Efficient software reuse is critical particularly in resource-constrained sectors like the third sector. However, uncovering common solutions among seemingly unrelated problems can be a challenge, especially for individuals without years of digital experience. In this blog post, I wanted to explore how an abstract perspectives and the CIPO model (Context, Inputs, Processes, Outputs) can unlock the potential for reusability and facilitate effective software component reuse.
In the vast realm of software development, recognizing that different problems can share a common solution is no small feat. The complexity and uniqueness of individual problem domains often obscure the underlying similarities. Embracing an abstract perspective allows us to transcend specific implementations and gain a higher-level understanding, revealing the common ground between seemingly disparate problems.
User stories are a well understood way to create a sentence that describes a need in a structured but simple way. What I’ve been looking for was the same concept but for describing the solution rather than the need.
Say hello to CIPO
Enter the CIPO! a versatile framework widely used in system analysis and design and found a niche in schools. It provides a structured approach to understanding and documenting the key elements of solutions. By employing the CIPO model, we can abstract complex problems into their fundamental components, unveiling the underlying patterns that make it easier to indicate common solutions. Almost any system can be described in this way.
- Context Context refers to the environment or situation in which the solution operates. It includes factors such as the intended users, the problem the software aims to solve, and any constraints or limitations.
- Inputs The information or data or triggers that the system receives or requires to perform its tasks. It can include user input, data from external sources, or even predefined parameters.
- Processes Process refers to the operations or actions that the software performs on the input to produce the desired results. It involves algorithms, calculations, decision-making, and any other logical steps necessary to transform the input into the desired output.
- Outputs Output represents the results or outcomes generated by the software after processing the input. It can be in the form of displayed information, generated reports, updated data, or any other tangible or visible output that fulfills the purpose of the software.
So if a user story follows the structure: “As a [type of user], I want [some goal] so that [some reason].”
Then CIPO solution could be something like: “The system is for [context], it takes [inputs] and [processess] to give [ouputs].”
E.g. “The system is for supporting on-boarding of early years volunteers, it takes personal details for volunteers and supports background checks and monitors training to give reports on volunteers ready to support the charity”
This gives a really simple way to spot patterns when comparing solutions. It would easily help you identify all the tools that dealt with volunteers that might work in the same context or background checks tools that might be from a different space but perform the same function.
Where to next?
I’d love to be able to compile a big library of solution all written up in a CIPO format, and then make that searchable tool to help make reuse more accessible for anyone.