Increasingly complex products, many variants and ever shorter time-to-market needs: Bernafon met these challenges by streamlining their development process and the introduction of IBM Rational DOORS. By doing so, the company was able to increase its output by a factor of 10 – keeping development resources constant.
Bernafon, a daughter company of the William Demant Holding, is a leading manufacturer of hearing aid devices. Out of the worldwide 500 employees, about 140 work at the headquarters based in Berne, half of which in the R&D department. The technological demanding devices from Bernafon must meet complex customer requirements and stringent quality demands as well as strict regulations. To cope with these challenges Bernafon focuses on interdisciplinary development processes and on IBM Rational DOORS.
Constantly rising market requirements and new technologies are essential drivers of the complexity as well as the increasing variations of the hearing devices developed by Bernafon. „In our business, a short time-to-market is decisive for success”, emphasizes Andreas Mettauer, Senior Systems Engineer at Bernafon AG. „Therefore, we focus our resources upon the development of new solutions and not on the maintenance of existing ones. To do so we rely today on agile processes, an effective requirements management and a sound collaboration between the various development teams.”
„In the past we managed our requirements with text documents”, reflects Mr. Mettauer. This did neither fulfil the regulatory demands nor their internal claim for traceability. Furthermore, an easy re-use of requirements has become essential for their success. „We attain the necessary efficiency, when we can base our product development upon a common baseline and configurable platforms.” The fact, that IBM Rational DOORS covers all these needs, was decisive for the introduction of the software.
According to Mr. Mettauer, the development of a new product generation was the perfect opportunity to launch IBM Rational DOORS for their requirements management. „The additional time we needed for the introduction, we made up for in the test phase of the first project. Further, with the streamlining of our development processes and the introduction of the DOORS re-use add-on, we have further created the baseline to reuse existing requirements simply and efficiently.”
In medical device technology, a reliable traceability of requirements is mandatory for the product certification. „A complete, tool-supported traceability makes the re-use of requirements and the impact analysis of changes much easier”, complements Mr. Mettauer. „Hence, we use DOORS for the complete system design; from the software through to the hardware, we manage the requirements with DOORS.” In addition, the tool is also used for storing the architecture, the design as well as for the test management. In the latter case, Bernafon has started to introduce IBM Rational Quality Manager to increase the effectiveness even further.
„The best tool is only as good as the underlying processes”. Based on his experiences, Andreas Mettauer recommends to check existing processes and to take the product structure and development into consideration early enough. „We established interdisciplinary teams and have reworked our development processes radically. As such we could ensure a cross-divisional cooperation throughout the company.” Also hands-on practice-orientated tool trainings as well as advanced trainings in the area of Requirements Management & Engineering are very important.
According to Andreas Mettauer Bernafon has achieved the aimed targets and is now focusing on further optimization of the system. „We now master the increasing complexity of our products much easier, have become more efficient and realise massively shorter development times!” DOORS and the re-use of requirements also have had a very positive impact on the planning of projects and the development quality: „Today we can see easily, when by whom and to which degree a requirement was re-used. This is an important baseline to cope with the continuous changes and to be prepared for future challenges.”