The complexity of modern solutions along with the required investments have made prototyping a necessity. A “proof of concept” is normally required to justify the feasibility of undertaking costly projects.
One cost effective way of presenting an approximation of the solution to the users is prototyping.
Benefits for a BA
For a BA it saves a lot of a valuable time spent on elicitation, confirmation and prioritisation of the business requirements. It allows to deliver more business value in a shorter period of time and thus at a lesser cost.
The simplicity of prototypes encourages stakeholders to contribute their creative ideas into the design process thus verifying a solution approach and potentially solution design.
Prototyping introduces a rare opportunity to “test” the solution and to confirm its conceptual maturity.
Benefits for a stakeholder
For a business person, a prototype simplifies the complex business context and facilitates confirmation of the business need or problem. It streamlines the decision making process and improves stakeholder engagement.
A “visual reading” of the prototype is much more accurate as the eye catches the smallest details while in written documentation some important things can easily be overlooked.
When working with prototypes, business users do not associate the proposed solution with the existing systems therefore their opinion is not biased.
Well developed prototypes can be easily transformed into training materials.
Prototypes cheer up stakeholders as they let them get away from the painful reality of the existing solutions.
Finally, the cost of prototyping is just a fraction of the solution cost.
Benefits for a developer
Prototyping enables errors and weaknesses to be caught before expensive solution design and implementation are done.
Prototypes are valuable for communicating the business requirements to software developers and solution architects.
Fast solution development can be facilitated through the use of iterative improvements of the prototype.
The flexibility of prototypes creates a good ground for “inventing” new requirements, so the BA needs to apply prioritisation and verification processes to all new requirements after each prototype discussion session.
Prototype discussions can easily get sidetracked and turn into a discussion of various implementation details. It’s important to keep in mind that prototypes are meant for working out user interface requirements.
Another risk is that users may expect to have the same functionality in the final solution as what’s been indicated by the prototype. Manage the users’ expectations as there are assumptions and constraints which surface between the development of the prototype and the final solution.
Finally, it’s possible to get carried away and spend too much time on prototypes. Remember that information should be presented at the level of detail appropriate to the type of audience. The prototype should carry only a minimum of information which is sufficient to clearly communicate business context, solution scope and specific requirements.
To be continued…
In the next post, we will talk about getting the advantages of prototyping earlier in the project.
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