VII. Information Acquisition

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VII. Information Acquisition
Basi di Dati e Sistemi Informativi II
VII. Information Acquisition
What is Information Acquisition?
Sampling and Investigating Hard Data
Stakeholders and Interviewing
Types of Information Acquisition
Sampling Hard Data and Using Questionnaires
Observing Behavior and Interpersonal skills
Joint Application Development (JAD)
Social Methods and Social Issues
Use cases
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Information Acquisition
„ “Information acquisition” refers to the task of capturing all sorts of
relevant information about how things are currently done, including:
9 Information flow
9 Business processes
9 Data that is used in these processes
9 External and internal data
9 Exception handling
9 Problems with current situation, including existing systems
9 Desirable and undesirable scenaria
„ This is one of the most crucial, and hardest, tasks in the development
of a software system.
„ Ignorance hiding:
hiding One of the basic traits of a good systems analyst
is the ability to hide her ignorance, or more precisely, to find her way
around in a new problem area quickly.
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Information Acquisition
„ The term “Information Acquisition” should not suggest that the
information needed by the analyst is explicitly available somewhere
(document, someone’s head,...) and all the analyst has to do is find
the source and fetch it (by reading or asking)
This is often wrong
„ The information needed may have to be extracted through analysis,
interpretation and synthesis from a variety of sources
„ For example, consider a loan approval department where the analyst
wants to find out the rule(s) for loan approval; these may not exist
anywhere (in company documents or people’s heads) and may even
have contradictory manifestations within the same department
„ The saysay-do problem: people know how to do many things they
normally don’t describe (tacit
tacit knowledge);
knowledge descriptions of such things
may be highly inaccurate
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What Information to Acquire?
Subject World
System World
Usage World
Development World
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What Information To Acquire? The Four Worlds
„ Subject World -- describes the subject matter of the information
system; e.g., customers, accounts, transactions for a bank
information system
„ Usage World -- describes the environment within which the planned
system will operate; e.g., agents who play a role in the usage world,
such as managers, clerks, customers; also business processes such
as handling a withdrawal, a deposit of foreign currency,...
„ System World -- describes what the system does within its
operational environment, what information it contains and what
functions it performs; e.g., system records all transactions in a
database, reports on transactions for a particular account, gives
account balance,...
„ Development World -- describes the development process, team,
schedule, required qualities (security, performance,…) etc.; e.g.,
system must be delivered within 12 months, level 3 software
processes to be used during its development, must handle up to 1000
transactions per second,...
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„ One useful form of information to gather involves desirable or
undesirable sequences of events.
„ For example, for a hospital admission system, you may ask:
“Suppose I’m admitted into the hospital; what happens during my
„ The answer may be like
“You, or the person accompanying you, talk to the person at the
admissions desk; you have to show your OHIP (sanitary) card
and explain who referred you to the hospital; then…”
„ Some scenaria describe undesirable sequences of events, such as
“You won’t be admitted if you don’t produce your OHIP card”.
„ Out of scenaria, one can build the general business processes used
by the organization being studied, also use cases for the system-tobe.
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Stakeholders (Actors)
Who are the people who must be consulted during information
acquisition? These are the stakeholders,
stakeholders all those who have a say of
some sort on the new system. Stakeholders include:
ƒ Users - who are concerned about the features and the
functionality of the new system
ƒ Designers - who want to build a perfect system, or reuse existing
ƒ Systems analysts - who want to “get the requirements right”
ƒ Training and user support staff - who want to make sure the
new system is usable and manageable
ƒ Business analysts - want to make sure “we are doing better than
the competition”
ƒ Technical authors - who will prepare user manuals and other
documentation for the new system
ƒ The project manager - who wants to complete the project on
time, within budget and with all objectives met.
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Information Acquisition Techniques
1. Sampling hard data -- forms, applications,...
2. Background reading -- reports, memos, etc.
3. Interviewing -- meeting with people and asking questions.
4. Questionnaires -- distribute a questionnaire to relevant people,
collect their responses and analyze them.
5. Observation -- spending some time observing the
organizational setting where the new system will be deployed.
