"It's overly optimistic to think you can spec out and implement a solution in advance."

At the heart of Terabase's process is T-RAD, a variation of the Rapid Application Development methodology with Agile development characteristics. Based on work undertaken by Mr. Olson and Ms. Koenig, T-RAD allows developers to quickly construct prototypes from minimal specifications. In turn, this allows product concepts, usability and feasibility to be validated more quickly. Design and implementation phases can then proceed in parallel, encouraging continuous feedback and allowing changes early in the development process.

The key to T-RAD is the human factor: Terabase's development team sits down with the client and investigates the problem. The team will review the data to be used in a project, and in many cases conduct statistical analysis to predict its performance. All the while, it considers how users will approach the product itself - what kind of information will they be looking for, what sorts of queries and retrievals will they run?

Once this analysis is complete, Terabase organizes the data to optimize performance for searching and retrieval. The team then develops a prototype and uses it to facilitate comments from clients and the product's end users. As the application itself is developed, the team continually solicits feedback and evolves the application to address it until the product is ready for introduction. "A lot of what we do is help clients understand the problem - even as we're building the solution," notes Mr. Olson.

"It's overly optimistic to think you can spec out and implement a solution in advance," he believes, because so much of a product's dynamics are learned during the implementation process itself. Often, trade-offs need to be made as a product takes shape. "We don't go into a project thinking it's not going to change," Mr. Olson says. "We're prepared for changes."

  Updated September 9, 2005
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