Inventing the Future with Structured Planning
Systems Design Methodology for Software Products
Version 2.1, June 6, 1995
4. FRAGMENTED DESIGN INSIGHTS
4.1 Sources of Design Insights
As noted repeatedly in this document, there is a wealth of information
about software design requirements, including user feedback, findings
of usability and competitive labs, the directives of the quality
improvement teams, and insights from individual engineers. All of
these contribute to software interface and design expertise.
4.2 The Methodology Problem
Without a unifying strategic design program ... features evolve
piecemeal from vaguely defined or unjustified requirements.
Although these various initiatives capture good data for design
insights they are often disjoint and abortive. Results are presented
in ways that are hard to translate into engineering directives, and
there is virtually no methodology (apart from intuitive executive
decision making) to relate the various design insights of one group to
those of another. Hence, user satisfaction with quality and
performance is reduced to an ongoing firefight as major customers
complain, and lab studies are presented, applauded, then shelved as
interesting academic exercises, while potentially profitable
breakthrough engineering solutions and tools sit in programmers'
personal directories. Without a unifying strategic design program,
basic functionality, hardware support, user interaction methods and
other features evolve piecemeal from vaguely defined or unjustified
requirements. We can do better.
The problem is not that companies are not aware of the problem or that
they do not try to uncover good design insights. They do and they are
getting better at that. The problem is that they lack the methodology
to systematically translate those various insights into comprehensive
design initiatives that their engineers can implement.
4.3 The Methodology Solution
The solution is a systems-oriented design process that begins with
hard-core information from a host of sources, then works backwards to
specify the requirements of the product to serve the needs of real and
potential customers. This process would involve methods for: (1.)
reducing data from a variety of sources into real information, i.e.,
design insights about software products; (2.) correlating these design
insights to identify where they reinforce or conflict with one another;
and (3.) translating the insights into creative solution concepts,
action directives, and specifications that are practical to implement.
Such a process exists. It is called "Stuctured Planning", and
companies that adopt it for strategic design initiatives will find
themselves climbing the right mountains while others battle over