Welcome to the May 2012 issue of Precision Matters – the Precision Design Technology (PDT) Newsletter.
It is a well known, but little respected, truth in software engineering that getting the requirements right is key to the success of a project. If you get the requirements wrong, which is easily done, it doesn’t matter how good the implementation is, you will deliver the wrong system to the customer.
Imagine yourself to be the customer for a new software system. You know your business inside out and you know that a new system would remove some problem for you, large or small. You know how this system must dovetail into the existing business landscape around it. You accept that you will have some disruption while the new system beds down, but you accept this for the greater good once the initial period is over. Now you have the opportunity to create a system that exactly meets your business demands. So how do you ensure that the resulting system will be right before it is cast in stone by your IT provider?
Then there is the IT project manager, charged with delivering this modest bundle of business support software. He probably knows some details of your part of the business, but when he starts work he won’t know all you know or what you want to achieve from the project. It is likely that a business analyst will be assigned to the project and it is your task to tell him what you want from the project.
How do you communicate your needs to the analyst?
Most of us start with a blank sheet of paper and make notes about the tasks and actions the project must deliver. Depending on how well versed you are with business analysis your notes will be more or less structured.
You may add a few hand sketches of process details you want to improve or create new – boxes and lines, perhaps using iconography of your own devising, to set down flow or activity.
The job of the business analyst is to absorb all your needs and vision and present this information to you in a form you can understand and critique.
This is the difficult stage. If the analyst uses a text document to record your requirements, he may use idioms and ambiguous phrases that leave you with a warm feeling. However he may interpret the document differently and his interpretation, or yet another, may go forward to implementation.
Using diagrams is no less fraught with danger. Do you understand the meaning of the diagram? Do you understand the iconography? How does one diagram relate to another? Can you relate these diagrams to what you originally wanted for your business system?
And overall, you have to identify what has been missed. How do you identify the missing elements? And what may have been added to the functionality that you don’t want?
The cost of correcting errors in requirements escalates as implementation proceeds. Estimates place the cost of correction after implementation at hundreds of times the cost at the requirements definition stage. Correct requirements are a key factor in a successful software project.
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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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