The Concept of Proto-Typing in the System Development Process

A prototype is basically a scaled down model or working version of product. The prototype is put through various tests, before it is converted into a polished, sleek product. The process of preparing prototype is referred to as “prototyping”. It is consisting of building an experimental system rapidly and inexpensively for the end-user to evaluate. Prototyping is also viewed as “strategy of experimental assurance in development of information system applications to be achieved by an evolutionary design method”.

Steps in proto-typing:

Step 1: identify the user’s basic requirements

At this stage the systems person works with the user to understand user’s basic needs and requirements as regards the output from the systems. The systems person establishes realistic user expectation, estimates the cost of developing the working proto type, defines data elements required and determines data availability.

Step2: Develop the initial/Working proto type:

The systems person develops the initial working/interactive prototype quickly, which meets the user’s stated basic requirements. The prototype, performing only the basic functions is then handed over to the user. While developing the proto type, the systems person may use the latest tools available to speed up the application development.

Step3: Use the proto type for further refinements:

The user already received the initial proto type which he now puts to use. This working with the proto type enables the user to gain hands on experience with the proposed system and helps him to determine as to what extent the proto type meets the user needs/expectations/requirements. The user rather than systems person, decides the desired changes for further improving the proto type.

Step4: Revise and enhance proto type:

The systems person takes due notice of the changes suggested by the user and revises, enhances and refines the proto type accordingly. The proto type is then returned to the user and the process follows steps 3 and 4 in an interactive mode till the proto type is finally approved by the user and become operative.

A schematic representation of proto-typing is given below:

Advantages of Prototyping:

The major advantages of prototype are as follows:-

  • Ability to ‘tryout’ ideas without incurring large/ huge costs.
  • Lower overall development costs when requirements change frequently
  • The ability to get a functioning system into the hands of the user quickly.
  • Reduced application development time to achieve a functioning system.
  • Effective utilization of scarce human resources.

Disadvantages of Prototyping:

  • Prototyping is better suited for smaller modular applications.
  • Rapid prototyping can gross over essential steps in systems development.
  • The performance may be rather inefficient.
  • As the system can be changed easily, documentation may not be kept up-to-date.
  • User must be willing and committed to providing ongoing and meaningful feedback.