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PresidentWare, part 2

In part one, I showed the similarities between politics and the software industry, likening an election to a software RFP. In this post, I’ll go further into the discussion of how requirements management techniques can be used to help us make the important decision of which candidate to vote for.

As humans, we can get emotional over issues and allow it to color our decision-making process, often missing other important considerations as we do so. This is true in many aspects of daily life, and politics is no different. By applying the same techniques we use in our work, we can make better decisions about other aspects of our lives as well.

Elicitation – Granted, this is a conversation with yourself, but still, it’s a discovery of all the things you want from your president. Get them all out on paper, without consideration of importance or applicability. An affinity diagram would be useful for this exercise. Affinity Diagrams are a way to brainstorm out requirements and classify them into groups. A very popular way to use this method involves writing requirements on sticky notes as they come out, until either there are no more ideas to capture or until a given amount of time has elapsed. After this phase of the process, you can sort through the issues and classify them into categories. For example, in this context, some categories might be “Social Issues”, “Economic Issues”, “Security Issues”. Collect your ideas/issues and group them according to the categories you’ve created.

Prioritization – Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The chance of having your personal set of requirements agree with any one candidate is unlikely at best. Finding where your priorities lie will help you determine how well the positions of the candidates match up with your own. For example, building on the affinity diagramming method above, you can rank your categories in order of importance, and then rank the issues within those categories. If you used sticky notes, just re-arrange them. Otherwise, you can number them in a way that makes sense to you.

Gap Analysis – So, now you’ve got your ranked and categorized requirements. Since we’re evaluating our requirements against established products (political platforms), we need a gap analysis to determine which system is a better fit for our requirements. In this context, you can simply take each issue in turn, look at the positions of the candidates, and decide which candidate more agrees with your position on the issue. Again, if you’re using the ubiquitous stickies, you can move them around, either to one candidate or another, or into a “tie” area. Another way you can do this is to create a simple matrix, listing your issues down the side in priority order, and across the top listing the candidates and a box for “tie”. Then, simply go down your list and mark your choices in the correct box for each.

By now, you should have a clear understanding of your issues, how important each one is to you, and which candidate best supports your position on those issues. Now that we’ve used the tools in our toolbox to evaluate our decision objectively, we’re ready to make an informed decision on which way to cast our vote – without the cloud of emotional involvement with a single issue.
Whichever way your requirements point you, please remember to vote on November 4th!

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