Analysis Team Responsibilities

Leverageability of software is affected by the initial choice of platforms. Ideally, the application should result from a rigorous data and function modeling phase that clearly depicts the natural systems of the sites. All too often hardware, operating systems, and database platforms are the decisions that precede, shape, and limit the follow-on choices. As is the case for all good design practice, business requirements should drive technical architecture, not the other way around.

If a solid data and function model exists for each site, the choice of acquiring or developing software becomes clearer. When an off-the-shelf application exists serving most of the business needs, then the choice becomes a selection between vendors' offerings relative to the specification. When no commercial offering exists on the market that satisfies the site information model, then new development or modification of some existing software is the obvious choice. In either case, the following questions are germane to understanding the number of sites that can apply the application to be acquired or developed:

■ Will changes in product or the manufacturing differences affect the applications?

■ How do manufacturing business practices change from site to site?

■ What type of process control or I/O systems exist at each site?

■ What hardware, system software, and networking protocols exist at each site?

■ Do the user communities differ at each site with respect to their information needs?

■ What user communities should be interviewed to assess requirements?

■ What type of training or follow-on consulting must be provided to make the application effective at each site?

■ Who will be responsible for first-line support at each site once the application is commissioned?

Answers to these and a host of other questions should be captured as part of the deliverables that result from the analysis process. Once the architecture vis-a-vis the applications is known, the quality and location of sites to be included in the analysis can be selected.

Exhibit 1 presents an overview of the process of requirements analysis or documenting the common specification across the target business. In Exhibit 1, leveraged resources represent the analysis team responsible for designing and delivering the application across multiple sites. Site resources consist of two groups:

Exhibit 1. Roles and Responsibilities Model for Leveraged Software Development and Support

1. The user community: Users provide the business objectives and needs.

2. The IS community: IS maps the effect of systems on manufacturing operations.

The analysis team captures information needs across multiple sites. In a manufacturing context, information needs may be similar to these examples:

■ Amount of product waste on yield on each line by shift

■ Statistics of key process/quality parameters

■ Recipe or formulary for each product

■ Trend of selected process values over time

A successful modeling effort results in a shared specification that enjoys system independence in that it describes what the business does, not simply "how" it does it. The use of a shared data and functional model is an effective means of creating a living specification that reflects the information needs of the business.

Data and functional models resulting from analysis can also be used to complete development. Whether the design team elects to purchase off-the-shelf application components or to develop custom software, the model-based specification is useful. Whether full life cycle computer-aided software engineering tools or 4GL tools are employed, the data and functional specification are foundational to the applications. Fourth-generation client/server tools that allow decoupling of client processes from the database server can be effectively used to capture user screen requirements during prototyping.

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