Jama Connect: A Simple Solution for a Granular Approach

There is no doubt about it: we’re in the midst of changes. The IoT trend is driving a ton of electronics and software into traditional mechanical products. As a result, engineering teams in many companies, large and small, are scrambling to find ways to mitigate complexity and manage new processes. While there are big box solutions out there, some folks want something simple and granular that addresses specific needs. That’s why this post is taking a closer look at Jama Connect.

This article dives into the capabilities that Jama Connect provides and offers some commentary on the value it delivers, especially in contrast to broad holistic solutions like PLM, ALM and the like.

Jama Connect Capabilities

Jama Connect provides an interesting mix of capabilities, unlike most of the PLM and ALM solutions available today. It makes sense to start at the core of Jama Connect, however, by focusing on requirements and testing.

Requirements and Test Management

Jama Connect provides the capabilities an organization needs to define and manage requirements. On top of that, there are capabilities to define and manage tests to verify that requirements have been satisfied. Both can be supported with more detailed plans for tests and measurements. Additionally, there is functionality where teams can document the activities they undertook to actually perform the test and verify requirement satisfaction. This approach is fairly common in the world of software development. However, Jama Connect offers the additional functionality to extend this to hardware-software systems and its sub-domains.

The connection between requirements and tests provides deep traceability. Engineers can understand the connection between these items, back and forth. That lets them perform change impact analyses before a change to a requirement or test is made. It also supports regulatory compliance, where manufacturers must document their processes, including the verification of requirement satisfaction via tests.

Review and Approvals

Of course, no design process is linear. It is often highly iterative with project reviews, peer reviews, checks by managers and more. Jama Connect helps digitize this process with something called Review Center. This allows for many items managed in Jama Connect to be sent for review or for sign-offs. This includes functionality like voting, as well as electronic signatures. Review Center is located in a centralized place in Jama Connect, so that personnel across different departments can get involved.

Activity Streams, Subscriptions and Discussions

As you might imagine, as you modify items like requirements or tests in Jama Connect, the system keeps track of every incremental change. Now, what’s interesting is that Jama Connect publishes those changes as an activity stream, much like a stream of comments seen on a social media platform. Individuals can subscribe to the activity stream of different items. Have a requirement that closely impacts your work? You subscribe to it. Everything that happens to that item then shows up in a combined stream that is presented to you. That stream also acts like an audit trail of sorts, for you or for the company.

In addition to the publication of those activities to a stream about an object, Jama Connect also provides functionality for discussions. See a pending change against a requirement that concerns you? You can start a discussion about it among the team. That discussion is linked to that item as a context. You can use this discussion in Jama Connect to resolve the issue digitally instead of trying to find a time when the team can get together on a conference call.

Infrastructure

Many small and mid-sized companies have products and development processes that are just as complex as those of their larger peers. But these companies don’t have the armies of resources to support big PLM or ALM solutions. In this regard, Jama Software offers a reasonable approach, offering their solution through several infrastructure options. It is available as part of a public cloud option, where Jama Software hosts the solution for many different companies. It can be deployed as a private cloud option, where a company deploys it to a service like Amazon Web Services. Finally, Jama Connect can be implemented in an on-premise configuration. There is a lot of flexibility in how it can be deployed.

Integrations

While a few companies might rely solely on Jama Connect as their system for product development, most will use a range of tools to fulfill a variety of needs. Jama Connect can integrate with other solutions using TaskTop, OpsHub, or their REST API. TaskTop and OpsHub specialize in connecting to a wide variety of other solutions, allowing companies to stitch together their own ecosystem. Companies can also use Jama Connect’s REST API to create their own integrations.

Many Methodologies

In the modern development of smart, connected products, a variety of development methodologies are being used. Software folks like to use agile. Hardware folks traditionally use a waterfall approach. Yet today, there’s a lot of cross-pollinating. I’m hearing more and more hardware engineering teams going agile. That’s relevant to this review because some development methodologies are more “baked” into certain solutions than others. For example, a lot of ALM solutions will be set up and structured to use an agile approach. PLM solutions tend to be more oriented toward waterfall. But as already noted, engineering teams really need the flexibility to use whatever methodology fits their needs.

Jama Connect is unusual in that it supports a number of different development methodologies, including agile, waterfall, iterative and numerous others. This is a differentiator to keep in mind when assessing solutions.

Commentary and Analysis

Jama Connect has an interesting set of capabilities. Is it the right solution for your organization? Here are points to keep in mind.

Granularity and Simplicity

Big box PLM solutions have a lot of functionality. However, they often prescribe that an organization deploy such a solution first with data management, then with design release, and then change management. Once those three parts of the solution are implemented, the company can then address other issues. But what if those areas aren’t the company’s biggest issues? Many companies are forced to go through a number of hoops before they can get to what really matters. That, obviously, is a problem.

Jama Connect, in contrast, is a simple and granular solution that does a few things really well. If requirements management and verification of requirement satisfaction is your company’s main problem, then this offering will allow you to slingshot past those unrelated foundational steps to address the issue. And addressing that kind of problem directly is likely worth it.

Requirements to Test Validation

One appealing set of capabilities of Jama Connect is integrated requirements and test management. You see this kind of capability in ALM solutions. This is an area that practically no PLM or PDM solutions, which are mainly targeted to hardware development, address. Yet, in today’s context of smart, connected products, systems as well as hardware need to be tested to verify requirement satisfaction. This kind of validation is increasingly important. Jama Connect is a simple and granular solution that addresses those needs.

Integration Matters

Why is this important? Requirements and testing are two critical core competencies that touch almost every engineering discipline. System engineering, in particular, carries the concept of developing and breaking down requirements so they can be allocated to a variety of mechanical, electrical, systems, software, and IoT items. Some system engineering teams design using a Requirements-Functional-Logical-Physical (RFLP) architecture. Regardless of the approach used in your company, there is a need to bring together product structures from PLM, software structures from ALM and system architectures, together with requirements.

All of that can be done with Jama Connect. But be aware that you’ll need to either leverage a third-party integration solution or be prepared to build your own integration with the REST API.

Recap and Conclusion

  • Jama Connect provides integrated requirements and testing management. That is supported by activity streams, subscriptions, and discussions. This allows companies to digitize these processes.
  • Jama Connect can be deployed in public cloud, private cloud and on-premise configurations.
  • Jama Connect supports integration through third-party integration services and its REST API.
  • The simple and granular nature of Jama Connect allows companies to tightly address needs for requirement and test management. Many critical problems can be addressed with this solution quickly.
  • While integrated requirements and test management may be common in ALM solutions, they are rarely offered as part of PLM or system engineering solutions. Yet, hardware development and system engineering need to validate requirement satisfaction, just like software. Jama Connect is an option to quickly support that organizational capability.
  • Integration with other development systems will be important, especially when dealing with product structures or system architectures. Ensure that your company is comfortable with either third-party integration services or REST API development as you consider Jama Connect.

Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.