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Prototyping Lessons Learned

Invest in Business Process Analysis

The Prototype applications were selected from existing business processes that involved multiple levels of government. Each Prototype Development Team was made up of government professionals who performed or held responsibility for tasks along these business processes. Among these team members were professionals from state and local governments with a wide range of job titles and areas of responsibility. A key component of the software development process was an end-to-end business process analysis conducted by teams of people who actually did the work as part of their job functions, such as the town, village, and county clerks, assessors, and information and technology officers from all levels of government. These teams participated in workshops where they mapped out the details of every step in their business process spanning all levels of government.

As a result of this in-depth analysis, each team member gained an understanding of the whole process and how their portion fit into the larger process. In addition, they acquired a better appreciation of why and how the process is carried out. The business process analysis contributed to a better group understanding of the process and its problems.

Within this framework, the results of the business process analyses were focused on reducing complexity and solving problems that could be solved within the scope of the project. The teams developed scope statements for each Prototype application that described its function and purpose and specified its attributes. They defined goals and objectives that clearly stated the purpose of the application, the intended customers, and the subsequent benefits. These process maps and accompanying statements served as a way to communicate among the team members and also served as a documentation guide for the software development team.

The business process analysis also created a learning time for the software development team to build a relationship with the business process owners and develop a joint understanding. The process maps informed the technical specifications which together helped to define the overall scope of the Prototype. Avenues and mechanisms were established for the software developers to communicate their understanding of the business process back to the users and to describe the software that would support those processes.