Suzanne Robertson James Robertson

How Will It Work?

The Future How Viewpoint.

In a previous article *Business Analysis Viewpoints* [1] we discussed a number of ways of looking at systems. The intention of these viewpoints is to make it easier to see and understand the real business problem. This article focuses on the fourth viewpoint, the *Future-How*, which looks at the solution to the business problem. It does this by assessing alternatives, and then choosing the best solution to that real business problem.

Identifying Alternative Solutions

Instead of fixing on the first solution that comes to mind, it makes sense to come up with a number of alternatives. By so doing, better solutions will probably emerge. Then you must be able to make valid comparisons and choose the most appropriate before defining its detailed requirements.

Some solution ideas for speeding up leaf removal might be:

  1. Schedule the leaf clearing teams in advance based on predicting when the leaves will fall so that the team can be deployed as rapidly as possible.
  2. Eliminate the leaves by cutting down the deciduous trees and replacing them with evergreens.
  3. Introduce leaf vacuum machines to remove the leaves and bag them in one operation.
  4. Provide an incentive for members of the public to clear the leaves. Make leaf bags available and pay a bounty for each full bag of leaves.

Probing Your Solutions

Before probing a proposed solution, bring it to life. Illustrate it just enough to compare it with the other ideas. Use a mixture of sketches – possibly some kind of annotated rich picture, or process models – along with your probing questions. You are asking questions that probe the proposed solution for its pros and cons. You are testing the solution for feasibility and workability, along with its economics and conformance to constraints.

Here are some examples of safe to fail probes using the proposed solutions for the leaf removal problem.

After probing the leaf removal solution ideas with a variety of stakeholders, we have decided to go ahead with Solution Idea 3. Introduce leaf vacuum machines to remove the leaves more quickly and bag them all in one operation. We have also decided to take some ideas from Solution 1 and make better use of long-range forecasts when scheduling the leaf removal teams.

Defining the Solution Space

  1. New weather forecast available. I/P Weather Forecasts, O/P Emergency Schedule
  2. Footpath condition monitored. I/P Footpath Location + Leaf Density
  3. Human Resources inform us of available workers. I/P Available Council Workers
  4. Council Worker has bags of leaves available for pickup. I/P Leaf Bag Locations. O/P Hours Worked, Leaf Pickup Request
  5. Time to schedule leaf vacuuming. O/P Daily Schedule + Tools, Request for Vacuum Machines.
  6. Machine Supplier supplies requested machines. I/P Leaf Vacuum Machines.

Then, depending on your goals, you choose the highest priority event and work on discovering the detailed requirements and developing the solution. For example, you might choose to start with event 5 because having an accurate schedule is so central to making the solution work. Or perhaps you start with event 1 because you want to learn more about how you will respond to weather forecasts of differing severity.

In this article and the previous one in this series we have introduced techniques for taking a number of viewpoints. Having the ability to look at the same problem from different points of view means that you have the focus to come up with more innovative ideas. Another plus is that it is much easier to plan and respond to changes.

Other sources of information about subjects discussed in the article:

Suzanne Robertson and James Robertson are principals and founders of The Atlantic Systems Guild and joint originators of the Volere requirements process, template, checklists and techniques.

You can contact the authors at


Suzanne Robertson

Suzanne Robertson is having a stellar career in information technology and systems engineering. Suzanne is a pioneer in adapting ideas from other domains for automated solutions. She has collaborated in workshops using experts from fields as diverse as modern music, visualization, and cookery. Ideas from these domains were adapted to make major breakthroughs in creative ideas for domains ranging from air traffic control to local government. She is co-author of the best-selling Mastering the Requirements Process, among other books and courses. She is co-creator of the Volere requirements techniques. She was the founding editor of the Requirements Column in IEEE Software.

James Robertson

As a principal and founder of The Atlantic Systems Guild, James Robertson is known for his work in implementing systems engineering principles that link business specialists with solution specialists. James is a consultant, lecturer, author, project leader whose area of concern is the requirements for software, and the contribution that good business analysis makes to successful projects. James is co-author of 5 books that have been influential in the business analysis world. His training as an architect has led to his work on good design principles and to his focus on how innovation can be integrated with business analysis.