SAD-Determining The Requirements

Shared, complete and accurate information requirements are essential in building computer-based information systems. Determining the information each user needs is a particularly difficult task. The information analyst determines the needs of the user and the information flow that will satisfy those needs. The usual approach is to ask the user what information is currently available and what information is required. Interaction between the analyst and the user usually leads to an agreement about what information will be provided by the candidate system. There are several difficulties in determining the user’s requirements
  •  Changing system requirements. The user requirements must also be modified to accommodate the  changes.
  •  Identification of requirements is difficult, except for experienced for users.
  •  Full user involvement is difficult to obtain.
  •  The pattern of interaction between the users and the analysts in designing the information requirements is complex.
Users and analysts do not share a common orientation towards problem definition. For the analyst, the problem definition should be in terms of input, output, processes etc. But the user requires only a qualitative definition. Based on these views there are three different types of methods for the users to explain their requirements to the analyst.

1. Kitchen sink: In this strategy the user throws everything into the requirement definition - overstatement of needs such as an overabundance of reports, exception processing and the like. This approach usually reflects the user’s lack of experience in the area.

2. The smoking strategy: This strategy sets up a smoke screen by requesting several system features when only one or two are needed. The extra requests are used as bargaining power. This strategy usually reflects the user’s experience in knowing what he/she wants. Requests have to be reduced such that they are manageable, realistic and achievable.

3. The same thing strategy: This strategy indicates the user’s laziness, lack of knowledge, or both.” Give me the same thing but in a better format through the computer” is a typical statement. The analyst has very little chance of succeeding because the user is not capable of identifying the problems in detail.

Humans have problems in specifying the information requirements. Asking the user the requirements does not often yield the correct answer because of the following human limitations

1. Humans as information processors: The human brain has both high capacity, long-term memory and limited capacity, short-term memory. Short-term memory affects information requirements, because the user who is interviewed has a limited number requirements that he/she thinks important. This limits processing responses. The user may think some information as important and record them in the long-term memory. These information are recalled only at the time of the interview.

2. Human bias in data selection and use: Humans are generally biased in their selection and use of data. Users are more influenced by the current events. Thus, an information that was recently discovered tends to have a greater weight than a need experienced in the past. This is called the recency effect. In some other cases, users tend to use only the information that is available in the form in which it is displayed. Thus in both cases the requirements provided by the user are biased or based upon the information that is currently available. Human problem solving behavior: Humans have a limited capacity for rational thinking. They must simplify the information to deal with it. Called as the concept of bounded rationality, it means that rationality for determining information requirements is bounded by a simplified model that may not reflect the real situation. This kind of behavior is often seen in the analysts. A successful analyst uses a general model to search for information requirements by taking into consideration the organizational and the policy issues. On the other hand, the poor analyst fails to consider these issues and concentrates on the immediate requirements.
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