Friday, 29 April 2011

"Circuit Diagram" for Options

After drawing the diagrams for my last post, I'm playing with ideas for a notation for describing options. What I've come up with so far isn't very good — I'm not even very clear on what the dimensions are... I think it's roughly time along the x-axis and choices along the y-axis, though I think I may be mixing other concepts in as well — but, anyway, I thought I'd put it out in the hope that someone else might help me improve it.

Here's a real-life example from my last project (read it from left to right):

We actually followed these steps. The team in Hong Kong worked on improving the speed of the database reports, while, in London, I built an alternative report generator that wasn't as flexible, but was very fast. By release time the Hong Kong team had ironed out all the problems with the queries and optimised the databases indexes so their reports were adequately fast. In the end, we went with a mixture of the two.

I also got in trouble by trying to be too clever. I put code in to the test environment to do live cross-checking of the reports generated by the two methods. It did reveal some discrepancies. But I got in trouble because they were trying to do speed tests at the time. Communication, communication, communication...

Let me know if you have any ideas about a notation for describing options (I'm talking about real-life options, not financial options).


Anonymous said...

Hi David, Your Y-axis can represent speed and your (X,Y) can represent the decision (to run the report or not?). This decision point can be deferred until the week of release where, if the speed is more than threshold speed, the normal reports are run, and if speed is less than threshold speed, your alternate reports get run.
Any thoughts on this?

David Peterson said...

Ah, right I see what you mean, but that's quite specific to that particular situation.

What I'd love to do is develop some kind of notation that can apply to any situation, using the icons in some way to describe different approaches / alternatives.

I think I may be approaching the problem the wrong way round. It might work better to work backwards from the desired objective. I remember Chris Matts drawing a timeline of options for his journey home along these lines, showing the "last responsible moments" for each option.

Bennie Copeland said...

There was a chapter in the Apress book Practical Sharepoint 2010 Information Architecture where the author described doing a very similar thing using MindManager. He had the problem statement in a parent node with child nodes having the options. Underneath each option were the pro's and con's discussed by the business users. And under those were discussion points about mitigating factors that could be referenced in future meetings. It was more geared towards keeping track of meeting discussions so that things aren't rehashed over and over, but you could rank the options and apply icons like a red or green circle to quickly show if it is a pro or con. Even though the book is about sharepoint, I found the chapters on interfacing with the business users and handling requirements through mind mapping quite valuable.

David Peterson said...

Thanks Bernie. I would never in a million years have looked at that book if you hadn't commented.