Alex Ivanov is a Senior Software Engineer II with Honors at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. Alex has more than 10 years experience as a Requirements (DOORS) Database Manager supporting a large scale distributed requirements database in the aerospace and defense industry, specializing in writing re-usable DXL, training, user support and consulting with programs to ensure they get the most out of their use of IBM Rational DOORS. Alex in an IBM Certified Deployment Professional DOORS v9 and has been recognized as a three time IBM Champion (2011, 2012, 2013). In 2011 Alex was elected the President of the New England Rational User Group.
1. How does it feel to be a returning IBM Champion?
I’m honored to be selected for this honor for the 3rd consecutive year. Ironically enough it was in 2010 that I 1st started to reach out across Raytheon the best practices that my team and I had developed around how to effectively use IBM Rational DOORS. I thought to myself, we have hundreds of programs at Raytheon that use DOORS and yet not everyone is aware of how to make the best use of the tool and more over the customizations that have been developed through custom DXL to make it even easier to use DOORS. This was the beginning of my vision to standardize the way requirements are managed at Raytheon, and little did I know it would lead to discovering my true passion.
2. Can you tell us something about what you do at Raytheon?
I lead team of engineers that maintain our customizations for how to effectively use DOORS and moreover I consult with programs all across the company on how to best architect their DOORS database and take advantage of the automation we have available. I’m most passionate about reaching out to others across the organization that are eager to improve on how systems engineering uses DOORS to their maximum advantage. I’m happy to say that over the past 3 years I’ve been able to spread our best practices across numerous Raytheon locations across the US, and have been able to do wonders with social media through the use of wiki pages, blogs, communities and generating training videos.
3. What are your thoughts on managing requirements effectively?
A tool is just a tool unless you have a sound process and training to go along with it. It is much more important to get people to understand the process and how the tooling helps them do their job, than to simply rely on the tool to solve all their problems. I believe it’s very important to have a sound process in place and certainly if there are best practices to leverage on how to use tools people should strive to take advantage of them, without losing sight of their process and what they are responsible for delivering. I can’t stress how important it is to determine your project architecture and the relationships of what you will be managing in DOORS, it might seem time consuming at 1st but it will save you a lot of time down the line.
4. So, how long have you been using Rational DOORS?
I started using DOORS in 2000 which is when I began my career at Raytheon. At the time I was a software developer who had just graduated from Boston University and DOORS was the tool which had the software requirements to which I had to develop code for. I believe at the time it was DOORS version 4.0 and I can certainly say that the tool has come a long way since then.
5. That's a long time; in your opinion, what are some of the greatest assets of the product and well, the pain points?
Without a doubt one of the greatest assets is the ability to customize the product for your process. Having said that I believe it’s very important to have a solid understanding of the systems engineering process and a clear understanding of how to architect your project for success. Only once you have a reusable architecture can you turn the focus on how to write reusable DXL to compliment your project template and architecture. As far as the pain points, certainly one of them has to be how manual it is to manage the database, whether it be attributes, views or access without custom DXL scripting it would be rather time consuming to carry out many tasks.
6. Do you have some tips or tricks to share with the DOORS users out there?
I’m happy to say that there are a ton of free resources online and I would highly recommend people take the time to watch webcasts, join a local Rational user group and just network with your peers who have their own experiences to share. If you aren’t a member already I encourage everyone to join the Global Rational User Group, their monthly newsletters are a great source of information and many presentations are archived for viewing right on the site. Another great resource for DOORS and DXL are the developerWorks forums, having asked and answered questions on the Rational DOORS DXL forum I highly recommend it. Numerous webcasts are available on 321Gang's website, Managing DOORS: The Administrator’s Toolbox is one where I take you through some examples on how to write reusable DXL to make it much easier to manage attributes and views.
7. What advice do you give to the budding DOORS administrators?
I would encourage everyone to find a mentor, this can be anyone that you look up to and just ask them questions, I know that I would not be where I am today had it not been for the mentoring and support of numerous people in my life and I am forever grateful to them. Something I have learned throughout the years is that it’s important to ask questions, and don’t assume the person who is asking you to do something has the right answers. As you gain experience you’ll be able to tailor the solution for your customers and they will thank you for it. It’s unbelievable how many resources are available online for learning, I’m a big fan of watching and creating training videos and Youtube has numerous channels I’d recommend subscribing to, a couple of which are: IBMRational and IBMJazz.
I believe it’s very important to always want to improve, whether this be in your personal or professional life. I encourage everyone to grab a book on any subject that is of interest to them, you’d be amazed how much you will learn. I’ve read dozens of books over the past few years and have a reading list for that want to follow along on http://www.shelfari.com/alexivanov/shelf