Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Key Activities of the Project Analysis Phase

The analysis phase of the IT project life cycle produces the detailed requirements and system architecture specifications for a project. Most importantly, it establishes what the end user wants the system to do.

During this phase, models of the application are developed. The development team uses these models to ensure that it understands the system requirements during the design phase and that the project meets the client's expectations.

In order to produce the detailed requirements of the analysis phase, the project manager (PM) must be familiar with the components listed below. Remember, the inputs and tools are used to create the key activities, which are the focus of this topic. Those key activities are then used to produce the outputs to meet the milestone for this phase.
  • The inputs required for this phase are the conceptual design, current system description, information plan, and project plan.
  • The tools needed for this phase are word processing software, presentation software, spreadsheets, and process and event modeling software.
  • The key activities for this phase are the end user requirements, quality requirements, and requirements analysis.
  • The outputs of this phase are the business process prototype and the requirements analysis.
  • The only milestone for this phase is the requirements' sign-off.
During the analysis phase, the PM must establish what the system will do so that the designer—during the design phase—can create a plan that meets the client's expectations. To do this, PMs conduct the following three key activities. Keep in mind that the first two key activities are documents you must prepare before you can conduct the third activity. The information you will need to create these documents is found in the documents from the inputs to the analysis phase.

1. Identify the end user requirements.
The first key activity, identify the end user requirements, describes user needs in terms of the new system and the differences between the new and the old system. Determining the end user requirements involves the two steps shown below.
  • Identify user requirements. The PM uses both the conceptual design inputs and the needs analysis section of the information plan to understand what the new system must do to satisfy the users' needs. The PM then prepares a statement that indicates what the users will be able to do with the product.
  • Perform a gap analysis. After the PM has identified the user requirements, the next step is to review the current system documentation and then perform a gap analysis, which determines the differences between the current and the new system and identifies the changes required.
2. Identify the quality requirements.
The next key activity in the analysis phase is to identify the quality requirements, which will help you understand how well the system will carry out its functions. To identify the quality requirements, review user requirements and product and project guidelines from the information plan. Explanations of what a quality requirement should contain are shown below.
  • Individual testable requirements. Quality requirements shouldn't be bunched together in a paragraph. Each requirement should have a separate entry that fully describes it. The description should be clear and understandable.
  • An explanation of how requirements will be tested. Explain exactly how the developers will test the function to determine whether each requirement is properly implemented. The developers can use inspection or demonstration, for example.
  • Prioritization. It's important that each requirement be prioritized in order of importance. Most PMs use the following scale: "High" indicates that the requirement must be included, "medium" indicates that it is necessary but can be added later, and "low" indicates that it is nice to have but not absolutely necessary.
3. Conduct the requirements analysis.
The next key activity is to conduct the requirements analysis. This is the process of increasing the team's understanding of the system requirements and translating them into a system design. The two models listed below are created during this key activity.
  • Process model. Process modeling is a technique for understanding, defining, and precisely representing the processes involved in developing an application. During process modeling, the PM uses modeling software to draw diagrams of each process. The diagrams are then used to develop the application.
  • Event model. Event modeling is a process that enables the project team to understand the events that trigger a process, which in turn causes a number of results. During event modeling, the PM uses modeling software to draw diagrams of each event and their possible results.
The analysis phase of the IT project life cycle ensures that the application you will develop meets the requirements determined by the customer. By following the steps described above to conduct the end user requirement's key activities for your project, you will be able to create a design that meets your client's needs.

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