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16 Requirements analysis paradigms

16.1 Purpose
16.2 Strengths, weaknesses, and limitations
16.3 Inputs and related ideas
16.4 Concepts
16.4.1 The behavior-oriented paradigm
16.4.2 The information-oriented paradigm
16.4.3 The industry analysis paradigm
16.4.4 The project-oriented paradigm
16.4.5 The critical success factors paradigm
16.5 Key terms
16.6 Software
16.7 References

16.1 Purpose

This # introduces several paradigms used to identify and prioritize potential information system problems and opportunities and to establish certain high-level criteria for performing requirements analysis.

16.2 Strengths, weaknesses, and limitations

The strengths and weaknesses of each paradigm will be noted in context.

16.3 Inputs and related ideas

Not applicable.

16.4 Concepts

This # introduces several requirement analysis paradigms.

16.4.1 The behavior-oriented paradigm

The basic idea of the behavior-oriented approach is to study the behavior, the decision-making style, and the data utilized by the responsible executives, and to use the resulting information to provide a crucial strategic-level framework for defining system requirements. After performing the background analysis needed to understand a specific problem (or opportunity), the analyst uses case study techniques to study how the responsible executives have historically dealt with similar problems. The top executives are then interviewed to determine the main causes of the new problem before detailed information about the problem is gathered and summarized.

Matching system development with the problem-solving and decision-making styles of the responsible executives tends to produce systems that are consistent with the organization’s strategic direction. This approach is particularly valuable when developing executive information systems or top-level decision-support systems. Care must be taken to avoid overlooking the needs or middle managers, supervisors, and operational personnel, however, because they are usually the primary users of an information system. Additionally, executive behavior is difficult to quantify, and a lack of concrete, systemic data can lead to misunderstandings during the analysis and design stages.

16.4.2 The information-oriented paradigm

The focus of the information-oriented approach is on the information system products actually used by supervisory and middle managers. Studying management’s information needs gives the analyst a baseline against which to prioritize or assess the requirements associated with a new problem or opportunity.

Because this approach focuses on how the major users actually utilize information system technology, it tends to produce functionally useful system. However, the information-oriented paradigm largely ignores organizational, environmental, and strategic issues, and the “existing system” orientation tends to encourage gradual modifications to the old system and to discourage creative new approaches. Finally, the middle management and supervisory focus ignores the needs of operational personnel.

16.4.3 The industry analysis paradigm

The industry analysis paradigm rests on an assumption: To survive in the marketplace, a firm needs information systems that are at least comparable to its competitors’ systems. Information about competitors’ information system spending (personnel, hardware, software), new information system product development, and improvements in existing information services is obtained from such sources as industry associations, trade magazines, newspapers, professional journals, hardware and software vendors, and consultants. Comparing a firm’s own internal figures to the industry norms suggests relative strengths and weaknesses and provides a basis for defining the requirements for a proposed system or opportunity.

Comparing a firm to its competitors stresses real-world marketplace problems and can yield solid, quantitative data that suggest specific, concrete actions. Information technology evolves more quickly than such data suggest, however. Different companies have different information structures and operating environments, and it is not always possible to generalize industry trends to a given firm. Collecting appropriate data for a new industry can be particularly difficult. Finally, applying industry-wide data to a specific development project is at best tricky.

16.4.4 The project-oriented paradigm

The project-oriented paradigm starts by studying the requirements of a particular information system’s end users. The idea is to establish a group of users who represent all the affected functional areas and work through those users to study the existing system, identify new needs or opportunities, and define the new system’s requirements. Such techniques as JAD (# 14) and RAD (# 32) are good examples of this paradigm.

The project-oriented approach is the most responsive to end user needs and often produces a more user-friendly system. However, end users typically lack an organizational and/or strategic perspective and cannot be expected to have the broad vision needed to implement a global information system or a company-wide network. Also, information systems often cut across functional boundaries, and it can be difficult to resolve the conflicts that arise from conflicting functional objectives.

16.4.5 The critical success factors paradigm

The critical success factors paradigm starts by identifying and prioritizing corporate-level information system goals and objectives. Based on these goals and objectives, critical success factors are then defined for each major functional group within the organization. These critical success factors subsequently suggest, prioritize, and shape the requirements associated with specific information system projects.

Focusing on critical success factors helps to encourage a strategic perspective and ensure that information system development is consistent with the corporation’s mission, goals, and objectives. However, it is difficult to define quantitative, measurable critical success factors, to resolve the conflicts between inconsistent critical success factors, and to prioritize critical success factors. Additionally, local, divisional, and organizational critical success factors can conflict, and that can lead to confusion.

16.5 Key terms

Behavior-oriented paradigm —
An approach to requirements analysis in which the analyst observes and investigates the problem from the strategic level by focusing on executive decision-making and problem-solving styles.
Critical success factor —
A target that must be met or an event that must occur if an organization is to accomplish its strategic goals and objectives.
Critical success factors paradigm —
An approach to requirements analysis that starts by identifying and prioritizing corporate-level management information systems goals and objectives and then defining critical success factors for each major functional group within the organization.
Industry analysis paradigm —
An approach to requirements analysis in which the responsible analysts study competitors’ information systems and use the resulting information as a primary factor in defining internal information system requirements.
Information-oriented paradigm —
An approach to requirements analysis that focuses on the information system products actually used by supervisory and middle managers.
Project-oriented paradigm —
An approach to requirements analysis that focuses on end user requirements.

16.6 Software

Not applicable.

16.7 References

1.  Cash, J. I., Jr., McFarlan, W. F., McKenney, J. L., and Vitale, M. R., Corporate Information Systems Management: Text and Cases, Irwin, Chicago, 2nd ed., 1988.
2.  Laudon, K. C. and Laudon, J.P., Managing Information Systems: A Contemporary Perspective, 2nd ed., Macmillan, New York, 1991.
3.  McFarlan, W. F., ed., The Information Systems Research Challenge, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA, 1985.
4.  Panko, R. R., End User Computing: Management, Applications, & Technology, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1988.
5.  Rockart, J. F., Chief executives define their own data needs, Harv. Bus. Rev., 57(2), 81, 1979.
6.  Rockart, J. F. and Treacy, M. E., The CEO goes on line, Harv. Bus. Rev., 60(1), 82, 1982.
7.  Shank, M. E., Boynton, A. C., and Zmud, R. W., Critical success factor analysis as a methodology for MIS planning, MIS Q., 9(2), 121, 1985.
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