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Hard Data
Facts and figures, financial information, organizational contexts,
document types, problems,....
Reports used for decision making -- such as status of inventory,
sales, production,...
Performance reports -- usually take the form of actual vs expected;
second derivatives are important (if there is a gap, is it widening or
Records -- keep track of what’s happening, important to keep them up
to date
Data capture forms are very important!
Collect them, study them before changing them!!!
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Hard Data: An Example
City_____________ Prov_________ Postal Code_______
Phone No. H (
) _______________ B(
I am interested in:
___ receiving United Way Newsletter
___ receiving information on United Way community fund
___ including United Way in my will
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Sampling and Investigating Hard Data
What information does the systems analyst pay attention too
in understanding an organization?
„ Sampling is the process of systematically selecting representative
elements of a population
„ Sampling is useful because it minimizes costs during data gathering
„ Designing a good sample
9 Determine the data to be described -- e.g., banking transactions
9 Determine the population to be sampled -- e.g., transactions in five
local branches for one week
9 Choose type of sampling -- convenience, purposive, random
9 Decide on the sample size -- consider every 10th transaction
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Sampling and Investigating Hard Data
„ Type of sampling is very important in determining how representative
a sample is.
„ Purposive sampling amounts to choosing population elements the
analyst considers important, with no regard to statistical or other
issues, e.g., choose a particular group of bank customers and look at
the transactions they generate.
„ Random sampling can be simple (choose every k-th element of the
population) stratified (identify strata, sample each one) or clustered
(choose representative sub-population, sample it)
„ Sample size decision depends on the cost involved in collecting the
samples and the required confidence; standard statistical techniques
can be used to calculate the required sample size given the required
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Advantages and Disadvantages
„ Can be used to gather quantitative data, such as average
number of lines on an invoice.
+ Can be used to find out about error rates in paper
- If the system is going to change dramatically, existing
documents may not reflect how it will be in the future.
„ Appropriate situations:
9 Almost always appropriate.
9 Paper-based documents give a good idea of what is
happening in the current system
9 Provide supporting evidence for the information gathered
from interviews or observation
9 The statistical approach is appropriate where large volume
of date are being processed and particularly where error
rates are high and a reduction in errors is required.
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Background Reading
„ Suitable sources of information: company reports, organization
charts, policy manuals, job descriptions, reports, documentation
of existing systems, etc.
„ Advantages:
9 Helps the analyst to get an understanding of the
organization before meeting the people who work there.
9 Allows the analyst to prepare for other types of fact finding,
for example , by being aware of the business objectives of
the organization.
9 Documentation on the existing system may provide formally
defined information requirements for the current system.
„ Obvious disadvantage: written documents often do not match
up to reality.
„ Appropriate situations: for projects where the analyst is not
familiar with the organization being investigated.
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„ Used to acquire information from stakeholders -- managers, users,
domain experts,...
„ Interviews have to be planned ahead of time -- what questions to
ask?...what information to look for in answers?...
„ Interviewing a skill that has to be mastered -- often people can’t
articulate their perceptions or their needs
„ Interviewing intended to acquire hard facts but also opinions, feelings,
goals and informal procedures
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Conducting the Interview: Five Easy Steps
„ Begin the interview with an innocuous topic, e.g., the weather, the
score in last night’s hockey game, an object on the person’s desk.
Sets people at ease, e.g.,
“My,... what a beautiful photograph! Did you take that?”
„ Ask if you can record the interview, but put tape recorder in front
of person and say that they can turn it off any time.
„ Ask easy questions first - perhaps personal information, e.g.,
“How long have you worked in your present position?”
„ Follow up interesting leads, things people say that indicate that
your plan of action may be wrong, e.g.,
“Could we pursue what you just said a little further?”
„ Ask open-ended questions last, e.g.,
“Is there anything else you would like to add?”
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Advantages and Appropriate Situations
Advantages in using interviews:
„ Personal contact allows the analyst to be responsive and adapt to what the
user says.
„ The analyst can probe in greater depth about the person´s work than can
be achieved with other methods.
„ If the interviewee has nothing to say, the interview can be terminated.
