>Implicit Requirements and Enterprise Architecture

>With electonic contact lists in Microsoft Outlook on the computer and on organizer programs on cellphones and other electronic gizmos, why would anyone still keep a physical Rolodex anymore?

The Wall Street Journal, 24-25 November 2007, reports that “some executives are still spinning their rotary card files…more than 20 years after the digital revolution that forecasted the paperless office, the ‘rotary card file’–best known by the market-leading brand name Rolodex–continues to turn.”

The article continues, “as millions of social-network users display their connectedness on their Facebook pages, a surprisingly robust group of people maintain their networks on small white cards. Most of these devotees also rely on BlackBerrys and other computer-based address books.”

This infatuation with physical Rolodex files extends to models like the 6000-card wheel that are no longer even on the market. Other executives keep as many as 8 or 9 Rolodex wheels on their much needed desk space. Why?

The article states that “part of the card system’s appeal has always been that it displays the size of one’s business network for the world to see.” Yet, social-networking sites like LinkedIn also display the number of contacts a person has, so what’s the difference from a physical Rolodex file–what need is the technology not fulfilling with users?

From a User-centric EA perspective, it seems that people have a fundamental need with their contacts to not only be able to maintain them in an organized fashion and to demonstrate the size of their network (to show their value to the organization), but also to feel important and accomplished and to be able “to wear” this like a mark or medal of distinction, in this case by laying it out their Rolodex files prominently on their desks for all to behold.

In EA, when we design technology solutions, we need to keep in mind that there are functional requirements like the organizing of personal and professional contacts, but there are also human, psychological requirements that may never actually come out in a JAD session. These are unstated or implicit requirements and architects need to plan technology to meet both the explicit and implicit needs of users.

A little like Sherlock Holmes and a little bit like a psychologist, an architect must explore user needs beyond the surface if they are to successfully align new technologies with end-user and organizational requirements.

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