriptions
  • New System Data Dictionary
  • New System Flow Charts
  • New Database Entity Relationship Diagrams
  • Requirements and Design Definition Phase Presentation
Phase 5 - Hardware and Software Acquisition Deliverables
The Hardware and Software Acquisition Phase usually requires purchasing some combination of Commercial Off The Shelf Software (COTSS), new computer equipment, Internet domains and SSL certificates. Of course, ATS is experienced with "Cloud" venders who offer purchasing alternatives such as renting virtual or dedicated hosting solutions and Cloud / Software as a Service Solutions (C/SASS). When COTSS and SASS fall short, customers require custom system development and database development. ATS specializes in building these custom solutions as well as managing teams of system developers to efficiently leverage them throughout the computer system development process. This is accomplished by splitting the system development into subsystems and assigning responsibility of the subsystems to the appropriate team members. Next, the team members are asked to produce a Subsystem Design Specification before proceeding to develop their pieces of the computer system. ATS reviews each Subsystem Design Specification with the system development team. Also, the Custom Computer System Development Process standards are documented and clearly communicated to the team. The standards usually define important computer system development operations such as the Custom Software Source Code Development Standards and the use of the Source Code Control System. Once these designs and standards are established the Computer System Software Source Code Development activities can begin.
  • Subsystem Design Specifications
  • Commercial Off the Shelf Software Licensing (COTSS)
  • Cloud / Software as a Service Solution (C/SASS)
  • Computer Hardware
  • Internet Domains and SSL Certificates
  • Custom Software Source Code
  • Custom Software Source Code Development Standards
  • Source Code Control System
  • Developer and Tester Job Descriptions
  • Hiring of New Developers and Testers
  • Development and Testing Team Software Licensing
  • Development, Test and Production Operations Duty Matrix
Phase 6 - System Testing Deliverables
Proper System Testing is essential, with or without custom software source code development. The System Test Cases, derived from the System Requirements Definition, describe how to test each feature of the system and then measure the results to determine if the output meets requirements within acceptable performance parameters. These test results are described within Testing Instance Reports. ATS typically establishes the test system, installs the COTS and custom subsystems, manages the persons who perform the tests and monitors the testing results.
  • System Test Cases
  • Bug Tracking System
  • Test Standards
  • Test System Integration Testing Standards
  • System Training Materials
  • Production System Release Standards
  • System Operation and Administration Standards
Phase 7 - System Implementation Deliverables
ATS executes the Implementation Plan to establish the Production System and begins Production System Integration Testing AKA Alfa Testing. Once the Production System Integration Testing is successful, the beta testing is scheduled with a select group of users.
  • Production System Integration Testing
  • Production System Beta Testing
  • Production System Rollout and Training
Phase 8 - System Sustainment and Operations Deliverables
Production system sustainment usually requires software development to continue, but not with a traditional software development life cycle with long design, develop, release cycles. Rather, once the system is in production, ATS switches the developers and testers to a faster "Continuous Release" process. This process provides for incremental changes to the system, often on a daily basis. This process shortens the design, develop, test and release cycle to provide a responsive system which progress rapidly.
  • Continuous Release Procedures
  • Administrator / Operator Training Materials
  • Operators Duty Matrix
  • Operators Job Descriptions
  • Hire and Train Operators