Unless you are in a technology field or know someone who is, I can’t think of a reason why you would pick up a copy of The Rational Unified Process Made Easy, but actually the framework is applicable to projects of all sorts, not just software development, and it can help you be more efficient and effective in lots of areas. Read on for the details.
Another consultant on my team loaned me the book because of something I’m working on, and I expected to find it a little bit boring, but on the contrary the framework is quite interesting. Basically, the RUP is a way to plan and do projects that helps you clarify what you’re trying to do, stay in control of risk factors that could keep you from meeting your goal, do the project and test that your product is effective, and roll it out so it can be effective to others. Although the book approaches this from the perspective of technology projects, the framework is definitely applicable to other sorts of projects or goals you might pursue. Here are the main components of RUP, applied more generally:
Inception: take time to define the project. Whether you’re building a huge new system or writing a book or reorganizing your closets, it helps to start with a plan. What do you want to achieve? What need will the project address? What is the scope of the project (that is, when will you stop? What does finished look like?) Could you work with something you already have or do you need to start from scratch? What are the risks (thinks that could keep you from meeting your goal or being successful) and what will you do to mitigate them?
Elaboration: flesh out your plan and think it through. Once you have a general definition of your plan, the RUP suggests you think up some scenarios of how your project could play out, how the product might be used, and so forth (these are called “use cases” in the framework) and use those to help you design your product. So for example, if you’re reorganizing your closet you might think of the ways you use your closet, what sorts of accessories you wear with which clothes in which season, whether or not you are ever trying to get dressed at the same time your spouse is (at our house, we didn’t use RUP when organizing our closet, and that is why I’m always accidentally opening the door right into my husband when he’s trying to access his sock drawer!) As you elaborate on your plan, you continue to refine your vision and monitor your risks. Whenever you change your ideas, you might change the factors that could influence whether you will finish on time or within the budget and you’ll need to alter your mitigation plans accordingly.
Construction: do the project in an organized and logical fashion. As you launch into the project or task itself, it helps to be organized. Refer to the use cases you thought of, and solve for the most critical ones first. As you go, continuously test your product: ask yourself if it’s meeting your goal, if it’s working, if it’s solving the problem. If you’re going to need some sort of reference at the end, keep good notes. In software development, this means working on the manual and tutorials as you go, but in other projects it might mean keeping a log of what paint color you used, the dimensions of the closet, the font you liked, the password you chose for the website, or whatever.
Transition: put it into place and think about what you learned. My tendency is to set up a big project, get all the plates spinning, and then look around for someone to hand it off to. I really don’t like day to day operations. But when you’re doing a project or pursuing a goal, it’s important to actually follow through and put the thing into place. You can design the best blog, but if you never post what was the point? You can build all sorts of nifty closet organizers into your space, but if you just throw the clothes back in there haphazardly you won’t get the best use of out it. A good follow-through is key. Then, after you have the process in motion, take time to think about what you learned. My mom is a fantastic seamstress, and even had her own smocked clothing boutique when I was little, but she still says she learns something new from every project she tries. It’s a good practice to identify your lessons learned and use the results for the next thing you move on to do.
And there you have it folks, my attempt at a broadly applicable post about a very very technical book that I can guarantee 99.9% of you would never read. If you know someone who is a techy person, or involved in IT in some way, you could give them The Rational Unified Process Made Easy for Christmas, but if not, you can rest assured that you now know enough to apply the RUP to your everyday life. 🙂
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