How to Decide: Functional vs Document-Centric Project Structures

Amanda Jennewein
Amanda Jennewein
  • Updated

Author: Zeb Geary

Updated: April 29, 2024

Audience: Everyone

Environmental details: 

Regardless of industry or company size, teams must decide how best to structure information in their Jama projects when deploying Jama Connect. Typically, the following two approaches are considered:

  • Functional Product Structure: Projects are structured to align with the hierarchical breakdown of product definition (e.g., system/subsystems) and the organization of teams/disciplines.
  • Document-centric Structure: Projects are structured to align with documentation needs, whereby the project's Explorer Tree becomes the document's Table of Contents.

In the example below, the Functional Product Structure is organized by levels of requirement abstraction and disciplines. Contrast that with the Document-Centric Structure, where components in the Explorer are essential "documents."

Teams that do not require documentation outside of Jama Connect prefer the Functional Product Structure. However, in some cases, like when transitioning from MS Word, even teams that do not require documents attempt to control the impact of change and reduce new-tool resistance by mimicking the document-style organization of requirements in their project. This may be a short-term transition solution that helps increase adoption by building out a familiar structure in their projects. In the long term, they will tend to restructure projects to take advantage of logical groupings by requirement types, disciplines, and levels of abstraction.

For Teams That Need to Generate Documents from Jama Connect, Consider the Purpose of the Documents

  • Are documents serving simply as a hand-off with another team? In this case, there may be some flexibility in the export format, allowing teams to organize Jama based on "how we work" vs. the document.
  • Are documents generated for auditing purposes or required per Operating Procedures? Here, the documentation needs and format may outweigh other needs or preferences.

Even if Jama Connect is used to generate audited documents, it may still be worth exploring options to support document needs and alignment with "how we work" (e.g., requirements grouped by levels of abstraction, teams, etc.). An approach to accommodate both makes use of Advanced Filters. Advanced Filters can query across the project for items in varying locations and types. With this approach, teams can consider using the structure to accommodate their preferred organization within projects (for ease of use, permissions, and locating data) while using an Advanced Filter to query across the project and export documents.

For example, the Medical Device Framework provided with our Medical Device Services Offering is configured to accommodate functional and discipline-based organization of items while meeting documentation needs using Advanced Filters. The Functional Product Structure from the Medical Device Framework is based on hierarchical and discipline-based requirement groupings. Advanced Filters, shown below, handle documentation needs. Note that the Project Overview set found in Explorer (see red box in Functional Structure above) is included in each filter using a Filter Rule (image below). This "Documentation" set includes Overview, Introduction, and Scope information that is common across all documents. Including it in the filter results will show up in all filter-based exports.

Please note that although the example above calls out Medical Devices, the decision on how to structure the Jama Explorer tree applies to any organization using Jama, no matter the industry.

Different teams using a single instance of Jama Connect may have different needs and require different project structures. Jama Connect can accommodate these differences from project to project. Additionally, their needs and organizational preferences may change as teams continue to use Jama Connect. Over time, projects can be updated to accommodate the team's changing needs. This means adjustments and improvements can be made no matter the approach decided upon initially.

Please feel free to leave feedback in the comments below.

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