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Overcoming user resistance to change.


We started out," says AT&T's Barbara Bouldin, "with a good understanding of how people did their jobs and what they needed. We certainly started with a good product. It was more a question of providing people with a chance to see the benefits than of cramming anything down their throats."

Thus she explains her success in managing the introduction of computer-aided software engineering (CASE) products across her division of more than 400 data-processing professionals.

Bouldin was placed in charge of implementing CASE software and techniques by Tom Cooper, AT&T's Service Division operations district manager.

He recommended Excelerator, a CASE product for systems analysis and design, developed by Index Technology Corp.

Cooper was at once enthusiastic and realistic about introducing CASE to improve software-development produstivity. "There is no panacea," he says, "but what we can do is establish an environment that reduces the number of headaches."

Excelerator automates much of the labor-intensive systems analysis and design process, providing tools needed to create, modify, and check complete system specification. Available on PCs or workstations, it includes:

* a dictionary for storing, validating, and organizing all specification components,

* an interactive-graphics facility for creating system diagrams,

* screen and report design features,

* graph and dictionary analysis tools,

* a document-production facility,

* data sharing,

* and a link to word processing.

Smooth Transition

With Excelerator, careful implementation planning, organizational skills honed during 12 years at AT&T, and a conviction to make the transition for users as wasy as possible, Bouldin brought about gradual yet significant changes in the way software is developed in the division.

As information systems proliferate in large organizations, each project team develops its own systems to meet particular needs. While many applications may use the same data, each may process it differently and derive unique results. Eventually data redundancy, inconsistent information, and confusion spread across the organization.

In the Services Division, as in most data-processing organizations, the problems was compounded by a lack of standards for systems development enforced across the organization.

Not only were there inconsistencies in the data, but there were no agreed-upon standardized methods for systems analysis and design--the development stages in which data in defined--used by the project teams. The result was that systems analysts working on different systems, trying to resolve conflicts in the data they share, couldn't communicate easily.

Tower Of Babel

Until Excelerator was introduced, there was no common language or tool allowing the developers of one system to communicate with developers of the other system. Although AT&T had adopted its own development-life-cycle methodology, each project group had its own way of using the standards. In addition, system documentation was done with an assortment of incompatible tools, including word processors and mainframe data dictionaries.

There were enough differences between groups and documents, say Bouldin, to make it difficult to recognize the same data element in two interfacing systems.

Cooper knew it was critical to overcome users' resistance to change. Also, he realized expectations must be managed and intermediate progress measurable so both users and management could properly appreciate their results.

With all this in his mind, Cooper and Bouldin began planning the implementation of CASE technology.

Building Team

An important step in building cooperation and addressing needs across the division was the formation of an inter-project team representing all functions of the development process as well as each application.

The team met to determine a set of standards and procedures, deciding upon naming conventions for data elements and a common set of methodologies.

Bouldin distributed the agenda and results of each meeting across the division to encourage broad participation. Transition to a better way of doing things became a team effort> the team's work was never perceived as an imposition by one group on others. "You don't move mountains," she says. "You move a shovelful of dirt at a time. If we approach one group and they say they're too busy to change the way they do things, we don't force anything on them. There are always enough people who are interested. Then the first people we approach will see the benefit, and later they find some time to learn about what we're offering."

Bouldin managed the division's data management group, which was formed following some initial success with the effort to standardize data across the organization's development groups. Her group offere training and technical-support services to individual project teams.

Managing expectations was important. "We tried from the beginning to make it clear to everybody that there would be no magic. You still have to have discipline, you still have to follow procedures," she maintains. "We are going to make some small but fundamental changes in our approach to analysis."

Cooper agrees: "If you aren't already a good analyst, CASE isn't going to make you one."

"It's a sales job," Bouldin says, "different sell depending on your audience. Upper management want to see business cases, measurements, schedules.

"Users want to see what it's going to give them in their day-to-day jobs. Other managers want to be certain a new approach won't threaten them or their people," she says.

Bouldin feels it is staff had that she and her staff had had recent experience at AT&T in the jobs that were affected by the improvements: "Users have to feel they are getting something real that's adding something to the process ... something that is truly, fundamentaly, essentially going to make their jobs easier or their deliverables better."

Bouldin's and Cooper's efforts were welcomed by project managers who were relieved of the task of defining record layouts.

And there were no "turf" issues to get in the way.

Bouldin's data-management group also made a conscious effort to meet users "where they were at the time," acting as consultants to systems planners, analysts, and project managers. Instead of requiring users to undergo training in structured analysis and design before learning to use Excelerator, for example, Bouldin worked with anyone in the DP organization who wanted to learn more efficient ways of doing his or her job.

"We made a personal commitment that we would never disrupt someone's work," she says. "Whatever level of appreciation they were capable of at that time, we capitalized on. if you're only using the tool 50% of its capability, it's still making your job better. Once you get comfortable with that level, you can look to other ways of using the tool."

Over the course of six months, the data-management group reduced 12,000 data elements used across multiple systems to just 900--by defining all the data the same way, thus eliminating hidden redundancies. This reduction will allow more efficient system operation and much simple maintenance.

"Although we're still working on more precise measurement techniques for productivity improvements, it's clear we've gotten good results. Our data is managed substantially better, and our documentation is more standard. Most important, our users' perception is that their productivity has improved about 50% thanks to the new techniques and tools they're using."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:computer-aided software
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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