Picture relating to paperbuilding

Welcome to PaperBuilding. Our aim here is to equip non-technical charity managers with a very practical way of defining and expressing their information system needs to IT managers, software developers and package suppliers - PaperBuilding.

We give the thinking behind PaperBuilding; we show you the elements which make up a PaperBuild and how to put them together; we tell you what needs to be done before the PaperBuild, and what happens afterwards; and we give real examples of PaperBuilds.

What is Paperbuilding?

PaperBuilding is a term used increasingly in the not-for-profit sector and press to refer to, “a systematic, comprehensive, and collaboratively drawn-up paper depiction of all aspects of an information system requirement”.

It’s a formulaic, conceptual paper model of the entirety of an information system.

If a picture paints a thousand words, then a PaperBuild replaces a thirty thousand word statement of requirements/specification, and the PaperBuild pictures are so much more tangible than abstract and subjective descriptions.

Paperbuilding uses very simple, very specific pictures, diagrams, and sets of lists to describe the different dimensions of an information system.

Until you’ve tried it you won’t believe how concrete an approach it is, and how empowering it can be for non-technical staff.

PaperBuilding is a vendor-neutral method for working out what you really need from systems for CRM, conference/event booking, publication sales, content management, contact management, membership, e-commerce, etc.

It’s the thing to do at the outset, whether you’re thinking of using a package or developing your own system.

Even if you know exactly what you want, PaperBuilding is a very wise first stage before building because:

a. it will show you whether what you want really stacks up as a coherent system

b. seeing it laid out as a model highlights what you’ve not thought about (there’s always something)

PaperBuilding is good for both web browser based and desktop software.

What it’s not: It’s not graphic design for a web site. PaperBuilding is not an appropriate vehicle for development of a static web site design – e.g. a few pages about your organisation, with no user interaction. If that’s what you need, better work directly with a visual designer.

Computers slow things down. Pencils and paper! Why not do it on computers? If members of the group have sight or hearing impairment, or the group is spread around the country, then computers can be the answer. Otherwise computers tend to lead to one person inputting and everyone else watching– they disenfranchise the group. If everyone has a pencil and paper and a specific job, then they all have to engage and be part of the team. As the workshops progress, the participants take ownership and gain a deeper understanding of the project. They become advocates of the project. It’s also more fun!

We don’t understand each other. Take the word ‘project’ – nearly every organisation has them, but they seem to have a different meaning in each. Even in the same organisation, even in the same job, we carry around different meanings for jargon terms.  PaperBuilding spits this out into pictures and simple definitions. It allows members of the same organisation to ask the crucial ‘stupid questions’ that reveal and overcome the common misunderstandings and make for a coherent system.

“No time to talk, no time to PaperBuild, got to press on!”. We sometimes come across organisations who have no time to explain what they want.  They expect to be able to say a few words and for their software providers to infer from that everything that’s in their heads. It’s the best way to guarantee a bad outcome!

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