When is recycling not recycling?
Published 10:37, 02 April 08
Many projects fail due to a lack of clear requirements. One of the reasons for unclear requirements is that any project will have its own unique vocabulary. Those names and the agreed meanings of those names should always be recorded in a project.
Failure to record the meanings of words will lead to misunderstandings. Misunderstandings will lead to wasted time and even products that are not fit for their intended use. At the start of any project a glossary should be created that will act as a reference point for the whole project.
If the glossary is kept up to date, is accessible to and regularly used by the people involved in the project then you are likely to looking at a project with a good chance of success.
However achieving a common understanding of the meaning of words is only half the battle. Once differences in the meanings of words are recognised then the requirements need to resolve those differences.
The council I work for gets a rebate of a third of the value of the occupational therapy equipment it provides from the company that we order it from. This is because we loan out the equipment and much of it can be refurbished and re-used.
The government wants to introduce a retail model to provide this equipment, which will mean service users will own the equipment themselves, and introduce big efficiencies. Unfortunately the idea of refurbishment and re-use does not fit into the retail model. When this issue is raised the reply is a mantra stating that their retail model will encourage recycling of equipment. For the government proposal recycling means melting a product down and selling the result as scrap.
This means there is now a conflicting requirement. Councils want re-use and refurbishment of equipment, the government only offers recycling. There are two ways to deal with conflicting requirements address them and resolve them to the agreement (if not satisfaction) of all parties or bury them. I’m afraid know what my money is on.
If you think that arguments about requirements specification, refurbishment and recycling of occupational therapy equipment are esoteric, the same situation will increasingly apply to IT equipment, with vendors trying to sell us new “greener” kit, while all the while technologies exist – such as thin client computing - to use what we have more efficiently.