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Approach

In our earlier work, we undertook a substantial series of industry surveys and interviews, coupled with an analysis of numerous Web specifications. The interviews were primarily intended to identify general perceptions and qualitative trends. The surveys were intended to capture more quantitative information. The specification analysis was intended to extract detailed information on the structure and contents of commercial Web system specifications. The overall goal was to understand the current best practice and the various motivations driving this practice.

The interviews typically lasted 20 to 40 minutes and involved a series of questions focusing on interactions with clients and the processes for understanding client needs. Transcripts of the surveys were analyzed to identify both common issues and perceptions, as well as areas in which there were significant differences of opinion (in some cases, these provided some interesting insights into areas requiring further investigation).

The survey was completed either as a follow–up to the interview or as a standalone survey. The survey consisted of 15 detailed questions (each containing multiple parts), ranging from company profiling to project profiling, client relationships, and development practices. The companies that indicated a high project success rate and effective client interactions were approached to obtain samples of specifications. These were subsequently analyzed to identify commonalities in the system characteristics identified.

The respondent companies that took part in the research interviews covered a broad spectrum of development areas: multimedia development, Internet development, and intranet development. The companies' core business varied considerably: consulting, contract development, and in-house development. The application domains being targeted covered a broad spectrum: financial institutions, medical agencies, travel and tourism businesses, legal corporations, manufacturing companies, government departments, e-tailers, and consumer advisory services. Of the companies identified as Internet developers, the areas of work ranged from graphic design solutions, e-commerce, and database integration to end-to-end solutions.

To investigate the extent to which claimed processes are merely rhetoric, we collected the publicly available company documentation from each organization that discussed its development processes or approaches. We then analyzed the information from the surveys and interviews to determine the extent to which any structured process is indicated. These aspects were then compared to the processes as described in the publicly available documentation, to identify confirmation or inconsistency.

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