Too often, the successful launch of a company's Web or intranet site depends on how well techs and nontechs communicate. Getting the two sides together is what iRise, BEA, and other such companies do best. Their customers are large corporations, including Fortune 500 companies such as Fluor Daniel, Health Net, and First American, that are building high-end Web-based systems and very powerful computer operations. With front-end investments in the millions, it's a rare company that can afford to see such a project fail.
And failure is a real possibility. Customized applications are recognized as an important way to build corporate assets, but they often fail because of poor communication between business users and developers. Business analysts often buy into a good idea right away. In the beginning, it looks like all they'll need is a few mockups and some text-based descriptions, but their eyes quickly glaze over when the developers get into the process and, together (more or less), they start to discuss the details. Defining, developing, and deploying customized applications often become very complex, and the two groups quickly polarize. If the project is going to fail, this is where it most likely will happen. The Standish Group indicates four out of five software projects fail because of poorly defined requirements.
It's no wonder customers look for a way to see how their plan will turn out before implementation. "If airplanes can be simulated before they're built, then why shouldn't high-end Web-based systems be simulated?" said Emmet B. Keeffe III, CEO and cofounder of iRise.
That's what companies like iRise provide—a way to determine, in advance, whether a company's plan for a Web-based system will function as hoped. iRise's technology, the iRise Application Simulator, is designed to provide business users with a way to see and test-drive Web-based software through an interactive simulation prior to actual development. This helps ensure that customized applications will meet the needs of the business while minimizing development time and cost. The platform allows for definition, testing, and approval of Web-based business software before developers even write the first line of code.
More to the point, the simulator is geared toward breaching the gap between developers and business analysts, a group that often finds technology daunting and IT professionals unapproachable. "These people really aren't technically inclined," Keeffe said.
Getting the two groups together is a matter of finding a common language, Keeffe said. "It's really not a radical concept. Text has been the language by which techs and business analysts communicate."
Once they're talking, then the real work can begin. In fact, Keeffe said, business analysts find they often can begin working on the simulation at their first meeting with iRise techs. The simulation provides a good look at the way the customer's plan will work. They can make changes to the simulation and see how the changes will work. They also can keep a default copy of the system, to which they can return even after the real system is up and running.
The Application Simulator uses a drag-and-drop interface to develop how the Web application should look and behave before the developers do the actual coding. Application Simulator has three components:
● iRise Online: A Web portal offers browser-based access to the simulation server, which provides specification workflow management.
● iRise Studio: A client application that creates interface prototypes.
● The Simulation Server: Simulation, collaboration, and repository services.
What customers get is the simulation itself, which they can examine and use as a benchmark to provide detailed requirements reports, compile lists of terms unique to the project, and compile HTML files that will be the project's real starting point. The simulator will run on Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000. The price tag is $250,000 for five iRise Studio licenses and 25 iRise Online seats.
The benefits of simulated high-end Web-based systems go beyond planning, Keeffe said. "Clients are telling us they can actually start training users before the product is produced." This means trainers don't have to wait until the system is physically in place before training users, which saves downtime later when the system is in place.
Using a simulation also saves the most basic, and mostly commonly wasted, business need: time. The simulation can be shipped anywhere in the world, even over the Internet. According to Keeffe, all the customer needs is a projector and a wall. While actual cost and time savings will vary by customer, Keeffe said that using a simulation to develop and test high-end Web-based systems will usually save his customers about 25 percent of their budget.
The iRise integration with WebLogic Workshop is designed to enhance communication between business users and IT by helping WebLogic Workshop programmers trace reference simulation that acts as the stable but interactive specification blueprint.
According to its Web site, BEA provides the enterprise software foundation for more than 15,000 customers around the world, including the majority of the Fortune Global 500. For customers, the integration means they can move from text-based requirements to a visual definition and development. iRise and BEA claim the following key benefits:
● Development projects are completed on time and on budget.
● Business users receive customized applications that perform as intended.
● Developers receive improved direction and active involvement from business users.
● Organizations receive increased competitive differentiation and a technology solution designed to cut costs and improve communication between business and IT.
iRise is based in El Segundo, CA, with regional offices in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Charlotte, NC. BEA, which operates 77 offices in 31 countries, is headquartered in San Jose, CA.