„ Time-consuming and can be the costly form of fact gathering.
„ Interview results require the analyst to work on them after the interview:
the transcription of tape recordings or writing up notes.
„ Interviews can be subject to bias if the interviewer has a closed mind about
the problem.
„ If different interviewees provide conflicting information, it can be difficult to
resolve later.
Appropriate Situations: Interviews are appropriate in most projects. They can
provide information in depth about the existing system and about
people´s requirements from a new system.
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Using Questionnaires
„ Kinds of information sought: attitudes, beliefs, behaviour,
characteristics -- kinds of information not normally found in hard
data or through interviews
„ Avoid open-ended questions because answers to such questions
are difficult to correlate and interpret
„ Questionnaire should be short, otherwise people may be reluctant
to participate
„ Answers to questions may be scaled; designing scales is hard, has
to be done carefully
„ Administer the questionnaire using simple rules, follow your rules
to the letter
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Types of Questions to Use
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Advantages and Disadvantages
„ Questionnaires constitute an economical way of gathering data
from a large number of people.
+ If the questionnaire is well designed, then the results can be
analyzed easily, possibly by computer.
- Good questionnaires are difficult to construct.
- There is no automatic mechanism for follow up or probing
more deeply, although it is possible to follow up with an
interview by telephone or in person if necessary.
- Postal questionnaires suffer from low response rates.
„ Appropriate situations:
9 Most useful when dealing with a large number of people or
when the people are geographically dispersed.
9 Appropriate for systems which will be used by the general
public, and the analyst needs to get a picture of the types of
user and usage that the system will need to handle.
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Information Gathering Through Observation
„ Sometimes observation is the best way to understand how
things are done.
„ Like other information elicitation techniques, observation has to
be planned.
„ Planning involves deciding who is to be observed, also on what
events to sample.
„ Observation should take into account not only what is said, what
is exchanged and what happens but also less tangible things,
such as body language of participants, physical surroundings,...
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Interpersonal Skills: Some Dos and Don’ts
„ Be aware of your audience and its background -- during a
systems analysis and design project you’ll be dealing with fellow
systems analysts, managers, end-users, domain experts,...
„ Use of words: turn-ons and turn-offs -- don’t use buzzwords,
acronyms to impress your listener!
„ Choose the medium of communication depending on what it is
you want to communicate -- face-to-face, document (e.g., memo,
letter), phone, e-mail each have their own channel capacity.
„ Be careful about body language -- people’s feelings towards you
depend often as much on your tone of voice, facial and body
expressions, dress etc, as they do on what you are saying
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Interpersonal Skills: Meetings
„ Determine meeting objectives -- presentation, problem solving,
conflict resolution, progress analysis, gathering and merging of
facts, training, planning,...
„ Schedule the meeting and arrange for facilities
„ Prepare agenda -- and distribute it well in advance
„ Conduct the meeting -- may want to impose structure or leave
it unstructured depending on objective; keep track of time,
„ Follow up on the meeting with a written summary to be
distributed to meeting participants
„ Special rules apply for formal presentations (and how to
prepare them), project walkthroughs, brainstorming,...
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Planning Information Acquisition
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Joint Application Development (JAD)
„ Also known as Joint Application Design [August91]
„ Originally developed by IBM, sponsored by IBM, James Martin
and other user groups.
„ Was first used successfully in Canada by IBM.
„ Has evolved over four different stages and has influenced
heavily requirements engineering, also systems analysis and
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JAD Principles
Method founded on the following principles:
„ Group Dynamics -- one-to-one or group interview formats replaced
with workshop settings
„ Visual Aids -- it is difficult for a group to communicate about
requirements and designs; JAD adopts a number of visualization
media, ranging from wall charts to large monitors or graphical
„ Organized, Rational Process -- JAD adopts a variety of techniques,
including brainstorming and top-down analysis ones, to structure the
elicitation and analysis process
„ Documentation Approach -- each JAD session results in a document
which is easy to understand and is created and agreed upon during
the session
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JAD Plan
„ A JAD plan initiates a JAD project and has four objectives: (i) Identify system
requirements, (ii) Define and bound the system scope, (iii) Plan the JAD design
activity (iv) Publish and obtain approval of the JAD plan
„ Meetings should be planned for up to 15 participants, including:
9 Session leader (facilitator) -- sets the stage and directs a session; manages
group dynamics; excellent interpersonal skills needed.
