Legacy Sunset: Enabling Innovation in Automotive Engineering Through Modern Requirements Management

Automotive Engineering

Few industries are as visibly affected by digital transformation as the automotive industry. Over a century ago, Henry Ford started to produce the production of the famous Model T and jump-started the success of the car as a consumer item. There has been lots of incremental innovation ever since, but nothing compared to what we are seeing today, like self-driving cars, over-the-air feature enablement, or transportation as a service.

Challenges for New and Established Organizations

It is unclear who is in a better position for exploiting the exciting opportunities in the automotive market. Established vendors have a solid, financially-strong foundation to operate from, combined with decades of experience in building cars. But this legacy is also slowing innovation down, as manufacturing processes and production lines are based on long development cycles. There are reasons for it: Existing automotive design processes evolved from a paper-based mindset, where every additional iteration in is expensive. Likewise, the production line was tuned for high throughput at low per-unit prices, but this makes changes very expensive.

New players in automotive engineering, on the other hand, are generally more agile and open. They can react faster and are willing to think outside the box. But their lack of experience can result in major issues with respect to compliance and production, creating expensive delays at late stages in development.

The First Generation of Requirements Management Tools

For decades, the automotive industry had recognized requirements as a key factor for success. The German automotive industry, in particular, started to introduce dedicated requirements tools in the ‘90s, and they encouraged their suppliers to do the same. Their solutions were establishing a new paradigm, using an item-based data model, rather than documents. This means that every requirement was an atomic item, with its own attributes, like priority and version history.

IBM®  DOORS®  (IBM Engineering Requirements Management – DOORS Family) was pioneering the idea of item-based requirements, and until the mid 2000s, there was really nothing like it available on the market. But by that time, some of the shortcomings of DOORS were becoming apparent. As a result, requirements specifications with tens of thousands unstructured requirements were not unusual, leading to redundancies and inconsistencies.

As a result, the first generation of requirements management tools were effective in helping the industry to scale. To a degree, they also helped in managing complexity. But they did not help in making the industry more innovative.

See how one Fortune 100 semiconductor company is managing the complexity of automotive development in our whitepaper. Read now.

Innovating with the Current Generation of Requirements Management Tools

Jama Connect™ was created to address the shortcomings of the first generation of requirements management tools. Specifically, Jama Connect was designed to solve the top challenges faced by regulated systems development teams. This fits the situation in the automotive industry today, and the following capabilities are key enablers for innovation:

Ease of Use – Requirements are used by everyone involved in automotive engineering. Not just the development team, but also engineering, quality, product marketing, sales, and leadership rely on requirements for an up-to-date product description. Good requirements also help departments make informed decisions. By contrast, first-generation tools were so hard to use that many important stakeholders refused to use them.

Single Source of Truth – Innovation requires trade-offs, which must be based on facts. It is crucial that facts — possibly derived from various sources — are instantly available. The first generation of tools typically only held a fraction of key data, and generating meaningful reports was a tedious, manual process.

Collaboration – Innovation requires heavy collaboration. First-generation tools did not have collaboration features, which meant that it took place outside the tool, i.e. via email or in meetings. But that creates a lot of friction and leads to situations where important information is missed. Modern solutions, by contrast, allow collaboration in context. This means that you have visibility into all relevant data and access to all relevant stakeholders while collaborating. And not just that…

Audit Trail – While first generation tools already had proper versioning, modern solutions go much further: For instance, the context-based collaboration leaves an audit trail in the tool (rather than in Outlook). This is crucial for efficient risk management and compliance. Developing new, innovative products typically results in much more activity. Context-based collaboration records decisions, issues, and answers exactly where you need them for compliance, and where you find them when you make reviews and trade-offs.

Learn how to avoid some of the biggest mistakes while developing automotive products for ISO 26262 compliance. Read the guide.

Managing Change – More than anything else, innovation requires the ability to react to change, no matter whether from the outside (new market needs) or inside (new technologies). The first generation of tools already acknowledged that by offering traceability-based functionality. But it was cumbersome to create and maintain the traceability, and many traceability-related issues were not apparent during day-to-day work but required running special reports. Modern solutions, by contrast, offer actionable traceability: Gaps in coverage or items that are marked as suspect due to change are visualized in many places, and allow fixing with a few clicks. This takes most of the friction out of the management of the traceability and allows for faster development iterations.

Reuse – Ironically, using what we already designed is an enabler for innovation. Without effective reuse, a lot of time and energy is wasted on re-designing what had already been designed and to re-test what had already been tested. It allows to focus our energy on the 20% that are truly new and truly innovative.

Integration – Last, the first generation of requirements tools created internal silos by making it very hard to get data in or out. Large vendors often offered half-hearted integration with their own software tools. While this was better than nothing, it often resulted in mediocre tool chains that were not based on need, but on availability. Jama Connect, by contrast, embraces openness by offering powerful interfaces that encourage integration with best-of-class tools.

Innovation in automotive engineering is only possible if all stakeholders can collaborate effectively, even in the context of very complex products, without being held back by the need to collect data from multiple places, or burdensome regulatory overhead. This is only possible with current generation requirements tools like Jama Connect.

*IBM® and DOORS® are registered trademarks of IBM Corporation.

Learn how the combination of Jama Connect and our Automotive Services tightens your development process by reading our datasheet.

About the Author

Senior Solutions Architect

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