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Borland defines what apps require

DefineIT

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DefineIT is the latest tool to come out of Borland's move away from being a developer tools company and into a software services, management and support company.

It will come as no shock to any developer or user that perhaps the biggest failure of any software project is the failure to define and understand system requirements.

Requirement analysis is not a new problem and companies have been developing and releasing tools in this area for years. The problem with most of them is that their use seems to make little difference to what is actually developed. This is not just a problem related to the requirements analysis, but the way the information is then interpreted by different people in the development cycle.

What Borland is targeting here is the removal of a specific requirements language. It has also introduced an automated translation from the plain language definition of the requirements into a flowchart that can be easily passed to designers and developers.

To make it even more effective Borland has also introduced a "storyboard" approach (workflow to the rest of us) that allows you to simulate the design, long before code is written. The potential of this is outstanding. The analyst and user can confirm the accuracy of the model, the business analyst can see and clearly document the business process, the developer can actually see what they are trying to do and the test/QA engineer has an empirical model against which to accept or reject the code.

Borland has also ensured that Caliber DefineIT is not seen as yet another standalone solution. Even as a version 1 tool it comes with a whole set of integrations into other parts of Borland's Caliber toolset, as well as various tools from Segue Software and Mercury (now HP) TestDirector.

On the face of it then, this would appear to be a carefully thought out and well positioned tool. After all, it is difficult to see how the developer can get it wrong given the way that all parties can validate what each wants. However, it is still a version 1 tool and there are a number of important features that are missing. While you can export the flowchart and information into a limited set of UML models you cannot import existing models and reverse engineer them yet.

Installation of Caliber DefineIT is very simple. You go to the Borland website, sign up and are sent a trial key. You then download the software and you are up and running. There appears to be no limitation to understanding the product through the trial software.

When the Welcome screen loads up you are faced with a simple screen allowing you to get a brief understanding of the products, work through the tutorials, examine some samples which will demonstrate the new features, or read through the help file. At the risk of seeming overly geeky, it really is worth taking the time to read through the help files before starting the tutorials or playing with the samples. You can also elect to ignore all of the choices and jump right into the Workbench.

One of my pet hates is overly busy work areas and the basic Workbench starts by looking a little fussy. If you are working with a large screen or a computer with multiple screens this is no problem but on a laptop you immediately find yourself closing windows in order to work comfortably.

The tutorials will walk you through defining a project step by step, allowing you to make your own decisions as you go forward. You start by defining the name of the project followed by all the actors. At any point you can go back and add additional actors. Once you have done this you define the first of the requirements. This is where you start to gather a lot of information about the system.

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