Tag Archives: alan cooper

Flashback: A Year Ago This Week on Tyner Blain [2006-03-10]

A look back at the best from a year ago.

Customer Service and Software Development

Sometimes we forget that people use our software. Neil Mix reminds us that we should treat our users like people. For anyone who’s worked retail or food service jobs (like yours truly), we shoud treat our customers like customers.

Product Managers Play Tug-of-War

63% of product managers report to marketing and 24% report to development. 22% of requirements managers report to marketing with 55% in the development organization. These reporting structures can over-emphasize the needs of new users and super-users, while shortchanging the needs of the majority of users. Product managers will constantly be playing tug-of-war to get time to do the right thing.

The Agile Dragon

When Alan Cooper and Kent Beck debated the benefits of eXtreme Programming versus Interaction Design, they disagreed on a lot of things. One thing they agreed on is that Agile processes are designed to minimize the impact of changing requirements. Cooper believes that it makes more sense to minimize future change by understanding the requirements better up front. Beck believes that the requirements can not be understood by the team until something is delivered. Beck’s point is that the customer doesn’t understand the requirements until he has something in his hands. We’ve shown how this is both a strength and a weakness for Agile in the real world. In The Hobbit, the dragon Smaug was missing a scale on his belly, that made him vulnerable. Agile processes have a similar weak spot.

Gartner research on Agile Requirements Definition and Management (RDM)

Gartner has a research report available for $95, titled Agile Requirements Definition and Management Will Benefit Application Development (report #G00126310 Apr 2005). The report is 7 pages long and makes an interesting read. Gartner makes a set of predictions for 2009 about requirements definition and management (RDM) systems, and the software created with RDM tools. Gartner misattributes several benefits of good process to RDM tools. We give them a 3.5/7 for their analysis – check out the details here.

Competent Users and Software Requirements

We were all student drivers at one point. But no one stays a beginner indefinitely. Almost no one becomes an expert driver either. Most of us are competent drivers. Driving skill probably even follows a bell curve distribution, with most drivers being OK, some “bad”, some “good”, and very few experts or beginners. We’ll show in this post how to apply this pattern to software requirements and design.

The same is true of our users

Interaction Design and Structured Requirements

subtitle: Wiegers and Cooper assimilated
Wiegers promotes structured requirements. Cooper touts Interaction Design. Both have great ideas. Both “wave their hands” at parts of the process. In this post, we’ll talk about how to combine the two philosophies to get the best of both worlds.

Interaction Design Process Overview

Interaction design, as described by Alan Cooper in The Inmates are Running the Asylum, is a process for designing software by focusing on the most important users. Unlike traditional requirements gathering and solution design processes, interaction design focuses on the goals of a specific class of users, represented as a persona. Those goals are considered when defining scenarios that represent how the primary persona will use the software. The combination of goals and scenarios leads to design artifacts and a functional specification. We will explore these steps in more detail in this post.

Software design and specification and making movies

Alan Cooper presents the analogy that software development is like making movies in his book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Cooper is presenting the analogy in the context of validating the business case for investing in interaction design, but it holds true for requirements as well.