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 Breaking the systems barrier  
The following article was written for the Strategic Management magazine.    

At last, a product that actually delivers the promises of many techniques (that have been around for ages) by implementing their strengths and dumping their weaknesses. In addition this product delivers a saving of over 80% in terms of time and money. In effect, this technique has the potential of saving businesses millions of dollars.

If you have had the time to sit and read all the articles covering the hype of this product or that; or valiantly tried to decide whether Object Oriented Technology was better than CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering) or that 4th Generation Languages (GLs) were superior to 3GLs, then read on.

The secret is out of the bag. Any Object Oriented language, CASE Tool, 1GL, 2GL, 3GL, 4GL or even a 5GL will ultimately do the job for you (or your organisation). All you need is to find the starting point.

If you have had the time to look at project management tools, life cycle methodologies, RAD, JAD, JIT, RIP etc, you will find that each one will ultimately work for you. All you need is time, patience and money (lots of all three).

So, you may have to purchase a new mainframe (to support the central data repository); a brace of new 486 pcs (Pentiums maybe) each with 16mb of memory and 250mb of disk; the software to support the CASE tool (code generators etc). After all this expense, you may now find that your older and more experienced people cost too much, so with these new 'you beaut' tools, you feel that you can now employ younger, less expensive people to get the job done. However, you will still need to train them in the use of the tool. So you send them to the vendor's training courses. In some cases you will find that the vendor's trainers are younger and less experienced than some of your own people (no problem, they are supposed to know their tool). In some cases your people will be trained by people who have never implemented a program, let alone a system!

What are your analysts doing during this time? Well some of them would have been sent on the course, and some will be interviewing users. (By the way here are three stock phrases most users use when confronted by system analysts: 'I already told the last analyst what I wanted'; 'I need the current system to do what it was designed to do'; 'Don't ask me, I only just started work here'.)

What are your users doing whilst everyone is on course. Well some of them would have been asked to attend the course, or they would be locked away in a room with your analysts on Joint Application Design sessions.

At long last the day arrives when everything is in place. Your programmers are fully trained in the noble art of OO or CASE, Users and analysts have fleshed out the requirements and the scene is set for a major success story.

Whilst there are some success stories, the number of failures/disasters still outweigh the successes. If one company saved $100,000 by implementing system 'xyz', using technique 'abc', another company spent $150,000,000 and failed. How much more must be spent and how many more businesses must go bust before something sensible is done?

Australia has a wealth of older experienced people. A lot of whom have been forcibly retired and may never get another job. All their work experience will be wasted unless they can be retrained quickly, effectively and correctly.

There is every indication that the one skill still in high demand here in Australia (programming) could be put in jeopardy. As our neighbours get better at using automation, they will do to our programming industry what the Japanese did to the American automobile industry.

Overseas packages are being bought by companies because they feel that it takes too long and is too expensive to write their own systems. In the end, these packages end up running the business, rather than the business driving the package. In the end, the package ends up costing many times more than first anticipated.

Sound familiar!

Let me tell you a little bit about this breakthrough. But first, a little bit of my background: I wrote my first COBOL program in 1970. I have written programs in Assembler, RPG, Pascal, and Omnis7. I am practiced in the art of systems analysis, data base design, business analysis, project management, lecturing as well as facilitating strategic planning and JAD sessions. I have developed, implemented and maintained numerous systems. In 1985 I revamped an almost unworkable methodology and wrote the software (to support it) to help a small Australian company beat 39 large international companies for a prestigious $6million US Navy contract.

In 1992 the Ripose (Rapid Information Processing Oriented System Environment) methodology was endorsed by the M.IT.A (Making Information Technology in Australia) campaign.

From all this past experience the book 'Breaking the Systems Barrier' has finally been written.

Ripose breaks down and simplifies the communication barrier that exists (or perceived to exist) between the major roles played by people in a business. It provides an holistic approach to solving business user requirements.

The power of Ripose is delivered as a series of some 17 focused tasks grouped into 9 projects. These projects are grouped into 4 stages. These stages are further grouped into 2 phases. These tasks are supported by 6 training courses. The longest training course takes only 3 days.

Phase 1 (Conceptual User Requirements) helps senior, middle and IT management to:

  • Identify and define their strategic direction;
  • Identify the weakness in their strategic plans;
  • Identify and define the quantitative rules needed to support the weaknesses;
  • Identify and define the knowledge to support the rules;
  • Group the knowledge into business functions;
  • Identify and define their critical and non critical systems to support the business functions and knowledge;
  • Design the logical data bases to support the systems.

Phase 2 (Logical User requirements) helps IT management and staff to:

  • Identify and define the facts required to support the logical data base design;
  • Design multiple candidate physical data bases;
  • Define high and low level processes;

Design the logical applications to support the candidate physical data bases;

  • Export the candidate designs (both data bases and applications) for further analysis, be it function point counting or translation into any target environment.

Ripose finally delivers the promise of so many techniques that have been around for ages by implementing their strengths and dumping their weaknesses.

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