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Visual Modeling – Stopping IT Failure at the Root of the Cause

on August 17, 2010

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I came across this slideshow from CIO Insight a few weeks ago. The aggressive-looking deck attempts to explain why IT projects fail. I’m always a bit weary of headlines that seem this simplistic, but who knows – maybe they thought up some new ways to blow a project that millions of us hadn’t already avoided, accomplished, or observed. Better yet, wouldn’t it be something if we finally figured out how to diminish the “63 billion dollars” worth of failed projects in the US?<

Clicking through the deck, I realized that a majority of these reasons are somewhat interconnected. It’s not just lack of detailed requirements, lack of user involvement, scope creep, bad scoping, poor testing, or lack of executive support. An innate segregation between the business people who use the product, the IT people who build the product, and the business analysts who dance in between – is the root cause of most of these problems.

Enhance Collaboration, Improve Requirements

The logical solution to these failure-inducing practices is visual modeling. By using visual models, both sides of the IT-Business equation have a valuable representation of what the IT project will encompass. By using this method of collaboration, requirements become more accurate. Business people can visualize the processes that the software will benefit, and IT people have a more functional way of communicating their solution.

The Immediate Feedback Loop

If we take one step further into the initial requirements analysis, these visual models can be deployed as applications for an immediate look into future checkpoints in the project. Imagine the following scenario:

Business Analyst: “So the data from your current ERP system will be aggregated and validated in the new system, which will then report directly to their corresponding contacts from your CRM.”

Client: “Right…”

Business Analyst: “Ok, well this is the model with data flows – and this is what the application will look like to the contact in the CRM system.”

Client: “Wait, that’s not all the data they’re going to need. What about integrating the grant management database?”

[A few clicks, a new form, and deploy.]

Business Analyst: “Okay, so now the window shows the corresponding grants for each contact as well.”

Isn’t immediate feedback fun!? It’s a dream for business analysts that has only recently become a reality (in the Mendix Business Modeler, that is). Mendix users never come close to failing a project because clients know exactly what they’re getting and developers know exactly what is needed. So why are so many IT projects failing? The right tools are out there, it’s only a matter of time before they are discovered.

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