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New Post 11/23/2009 11:43 AM
User is offline Tony Markos
493 posts
5th Level Poster

Re: What vs. How 


You are absolutly correct in saying that one person's "what" is another person's "why".   And you will never get any broad concensous on how to distinguish between the two.

So, instead of asking how individual BAs distinguish between the two, maybe the question to ask first is:  Is there a logical necessity for having both "whats" and "hows"?   There the answer is  largely no.  Data flow diagrams clearly illustrate.  If I were to, for example, create a data flow diagram of Boeing commercial aircraft, I would first create a top-level single-function diagram (i.e., a context diagram) with the function labled something like "Create Commercial Aircraft".   This is the top-level "what".    Drilling down, the next-level diagram would consist of sub-functions that each also tell "what" is to be done, only to a finer degree of abstraction".    The next-level of diagrams would each consist of sub-sub functions that, again, tell "what" must be done, only to a still finer degree of abstraction.   And on and on.  

Often, on data flow diagrams for more complex systems, I have six or more levels of "whats" - and just "whats".    The total number of individual  "whats"  soon reaches hundreds.  Many of these "whats" would currently (I am assuming that I am working on an as-is model here) be accomplished by a person.  Other "whats" would currently be accomplished via software.  They are still all "whats" - irregardless of whether they are implemented via software or not.

Key Concept:  If, while I am performing such a complex analysis, I complicate things even further by trying to develop a scheme as to what is a "what" and what is a "how", all I am doing is making life more difficult.  Indeed such unnecessary mental exercises - especially on larger scale efforts - are a real innitiative killer. 

Granted, way at the bottom, I often detail out sub-sub-sub-sub functions ("whats") with logical if-then-go-go-like flow charts that essentially discuss "how" that function is to done, but you get the overall point that I am trying to make.





New Post 12/7/2009 7:13 AM
User is offline jea99
3 posts
No Ranking

Re: What vs. How 

Let me suggest a solution to this problem that avoids the trying to define what vs. how with complex methods and tools of the sort suggested so far. 


Step 1: Decide, based on the complexity of the problem, how many layers of abstraction you need.  The usual approach is to use two layers and call them business requirements and solution requirements.


Step 2: For each level of abstraction, develop a separate name space of terms and definitions.  Typically this is called the glossary and the data dictionary.


Step 3: Make sure there is a logical connection between these name spaces that reflects the desired abstraction level.  For example, a business entity in the glossary will be associated with a set of attributes in the data dictionary.  This is the lynchpin of the process because it uses a hierarchy of name spaces to establish abstraction rather than the what vs. how distinction. 


Step 4: All requirements are now restricted to using names from the appropriate name space and that name space defines the level of abstraction.  For example, a requirement that uses an entity name will be more abstract than one that uses an attribute of that entity.  For example:


“The system must maintain Contact information” is more abstract than “The system must assure that Contact Name is defined".


Summary: Use name spaces and name relationships to replace the what vs. how distinction.




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