The technology platform has been selected, the business requirements have been modeled, and a first cut has been made to determine the screens (windows), reports, and programs. Now is the time to begin to fill out the system "vision". This stage is truly centered on both eyesight and communication since most of the effort will be directed toward designing the visual interactions of the system. Quite a bit of time will be required with the business clients to determine how the various components will need to appear, function, and behave.
The outcome of these efforts can potentially determine the level of success or failure the project team will ultimately experience. If the design is judged to be awkward and complex, the chance exists that the work could end before construction even starts! If the design is judged to be a bold step forward toward making everyone more productive, an air of excitement and anticipation could very well develop. The key to success in this phase is to reach the point where the clients can actually visualize themselves working with the system components, and what they see is a genuine improvement.
Many techniques have developed over the years to assist with this phase. Prototyping, Joint Application Development Sessions, and Component Modeling are just a few of the more widely used formal approaches. The most important ingredient in all cases is client involvement. The greater the exposure and participation with this phase of the process the greater the opportunity for the client to begin to assume an ownership of the final product.
These are truly the Architectural Drawings
How often have you or someone you know doodled out a crude sketch of what would be considered a dream home? Spending time adding new rooms, or moving existing rooms around can be a fun experience! As each line is erased or a larger area penciled in, you can almost see yourself standing in the room, walking down a hallway, or climbing a set of stairs. Finally - I get my own library, gameroom, swimming pool, workshop, office, and jacuzzi! Using our own imagination to create something for ourselves can be a highly pleasant experience. But would any of us seriously consider asking a building contractor to build a home from our imaginative scratches? Of course not; we would hire an architect!
The same parallel holds true in building business systems. As a system builder the task becomes one of becoming a Business System Architect. How does an architect approach designing a new home? He or she first collects general requirements:
All of this information will shape the ideas of the architect. He or she may draw on past designs for similar requirements. New innovative designs may emerge based on the research and experience of the designer. But one thing is certain, the architect will first develop a proposed set of drawings to present to the client. These represent the "vision" of the eventually completed home. The task of the homeowner then becomes one of critiquing the design. Maybe a room needs to be enlarged, or a window should be moved. The task becomes one of refinement rather than creation.
These are powerful lessons for the Business System Architect. The same type of approaches should be employed throughout the Business Design. Just as the design process for the homeowner is comprised of reviewing and changing, the design process for the business system client should be one of review and enhancement. No one likes to be presented with a blank piece of paper and asked "tell me what you want". It is much easier and more pleasant to be presented with a vision, based on predetermined requirements, and then be asked for constructive input.
Standard Boilerplates and Creative Flair
Each of us possesses, to one degree or another, a mild "creative urge". This is true for system builders as well, usually to a higher than normal degree. Because of this, a team can become fall prey to the urge for creative expression to such an extent, that past design successes are ignored, and, once again, the wheel gets reinvented! A better approach is to collect these items first:
After collecting and analyzing this information, the System Builder is much better positioned to channel his or her creative thought processes in a concrete fashion.
When the review of these materials is complete, the design standards for the system at hand should be produced. This not only helps to build "reasonableness boundaries" within which the team can both design and operate, it also provides a benchmark against which subsequent reviews can take place. These boundaries should not be considered a limitation or burden on creative thinking or new ideas. Instead, they should thought of as a starting point and structure for the business design.