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BPI Technique – Joint Application Development – JAD

Blog: Biz-Performance, David Brown

BPI Technique – Joint Application Development – JAD


Work sessions between users and project team members guided by a trained JAD facilitator to reach consensus on a particular set of analysis, design or functionality issues regarding the development of a custom software solution.The result is a common, documented set of requirements, a common set of expectations for application functionality and performance, and a joint enthusiasm or ‘buy-in’ for the end result (which overcomes any disappointment about limitations or unavoidable constraints).

When to Use

In situations where a ‘serial interviewing’ approach is typically used – i.e. during extensive requirement definition modules of traditional waterfall methodologies – teams should consider employing the JAD technique instead (Custom Software Development). More specifically, JAD sessions may be conducted to discuss the project scope and business objectives, to build a first-cut process model or data model, and/or to prototype screen and report layouts for the proposed system.


  • JAD sessions provide a structured ’forum’ for the inclusion of user requirements specifications and revisions at multiple points along an iterative development project life-cycle. Progressive use of the JAD technique throughout the project life-cycle refines and supports the documentation of the functional system requirements, thereby reducing the incidence of mistakes, omissions, ambiguities and poor communication.
  • Deliverables from JAD sessions vary depending on the goal of a particular session and the timing of the session along the project life-cycle. In general, JAD sessions can be viewed as a structured group approach to the information-gathering and documentation activities associated with generating almost any non-technical deliverable. Some examples are: scope documents, business requirement lists, conceptual data models, conceptual process models, integration interface documents, and screen/report prototype layouts. JAD is a ‘means to an end’, in that it represents one of many approaches to producing a particular methodology deliverable.
  • Identify JAD workshop participants
    • Executive Sponsor: a senior client stakeholder and project sponsor. This individual typically kicks off the JAD session and participates actively in the resolution of management and budgetary issues.
    • End Users: functional managers or direct end-users who serve as business-subject-matter experts.
    • IT Infrastructure Staff: a core group of systems people who are well-versed in the technical aspects of the proposed system. Typically, the ratio of end users to systems staff is four to one.
    • JAD Facilitator: a person who conducts the preparatory interviews, facilitates the JAD session(s) and assists in the preparation of the final workshop deliverable(s).
    • Consultant Project Manager and Project Analysts: the Consultant engagement team , which will oversee, analyze, design and build the proposed application.
    • Recorder: a person who officially documents the business and technical issues, resolutions and action items. In large sessions, two Recorders may be used-one to document the business-specific issues and the other to translate workshop information into CASE tool models.
    • Observers: an obvious but important point – People who should just observe and who should refrain from disrupting the flow of a JAD session through their participation.
  • Prepare for JAD sessions
    • Identify key deliverables to result from JAD sessions.
      • Content – defined as part (or all) of a particular deliverable description in the appropriate methodology.
      • Media and Format – i.e. a Word document; diagrams and definitions within the CASE dictionary; an incremental part of a prototype.
      • Level of Detail – i.e. a final business requirement document; a completed model with all supporting definitions and screen prototype mock-ups for specific processes.
    • Ensure that the executive sponsor, the project manager and the facilitator come to a detailed and common understanding regarding the eventual workshop deliverable(s).
    • Define the structure of JAD sessions.
    • Address issues such as the number, sequence and schedule for the workshops.
      • The organization size and politics
      • The number and complexity of business functions to be reviewed
      • The level and type of detail required in the JAD workshop deliverable
    • Prepare any necessary JAD session material.
      • Agenda for the workshop, including the planned exercises to be performed
      • Brief overview of the JAD technique itself, reiterating the roles of the participants
      • History and context of the project, highlighting the relevant political and organizational factors
      • Detailed description of the target JAD deliverable. Including an example from another workshop is most helpful.
  • Conduct JAD Sessions.
    • Ensure that in general, all JAD sessions share three common objectives.
      • Identify and resolve critical project issues
      • Achieve consensus through structured exercises
      • Construct all required deliverables
  • Synthesize results of JAD sessions.
    • Validate the workshop information for accuracy and consistency
    • Produce the JAD deliverable (frequently involves CASE modeling and documentation)
    • Integrate, as needed, the current JAD deliverable with other deliverables
    • Evaluate the strengths and areas for improvement in the JAD session itself



Here are some suggested responses to the kind of problem behaviours that are occur in some JAD sessions.
  • Too talkative
    • “That’s an interesting point. Now, let’s hear another perspective.”
  • Highly argumentative
    • Try not to lose your cool. Pinpoint the issues of the argument, document them and move on. Consider presenting the issues to the group for discussion, focus on ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and not the individual.
  • “Apple polishing”
    • Go to others to kick off discussions. Have this person go last and summarize the discussion.
  • Rambling
    • Call an issue after 5 minutes. Try restating the relevant points and moving on.
  • Exhibiting a personality clash
    • Sidestep by asking for a neutral participant’s input. Stress points of agreement.
  • Pursuing the wrong subject
    • Take the blame i.e. “I must have led you off the topic”, then restate the question or point.
  • Inarticulate
    • Ask for examples, so as not to miss the important ideas
  • Searching for a decision
    • Remind the group that you’re the facilitator, not a decision maker. Lead through the thorny parts of the activity again.
  • Complaining
    • Let the person get it off their chest. Ask the group if they have a response to the issue.
  • Talking with someone else
    • Continue your facilitation and move toward the speakers. Touch her/him on the shoulder if necessary.
  • Non-participation
    • Ask for his/her opinion directly. Discuss his/her concerns off-line.
There are other situations that can cause JAD sessions to fail.
  • Musical chairs participation: This occurs, when participants are unable to make a clear commitment to the JAD process, and pop in and out of sessions. At best, this type of behaviour slows down the workshop; at worst, it may invalidate it entirely.
  • Poorly trained facilitators: Since effective facilitation is the key to JAD, sufficient investment must be made in conceptual and practical training for facilitators.
  • Wandering workshops: This occurs, when the group has a vague understanding regarding the content and format of the final workshop deliverable(s), or when workshop exercises, which fail to clearly support the deliverable(s), are performed.
  • Unacceptable final deliverable(s): This is often due to the poor training or late selection of scribes for the workshop. These individuals are an intrinsic part of the team and can not be asked, as if in afterthought, to take responsibility for this most important task.
  • Organisation politics: These apparently ‘unsolvable’ issues may seriously impact the success of a JAD workshop (and the overall application development project).
    • Business policies and practices
    • Organizational structure and accountability
    • Long-range goals and strategies
    • Overlapping activities and redundancy of work groups
    • The quality of management and supervision
    • External forces over which people have little or no control

Tactics/Helpful Hints

  • Be aware that the key to JAD success is the development and selection of skilled JAD facilitators. The ideal facilitator will have a foot in both worlds, with a broad-based understanding of technical issues and skills in the ’people’ side of the systems business. Good facilitation requires a balance between directive and supportive skills, as well as the judgement and experience to provide proper leadership in a given situation. One common misconception is that a facilitator’s job is not a particularly difficult one, and that the project team manager or a client user could just as easily serve in this role.


  • Realise that pre-workshop activities for a JAD session generally require at least twice as many days as the workshop’s planned duration.
  • Know that JAD workshops may vary in length from a half day to a week-long session. Most workshops are one to three days.
  • Be aware that documenting – in the form of methodology deliverables (including the analysis, decision-making and outstanding issues from a workshop) – requires about 1 1/2 times as many days as the workshop duration. Additional days should also be budgeted for integration between the outputs of a multiple workshop series.

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