Better information systems — VPEC-T (contd.)

“Focus on the business?”

For decades, the IT community has been giving lip-service to “must focus on the business”. It does happen sometimes in some groups. But more often than not it's because there is a ‘hero’ to drive it through. So at this point, a side trip may give a useful comparison to show how VPEC-T makes a difference.

An earlier method - CRA

critical requirements analysis visual representation

I have long used a method called critical requirements analysis (CRA) when the project circumstances were right. It is useful in helping us understanding business events, desired outcomes or goals and identifying how business activities should be measured. It also has a visual element -- something I always look for -- to break down what actions are required to meet the goals and what bodies of business information are used in each action. That may sound like a process diagram, but it is not. It specifically avoids considering business process (as does VPEC-T) and it does this by concentrating on business needs.

critical requirements analysis problem sheet

It goes on to analyze problems, and propose areas to study for solutions, cost and further analysis, but that is less relevant here. What is relevant is that this is an approach to studying information systems that forces the focus to be on the business. It works well, and I have used it with large international clients, SMEs and in one case in planning the information needs of a new company from the ground up.

A comparison with VPEC-T illuminates the gaps in CRA

CRA does address Values, but only to the business, not to the other players. In VPEC-T, considering the value to the business is important, but so is the value to users as individuals, and to the IT people. This has been found, the authors and some practitioners report, to have a significant effect on the success of information systems projects, by addressing concerns that will otherwise be hidden. If these concerns are not taken into account, it can have a de-motivating effect on those implementing, testing and accepting the information system.

CRA addresses Policies but in an implicit and roundabout way. Policies will be implied in the business goals and the requirements. CRA can be good at identifying Events. For example, one CRA study I did was to identify all points of contact with a customer. Many of these were Events in VPEC-T terms, though some were not, because the involved the customer receiving something from the customer. CRA does not seek to dig into Content expressly, nor does it normally find any detail about content, only broad bodies or classes of information. Finally, and crucially CRA has no brief to consider Trust.

The visible effect of VPEC-T ⇒