Why Aren’t the Building Blocks Color Coded?

After finishing this semester’s design seminar I was more confused than ever.  The methodology was not the source of my confusion, but applying it to my project was the problem.  Last year I worked on a Java project and ADM (Accenture’s Methodology) fit perfectly.  This semester’s project is centered on making Excel do some cool things that I am sure Microsoft developers did not know it could do. dunnhumbyUSA is my client this semester and most of their reports are done in excel, but these reports aren’t your everyday bargain basement Excel workbooks.  The reports are built using a complex combination of VBA code and multiple work sheets to tell a story about the customer’s data.

Traditional projects can be documented in a specific way. Think of ADM as color coded building blocks; in most cases if we follow ADM’s color code, all of the building blocks to produce a well laid out technical architecture come together.  This semester as we began design we found that ADM’s blocks do not fit together.  This interesting problem made my team and I think outside of the box. Being the solution providers we were taught to be, we decided to use DFDs (Data Flow Diagrams).

Data Flow Diagrams were an obvious choice because our tool deals in large part with the flow of data.  Getting the data from a raw data form to a usable format on the user interface is a very intricate process. Everything in this tool builds from the beginning to the end, and just with development one has to understand the flow of data to begin to piece it all together.  This project taught my team and me a valuable lesson about methodologies.  We learned they are used to enhance the process of putting together your design, but they don’t always solve all of your design problems. Sometimes you just have to color code the building blocks for yourself.

Written by: Cory Jackson, Capstone Student

The University of Alabama MIS program allows students to work on real projects that provide real value to real companies. Students learn to leverage people, processes and technology to solve problems and meet the challenges of today’s businesses head-on. For more information, call 205-348-5525 or visit http://cba.ua.edu/mis.

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