Live from BAWorld: What To Do With Interfaces

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Mary Gorman from EBG Consulting presented “Integrating Interface Analysis into your project: Just-enough, Just-in-time”. This talk was one of the advanced topics, with the intent of teaching about how to do interfaces – software, hardware, and user interfaces. I’m going to capture some summary points from her talk, either the key points or the ones I found most important:

  1. She talked about just-in-time interfaces, specifically of interest is that idea that you can identify interfaces early in the project (first days even). A lot of projects wait on these, but there is no reason for that and you may miss things if you wait.
  2. Do just enough. In some cases you can do minimal formal documentation, just enough to build and demonstrate the system, whereas other times you need very formal structured documents.
  3. Business rules are at the center of all models. They are used by all models, and you will discover them in most models.

Mary talked about interfaces in various types of projects. For example in COTS projects, interface work is usually not about the user interfaces, but rather more about system-to-system interfaces since the COTS software has to integrate. When working on a project to update a system, existing interfaces have to be looked at for updates, and new interfaces or users might be added.

And she points out that a nice bonus from working on interfaces is that you also will likely improve your user requirements – by finding new users, new stories, incomplete stories (missing interactions), missing data attributes, and missing business rules.

My favorite part of this talk is that Mary used a role playing exercise in which people played different systems or the customer, and they used a ball that was tossed around to represent data passing between systems. She used it today to demonstrate the concept, but I talked with her afterwards and she does in fact use this technique for eliciting interface requirements.

I was excited to attend this talk because I have a lot of respect for Ellen and Mary from EBG, they seem to know a lot about practical things about requirements (as compared to a lot of the speakers who talk so high-level it’s not usable material). They have some good books and whitepapers to learn from outside this forum if you haven’t read them.

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