When microphone and audio electronics manufacturer Shure starts to build a new generation of products, the company looks to Borland Softwares requirements management tools to help define and manage requirements that Shures customers have for new technology.
Shure, of Niles, Ill., takes input from its customers, including pop and rock stars, producers, audio engineers, sound contractors, and personal audiophiles, on what to put into its new products.
Artists such as LeAnn Rimes and the Black Eyed Peas helped establish the requirements for and served as beta testers on the Shure UHF-R wireless microphone, which was built using Borland software, Shure officials said.
In fact, every product, software component or other enhancement Shure delivers comes directly from customer input and feedback, according to company officials.
The company uses CaliberRM and StarTeam products from Borland, of Cupertino, Calif., to automate the process of turning customer needs into software requirements.
Tony Branch, manager of systems engineering at Shure, explained that Shure initially recognized the need to do some more formal capturing and managing of requirements and customer feedback, “just kind of gathering information that could be considered as inputs to the development process,” Branch said.
John Purnell, assistant global IS specialist at Shure, said, “The very first Borland tool that was brought in was CaliberRM. And that was the tool we used for idea gathering [and] fact gathering—not yet at the level of full requirements management.”
However, as Shure matured as a software development organization, the company decided to take the next step, Purnell said.
“And I led a project for a software version control system, [for] which we decided to go with StarTeam Enterprise Advantage, which was also Borlands solution. So we adopted Borlands ALM [application lifecycle management] philosophy, with CaliberRM managing our requirements and StarTeam managing our software version control.”
Purnell said Shure refers to its products as “rugged and reliable.”
To help deliver on those aspects, the Shure systems engineering department defined a strategy for reducing time to market through a requirements-based development approach. Shure worked with Borland partner Orasi Software, of Atlanta, to implement Borlands CaliberRM.
The result is that Shure is now able to capture and manage bidirectional traceability between customer needs and product designs, Branch said.
This approach has also enabled reuse, cross-functional impact analysis and benchmarking through a consistent approach to ALM, she said.
Prior to using Borlands tools, Shure had to gather requirements manually, translating input from customer researchers provided in journals, spreadsheets and documents, Shure officials said.
The move to Borlands tools has also enabled Shure to look ahead to new features and capabilities, Branch said.
“Customer-driven solutions is one of our mantras,” Branch said. “Borland, the tool set and where we are today [are] going to really help us as we move into a phase where we start looking into doing modeling to predict product behavior and try things out with actually going all the way through the prototyping process. Thats also going to give us a lot of leverage and help reduce our overall time to market with some new concepts that are coming to us through customer feedback and market research.”
In addition to CaliberRM, Shure makes use of Borlands StarTeam developer collaboration platform to help drive development directly from the requirements generated using CaliberRM, Purnell said.
StarTeam also helps Shure manage version control and change requests throughout the development life cycle, and helps to enforce Shures standard SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) process and save developers time by reducing rework, Shure officials said.
“One of our initiatives recently has been to give more focus on reuse and a platform approach to our product development,” Branch said. “We anticipate, and are already seeing, significant increase in our capability to just successfully manage the development process through the tool set.”
Branch added that the company can reuse both the requirements and software as needed.
“We understand the traceability between customer inputs down to where its fulfilled in the product,” she said. “And that is delivering and meeting one of our organizational goals.”
Branch said the Shure systems engineering department is tasked with “gathering inputs from marketing.”
As such, the group performs market research by touching base with customers and doing “day-in-the-life type research,” she said. “That input is brought back in-house and organized. And one of the tools we use to do that is CaliberRM. Once we receive the information into Caliber, we look at that and try to figure out, How does that figure into a product requirement? Those product requirements are then traced from the customer feedback and then down to technical specifications that actually comprise the basis for developing the product itself.”
Meanwhile, Shure integrates Borlands CaliberRM with the companys preferred testing tool, Mercury TestDirector from Mercury Interactive, of Mountain View, Calif., Purnell said. He said that the integration has been helpful.
“And its not like the testers have to go out of one tool and into another,” said Branch. “You can actually see the content from one database to the next.”
Although Shure builds actual electronics and accessories for producing and enjoying music, software is a major part of the business, Purnell said.
“Youd be pretty surprised,” Purnell said about the amount of software Shure develops. “We do a lot of software development here. We do embedded software development, development in microphones [and development] in our signal processing products. There is a lot of software that people would probably be pretty shocked to find out about. There are a lot of programmable chips that are in our products. And we had to find a way to manage all of the software that we develop.”
Purnell said Shure recently launched its UHF-R wireless microphone, which has proved to be one of the companys most successful wireless microphones to date.
“There is a lot of software in that product,” Purnell said. “Youve got your wireless components, youve got to translate the audio signal [and youve got to] send it wirelessly. All that is software or has software pieces in the chain. So to be able to reuse the development that weve done with previous products was one of the reasons why that product was so successful.”
The Development Process
Project engineers used the Borland software—particularly CaliberRM, to manage requirements—for both the UHF-R microphone and Shures E-Series headphones as part of their development process.
“The headphone lines are on a rapid cycle,” Branch said. “They are targeted for a market that changes very rapidly. And we are able to leverage and get a lot of reuse so that when we update our products, we know what was there previously, and we know how to improve upon it. So Borlands tools have been a benefit in that regard as well.”
Matt Klassen, senior product marketing manager at Borland, said Borlands customers continually push the company to improve on the Borland ALM strategy.
“They said we can manage requirements, but we really need to be able to move beyond that,” Klassen said of Borlands customers. “Theyre saying they can manage change, but if the information we put into that repository is inaccurate, theyre really more efficiently managing the wrong stuff. And they cant wait until they produce a product to see whether it meets their users needs or not. They need to know that as early as possible.”
Klassen said Borlands focus for 2006 is producing end-to-end solutions that fit the needs of specific areas for customers.
“And that brings to reality this Software Delivery Optimization [the transformation of software development to an accelerated and disciplined approach] message in terms of making software development from a managed process,” Klassen said.
That focus for Borland is broken into four solution areas: IT management and governance, requirements management, change management, and life-cycle quality management, Klassen said.
Klassen said Borland is working to get Shure to buy into Borland solutions in each of these areas. Purnell said Shure is interested in other aspects of the Borland ALM solution beyond requirements management.
* Customer Shure
* Organizational snapshot Shure develops microphones and audio components; the company started as a one-man operation in 1925; since then, Shure microphones and audio electronics have been the tools of choice for politicians, musicians, corporations, churches and broadcasters across the world
* Business problem More and more of Shures new-product development is involving more and more software; meanwhile, Shures marketing department and engineers had to get clear-cut information on customer needs and desires for future products, along with what was working and not working so well in existing products
* Technology partner Borland Software, of Cupertino, Calif., and Orasi Software, of Kennesaw, Ga.
* Recommended solution Borlands CaliberRM and StarTeam products; Shure is using Borlands CaliberRM to help capture and manage user requirements for what they want in upcoming products; Borlands StarTeam Enterprise Advantage product is used as a software version control system
* Return on investment Requirements input from music artists including LeAnn Rimes and the Black Eyed Peas enabled Shure to produce its UHF-R wireless microphone—the companys most successful wireless mic yet
* Lessons learned The Borland tools enabled Shure to better develop and manage requirements, thus leading to the reuse of both requirements and software in creating new products
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