I’m at INCOSE 2007 this week, and yesterday I wrote this post while listening to the opening key note – Kuldeep Kumar Gharatya from the London Underground gave a fascinating talk called Mind the Gap: Applying SE to Address the Delivery Challenges of London Underground Programmes.
He is the head of the systems engineering and human factors organization …so he works on many projects for the Tube! He has started an “unparalleled level of upgrade work” on The Tube. Clearly this is an example of a very complex project with many moving parts and suppliers which very well demonstrates the need for systems engineering as part of the delivery. And of specific to interest to me, he touched on the need for good requirements. I love that he started his talk by stating the basic business objectives for their project.
- Reduce journey time
- Increase capability
- Increase reliability
He quickly ran through them, so it’s not entirely clear what their measured improvements are (though I’m sure they have them!). However, we all know the 2012 Olympics are coming which clearly drives many of the objectives. As a side note, he made a funny point for project managers – this is one very large milestone date that is not moving!
Some examples of business requirements that map back to those objectives – faster trains and all of the stations will have no steps. As energy prices increase, they are also looking for ways to recycle energy from the heat the trains.
And an interesting challenge that is pretty common to many projects – they must keep the system running over the next 5 years while they upgrade and grow it. They make a comparison to open heart surgery. This is relevant to most of our requirements projects. The business needs to keep doing business. That doesn’t mean they won’t flex and allow for new approaches – just don’t disrupt their ability to do business.
I think we could all take a lesson from them on how they are reaching out to other industries. He is looking to the defense and aerospace industry for guidance on how to tackle new challenges. They are also working with the New York City Transit Authority to share ideas. There are many non-obvious commonalities across businesses. Processes we could learn from, design ideas, etc.
He ended with an interesting quote by Einstein – “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” I like this. It reminds me why at least in requirement work, we need really smart and creative people to do the business analysis.