VSJ – December 2001 – Work in Progress

John Burns, AMIAP has spent seven years in software development after his BSc in Information Systems and a MSc in Software Engineering. Not content with this, he’s now completing an MA in Technical Authorship. He’s working on a dissertation that is focussed on modifying IS modelling tools (like DFDs and ELHs) so that they’re easier for non-technical users to interpret. But I’ll let him tell you about it:

Many systems development projects fail because of a breakdown in communication between systems analysts and users (clients). One can classify this problem as fundamentally ‘two sides of the same coin’ – IT professionals struggling to elicit and understand the business system requirements of their typically non-technical clients and non-technical personnel attempting to unravel IT professionals’ attempts at representing their business system requirements using IT modelling diagrams.

Users frequently criticise the diagrams analysts use to express accurately the computer-system requirements – they often label them as ‘too technical’ or ‘non-representative’ of their systems. As a result, clients are often unsure of how the analyst has interpreted their requirements; any misunderstandings between client and analyst cascade to analyst and programmer, resulting in the development of inappropriate software. Even today, after many system development projects and the introduction of methodologies aimed at removing such communicative barriers, the aim of improving dialogue in this context remains the ‘holy-grail’ within information systems development.

Various individuals have conducted some interesting and fruitful work over time; however many feel that modelling diagrams still need changing so an impetus remains to improve the problem of analyst/user communication.

As one of the many who feel the diagrams need changing, I am conducting research into improving them to assist non-technical users in their interpretation. As I am currently studying Technical Communication (including graphic design), the chance to apply my knowledge and understanding of visual design to experience and knowledge of systems development represents a unique chance to perform this research. Moreover this work allows me to return to the ‘analysis drawing board’ and add value to the analysis fraternity.

If you are interested in participating in this research please get in touch and I will send you a questionnaire. More significantly, I will communicate the results to you, should you wish, on the project’s completion.

You can contact John at info_design_research@yahoo.co.uk

Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!

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