Visualization Brings Ideas to Life
How Vis-EDGE Works
Through web-enabled or mobile applications, Vis-EDGE uses similar concepts to computer-aided design in simulations during the requirements stage.
The visualization process involves three distinct pieces of software:
- iRise studio provides a simple drag-and-drop interface with functional, active links, buttons, and drop-down menus, among other customizable applets and widgets, to design required applications. The studio also supports multiple modes of operation, including a high-level whiteboard to define the flow of an application, a user interface that allows users to drag and drop widgets from an extensive library, and data sheets that allow users to add real sample data through a spreadsheet-type interface.
- Definition center is a shared server that provides a hub for enterprise collaboration by teams of analysts working on complex visualization projects. It allows for real-time collaborative authoring and comments management, along with integrations to IBM Rational products, shared reusable content libraries, and secure access through Lightweight Directory Access Protocol authentication. CSC has established two definition centers: one for training and development, and a second production environment for use on projects by CSC consultants and our customers.
- iRise iDoc reader is an offline feature in the visualization process. Visualization authors can save their visualizations by exporting them to an iDoc. A free download of the iRise reader allows the client to use and review these portable and interactive visualizations and to experience the proposed software. Comments made to an iDoc by stakeholders can be emailed back to authors and uploaded to the definition center where the team can manage and address them.
by Paul Taroli
We’ve heard it before: globalization trends and a changing economy demand new strategies from companies that want to compete effectively in the marketplace. Innovation and speed are critical for staying abreast, if not ahead, of the competition, and wherever there’s an opportunity to improve, there’s a need for innovation.
The public sector is no exception. As the economy recovers, taxpayer demands for better public services and support grows alongside a government’s ability to meet expectations and show value for the tax dollar.
We understand that. Innovation at CSC means assimilating and integrating fresh ideas that work. Vis-EDGE is one of our latest innovations. A new process powered by an underlying technology (iRise), Vis-EDGE allows company stakeholders to visualize and interact with working models and simulations of complex technology software solutions and processes well in advance of solutions being coded, interfaced, and put into operation.
“Vis-EDGE isn’t just about the software; it isn’t just about the tool — it’s about an entirely new way of capturing requirements,” says Lem Lasher, chief innovation officer at CSC.
Visualizing a website before it’s online
Vis-EDGE provides high-fidelity requirements that are documented and visual, allowing business stakeholders a much earlier opportunity to see and interact with their applications while providing development teams a clear blueprint to help produce a higher quality coded prototype the first time.
In Minnesota, the Department of Revenue is redesigning its eight-year-old website using this approach. Since last August, stakeholders from the department’s 17 divisions have used visualization to create a working model for a new site that will play a key role in the state’s communications with taxpayers.
“Our website has basically become a clunky and non-intuitive document library, and we need to start over again,” says Kit Borgman, director of communications, Minnesota Department of Revenue. “One of the more challenging aspects of a project of this magnitude is being able to clearly show the business users inside the agency what their decisions would look like.”
During the early stages of the redesign, business users could input their requirements into Vis-EDGE and immediately see how those changes would appear on the site. Previously, requirements would be collected over time and presented in a “big reveal” that could be a shock to some who see something they didn’t expect.
“The immediate payback is that visualization comes with so fewer surprises,” Borgman says. “Without it, we would have been returning to the drawing board multiple times. That could have added months to the design process.”
Visualization software is also beneficial for a large organization like the Minnesota Department of Revenue where many divisions need to participate in the project. The ability to communicate effectively between groups is crucial to success.
Too often, the disparity in experience and understanding between IT and business stakeholders leads to miscommunication and results in project scope changes and budget overruns. Our approach throws light on that intersection between the two parties.
By adding a visual hands-on component through the Vis-EDGE process, project requirements are captured more readily from the onset, and through realistic simulations, stakeholders and users visualize how the application will look and work.
By the time the department reached the construction phase, it was confident everyone was on the same page as a result of using Vis-EDGE. While small changes are a given going forward, the wholesale makeovers that can doom the timeliness and budget of a website redesign have been avoided.
“Everyone started out with their own idea of what the website should do and what it should look like,” Borgman says. “The beauty of iRise is that we can put all these teams together in one room, have them look at the same pages, and discuss the pros and cons of what they were seeing on the screen. I can’t even quantify how much time that saved and how much that enabled the process to work. Visualization is really everything when it comes to putting a website together.”
PAUL TAROLI is global director of CSC’s Center of Excellence for Visualization.