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Prototyping and its benefits

What is Software prototyping ? There is a customer workflow that needs to be modeled and their requirements that have to be build. One possible solution, before building a whole solution and then finding that it is not what the customers are looking for, is to build a model that takes only part of the requirements and show it to the customers. This helps gain feedback on how the solution would work, and allows customers to evaluate as to how the final solution would work. In other words, when we talk about Prototyping, we can describe it as modeling the system in pieces. When you consider the situation in the perspective of an information system, the purpose of a prototype is to ensure a model that provide guidance to the designers of the system and provide the users a system that they can evaluate easily. Earlier, we had mentioned that the proposed prototype takes a subset of the overall features, and is meant for users to evaluate. Because of this process, the whole system of Prototyping works in an iterative manner, and forms an integral part of the earlier stage of the systems development cycle, this initial phase being the analysis phase.

If one were to break down the prototyping process in terms of bullet points, these are:
* The primary use of the Prototyping process is to be a key aide of helping both the developers of the system and the customers in terms of understanding the requirements and build a better system
o First part: Requirements elicitation. Once the prototype has been built initially, the end customers can work with this prototype and do their experiments on it, and evaluate how the prototype maps their workflows
o Second part: Requirements validation. Based on the evaluation, useful information can be gleaned that details the mapping of the prototype with the workflows and also the areas where the prototype is lacking in terms of differences with the workflow
* Even though prototype can take time and some developers are not very fond of the process, Prototyping is now considered as an integral part of the analysis phase, helping in reducing the risk that the designed and developed system is different from the customer requirements and workflow

Advantages of prototyping:

* Since it is probably the first phase where the customers can see how their requirements have been built into a system in the form of a prototype, the process can help in evaluating whether there have been any gaps between the user workflows and the understanding of the developers
* When getting into more details, evaluation of the prototype helps in determining whether there are workflows or services that are missing, and if some of the workflows that have been built into the prototype are confusing to the users
* After the evluation of the prototype including modifications and missing workflows, the prototype can be used to build the system specifications on which to build the final solution
* With the prototype having gone through evaluationa and with the feedback making it an accurate mapping of the system workflows, the finished prototype can be used for system testing and also for giving training to the users
* Given that the prototype is a subset of the requirements and has also gone through user evaluation, the working prototype can now serve as a demonstration piece of the progress of the software project, being used for demonstrations to key stakeholders including management

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