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Visualize first, build later: Advantage of simulation tools

Esther Shein | June 29, 2010
Business analysts can make sure they're getting users' requirements right before handing over the project to development

On the other hand, in 2008, about 44 per cent of projects were late, over budget and/or came in without all of the required features and functions, and 24 per cent failed and were canceled prior to completion or delivered and never used, according to Standish. In 2006, the failure rate was at 19 per cent.

The development environment has become so challenging recently because the economy has forced people to reassess the projects they were doing, says Jim Johnson, chairman of The Standish Group. For example, some projects were started but then canceled because they were deemed not in alignment with corporate goals. Additionally, "I think people have gone overboard on implementing governance and compliance around their projects [which] have gotten so sophisticated, they can't deliver on them," says Johnson. "We're out of balance in that area."

Traditionally, developing a software application for beta testing can take months, even with newer Agile development methods. But application visualization can be done within a matter of hours to give users some insight into what that system will look like and how it will work. It also allows for early discovery of whether a developer has missed the mark in terms of creating what the user wants.

IT departments are acutely aware that software development is something they need to get a better handle on, says Tom Grant, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "There's an increasing awareness that this is a problem worth investing in because people will waste a lot of time in cycles of redesign," says Grant. The tools to remedy the situation, however, are not widespread yet, he adds. They're not available, and the few that are on the market are just not being used.

Both Ballou and Grant say that visualization tools are just part of a broader market of requirements tools. "The requirements tool market as whole has [seen] fairly late adoption," observes Grant. The biggest challenge these vendors have, he says, is the cultural issue of trying to get companies to move away from using applications like spreadsheets and PowerPoint to get users to articulate their requirements. Both analysts also say it's hard to pinpoint the size of the application visualization tools market, since it is in a state of change and there are many different problems that requirements tools are trying to solve.

The requirements definition and management software market had sales of $2.07 million in 2008, up 7 per cent from $194.2 million in 2007. Ballou projects that in light of the financial climate, this market will grow to $290.6 million by 2013. "The increasing complexity and criticality of software applications and systems and the unremitting business pressures for software relevance, adaptability, compliance traceability and faster time to market will continue to drive demand for interactive requirements solutions," she wrote in a market analysis report.


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