On a cold day in February, thirteen participants, representing financial companies, government agencies, technology firms, and other associations, joined four staff members from Information Concepts for an Executive Roundtable at the Goethe-Institut in downtown DC to discuss using visualization tools during the requirements gathering phase of software development projects. Despite diverse professional backgrounds, all participants were concerned with the same issue: effective communication between stakeholders and development teams, in order to reduce costs, and get projects done on time.

One participant summarized it nicely, “I feel like we tend to do all the requirement testing AFTER the code is written and the money is spent.”

Some participants approached the discussion from the IT side. As one representative of a large telecom company put it, “We find ourselves doing things multiple times and making changes to the finished product – we want to avoid that.”

Others were stakeholders, whose main issue was summarized by one government representative, “We had this meeting with potential contractors, we sat down and they babbled at us for a couple hours.” Despite knowing clearly what she wanted, she came out of the meeting no clearer on the requirements than when she went in – a classic failed requirements session.

Regardless of their specific experiences that led them to the Executive Roundtable, all participants seemed eager to learn more about how visualization tools could help them complete development projects more effectively.

During Wayne’s presentation, “Getting the Requirements Right…the First Time,” he used the term “mind’s eye view” to describe stakeholders’ vision for a development project. Essentially, stakeholders often know what they want the final product to look like, but don’t understand the technical requirements. Sympathetic nods went around the room and a representative of a large financial institution asked, “How do I socialize my requirements?”

A participant from a healthcare association, who had some experience with visualization software, suggested that first the “business people” (stakeholders) should sit down and do a broad analysis of the vision, then have the next team, the specialists, “dig into the requirements.”

The InfoConcepts team concurred and used one of the participant’s situations to demonstrate an extremely condensed version of this process.

That same government representative who was swamped with techno babble in a recent requirements session communicated her needs to Wayne, who mapped them on a whiteboard, while InfoConcept’s business analyst, Stephanie, made a real-time visualization.

After a six minute visualization session (an industry record?), the government representative said, “This has helped me tremendously align the picture in my mind.” With the software, and an experienced team, she had more effectively communicated her vision in six minutes than in her previous two hour, fruitless requirements session.

The group then discussed what a successful requirements session should yield. The InfoConcepts team suggested that, in their experience, if the stakeholders agree with the requirements, feel like they built them themselves, and don’t experience any surprises, the requirements session was a success.

The room seemed to agree.

After the Roundtable ended, many of the participants lingered to exchange business cards, eat one more chocolate muffin, and follow-up with the InfoConcepts team. Several requested a repeat of the presentation in their offices.

If you are interested in scheduling a requirements presentation with the Information Concepts team, please contact Jack Fischl at jack.fischl@infoconcepts.com

Jack Fischl (8 Posts)