Foundation Series: JAD Sessions

jad session

JAD is an acronym that stands for Joint Application Design. JAD sessions are collaborative meetings where the customers meet with developers to determine what the product needs to be or do.

JAD Beginnings

Chuck Morris and Tony Crawford of IBM created the idea of JAD sessions in the 1970s (Yatco). JAD sessions were designed to gather good requirements and specifications. JAD sessions are often referred to as JAD workshops. JAD has been used as a name to describe brainstorming sessions, formal requirements gathering sessions, and even interface design meetings.

Today, JAD is commonly used for strategic business planning, strategic IS plans, IS architecture definition, re-engineering business processes, detailed system design, process and data modeling, and project management.This might be the broadest application of JAD so far.

Mei C Yatco

Although different people use “JAD” in different ways to solve different problems, there is a common theme – JAD sessions are facilitated requirements gathering sessions.

JAD Benefit

JAD sessions are believed to reduce the time required to gather requirements and develop software. At the time of their creation, JAD sessions were certainly more cost effective than existing “build, feedback, fix” cycles. It isn’t clear if JAD sessions themselves are more effective than other requirements elicitation techniques. JAD sessions are probably best used as one of many tools for gathering requirements.

JAD Session Structure

A JAD session has a facilitator, a scribe, participants and observers.

  • The Facilitator – Guides the participants through the process of gathering requirements.
  • The Scribe – Diagrams models, takes notes, records information.
  • Participants – Business users and subject matter experts (SMEs) who contribute the content in the session.
  • Observers – Developers who observe the process.

There are 9 steps to a JAD session (wikipedia):

  1. Identify project objectives and limitations
  2. Identify critical success factors
  3. Define project deliverables
  4. Define the schedule of workshop activities
  5. Select the participants
  6. Prepare the workshop material
  7. Organize workshop activities and exercises
  8. Prepare, inform, educate the workshop participants
  9. Coordinate workshop logistics

More Reading

A top rated JAD book at Amazon is Joint Application Development by Jane Wood and Denise Silver.

[Update 2007/02/08.  I have really been enjoying the book that Kevin reccommended in the comments below – Requirements by Collaboration: Workshops for Defining Needs by Ellen Gottesdiener.  Thanks Kevin for the great tip!

5 thoughts on “Foundation Series: JAD Sessions

  1. scott

    no hard and fast rule… but a start up of less than
    ten (10) total employees probably could not survive
    the rigors of a JAD. again, your mileage may vary.

    otherwise, combined with use cases and a RAD methodology
    like IBM’s VMT, JADs increase the quality of the product
    while significantly shortening the dev time.


    p.s. i do not always get a moment to comment, but yours
    is one of the few blogs i check daily (via bloglines)…
    thanks for contributing to the world’s knowledge base.

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