Validating System Requirements: A Conceptual Approach

By Adrian Hargreaves.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Incomplete, ambiguous and inaccurate system specifications have been cited as a significant determinant of IT project failures. Although a consensus on the causes of the inadequacies in specifications has yet to be reached, contemporary data modelling techniques often lack the expressiveness to more fully define the structure and the behaviour of organisations. In addition, many of these modelling techniques incorporate implementation details unfamiliar to business people. But unless domain experts can actively challenge the perceptions of analysts attempting to capture the organisation’s business rules in these models, how can analysts be certain that they are defining the required system? This paper investigates Object Role Modelling (ORM) as a possible language for expressing and validating business rules in collaboration with domain experts. The Business Rules Group (BRG) have produced a comprehensive taxonomy of business rules enabling analysts to determine accurately, what is and what is not a business rule. A case study conducted by the author has indicated that synthesising the concepts and definitions within this taxonomy with those of ORM, fosters a rigorous and yet transparent approach for expressing the data requirements of information systems. Even complex constraints on data structures such as set comparisons can be modelled in ORM at a conceptual level, facilitating a more complete description of the problem domain than is generally the case. Since business rules can be verbalised automatically in ORM’s constrained natural language, data requirements can also be actively validated by business people. By adopting ORM as the language of business rules, analysts may possess a powerful tool for improving the quality of data requirements that may in turn help to reduce IT project failures.

Keywords: Business Rules, Conceptual Data Modelling, Requirements Definition

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 725.991KB).

Adrian Hargreaves

Lecturer, Department of Information Systems, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

I emigrated from the UK to New Zealand 9 years ago to begin teaching at Wellington Polytechnic. This organisation was later ‘merged’ with Massey University, which has changed my job role from mainly teaching to a role that includes a significant research component. To complement this changing role, I have recently completed my MPhil in Information Systems that focused on creating a synthesis between conceptual data modelling and business rules modelling. This synthesis involved adopting Object Role Modelling as the language to express business rules in a form understandable to end-users. This synthesis and a related case study is the focus of my paper submission. More recently, I have begun work on my PhD that will explore visual approaches for promoting understanding and trust in data mining models. This visual approach aims to enable business people to justify the decisions taken in light of these data mining models.


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