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Another door opens

Information management

When WS Atkins was appointed to oversee the strategic relocation of a top secret government agency there was no room for error.

The vast majority of WS Atkins projects are requirements driven. Requirements are clearly defined user stipulations, drawn up after the project teams have carried out detailed client interviews and analyses.

These requirements are then interpreted by contractors managed by the consultant, who are responsible for delivering the end result as guided by the consultant's design engineers.

But managing these needs represents an enormous logistical challenge. Traditionally, WS Atkins' 'system' consisted of a series of separate documents generated in Microsoft Word or a database that could only be cross-referenced by hand.

Desperate for a big picture view of project needs and a proper structure to the way its projects are managed, WS Atkins decided to implement Telelogic's requirements management tool DOORS.

'Before we chose DOORS, defining and tracking requirements was an incredibly onerous task. We were permanently weighed down by many different telephone directory-sized reports - no one document seemed to contain all the information we needed to do our jobs effectively, ' explains WS Atkins senior systems engineer Clive Richards.

Information was spread across multiple documents, so it was virtually impossible to track every requirement accurately from start to finish. Nor was it easy to disseminate the same version of the data across all the project teams, or to update everyone's copy of the documents simultaneously. 'In any project, it's vital that all parties, from subcontractors to clients, are referring to the same version of the requirements. With no centralised access to all project requirements there was great potential for errors and misunderstandings about what was required, ' explains Richards.

WS Atkins selected Telelogic because it addressed all systems requirements needs and, importantly, is easy to use. Engineers were able to use DOORS on live projects in a matter of hours, according to Richards. 'It was simple to use, yet incredibly powerful at the same time. It didn't take long for our engineers to get to grips with the software.

'With DOORS, I get to see the biggest picture of a project possible, ' Richards adds.

At the highest level, WS Atkins has been able to record most of the project in the DOORS module 'Business Case'. This includes the likely risks connected with the relocation, from overall costs, to the risk of moving obsolete pc equipment.

At the next level, DOORS contains all the user requirements in various degrees of detail. These include the technical stipulations made by the client.

User requests are then translated into design statements for interpretation by contractors.

This tiered approach allows the WS Atkins project team to evaluate the risks and benefits of any action, its impact on a requirement and the likely costs to the customer from both a business and technical perspective.

'For the first time we have a precise understanding of what everyone wants, how they want it done, by when and by whom, ' says Richards. With such a high profile project there really is no room for error or misinterpretation. DOORS helps to ensure that never happens, ' says Richards.

'I want to see the solution rolled out across the WS Atkins group, ' he explains.

INFOPLUS www. telelogic. co. uk

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