Welcome to the August 2011 issue of Precision Matters - the Precision Design Technology (PDT) Newsletter.
One Year To Go
As I write this the front page news is of sadness and mayhem in Norway, caused, it would seem, by a deranged individual wanting to make a big impact. He certainly succeeded in doing so, but at what a price. Let us all hope his motives really are that simple.
Meanwhile, on an inside page there is the news that in one year’s time the London Olympics will open. The culmination of all the planning that has been happening since London won the bid to host the games in 2005. The pessimists and cynics said it would never be ready on time. That the costs would escalate and the venues would not live up to expectations. Time will tell on the venues, but six of them have been delivered so far, to time and to budget. The Aquatic Centre is the latest to join the list today.
So how do these civil engineering projects compare with deliveries in the business software arena? Now the cynics really do have a point when a large proportion of IT projects of all types fail to deliver the expected benefits and usually fail to deliver on time or to budget. Of course, the finishing touches need to be completed at the Olympic Park and this will inevitably include much of the technology upon which the games will rely.
A large percentage of business IT failures cite as a major cause bad or inaccurate specification. This introduces the main article this month on the perception of the specification and its value.
Are Your Specifications Written And Then Just Sit On The Shelf?
One of the reasons cited against using specifications in IT is that they don’t get used after their initial creation and therefore don’t represent the delivered system.
Why is this?
During traditional IT systems development, the specification is the document intended to convey the client user’s needs to the system supplier, internal or external. The specification is rarely complete, always inconsistent and undoubtedly ambiguous. This is because the vast majority of specifications are written in English, are therefore ambiguous and cannot be checked for consistency other than by human inspection.
The next task takes the specification and translates it into design documents for consumption within the IT group. The client does not see these documents and few would want to or would understand what they were describing without some training.
The specification lies ignored during system construction. Though the client has agreed changes, the specification rarely reflects them.
The specification should form the basis for client testing of the delivered system. If the specification no longer reflects the system, there is no reference. The user test team creates tests they believe reflect what the system is to do. The result may well be inadequate and incomplete testing of the system before introduction, resulting in high maintenance effort to correct the errors.
This tale of woe does not occur with every project; people have developed techniques to reduce some of the pitfalls.
The approach we support is to create an unambiguous specification and check it for consistency using machine-based rules. Although it is impossible to check for completeness by rule, the tools employ user-testing data to animate the specification and provide feedback to the client user. This technique exhibits the exact scope and action of the delivered system, demonstrating completeness.
Further, when business change mandates a system change in the maintenance phase, the specification forms the reference point and the target for further iterations of checking and testing.
If you need specification work for your IT project, contact us on 0844-887 1328 or via the website at www.precisiondesign.co.uk
Want to reproduce this article?
Yes you can, so long as you accredit it to Robin Oldman, Precision Design Technology Ltd. and attach the following biography to the article at the bottom:
Precision Design Technology, (PDT), the IT systems experts, provides world-class consultancy and solutions for IT information systems to help its customers develop affordable, high integrity software for business. Normally high-integrity software is prohibitively expensive - PDT provides a solution at a price business can afford.
EUR ING Robin Oldman, COO at PDT, writes and blogs on behalf of the company. Robin also manages the development of the user interface for the SPECIFY4IT tool-set that bridges the gap between the client user and the system supplier. The SPECIFY4IT tool-set is capable of delivering high-integrity business software faster and more cheaply than conventional development methods.
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