08 January 2010

Modelling - It's all about communication

UML, BPMN, JML, IDEF, Information Engineering and many more... Looking at software development methodologies there are a number of modelling languages to choose from. Many of the languages are dependant upon the target software technology but the key objective of the language is to communicate.

Many times I see people become engrossed with a particular modelling language and lose sight of the objective to provide a communication tool for all stakeholders. Don't get me wrong there is a place for formals models that abide by the standard when communicating with other people who also are familiar with the model syntax, they allow software engineers to consider design options and determine an appropriate development approach... but sometimes the focus of the modelling effort goes into tweaking models to the nth degree. This search for the perfect model rarely assists in developing better code, nor does it assist in providing communication outlets that engage the non-technology stakeholders.

What techniques do you use to assist with communicating the application design with the non-technical stakeholders? How do you confirm that the design tracks back to the business need? Prototyping and agile development methods look to get the user buy-in through interaction with prototypes but is there a way to blend agile approaches with modelling approaches?

Back in 1998 Keith Harmon and Alan Perkins compared Object-Orientation and Business-Driven Information Engineering and came to the conclusion that the approaches were symbiotic as Business-driven Information Engineering is a technology neutral and reflect the business goals of the enterprise. Similarily, when looking at UML and IDEF Ovidiu S. Noran at Griffith University concluded that there is no one perfect tool that will do everything but it is up to people to select the right tool for the job and Kim found IDEF and UML to be complimentary in the article the complementary use of IDEF and UML modelling approaches.

I share the belief that there is not an obermodelling language out there and sometimes a blend of modelling approaches - some "official" and some that work for the stakeholders will bring together a design portfolio that will enable all stakeholders to actively engage in the design effort.

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