CS 5150 Software Engineering Lecture 5 Feasibility Studies CS 5150 1 Administration Projects Roll call of projects and team numbers Who does not have a project team? CS 5150
2 Administration Project teams: If you do not have a team, please meet after class. If you are still having difficulty finding a team send email to the course team
We may ask teams to add extra members If you have definitely chosen a project and reached agreement with your client, send email to the course team with the names of your team members CS 5150 3 Administration Test 1 Monday, September 12 in Phillips Hall 101 at 7:30 p.m. See the Tests page on the web site.
Two questions on material that has been covered in the lectures, including the class on the day of the test. Open book. You may bring any books or notes. Laptops can be used to store copies of the course materials and notes, but for no activity that involves networking. If you miss a test, there is no opportunity to retake it. CS 5150 4 Feasibility Study A feasibility study is a study made before committing to a project. A feasibility study leads to a decision: go ahead do not go ahead
think again In production projects, the feasibility study often leads to a budget request. A feasibility study may be in the form of a proposal. CS 5150 5 Why are Feasibility Studies Difficult? Uncertainty Benefits are usually very hard to quantify. Approach is usually ill-defined. Estimates of resources and timetable are very rough. Organizational changes may be needed. Therefore, feasibility studies rely heavily on the judgment of
experienced people. Mistakes made at the beginning are the most difficult to correct. CS 5150 6 Why are Feasibility Studies Difficult? Advocacy Advocacy is needed to build enthusiasm for a project: to convince an organization to undertake an expensive, complex project with many risks. Enthusiasm is good, but enthusiasts usually emphasize potential benefits and downplay risks. People carrying out the feasibility study and making the decision often have a vested interest in the project going ahead, e.g.,
financial gain, career development. CS 5150 7 The Decision Maker's Viewpoint Senior member(s) of an organization will decide whether to begin a major software project. What information is needed? Client: Who is this project for? Scope: What are the boundaries of the project? Benefits: What are the benefits? Can they be quantified? Technical: Is the project possible. Is there at least one technical way to carry out the project? Resources: What are the estimates of staff, time, equipment, etc? Alternatives: What are the options if the project is not done?
CS 5150 8 The Decision Maker's Viewpoint Where are risks? Can they be minimized? Technical There must be an outline plan with a rough timetable and staff allocation. The plan must have a very large margin for contingencies. (Projects typically require twice the staff and/or time envisaged in the feasibility plan.) External Every system interacts with others. Are the others committed to the necessary efforts (e.g., potential customers)? Where are the external pressures and obstacles?
CS 5150 9 Organizational Feasibility A major computer system makes demands on an organization: Does the organization have the management expertise? Does the organization have the technical expertise? Even if the work is carried out by a contractor, the organization needs expertise to oversee the work. Is the organization committed to the changes in personnel, workflow, etc.? (e.g., Copyright deposit system) CS 5150
10 Example 1: U.S. Government Agency (Decision before Feasibility Study) Outline Description A U.S. government agency, which manages huge numbers of documents and other records, is slowly moving from a paper based approach to managing digital documents. CS 5150 11 Example 1: Chronology
A computing center at University S developed a prototype system to demonstrate technology. Funds were approved by Congress to "procure" a major computer system. The National Academy of Sciences was commissioned to report on the technical approach to be followed and the results of the University S prototype (technical feasibility). Problems: The decision to go ahead was made and the budget approved before the feasibility study was begun. The feasibility study looked at only the technical aspects. CS 5150 12 Example 1: Obvious Problems
Organizational: Agency senior management clearly not ready to lead a very large project that will completely change the agency No thought given to the workflow and job changes that will affect almost every member of staff Preparation: No preliminary study made of volumes or kinds of data; nor of the complex policies for access (e.g., privacy, secrecy) Complexity Major changes in the requirements and design are inevitable once the system goes into production and has real users CS 5150 13 Example 1: Dilemma
Agency does not want to return money to Congress National Academy study was paid for by agency and restricted to technical considerations The fundamental problem lies at the senior management level [A phased approach over many years might possibly work, but only after the organizational problems are addressed.] The agency, adopted a pure waterfall model, put out a Request for Proposal for the Requirements, and placed a major contract with a software house. This system has had major problems. CS 5150 14 Feasibility Study: Scope Scope expresses the boundaries of the system:
It will include a list of included functions It will exclude a list of excluded functions It includes a list of dependencies It has a list of current systems to be replaced Confusion over scope is a common reason for clients to be dissatisfied with a system. "Is that all you planned to do?" "But I assumed that you were going to do xyz." "I can't use the system without abc." CS 5150 15 Example 2: A Government Library Confusion over Scope
A government library, L, required a "repository system" to store and make accessible very large amounts of highly varied material over long periods of time. An outside organization, C, built a repository system to store and manipulate complex digital material. Nobody built the sub-systems needed to organize, validate, and to load material into the repository.
L expected the repository system to include these subsystems. C considered the sub-systems separate from the repository system A good feasibility study would have seen this confusion. CS 5150 16 Feasibility Study: Benefits Why is this project proposed? Can you quantify the benefits? Organization benefits Create a marketable product Improve the efficiency of an organization (e.g., save staff)
Control a system that is too complex to control manually New or improved service (e.g., faster response to customers) Safety or security Professional benefits are not the reason for doing a project CS 5150
17 Feasibility Study: Technical A feasibility study needs to demonstrate that the proposed system is technically feasible. This requires: a rough outline of the requirements a possible system design (e.g., database, distributed, etc.) possible choices of software to be acquired or developed estimates of numbers of users, data, transactions, etc. These very rough numbers are fed into the provisional plan that is used to estimate the staffing, timetable, equipment needs, etc. The technical approach actually followed may be very different. CS 5150
18 Feasibility Study: Planning and Resources The feasibility study must include an outline plan: Estimate the staffing and equipment needs, and the preliminary timetable Identify major milestones and decision points Identify interactions with and dependences on external systems Provide a preliminary list of deliverables and delivery dates Lecture 7 is about planning techniques. CS 5150 19 Feasibility Study:
Alternatives and Risks A feasibility study should identify alternatives and risks. Alternatives Continue with current system, enhance it, or create new one? Develop in-house, or contract out? (How will a contract be managed?) Phases of delivery and possible points for revising plan. Risks What can go wrong? How will problems be identified (visibility)? What are the fall-back options? CS 5150 20 Feasibility Report
A written document For a general audience: client, financial management, technical management, etc. Short enough that everybody reads it. Long enough that no important topics are skipped. Details are often included in supporting documents.
It should be a well written, well presented document. A report that is not read and understood is useless. CS 5150 21 CS 5150: Feasibility Report Specific Requirements for the Feasibility Report Outline plan, showing principal activities and milestones (to be discussed in Lecture 7). Discussion of Business Considerations (see Projects page on the course Web site and Lecture 6). Risk analysis. What can go wrong? What is your fall back plan?
CS * 5150 22 CS 5150: Check list Team: How many hours per week? What skills do people have? Time: Must be completed by end of semester, including operational system, documentation, presentation Equipment and software: What special needs are there? Client: Will the client be sufficiently available and helpful? Start-up time. Creating a team, scheduling meetings, acquiring software, learning new systems, ... Business considerations. Licenses, trade-secrets, ... Too ambitious. Nothing to show at the end of the semester... What else?
CS 5150 23 CS 5150: Feasibility Reports Two examples of good CS 5150 reports are on the Web site, with the permission of the students. They are linked from the Reports section on the Assignments page. CS 5150 24
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