CASE is a structured approach to systems development that begins with the establishment of a company information strategy, and then proceeds through the entire development life cycle, in order to ensure that high-quality systems are developed efficiently, and that these systems meet their users' requirements.
The first step in the method is to conduct a study to determine the company's business strategy and its requirements for information to support that strategy.
Because Strategy Studies are done infrequently in a company, but specific skills are required to do them, Essential Strategies, Inc. is often retained to lead them. Essential Strategies, Inc., in conjunction with the client, produces a structured description of the organization and an information systems development plan. Specifically, a Strategy Study results in the following:
An agreed upon list of the client's objectives, priorities and constraints.
Specification of the company's key performance indicators and critical success factors.
A diagram (model) of the structure of the information required to meet those objectives or satisfy those critical success factors.
Either A model of the functions performed by the client organization, or a model of the most important business processes.
A statement of information systems direction, listing the application areas to be addressed, and the order in which they are to be taken up.
A phased system development plan, including a detailed statement of work for the next step in the process.
Optionally, a summary evaluation of present systems, inventorying what they are and their purposes, plus current interest in replacing each.
Optionally, a description of the enterprise's current and expected technical architecture -- its hardware, technology, and configuration.
An initial glossary of the enterprise's terms. This will expand as the project continues.
Note that the techniques used for creating models of data and functions make extensive use of common English, both to make them fully understandable to the client, to ensure that all issues have been resolved, and to provide discipline to the process of thinking through the logical implications of each issue.
The Work to be Done ó Business side
An Essential Strategies, Inc. consultant will perform the following tasks during the course of the study:
With the sponsor of the project, select key members of the company's management to supply the information required by the study.
Brief these individuals.
Interview each one.
Draft statements of the company's objectives, plans, priorities, etc.
Prepare models of the functions and data of the business.
Evaluate existing systems, inventorying them, their purposes, and their interfaces with other systems.
Determine the existing technical architecture (which systems are on which computers and where), and begin definition of a proposed architecture.
Document implications of new direction on the conversion of existing data.
Initiate glossary of terms important to the enterprise.
Present models and draft statements to one or more meetings of the participants, and obtain consensus.
Prepare a final report.
One person from the client organization must be identified as the client project leader for the study. This individual will make introductions, help schedule meetings, arrange for facilities, and so forth. One or more people from the client organization are welcome to participate in this process. It is also recommended that a member of the organizationís executive committee be visible as a sponsor of the project.
Typically, between 8 and 12 people, including department managers and some of their immediate assistants are able to provide enough information to serve as the basis of the study, provided that the areas they represent cover the full range of client activities. Up to 15 is permitted, but if more people than that must be interviewed, the project will become significantly larger than is assumed here. These people must be prepared to:
Attend a one- to two-hour briefing session with the other participants.
Be interviewed individually by the consultants, to describe his or her work and the information used. (This will take from one hours to half a day each, depending on the role of the interviewee in the company.)
Participate in a day-long "feedback" session.
Optionally, participate in a final presentation of one to two hours.
Review the management summary of the final report.
While the time required for a study will vary from company to company, a typical project will cover a period of three to five months, subject to the availability of the people mentioned above.
After the Study
The strategy will identify one or more particular application areas for further study and ultimate automation. Each of these areas may then be addressed in turn, subject to the priorities and constraints identified. The subsequent process of putting a new system in place, then, consists of a sequence of steps, each of which is of increasingly narrow scope:
Analysis: detailed definition of the functions performed in a particular application area.
Design: definition of the particular technology to be used to implement one or more of the functions defined during analysis. This includes design of software, the physical data base structure, and associated hardware.
Construction: physical creation of the data base designed above, the construction of one or more software modules, and, if necessary, the assembly of the specified hardware.
Transition: process of moving from the old system to the new. Planning for this takes place during the prior four steps.
Production: ongoing operation of the system, once it is complete and implemented.
Essential Strategies, Inc. will be pleased to assist with any or all subsequent phases, once the strategy study is complete.
From this study, the client will get a formal plan which can be used to coordinate all further information systems development. The information gathered can be useful in the definition of requirements for specific areas, regardless of the specific hardware and/or software ultimately used.
The strategy report will provide a context to guarantee that a particular area can be addressed without fear of conflict with other areas. In particular, it will provide a global view of data to be used by all applications, and a view of the functions of the business that can be used to select application areas rationally.
Finally, the client will benefit from Essential Strategies, Inc.'s experience in the planning and development of systems in a wide variety of industries.
While Essential Strategies, Inc. is a new company, its consultants have helped many organizations prepare information systems plans, both in the US and abroad. The techniques employed have been used successfully by hundreds of consultants working on thousands of projects. We believe that Essential Strategies, Inc. consultants using these techniques can prepare a plan in a relatively short time, and that it will set the stage for successful systems development for many years to come.