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Monday, November 13, 2017

On evaluating abilities

When one ponders all the various evaluations of interoperability, you need to look at multiple factors.  A key component of this word, as for many other non-functional requirements of systems is the word "ability".  It denotes a capability, or capacity to achieve some desired goal with some level of effort.

The same is true for other non-functional requirements: Reliability, securability, accessability, usability, affordability.  In each of these, the measure is of degree, rather than a "yes vs. no" evaluation.

When headlines make claims about the existence or non-existence of "interoperability", they most often make the assumption that it exists or it does not.  However, when other evaluations of non-functional requirements are done elsewhere in industry, there's an assumption of degree, where achieving a particular score might assess a product as having one of these "abilities".  Consider the term "drivability" in the automotive industry for example.

When you hear that group believes that product isn't ...able, does that mean that it isn't?  In my world, no.  What it actually means is that product doesn't meet group's goals with respect to ...ability.  Unfortunately, without stating what group's goals are, there's precious little that can be done with that reporting other than to investigate further.

Were early cell-phones usable? It depends.  Did you live in an area where you had coverage?  Could you afford to use them?  Did it make and receive the calls that were important to you?  If your answers to those questions were yes, moderately, and mostly, you might say that they were somewhat usable.  If the answers were no, yes, and no, you would say no.  When I worked in the city, my answer was yes.  When I had to travel to a rural destination my answer was no.  These were the goals that warranted my purchase of a bag phone two decades ago.

Determine the goals.  Assess whether the capability meets those goals.  Only then can you assess whether the capability is sufficiently present or not.  TODAY.  Tomorrow the expectations will be different.

The bag phone I evaluated above would certainly be considered to be barely usable today, even though twenty years ago is was more than moderately useful.

   Keith

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