Requirements Analysis

One of the most important skills for a developer is the ability to analyze requirements and determine the most appropriate solution. For many developers, this means they will determine the best suite of tools that fits within their preferred development environment. For example, a Java developer may decide if JDBC or JPA is a better option for connecting to their database. Note, it was already assumed that the application would be written in Java – other options like C# or PHP were ignored because the developer making the choice was a Java developer. The problem is that there may be better options depending on the requirements of the project. For example, I am currently working on a mobile project that uses a JavaScript framework. One of the requirements of the app is to create a  fairly detailed PDF document. This document was created using pdfmake – an excellent toolkit for making PDF documents based on a simple configuration file. However, as the project grew, it was requested to have a web service written that would be given the configuration, generate the PDF, and send an email. What server language would I use? I could use Java – but do I want to rewrite the entire PDF generator in a new language? Absolutely not. What else could work? In the end, I opted to use a Node.js solution. Why? Because it would be utterly trivial to use the existing JavaScript PDF code within a Node application. In fact, I managed to write all the necessary functionality in a single file with less than 100 lines of code. Had I selected Java, it would have easily grown into several dozen file, hundreds of lines of code, and substantially more billable hours.

Unfortunately, technology decisions are made every single day by organizations that insist on a language or framework before the requirements are even known. Better options may exist, but lack of knowledge of competing technologies prevents their selection. In the end, projects take longer to develop, cost more, and become increasingly difficult to maintain. Certainly no developer can be an expert in every technology, but any more senior developer should be able to provide a variety of competing solutions to any problem as well as indicate the pros and cons of each. When the best technology is selected, projects come in ahead of schedule and under budget. Time-to-market is decreased, maintenance costs are minimized, and – in the end – the organization benefits.

Leave a Reply