9 Analyst -- responsible for all session documents; analyst also contributes
heavily to the discussion; usually someone with systems analysis
9 Executive sponsor -- someone who controls the funding and staffing for the
project, i.e., represents upper level management; imparts strategic insights
and makes high level commitments.
9 User representative -- she is the main focus of JAD; along with others,
examines organizational needs and proposes requirements.
9 Information system representative -- assists in use of existing resources,
offers IT expertise
9 Specialist -- provides expertise on a defined limited topic.
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Notes on JAD Workshops
„ Choose workshop participants carefully -- they should be the
best people possible representing the roles listed earlier
„ Session leader must turn group of participants into a team; this
takes 1-2 days
„ Workshop should last 3-5 days
„ Session leader must keep track of agenda, make sure each
step has been completed thoroughly
„ When there are differences of opinion, session leader should
step in, put these up as “open issues”
„ Meeting room should be well-equipped for presentations,
recording etc.
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„ This is a subarea of anthropology. Its basic goal is to identify cultural
„ A basic objective of ethnomethodology is to look for behaviours that
may be different in a specific culture but which have the same
underlying purpose or meaning
„ For example, one can look for the ways people go about gaining
status in different cultures:
ƒ Frenchmen brag about sexual conquests to gain status
ƒ Americans brag about money to gain status
Each of these topics is taboo in the other culture
„ The major difference between ethnomethodology and other subareas
of anthropology and sociology is its adherence to a very tightly
controlled set of methods.
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Ethnomethodological Techniques
„ Ethnomethodologists use the following techniques
Conversational analysis
Measurement of body system functions - e.g., heartbeat
Non-verbal behaviour studies
Detailed video analysis
„ These techniques have proven to be useful in capturing information
for the design of information systems
„ In addition, several other observation technique from sociology and
anthropology are often applied
Time-motion study - who is where, when
Communication audit - who talks to whom about what
Use of tools - status symbols plus sharing rules
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Why Ethnomethodology?
The application of ethnomethodology -- or its more common
cousin ethnography -- can also bring about useful understandings
of what the goals of the people using the underlying information
system really are.
„ This is because
„ Social order (including the concepts shared by a group of people
engaged in a collective activity) is accomplished on a moment-tomoment basis, through participants’ actions rather than through
pre-existing categories that shape people’s actions
„ For example, the concept of “lecture” is shaped by actions of
relevant people (e.g., booking a room, having a speaker,
advertising,...) rather than any pre-defined concept
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If we study a lecture using ethnomethodology techniques, we soon
discover an entire series of cultural details about a lecture that should
affect how an information system is designed to run a lecture hall.
„ Things an ethnomethdologist might observe about a lecture
9 People sit in the same seat lecture after lecture
9 People sitting close to the front ask more questions
9 People sitting close to the back use more aggressive language...
9 People sitting close to the front take more notes
„ Important concepts:
9 To understand social order, conduct observation in a natural
setting, , not one constructed by the systems analyst..
9 Member categories:
categories Find the categories members themselves use
to order the social world, rather than impose those of the analyst.
9 Member methods:
methods Use the same methods members use during
observation, for example, by developing a legitimate role within the
community under observation.
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Use Cases Diagrams
„ Textual descriptions of the functionality of the system from user’s
„ Used to show the functionality that the system will provide and
which users will communicate with the systems in some way
when it provides that functionality
„ Developed by I. Jacobson et al
„ Part of UML
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„ Anything that needs to exchange information with the system
„ Anything that is external to the system
„ Define roles that users can play
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„ An actor is someone or some thing that must interact with the
system under development
Staff Contact
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Use Cases
„ A use case is a pattern of behavior the system exhibits
9 Each use case is a sequence of related transactions performed
by an actor and the system in a dialogue
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Use Cases
„ Actors are examined to determine their needs
9 Campaign Manager -- add a new client
9 Staff Contact -- Change a client contact
9 Accountant -- Record client payment
Add new client
Change a client contact
Record client payment
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Use Case Diagram
„ Use case diagrams are created to visualize the relationships between
actors and use cases
Change a client contact
Staff contact
Add a new client
Record client payment
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Use Cases
„ Purpose
9 To produce a set of diagrams which summarize the functions
which the users expect to find in the system.
