Requirements definition

Picture relating to our requirement definition

We all usually know we need a new system long before we know precisely what the new one has to do.

For a complex charity, with lots of fingers in lots of pies, it is hard to compile a consistent and coherent statement of requirements.

It’s especially hard when department/programme managers understand their own area but are new to commissioning systems, or if it’s a new activity you’re computerising.

But you can’t just get an analyst in and forget it – if you take your eye off the ball at any point, but especially early on, problems will be built in to the foundation and the project will probably fail.

On the other hand, projects that begin well, those that capture and verify the system requirements directly from the business managers and users, coordinated by a professional business analyst, tend to succeed.

One way to get a clear picture of what you want is PaperBuilding.

PaperBuilding means:

  • using pens and paper to create several non-technical views of the system from different perspectives
  • building the model in a series of workshops with business managers, users, domain specialists - not techies!

It produces:

  • an overview that managers, users, funders, and developers get instantly
  • two walls of cross-referenced charts and pictures of the new system that you can walk through, test, argue about, and amend
  • a functional specification for suppliers

But the intangibles are the best products of PaperBuilding.

Too many shiny new systems are imposed on users and they ‘will like it’.  That’s rarely effective.

PaperBuilding - by contrast - creates a sense of ownership among those involved that this is their system.  They buy into the project at the outset … and that’s priceless.

There’s a free PaperBuilding tutorial available on this site. It includes resources and further advice on how to make your project successful.

PaperBuilding was developed by Infoworks, but it is a general approach, not specific to Infoworks solutions. We sometimes give seminars on PaperBuilding for organisations who need to commission new systems.

If you’d like to try it, we’d be happy to give you some advice. We can manage the process for you, but we’re happy if you run it yourselves.

There is just one little systems analysis skill in PaperBuilding, but it’s covered in the tutorial and it’s fun to learn and use.

The PaperBuilding approach can be adapted to work on screen using simple documents and spreadsheets – this works well for tele-conference meetings and for groups with visual or hearing impairment.

You may also be interested in our PaperBuildDB web application, which takes PaperBuild information as data and from it generates a navigable HTML mockup of your entire system – it’s quite something!  (So is the actual software generation from PaperBuildDB… but that’s a different topic.)

PaperBuilding crystallises and verifies a requirement - it really works.

Click on PaperBuilding for a more detailed insight into how PaperBuilding works and a better understanding of why it is such an effective methodology.

Want to find out more?

Contact Us