Clearly, there are many ways of capturing informal, unstructured information, and GA starts with making you consider how you approach that task.
Try it now: Take a moment and write down at least five ways you capture informal, unstructured information in your day-to-day work. Here are some questions to consider:
- Can you rate the general effectiveness each of those ways on a scale of 1 (not at all effective) to 5 (completely effective)?
- Think of several different specific contexts in which you need to capture informal, unstructured information (e.g. brainstorm, stakeholder interview). Which techniques are most suitable for which contexts?
- Do you feel you are in control of the information you capture (1 = not at all; 5 = completely)?
Oddly enough, few people seem to be particularly aware of or concerned about how they capture informal, unstructured information. For most of us, it’s just habitual—perhaps we learned to take notes and make informal diagrams in school, and that’s about as good as it gets. But this process is the very beginning of the OO analysis activity, even prior to requirements engineering, so it bears close examination. We have observed that the best analysts are very good at this process, whereas the worst don’t even recognize it as a process.
To make people more aware of how they capture informal, unstructured information, GA introduces three key techniques:
- Structured writing
- Mind mapping
- Concept mapping
This is not an exhaustive set of techniques, and, of course, you must use whatever else works best for you. However, we highlight these particular techniques partly because they are very effective and partly because each of them teaches you something specific about how to work with information effectively. By learning these simple techniques you can change your approach to information to make you a more effective analyst.