Throw it away?

Conventional wisdom suggests that prototypes should be discarded before the build phase begins. This makes a whole lot of sense, as the very things that make creating a prototype a quick and responsive process do not lend themselves to the creation of stable and scalable production systems.

With that said, what other uses might we put our prototypes to?

Well, if you are following a Requirements Prototyoping based method in your project, you will find great benefit in maintaining the prototype alongside the actual development phase. In this way, it is a constant reference through which change is evaluated and delivered. At any point in a development, then, the ‘state of the system’ can be demonstrated to an investor or executive. It will take a little more effort to keep the prototype effort going, but it will make any breaking changes to the requirements much easier to design and implement.

So, that’s one good reason to keep your prototype going. Are there any more? Of course!

When we create software systems, we are usually doing so for end users who are usually outside of the core project team. This means that whilst we might well have made efforts to involve them in the basic design, they will still be facing a change to their way of working and anything we can do to ease the transition to that new system is worth considering.

The answer is to use the prototype as a basis for the creation of a training simulation. Ordinarily, such a simulation would be expensive to create, but given that we’ve been good and maintained our prototype through the entire development process, it is not nearly as big a job as it might have been. In fact, the reasonably modest investment in adapting the prototype will be quickly recovered by the fact that on the day of launch, the users will already have had a chance to try the simulation and find their way around. We’ll cover this in more depth in a future posting, so watch this space*.

So there you have it, two compelling reasons to keep that prototype.

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About John Clark

My name is John Clark and I previously ran a software house called Reynard Thomson, from which this blog originally grew. In the meantime, we launched a video-based user testing service (Kupima) which didn't really take off, and I have since moved into a new field specialising on software-based research & development consultancy. I'm active on LinkedIn, and would love to connect to anyone who has an interest in software prototyping or R&D: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jtclarkuk/
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