California high-speed rail project gains speed

Program Management uses IBM Rational DOORS software to manage requirements and avoid costly changes

Published on 21-Nov-2013

"We use Rational DOORS for requirements management and traceability. We want to understand the original requirements and how they develop over time." - Oliver M. Hoehne, Project Management Professional (PMP), systems integration manager, Parsons Brinckerhoff

Parsons Brinckerhoff

Professional Services, Travel & Transportation

Deployment country:
United States

Systems Engineering


Parsons Brinckerhoff is a global consulting firm helping public and private customers plan, develop, design, construct, operate and maintain thousands of critical infrastructure projects around the world.

Business need:
To perform program management services for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Parsons Brinckerhoff needed a requirements management solution to support the authority’s project.

The California High-Speed Rail project is using IBM® Rational® DOORS® software to manage the requirements and perform verification and validation (V&V) for the project.

Using the Rational DOORS software, the team helped improve collaboration among multiple engineering teams and subprojects, and it foresees limiting costly change orders.

Case Study

Parsons Brinckerhoff is a global consulting firm helping public and private customers plan, develop, design, construct, operate and maintain thousands of critical infrastructure projects around the world. Founded in New York in 1885, the company employs 14,000 people in more than 150 offices on five continents. Parsons Brinckerhoff offers skills and resources in strategic consulting, planning, engineering, program management, construction management, and operations and maintenance. It focuses on infrastructure projects involving transportation, power, energy, community development, water, mining and the environment.

Using a systems engineering approach to bring high-speed rail to California
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is responsible for planning, designing, building and operating the first high-speed rail system in the United States. The California High-Speed Rail is intended to connect major regions of the state, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs, and preserve agricultural and protected lands. By 2029, the system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in less than three hours at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour. The system will eventually extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totaling 800 miles with up to 24 stations. In addition, the authority is working with regional partners to implement a state-wide rail modernization plan that will involve investing billions of dollars in local and regional rail lines to meet the state’s 21st century transportation needs. To help with the execution of the high-speed rail project, the California High-Speed Rail Authority engaged Parsons Brinckerhoff to provide program management services.

In the past, companies managed infrastructure projects such as this using the traditional plans, specifications and estimates (PS&E) method. “With the plans, specifications and estimates approach, a typical project has an organizational structure arranged by project functions. Within that, there are a number of engineering disciplines: structural, civil engineering, utilities, environmental engineering, and more,” says Oliver M. Hoehne, Project Management Professional (PMP), systems integration manager, Parsons Brinckerhoff. However, Conway’s Law, which states that “organizations that design systems ... are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations,” dictates that the design will most likely be a reflection of the organizational structure, resulting in engineering silos. “That doesn’t mean that they don’t talk with each other, but the process most likely starts out with engineering by subsystem,” says Hoehne.

For the California High-Speed Rail project, Parsons Brinckerhoff proposed combining a systems engineering approach with the traditional PS&E approach. Using the systems engineering approach, Parsons Brinckerhoff aimed to apply verification and validation (V&V) processes to the project to:
· Demonstrate compliance with federal and state regulations, specifically the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and California’s Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act, or Proposition 1A
· Demonstrate compliance with the Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/S) program mitigations
· Manage the critical requirements and interfaces of the high-speed rail project
· Demonstrate that the high-speed rail project is fully integrated, will meet the requirements and will work as intended


Parsons Brinckerhoff anticipates that investing time in requirements work will pay off later on. “We use Rational DOORS for requirements management and traceability. We want to understand the original requirements and how they develop over time,” says Oliver M. Hoehne, Project Management Professional (PMP), systems integration manager, Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Creating, analyzing and managing thousands of requirements
Parsons Brinckerhoff is using IBM Rational DOORS software to manage the requirements for the high-speed rail project. “We use Rational DOORS for requirements management and traceability. We want to understand the original requirements and how they develop over time,” says Hoehne. Parsons Brinckerhoff project staff members access the Rational DOORS software, which is running on a Microsoft Windows server using a Windows client, from multiple offices throughout the United States.

There are thousands of requirements involved in bringing the high-speed rail to California. Project requirements include compliance with environmental regulations and system safety and security certification. Derived requirements include engineering requirements, such as minimum train speed, maximum possible grade, or structural consideration of geotechnical conditions. For each type of requirement, the Parsons Brinckerhoff team created a module in the Rational DOORS application. For example, there are modules for the CFR requirements, state requirements and internal project requirements.

After capturing all of the project requirements, the Parsons Brinckerhoff team uses the Rational application to analyze each requirement, break it down into lower-level requirements and assign each requirement to the applicable contract, engineering team or subsystem. “Basically, we start by taking those high-level requirements and break[ing] them down into smaller requirements. Then it is clearer that this is a train-set requirement or an infrastructure requirement,” says Hoehne. With Rational DOORS software, the teams identify and document the relationships between each requirement and the appropriate contract, engineering team or subsystem.

Performing V&V processes on an ongoing basis
The requirements work done in the beginning of the project will pay off as V&V continues throughout the project. “You cannot really do verification and validation without knowing what you need to verify against. It’s important to have clear requirements,” says Hoehne.

The Parsons Brinckerhoff team therefore spent the necessary time and effort making sure that the project requirements were correct and complete. Doing so, especially in a project of this magnitude, helps avoid change orders. Limiting change orders helps control unexpected project costs or delays and supports rigorous stewardship of public funds. “We put significant effort into writing the complete and correct contracts, so change orders are kept to a minimum,” says Hoehne.

Parsons Brinckerhoff specified that contractors and subcontractors working on the project must also use the Rational DOORS application to help verify and validate the requirements and demonstrate that they are complying with the terms of their contracts. As the project reaches certain milestones, the team will perform V&V against the existing requirements and interfaces, including the construction and final integration, testing and certification phases.

Reaping benefits from the use of Rational DOORS software
The Parsons Brinckerhoff team found that the Rational DOORS application facilitated communication across the numerous engineering teams involved in the project. In addition, the team anticipates that the software will help improve compliance with the documentation requirements, enabling a smoother process for compliance approval and certification.

The Rational DOORS software also facilitated review processes, helping to standardize and speed reviews. During reviews, junior engineers evaluated more design criteria than previously possible, allowing senior engineers to direct their attention to more strategic tasks.

Looking ahead, the Parsons Brinkerhoff team anticipates adding other IBM Rational software modules to the high-speed rail project. “I’m planning on using [IBM Rational] Rhapsody® for conceptual designs, feasibility analysis, interface identification and requirements apportioning,” says Hoehne.

About systems engineering with IBM Rational software
Today’s products and systems, from railways to medical devices, are becoming more intelligent and interconnected. Delivering smarter, more competitive products and systems requires fast and cost-efficient software development at low risk.

IBM provides a complete, collaborative solution for systems and embedded software engineering to help deliver high-quality products and embedded systems together with the software that powers them, on time and with reduced risk. They include requirements management; systems architecture design and modeling; collaboration, planning and change management; test and quality management; and product line engineering.

For more information
For more information about the California High-Speed Rail project, visit:

To learn more about IBM Rational products and systems development solutions, please contact your IBM marketing representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website:

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Rational DOORS

Legal Information

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