The 'R' Word

10 September 2008

A friend of mine is fond of stating his opinion that, during a recession, money returns to its rightful owners.  Tongue-in-cheek or not, I was reminded of this recently when I was attempting to analyse some high-level requirements for a client’s proposed system.

I was working on a set of high-level requirements but what was lacking was a top-level view. I’ve found that one way to get perspective of this is to remember that in system that supports a commercial transaction, the top-level view is that two parties exchange goods or services for money. This business scenario has been around for a while: it was the same hundreds of years ago for a visitor to a market as well as a shopper on Ebay today - the key difference being in technical execution.

While this is usually obvious if you are eliciting the requirements for a commercial system, it can be easy to get lost in detail if you were writing the requirements for very large-scale systems, such as an aircraft or real-time messaging systems; or if the sponsor (money-spender) is remote from the problem domain. In these cases, it’s still worth considering their viewpoint as he or she will expect a return on investment, either for themselves or on behalf of someone else - for example, the taxpayer.

I’ve found that much project heart-ache can be saved if you expend a little effort ensuring that your requirements will keep your sponsor happy.

Meanwhile, let us hope economic events unfold in a way that my friend does not get to make his flippant comment too often in next few months.

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