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How to Build the External Agents and Actors Component Report of a Business Analysis

In a business analysis report, you should have a subsection of the requirements section dedicated to external agents and actors so that you can better zero in on that aspect of the business.

An external agent is the first person, organization, or system identified in requirements. Typically identified during the very early scoping part of a project, external agents are those with which the business area interacts. External agents either provide or are given information within the scope of the project or solution.

Actors, typically identified later in the process, are defined at the solution level. Actors are people, systems, or devices that directly interact with a system or solution, but actors are always external to the system. In the requirements, actors are named for their roles or with a generic title of the responsibility being represented (no actual names or specific people).

Actors become significantly more important in business analysis at the point where solution requirements are getting specific and more detailed at the functional and nonfunctional levels so that technical options and requirements can be effectively identified. Actor information, reviewed in context with their specific stakeholder and solution requirements, is critical to identifying and building the specific interfaces needed by the actors, as well as defining any security access requirements.

Actors interact with systems or solutions through an interface of some kind. Technical interfaces have different forms of implementation, and depending on the complexity of the interface, the requirements needed in order to effectively design and develop it vary. Systems or devices always interact with solutions by using electronic interfaces; however, our human friends may have more diverse interface requirements.

Core component requirements related to actors and agents include references to processes they perform, data they transform, and the business rules that govern or constrain their actions. Actor requirements are typically functional requirements and should outline information about the following:

  • The screens and reports they need to see or use

  • Data of concern

  • Validation requirements for their data, specifying what is or isn’t acceptable based on their role or any events

  • Instructions needed by the actors for how to use the system (usability) or guide them in changing what they’ll do after the solution is implemented (transition requirements)

If you find yourself immersed in interaction or usability design concerns, turn to the experts! Design engineers, product designers, and human factors engineers all have a specialty in psychological science and/or human-computer interaction and therefore can be terrific advisors or advocates for good interaction design (and experts on what not to do).

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