The process of designing information systems typically involves a plethora of conflicting viewpoints, which can slow down implementation efforts if not properly managed. To combat this, the VPEC-T analysis thinking framework was conceived. In the United Kingdom, for example, it was used to solve a particularly thorny issue in the UK Criminal Justice.
The essence of VPEC-T analysis is to provide a collection of mental filters and guides. Together, they provide a simplified communication method that prevents loss in translation from business needs to IT solutions. As such, VPEC-T analysis is used when analyzing the expectations of multiple parties with different views of a single system. Each party may have different priorities and responsibilities, and may want to achieve different objectives. VPEC-T analysis is commonly used for complex enterprise IT systems or large-scale development efforts.
VPEC-T Analysis in Practice
At the initial stages of the project, it's useful to consider the five elements of VPEC-T: Values, Policies, Events, Content, and Trust.
Values: In VPEC-T analysis, value is the desired outcome from the individual and business perspectives. It represents what everyone involved wants to gain from the development project. If the desired outcome of each stakeholder is captured from the onset, the resulting solution would be considered more acceptable to them, being a true representation of their needs.
Policies: Policies may originate from within the organization or from outside, and may be either implicit or explicit. They set limitations that control how information is handled. Think of them as the business rules the proposed system will implement, for example, the maximum credit limit per customer. The objective of VPEC-T analysis is to bring these policies to the fore so that they are implemented along with other requirements.
Events: Events cause a certain number of activities to occur thus leading the business to perform various actions based on external stimuli. Actions taken by porcess participants may be triggered by events, for example, a report may be generated only when “stock of an item gets below a predefined threshold”. All the events associated with processes under review, which stimulate relevant business actions to be taken, are to be taken into consideration as part of the analysis effort.
Content: Content is everything meaningful that the business produces when engaged in a business activity, including conversations, messages, documentation, and so on. Think of it as the data needed to execute a business process. For example, what information is needed to register a new employee?
Trust: The element of trust considers the relationship between users of the system and the system itself. For example, it considers the right users have to access the system and change the information within it. Trust also considers the relationship between all participants in the process or system under consideration and can change with time. The level of trust or the lack of it, can cause participants to act contrary to the goal the information system is intended to accomplish.
Keep in mind that the order by which the elements of VPEC-T analysis are explored doesn’t matter. Each system and each question is unique, and the angle from which it’s best examined may vary. What matters is spending enough time on all five elements prior to implementing the information system. Explore the five elements of VPEC-T continuously during the early stages of system analysis and design. Don’t hesitate to customize the framework to fit your needs and the peculiarities of the project at hand.