Essay: Making Information Systems Flexible
In the design stage, keep defensiveness and expansion in mind. Design for flexibility and keep avenues open. State and challenge assumptions made during design. Ensure interfaces are defined and clear. Design with maintenance in mind. Use and maintain clear documentation about the information system.
In the production stage, keep the system modular, simple and clear. Use single-point control as much as possible and data abstraction. Use and maintain clear documentation and comments in the programs.
There are various techniques in identifying future requirements, varying from the very formal to the informal. Some may consume considerable effort; others, only minor effort. Using future analysis generates greater insight into the problem area, giving a better understanding of probable future scenarios and future requirements of an information system. Using risk analysis, one may be able to identify “general responses” to several problems and get some idea of the trade-off between expected risks and costs. Some of the lateral thinking techniques can be used as tools within more formal techniques or can be used on their own as quicker alternatives. Investigations into previous changes might reveal likely future changes. A most powerful technique, yet the simplest, is to ask the question, “What is likely to change?” Some form of analysis of future requirements early in the information systems development process would be beneficial, as it is likely to produce more appropriate information systems and reduce maintenance costs.
There are various techniques that can be used in making information systems more flexible. The techniques can be classified as good analysis, design, and programming practice.
A framework of items has been proposed along with addressing issues that should be considered at various stages in the development of an information system. The framework can be considered as part of a “code of practice” for developers and incorporates many of the tenets of good software practice.
All in all, the framework provided by the paper is quite adaptable. It rightly suggests that future considerations and flexibility issues need to be on the agenda when developing an information system. If the future requirements and flexibility issues are addressed, such as in the framework provided, then the result is likely to be a more appropriate information system, able to handle future changes and so be more successful.
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