Israel Aircraft Industries choice of methods
Avionics Directorate, LAHAV division of IAI
The Avionics directorate at LAHAV division of Israel Aircraft Industries is responsible for providing modern avionics solutions and support products for modernised aircraft. It is a relatively small entity about 100 people.
The avionics upgrade projects follow a well established mature engineering process starting with concept definition through requirements, design, software development, system integration to flight testing by the customer.
User needs are addressed by a group of IAI pilots who represent the customer/user and define the operational requirements. Their work is based on their operational experience and previous projects, but is not supported by any specific methods and techniques.
LAHAV is part of IAI-wide process improvement program that started at 1992. The program initially focused on software, adopted SEI Capability Maturity Model as a map for improvement. In following years process improvement assets and a support infrastructure was created and contributed to successful introduction of processes, methods and technologies.
LAHAV joined the TRUMP project with the objective of evaluating the impact of applying user-centred methods on a typical project. LAHAV had the following business objectives:
- Improve the operational requirements definition and evaluation process
- Increase usability of LAHAV products
- Increase customer satisfaction from LAHAV products
At a more detailed level we wanted to:
- Assess the techniques' contribution to usefulness of the developed product.
- Understand how these techniques can be integrated into IAI development process.
- Measure the costs of applying the techniques.
- Evaluate developers' and managers' readiness to practice these techniques and the degree of their satisfaction from the process and their results.
We learned from our process improvement experience that the last objective is especially important for successful introduction of new methods.
Use of techniques
We selected the development of a new Mission Planning Centre (MPC) using the Windows NT Interface as a trial project. An MPC enables a pilot to plan an airborne mission that is then loaded onto a cartridge and taken by the pilot to the aircraft. In the aircraft the pilot loads the data into the aircraft’s main mission computer
We started with a one-day informal workshop-style assessment against the Usability Maturity Model (UMM) performed by Serco. A series of interviews with developers and managers were held throughout the day to rate the extent to which each base practice was carried out.
Then we selected which methods to use for the trial. The selection was based on:
- The areas for improvement identified in the UMM assessment
- The specifics of MPC project
- Ease of integration with the IAI development process
- Our intuition relating the potential value of each technique
IAI experience of using the methods was very positive.
After application of the techniques, the pilots group assessed the benefits. The conclusions were very positive.
- Most of the techniques are very intuitive to understand, to implement and even to facilitate. The techniques are divided into two major categories: (1) meetings or workshops usually lasting 2-6 hours with about 3-6 participants. (2) a one on one paper or computer prototype evaluation by potential users, about 2 hours for each one.
- Practising these techniques in the early stages of design and development ensured less design mistakes later on.
- All participants and developers thought that most of the techniques were worthwhile and that they helped in developing a better and more usable system.
- The techniques were assessed as very cost effective and low cost.
The last observation deserves elaboration. Usually introducing changes into an organisation is a lengthy, costly and complicated process. It requires convincing many people to invest time and money and then demonstrate the benefits versus costs. In the recent years it became even more difficult due to staff shortage and the requirement to reduce the time to market.
TRUMP was the exception due mainly to its low cost, and obvious benefits. When the developers only have to invest a few days in applying the methods and see the results on the spot, convincing the managers is very simple and performing cost-benefit analysis is simply not needed.
In view of the short time and effort it took to practice these techniques and the strong impact they had on the quality of the system, they are being incorporated in LAHAV’s development process. The expertise available at LAHAV to practice these techniques is not great. Nevertheless the techniques are fairly intuitive and should be easy for new facilitators to learn.
We are currently working on establishing a specific support structure for disseminating the techniques into other IAI divisions.
Other parts of the IAI case study
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