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How to Identify Interfaces That Are Part of the Business Analysis Project

When you’re scoping a business analysis project, you want to be able to find all the interfaces that are part of the project. You need to consider three types of interfaces: user, system, and hardware.

Look to the data flow diagram and use case diagram to find interfaces. In a data flow diagram, the curved data flow lines from external agents are your interfaces; people are user interfaces, systems and external organizations are system interfaces, and pieces and hardware are (you guessed it) hardware interfaces.

In a use case diagram, any association line from an actor that crosses the automation boundary into a use case is an interface.

User interfaces in business analysis

The user interfaces are how the user interacts with the solution; they often take the form of mockups. Although many interfaces are technological in nature, non-computer items such as a steering wheel and an accelerator pedal are also user interfaces (for a driver to interface with an automobile).

Your user interfaces come from external people who need to interact with your solution. When you create a user interface, you have to think about the system user because the success of the interface is determined by how well it works for the person (or people) using it. Ask the following questions about your users:

  • Who are the people we are interfacing with?

  • What is their education level?

  • What experience do they have with the solution?

  • Are we dealing with different levels of people (for instance, regular customers, preferred customers, elite customers)?

  • Do any of these individuals have disabilities? (508 compliance would be critical.)

Knowing the answers to these questions (and this list is just a start) helps you determine the level of effort you need to put into the project to create these interfaces.

System interfaces in business analysis

The system interfaces are the interfaces your project has with other computer systems from either external organizations or other departments within your organization. To identify system interfaces, listen for terms like “batch interface” or “real-time interface” when eliciting information from your stakeholders. Doing so will uncover external agents that are systems and require a system interface.

Here are some questions to ask to find system interfaces:

  • What systems are we interfacing or communicating with?

  • Where are we getting our data?

  • Who are we sending information to?

After you know the system interfaces, you still need to understand the data passing through the interface. Although you don’t have to comprehend it to the level of the data types and lengths, you need to get an idea of how long completing analysis of each interface takes.

Hardware interfaces in business analysis

Hardware interfaces are the interfaces that go from your project to a piece of hardware somewhere — say, a printer or a television (yes, television). To identify hardware interfaces, listen for the mention of technological devices (either on the sending or receiving end) during your elicitation sessions and make sure they’re reflected in your diagrams.

Your project may end up outputting information to the printer or mobile device, and you have to be aware of that. It’s an interface, too.

Some questions to ask to find hardware interfaces include the following:

  • When we capture data, where does it go?

  • How will we display that information? Who needs to see it?

  • Where will the information in our application come from?

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