Canadian requirements management app cuts software development expenses

Business just can’t seem to get IT to understand its needs and the “suits” don’t seem to get what the techies are talking about.

It’s an age-old language barrier that has stymied countless projects, and in the case of software development, it means months of paper shuffling as technicians and managers pour through reams of documents.

A Markham, Ont-based software developer, however, says its software requirements management package can enable small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) to improve productivity by 40 per cent and cut as much as 50 per cent off development time by bridging this “cultural gap”.

inteGREAT, document management software and Web-based collaboration package from eDev Technologies Inc., automates software project requirements gathering to remove redundancies and produces visual reports and models that can be easily understood by both IT and business personnel, says Asif Sharif, president and CEO of the company.

“Redundant information is a major pain point in software development,” Sharif said.

A typical software development project requires input from various departments. The data gathering is initially done by the individual areas concerned until it is time to pool the information together.

Invariably, Sharif said, there are numerous instances where information will be replicated. Information is also often written on disparate applications that do not interoperate with each other.

“Sorting the redundancies alone often takes months, but the fragmented knowledge bases created by disparate documents prevent the developers from achieving a comprehensive idea of the project,” he said.

The software component of inteGREAT provides a requirements development studio where users can input and manage data from multiple applications. The secured-Web portal portion of the package, lets users view and work on the documents regardless of what applications they were originally in. The tool automates the search for redundant entries.

The software product sets at $1,200 per seat while the Web portal carries a one-time installation fee of $4,200. The Web component is housed in the customer’s network.

A large number of software projects founder because of ill- defined requirements according to an executive of one software company.

“More than three-quarters of all software projects fail against initial time or budget objectives because requirements are inadequately defined,” says Greg Hopkins, vice-president of Gnosis Technologies Inc, of Lansing, Mich.

Software requirements that are not defined at the outset ends up costing businesses 10 to 200 times more to fix mid-way through the project, he added.

About a year and a half ago, Gnosis started using inteGREAT in developing applications for its clients.

“Businesses are always struggling to determine what they need and to communicate those needs to the developer,” said Hopkins.

This, he said, can be illustrated in the difficulties experienced by a recent client that was attempting to communicate its needs to an earlier software developer.

Hopkins said the business users and developers spent more than six months trading requirement documents but in the end it seemed that neither side understood what the other was trying to say.

“There was this big gap between them. The non-technical people could not communicate to the developers what they wanted the application to do.”

Meanwhile, each department was amassing vast amounts of data which resided in various “pockets” of disparate applications.

When Gnosis took over the project, they migrated the information into inteGREAT.

Consolidating data into one location streamlined gathering and retrieval and cut downtime by 30 to 40 per cent.

The requirements tool also enabled users to produce documents that were easily readable by both business users and developers.

Previously, the documents were mainly text-based and reading through them was a daunting task. Charts, graphs and other visual aides made it easier for business users to tell developers what they wanted the application to do.

Determining how the application will affect existing services and processes is another major bottleneck in software development.

Generally, developers would have to meet various managers to determine how the application will affect their departments, said Ron Alltree, a Toronto-based software development specialist.

“This process can easily take weeks or months as people go back and forth between departments to determine what changes to the software are necessary,” according to Alltree who previously served as vice-president of the global development centre of Ajilon Consulting an IT services and staffing firm.

A modeling tool employed by inteGREAT enables users to determine how the software changes will impact various areas of the business.

“The package addresses and amalgamates effects to 10 key dimensions such as: requirements, strategy, data, process, network, people events, artifacts, rules and business risk.”

“It shows developers how a certain adjustment could affect any of these areas before such a move is undertaken. This does away with numerous lengthy meetings,” Alltree said.

He said such a capability can reduce downtime by as much as 50 per cent and cut development cost by 60 per cent.

Comment: [email protected]

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