Visual Aids

Text isn’t always the best way to communicate what computer systems should look like or do. A new breed of requirements definition tools enable engineers to put the application interface and underlying processes in a visual context, using techniques such as simulation and high-fidelity prototyping.

There are visual definition capabilities in tools from suite vendors such as Compuware, Borland and Serena, but smaller vendors are targeting this field too, says Forrester analyst Carey Schwaber. The small players include iRise Inc., Ravenflow, Axure Software Solutions Inc. and Sofea Inc.

These kinds of tools “let you construct upfront a fairly accurate simulation of what the application’s going to look like down the road,” Schwaber says. “Instead of describing what you want, you work with a business analyst or usability engineer to construct it. It serves as a visual contract between business and development.”

Bally Technologies has had early success using Serena’s Composer, a definition modeling and prototyping tool, says Ron Beck, director of software development. He and his team have been using Composer at customer sites to model processes for Bally’s latest enterprise accounting product. Composer, Beck says, has significantly decreased the time it takes to map a casino’s specific processes into the accounting software.

“We used to waste so much time on mapping requirements due to lack of communication,” which was exacerbated by the many different functional and regulatory requirements that casinos must comply with depending on the states in which they operate, says Beck. “Now we’re able to model the interface and interactions between systems and users to see what works.”

“One of our biggest challenges is the visual aspect of the requirements process, because the English language is ambiguous,” says Kim Wetten, lead process specialist at PHH Mortgage. PHH business analysts currently use Microsoft’s Visio to create process maps, she says, but this approach doesn’t allow them to see the business logic behind a requirement. She says the firm is considering purchasing Caliber Define IT, a visual modeling tool.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon