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April 09 Issue
Success through Visualization
The Better the Specs, the Better the Software. Visualization Solutions Help Companies Deliver the Right Software More Efficiently.
By Emmet B. Keeffe III, CEO & Co-Founder, iRise
Today’s challenging economic climate is keeping everyone on their toes.
Companies must keep a close eye on their bottom line in order to keep operations
running more efficiently than ever before. At the same time, customers are
demanding more than ever from corporate applications.
Achieving a successful software deployment – the first time – is critical.
Fine-tuning the development process to ensure satisfied customers and a
manageable cost structure starts at the very beginning: The requirements
process. New research shows that the better the requirements, the more
successful the project.
The Requirements Challenge
Most companies struggle with the software development process. The main cause of
problems is specifying what exactly the software will do.
Our company actually started out as a consultancy. We specialized in
highly-interactive applications and actually built about 300 of them during that
era. We quickly learned that the business analysis and requirements definition
phase was the most excruciating part of any project.
Like most companies, we spent a lot of time writing text-based requirements and
use cases in order to accurately capture business needs. We created process flow
diagrams, screen shots, and more. Most of these requirements documents ended up
anywhere from 50 to 500 pages.
Not surprisingly, when we sat down with our clients, we realized that it was
impossible to review and interpret that level of detail. So after spending
months to get through the requirements phase, the business didn’t really know
whether the requirements were correct when they signed off on it.
The end result was a tremendous amount of scope change as the project moved
forward, which often lead to project delays and costs overruns.
Accurate Specs are Key
What we discovered is that we weren’t the only ones experiencing the problem of
poor communication between business and IT; the issue is actually quite
pervasive in the industry. Whether on the enterprise side or in the halls of a
particular software company, the challenge to accurately describe an
application’s look, feel and behavior so that it meets business needs the first
time, is a significant one. The bottom line is that business people
fundamentally have a hard time understanding text specifications, screen shots,
static use cases and business process flow diagrams. And coded prototypes have
proven to be too expensive and time consuming to produce; they often require a
developer to be pulled off a project to produce.
Importantly, accuracy doesn’t simply result in a faster time-to-market or lower
development costs. Forrester Research reports, “Better requirements definition
practices reduce the number of defects and the amount of rework resulting from
misunderstood requirements, misarticulated requirements, and unknown
a new study finds a correlation between the accuracy of requirements and the
success of a particular software project. IAG studied enterprise IT projects
valued at $250,000 or more at 100 companies. The objective was to assess the
impact of requirements on the success of the project.
The findings were compelling. Companies with poor business analysis capability
were found to have a much higher rate of project failure compared to those with
higher levels of business analysis capability.
Startlingly, companies with poor requirements practices pay a 60 percent premium
in development costs over companies with better practices. IAG wrote:
“Almost 70 percent of companies surveyed set themselves up for both failure and
significantly higher cost in their use of poor requirements practices. It is
statistically improbably that companies which use poor requirements practices
will consistently bring projects in on time and on budget. Executives should not
accept apathy surrounding poor project performance – companies can, and do,
achieve over 80 percent success rates and can bring the majority of strategic
projects in on time and on budget through the adoption of superior requirements
The Benefits of Visualization
To vastly improve the success of software projects, we created the concept of
visualization. Well, actually, we didn’t create the concept – we borrowed it.
Visualization is commonly used in the design of cars, airplanes, semiconductors,
manufacturing devices and many others. It’s been well documented that the
adoption of computer-aided design and 3D modeling tools have transformed whole
industries, allowing them to get to market in half the time, with better
products, lower cost and reduced risk.
The addition of visualization to the world of business application design aimed
to bring the industry out of the drafting board era and into the Internet age.
Since iRise developed its initial product in 2000, many companies have adopted
The typical author of visualization is a business analyst or user experience
professional. In an ISV, the typical author might be a product manager. Using
iRise, the visualization author is able to quickly assemble a high fidelity,
working preview of the proposed application, including data interactions and
business logic. Text requirements can be documented right alongside the screens
of the visualization. Use case scenarios are built right in. Stakeholders review
the visualizations in a standard Web browser and leave comments for the authors
using the equivalent of digital ‘sticky notes.’ The important point is that the
visualization exactly mimics the final application, so there is no confusion
about what to build.
The benefits of visualization to anyone that develops software are significant.
- Business people can fully experience the product and make changes early
in the process, saving significant time and downstream costs.
- Developers can catch design and functional errors before an application
goes into production.
- The process can speed through multiple rounds of functional visual edits
to quickly reach decisions on business needs and customer experience.
Managers can increase final adoption of system with upfront agreements of
the application’s process flow, experience and visual look and feel.
- User experience professionals can rapidly iterate proposed designs
directly in front of customers, dramatically improving customer experience.
Software sales teams can demo potential products to customers to get
feedback before actually developing the application.
- The professional service teams can test a potential product for possible
needed changes to speed implementation and integration.
Sharing visualizations with global sourcing partners is not only easier but
- Visualizations eliminate confusion with global development teams because
everyone is speaking the same language.
- Resellers can sell a solution by showing a visualization of what a
specific application could do when integrated into the customer’s
Visualization is now being used successfully by hundreds of companies on
thousands of projects that range from new custom development, Web portals, SAP
customizations and even mobile applications in order to improve functionality,
cost effectiveness and timeliness of the software development process. Our
vision is that by 2020, all business software will be visualized before its
built, just the same way that every car, airplane and semiconductor are
Reprinted from “Success through Visualization,”
SandHill.com, by Emmet B.
Keeffe III. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Emmet B Keeffe III is CEO and Co-Founder of iRise, the market
leading supplier of visualization software for business applications. Over the
last 15 years, he has applied his philosophy of ‘the network is the business’ to
become one of the most well connected CEOs in the software industry. As CEO of
iRise, Emmet has leveraged his network to close over $50M in investment funding
and is also intimately involved with sales, marketing and business development
at iRise. Prior to co-founding iRise, he built a top-selling region at
NetDynamics, a pioneer of the Web application server market that was later
acquired by Sun Microsystems. Earlier in his sales career, Emmet earned over 15
national sales awards, including being named ‘National Top Performer’ by
NetDynamics, Auspex Systems, Diasonics and Minolta. For article feedback,
contact Emmet at email@example.com