IBM RFE Community: Learn about the RFE process

developerWorks explains the technology request for enhancement process

IBM® developerWorks Advisory Software Engineer David Salinas explains the software request for enhancement process and introduces the IBM RFE community resources in Part 1 of a six-part video series on how to participate in efforts to make your technology stronger.

Scott Laningham (scottla@us.ibm.com), developerWorks Podcast Editor, IBM developerWorks

Scott LaninghamScott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.



22 December 2011

Your narrator is IBM® developerWorks Advisory Software Engineer David Salinas: Hello. My name is David Salinas. I work at IBM. I work on the IBM developerWorks program and website supporting the IBM RFE Community [requests for enhancement]. Today's tutorial will be speaking about the RFE process.

To do that, we'll first talk about the RFE life cycle, then the community features, and then, we'll end with the various states for which an RFE can go through as it's being submitted, then evaluated and then finally given a disposition.

So let us begin with talking about the RFE life cycle.

Figure 1. RFE lifecycle
Image shows RFE lifecycle

So at the heart of the IBM RFE Community website is the basic idea of being able to allow and facilitate IBM users of our products and services to be able to submit enhancements for products to the website and then get that information into the hands of product managers and engineers who can then submit that information ... I mean, use that information to then come to an evaluation regarding it.

And then provide that information back out to the community so they can use that information to make their own decisions. And so as a consequence of that, the platform is designed around the ability for users to participate in that process and provide a level of transparency.

So through the top of this sort of life cycle here, we have a community can provide information, and that is first by submitting RFEs primarily, but additionally by voting on RFEs, looking at current RFEs and adding attachments to fine tune the conversation and the possible evaluation of that RFE, or additional comment as well.

All of that information gets put into the back-end processes used by IBM to then evaluate that RFE, taking into consideration who has voted for it, who has submitted it, what information is there regarding what the scope is of the enhancement request and so forth.

And then, all that information is then used to then make a final disposition that's then sent out to the community. Part of that also is in if users are watching those RFEs and so forth is giving notification to them so that they understand, they can be notified that there's been changes to the records that they're interested in.

So that's primarily achieved — this sort of facilitation, collaboration with IBM — by making the IBM RFE Community open. In other words, the IBM RFE community does not require entitlement for anyone to participate. You do have to register.

Figure 2. How the community is engaged and involved
Image shows how the community is engaged and involved

So by simply just registering for an IBM ID you can now then be able to get into the IBM RFE community and be able to then interact with peers that are looking at other existing records, or you can then submit your own IBM product enhancement request as well.

And so what you see here is an opportunity to engage, and that engagement is first through of course submitting product enhancements. But also it's the ability to interact and collaborate with others, including IBM. And that is by voting on RFEs, watching on RFEs, commenting on them, uploading attachments to once again help further the conversation in consideration of that request ...

Or, creating your own micro community or group within the IBM RFE Community with those like-minded peers or those that may be working for the same company as you that have the same set of RFEs that you're interested in submitting to IBM and having evaluated.

Additionally, the IBM RFE community allows you to be able to notify others through email of any RFE records that you think they would be interested in or you want to be able to communicate to others. You can also get your own notification as well either through RSS or email regarding any RFEs that you're particularly interested in.

And so the consequence by sending in an RFE, an RFE obviously goes through various states. And that's what we're going to talk about next.

Figure 3. RFE state flow
Image shows RFE state flow

So you as a user can submit an RFE. Once you submit an RFE it goes into "under consideration" state. At that time all the information that's been provided, even the activity on it, such as voting, will all be used to sort of triage the RFE and evaluate it and consider it against a product roadmap.

If the RFE doesn't have enough information, an automatic email will be sent to the authors of the RFE and the RFE will be moved into the "need more information" state. At that time, the user, the author, has 30 days to respond to the RFE, at which time if they do not respond with appropriate information, then an RFE will be in a closed state.

That's what's indicated here in blue. In fact, all of these states that are in blue are closed states, which means that once an RFE reaches that state there's not going to be any further action on it by IBM it is therefore closed.

However, if it's not put into ... if it can also move from "under consideration" to other states; and of course, as most users would hope that their individual RFE could eventually get to a delivered state.

But there's other possibilities as well. Just because an RFE is submitted does not mean that IBM will be able to act upon it or that it makes direct, makes sense in the direction of that product. In such a situation, the RFE may be rejected.

But there's other possibilities that others may have submitted that idea before, so it would be indicated as a duplicate. It may be an idea, a product enhancement that's for basically underlying software that's used by IBM but is actually open source and so therefore it would be sort of targeted for open source communication. Or otherwise it could also be a defect and something that is really not a product enhancement, per se.

So all this obviously provides you a great opportunity to have a more interactive and collaborative relationship not only with your peers that use IBM products and services but also with IBM itself. So we'd encourage you to go out to the IBM RFE Community and use the IBM RFE Community to clearly communicate your ideas to IBM.

And so I'll leave you with one last hint or tip regarding the submission and activity on RFEs: That the most important thing as the submitter of RFE that you can do is provide an RFE with as much information as possible, be as extensive and as thorough as possible including using attachments and screen shots or diagrams to clearly communicate what the enhancement is. That will give your submission the best possible chance of being appropriately evaluated and considered.

Thank you for your usage of the IBM RFE Community.

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