9 To document the scope of the system and the developer’s
understanding of what it is that users require.
9 The textual user case descriptions provides a description of the
interaction between the users of the system, termed actors, and
the high level functions within the system the Use Cases.
„ Description
9 Can be in summary form or in a more detailed form in which the
interaction between actor and use case is described in a step-by-step
9 Describes interactions as the user sees it, and it is not a definition of the
internal processes within the systems or some kind of program
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Agate Case Study
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Agate Case Study
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Use Cases relationships
„ <<Generalization>>: A relationship between a general use case
and a more specific use case that inherits and adds features to it.
Validate user
Check password
Retinal Scan
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Use Cases relationships
„ <<Include>>: The insertion of additional behavior into a base use
case that explicitly describes the insertion.
9 Used to avoid describing the same flow of events several times,
by putting the common behavior in a use case of its own.
„ <<Extend >>: The insertion of additional behavior into a base use
case that does not know about it.
9 To model a part of a use case the user may see as optional
system behavior.
9 To model a separate subflow that is executed only under given
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Inclusion and Extension
Check Campaign
Print Campaign
Find Campaign
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Finding Use Cases
„ Ask following questions for each actor
9 Which functions does the actor require from the system? What does the
actor need to do ?
9 Does the actor need to read, create, destroy, modify, or store some
kinds of information in the system ?
9 Does the actor have to be notified about events in the system? or does
the actor need to notify the system about something ? What do those
events represent in terms of functionality ?
9 Could the actor’s daily work be simplified or made more efficient
through new functions in the system?
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Finding Actors
„ Can be identified by following questions:
9 Who will use the main functionality of the system(primary actors)?
9 Who will need support from the system to do their daily tasks?
9 Who will need to maintain, administrate, keep the system
working(secondary actors)?
9 Which hardware devices does the system need to handle?
9 With which other systems does the system need to interact?
9 Who or what has an interest in the results that the system produce ?
„ Tips
9 don’t only consider the users who directly use the system, but all others
who need service from the system
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Finding Use Cases
„ Without considering current actors
9 What input/output does the system need ? Where does this input/output
come from or to go?
9 What are the major problem with the current implementation of this system?
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Documenting Use Cases
„ A flow of events document is created for each use cases
9 Written from an actor point of view
„ Details what the system must provide to the actor when the use case
is executed
„ Typical contents
9 How the use case starts and ends
9 Normal flow of events
9 Alternate flow of events
9 Exceptional flow of events
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„ [August91] August, J., Joint Application Design, Yourdon Press Computing
Series, Prentice Hall, 1991.
„ [Easterbrook94] Easterbrook, S., “Resolving Requirements Conflicts”, in
„ [Goguen93] Goguen, J. and Linde, C., “Techniques for Requirements
Elicitation” in Proceedings First IEEE Symposium on requirements
Engineering, San Jose, 1993.
„ [Macaulay96] Macaulay, L., Requirements Engineering, Springer Verlag,
„ [Easterbrook94] Easterbrook, S., Resolving Requirements Conflicts”, in
„ [Macaulay96] Macaulay, L. Requirements Engineering, Springer.
„ [Kotonya98] Kotonya, G. et all. Requirements Engineering: Processes and
Tecniques, John Wiley & Sons.
„ [Booch99] Booch, G. et all. The Unified Modeling Language User Guide.
Chapters 2, 16, 17. Addison-Wesley
„ [Schneider98] Schneider, G. et all. Applying Use Cases, Addison-Wesley.
„ [Jacobson92] Jacobson, I. et all. Object-Oriented Software Engineering: A
Use-Case Driven Approach. Addison-Wesley
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