EVS & Process Manufacturers

By: Thomas Cutler

In today's development environment, two main methods exist to gather and communicate needs, allocate resources and manage projects; the "Waterfall Method" and "Agile Development Model."

Waterfall Method

The waterfall method is a monolithic approach were a product manager designs a detailed specification, gets approval from a client then engineering works from the specification. In this environment, engineering is told what to do, what screens to develop and typically how the screens should look and feel. Not knowing anything more about the application than the specification document provides, engineering is typically not able to predict exceptions, variances, future requirements, etc. This approach assumes that (1) the client knows exactly what they want and can communicate every process with every exception, variance and deviation to every process, (2) the project manager understands every process and deviation that the client defines, (3) the project manager can write a specification that will convey exactly and clearly every process and exception adequately to engineering, (4) the project manager understands the existing application adequately to determine how the new module will best fit in, and (5) project manager understands the development environment adequately to design screens in a logical and efficient method.

The term escape velocity refers to the speed that is necessary for an object to overcome gravity and soar into space. Escape Velocity Systems provides direct applications for businesses looking for a catalyst, not just a software package. Process manufacturers require the best software solution coupled with industry experience that will accelerate the velocity with which they race towards their goals. According to President Evan Garber, "The purpose of software development is to solve a business problem. At Escape Velocity Systems (EVS), the measurement of success for an application is its ability to solve the problem while providing a positive end-user experience while operating the application. An application that doesn't successfully satisfy both of these criteria is considered inadequate."

EVS (www.evs-sw.com) specializes in commercial-grade application development for process manufacturing and distribution. Our experience has proven that many times a business or an industry has an issue or need for automation; companies have a need to track the shipment and return of pallets but they are not quite sure how to solve the specific problem. A process manufacturer may know that it needs to be easy to use because of volume transactions or computer competency of users, but the process to achieve the end goal is typically unclear. To try to probe for a definite specification for development is fruitless; many manufacturers simply do not know (1) the possibilities of technology, and (2) all of the deviations and exceptions that can possibly occur to get to the final solution.

According to Garber, "The assumptions of this approach are nearly impossible; it also assumes that software engineers do not need to understand the purpose, they just need to know how to code, developers are a commodity. This approach is utilized frequently and unsuccessfully in offshore development environments."

Agile Methodology EVS Style

The Agile Development Method utilized by EVS defines the product manager role as limited to defining initial and general scope for the project, understand the business issue that is being automated and manage timelines and budgets of the project. The developer becomes active in the design and development process. This methodology has the following characteristics:

1)Definition of general business purpose, scope, budget and timeline.
2)Developers understand the business purpose of the application
3)Iterative development process with client ("Sandbox")
4)Develop beyond the specification and anticipating future needs with flexible architecture

Escape Velocity Systems (EVS) was formed in 2001 to combine specific industry knowledge related to process manufacturing, distribution, and ERP implementations with cutting edge software development. The company focus is to create tools that enable mid-market enterprises to achieve their goals, focusing on lean processes and ROI. According to Garber, "We realize that good ERP software is the hub of information in any process manufacturing enterprise. Timely, reliable, and centralized data are non-negotiable elements for businesses competing in the 21st century."

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