Tuesday, May 23, 2006 

Requirements and Viewpoints

I'm brushing up the slides for my Requirements Analysis course, polishing some details on Viewpoints. Viewpoints are an important, practical tool, well grounded in theory, but not so widely known and practiced. I guess their importance can be better appreciated through a short story :-).
I've recently met a newly appointed product manager: young, energetic, truly customer-driven. Which is good, of course: focusing on customers is obviously a sensible marketing strategy. There is, however, a subtle difference between customers and users, which is often forgotten inside the money loop :-).
For sake of simplicity, I'll define "customer" as someone buying a product (that company sells products, not services) and "user" as someone who will actually use the product. Marketing is usually very concerned with customers (they will shell out the money), but in many cases, success or failure depends on satisfied users. Well, reality is more complex than that: success or failure depends on meeting the most important expectations of customers, and the most important needs of users. Which won't be easy in many real-world scenarios.
The customer might be the boss, the users the employees. They have conflicting needs. The customer might be the owner of a facility, the users his own customers. Again, they have conflicting needs. And so on. Focusing too much on a single side won't cut it: you need to keep both in your mind, all the time.
Again, the real world is more complex than that: we may have several different viewpoints influencing requirements all the time, including technological constraints, regulations, and so on. Unfortunately, all too often those viewpoints are kept hidden, which is a recipe for inefficiency. Making viewpoints explicit allows for better reasoning, better choices, better focus. I usually don't play too hard on the formal side of viewpoints: a clear statement of the main viewpoints influencing the project is often good enough (as usual, it's a dynamic document!). Those interested in a more comprehensive approach may want to read Requirements Engineering With Viewpoints by Gerald Kotonya and Ian Sommerville (Lancaster University).
Fantastico! You exactly got the point! A mio avviso, una delle maggiori problematiche nello sviluppo commerciale di soluzioni sw e' proprio il trovare lo "sweet spot" tra le esigenze del committente e dell'utente. Importantissimo, fondamentale delineare i "viewpoints" di uno e dell'altro!! Spero proprio che tu abbia la possibilita' di approfondire ulteriormente questo argomento!

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