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.
The strengths and weaknesses of each paradigm will be noted in context.
This # introduces several requirement analysis paradigms.
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 organizations 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.
The focus of the information-oriented approach is on the information system products actually used by supervisory and middle managers. Studying managements 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.
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 firms 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.
The project-oriented paradigm starts by studying the requirements of a particular information systems 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 systems 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.
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 corporations 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.