Briefing: iRise

iRise Application Simulator
starting at roughly $250,000
iRise
El Segundo, California
(310) 640-8656
www.irise.com

Even though my own focus tends to be on smaller development projects, every once in a while I like to look at systems targeted for the enterprise. It took me quite a few years to realize that development in a company with 5000 developers was more than just buying 5000 licenses for some tool and putting everyone under one roof. To coordinate the enterprise, you need some serious infrastructure.

iRise Application Simulator is definitely a product aimed at being part of that serious infrastructure. The problem they're trying to address is one of the tricky handoffs in the development process. Most large business projects start with collecting requirements, which are then handed off to the developers to implement. All too often, when the implemented system comes back to the business people who came up with the requirements, the response is "but wait! That's not what I wanted!"

The goal of iRise is to allow the business analysts (the people who are right there developing the requirements) to build a simulation of a Web-based application without doing any coding. There are a lot of other approaches to this, of course. iRise is designed to be smarter and closer to a real application that index cards or whiteboards, much easier to use than building a VB6 prototype, and friendlier to end users than a typicaly Requirements Management system. Perhaps the closest analog is something like PowerPoint. If you're a comfortable Office power user, you should be able to master iRise.

iRise provides a number of tools to let you create a high-fidelity simulation in a matter of hours. A drag and drop IDE lets you define the pages of a Web application; you put in logic by drawing lines between pages. You can import sample data from CSV files, or type it straight into a spreadsheet-like interface. Web page mockups are also created with drag and drop. A central repository of design elements makes it possible to share corporate standard elements between applications.

Because an analyst can create a simulation quickly, it becomes possible to go back to the ultimate end users and say "here, is this what you were thinking of?" Rather than wait weeks for a beta version from the developers, users can quickly iterate with the analyst to reach a state where the simulation captures their requirements.

At that point, you can pull the requirements back out of iRise's repository (which includes the models, the requirements they're capturing, various reports, and so on) and pass them off to the development team, along with the actual simulation, which can serve as a reference application. This is the point where things would be implemented into whatever platform your enterprise actually uses. The final goal is to get users the software that they actually wanted. From what I saw, there's a good chance of this happening, and in large projects, that could easily save substantial money.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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