Getting Started with Artifacts

February 25, 2011 | ,

It can often be a challenge to demonstrate value the first time you introduce the concept of capturing and using artifacts – particularly where people aren’t in the habit of producing or using them. You may find yourself wondering where to start. You can demonstrate early value by using artifacts to identify scope, encourage feedback, and guide discovery:

  1. Identify scope. Clearly identify which artifacts are in scope and which are not and make sure everyone understands that if information is not part of an in-scope artifact, it doesn’t count. Sounds a bit totalitarian, but it trains people to contribute to the well being of the in scope artifacts and minimizes the likelihood of some critical piece of information being lost in a deluge of emails.
  2. Encourage feedback (“The Straw Man”). Producing a draft artifact for review prior to a requirement or design session will always stimulate discussion. Even drafting an artifact that incorrectly identifies information will serve as a catalyst for feedback, since people are quick to identify mistakes. Remember – that was the plan. Don’t get defensive, just capture the information you needed!
  3. Guide discovery. We are big proponents of formal artifact techniques. Standard notations (like UML) and approaches (Cockburn-style Use Cases) provide a structure that guide both scope and completeness. Creating the artifacts basically acts as a questionnaire that forces you to ask the right questions in order to complete the artifact. The very act of producing the artifact helps you understand the problem or solution in a way that would have eluded you otherwise.

With these three in mind, you can quickly guide a large group of stakeholders to a common conclusion and have a document at the end for posterity. Now get going and be careful out there!

Dan Hughes was a principal consultant and partner at Systems Flow, Inc., where he leads the technology services practice.

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