Visualize First, Build Later: Advantage of Simulation Tools

When Jan Scheetz was asked for a wish list of what she wanted in an electronic physician-order system for patient rehab regimens, she wasn't shy about her requirements. According to Scheetz, the ideal system would generate a valid electronic signature from a physician, which is necessary to process insurance and Medicare claims but is often a challenge to obtain.

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Preston estimates the hospital spent less than $300,000 to purchase iRise. She says there is very little about the tool that users don't like, other than the fact that learning how it works takes a significant amount of time and "if you don't use it you will lose it," since the tool requires several steps. The hospital has about 17 business analysts who use iRise on a regular basis.

There are some other things to keep in mind if you're planning to use software visualization tools. Preston says using the iRise software required MD Andersen to buy extra memory for business analysts' laptops. And it was important to deploy iRise on laptops, because analysts generally use the iRise software in meetings with users. The need for more memory "caught us by surprise because we didn't plan for it in advance," Preston explains.

For his part, UPS's Hilbush says that "a key lesson learned is that you need to do the iRise simulation as early in the development cycle as possible and you need to include both business users and developers; it is the business analyst who typically does the iRise simulation." Because the business analyst is part of the development team at UPS, the developers are typically involved, hence they don't give up a great deal of their creativity. "If done well, the process is very open and collaborative," Hilbush says.

MD Andersen has cut about 25% off of its overall development time by using simulation, says Dr. Lynn Vogel, vice president and CIO, adding, "Our dream would be if simulation would generate all the code. But that's a very difficult process. Coding is as much an art as a science."

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor. She can be reached at

This story, "Visualize First, Build Later: Advantage of Simulation Tools" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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