Cancer center, others gain from simulating app development

M.D. Anderson cut development time in half for electronic medical record project

Moving a large academic medical center to commercial electronic medical record software is hard enough, but the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has now opted to build its own system.

Even so, thanks in large part to the use of application simulation technology to bridge the notorious gaps between user requirements and developer interpretations of those needs, the Houston-based medical center has slashed its software development time for the project by 50%, said Lynn Vogel, vice president and CIO of the center.

M.D. Anderson began using application simulation technology from iRise late last year to allow its business analysts to take requirements from users and simulate portions of the application such as data and business logic and page layout without writing code. By using the tool, the medical center has been able to eliminate the biggest challenge of software development: trying to figure out what doctors and nurses really want, Vogel said. Before putting the iRise tool into place, the iterative process of an analyst working with a doctor and then with a developer could take weeks "just to get a prototype that made sense," he said.

Now, a doctor can sit down with an analyst to "literally sit there and dummy [an application] up," Vogel said. "At the end of that conversation what you have is a set of specs for a developer to follow. The developer isn't trying to intuit what the analyst or customer really wanted."

IRise, which announced the M.D. Anderson project this week, plans to introduce early next month the next version of its application simulation technology and several other additional customers, said Mitch Bishop, chief marketing officer of the company. On July 2, the company will make available iRise 6, which will allow users to more easily simulate rich-Internet applications, which combine the rich features of a desktop application with the maintenance ease of Web-based applications.

"You'll now be able to simulate rich Internet behaviors that most people now associate with the latest and great Web sites out there," Bishop said. "There seems to be a huge movement toward usability and making internal applications act more like the consumer Web applications that people have become used to."

In addition, iRise will announce several new customers, including KeyBank, which has used the technology to help it move away from a reliance on text-based requirements documents, Bishop said. Because all business lines worked independently before using simulation, business analysts often found it difficult to gain consensus on proposed system changes. Using iRise to simulate a case management system helped to unearth integration issues, he said.

In addition, Fuzz Artists Inc., an independent online music label and social networking site, used iRise to help it build its site. That allowed the company to launch a beta version of the site without having to develop code, according to Bishop.

"They were able to launch their entire business three months sooner than they could have before."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon