GEOG 468
GIS Analysis and Design

Calkins' Methodology: A User Centric Approach


Hugh Calkins developed a methodology as a modification of the original 1972 methodology (Calkins 1982) (See figure 2.02). The Calkins methodology begins with the definition of objectives and requirements. The methodology then divides into two paths: one pursues issues of data, and the other pursues the issue of acquiring hardware and software. By dividing the methodology in such a way, a stronger emphasis is placed on the data requirements and needs. This is important because in a geographic information system the data is as important as, if not more important than, the hardware and software.

Aside from the separation of data from the hardware and software, the methodology follows the same general linear path as the original 1972 methodology. One striking difference is the omission of feedback mechanisms. At no point in the methodology is there an explicit return to the initial objectives and requirements. This opens the possibility that the final product may not be what was needed or expected. The lack of feedback mechanisms also denies users the opportunity to interact with the system and make changes to its specification, or more importantly, to the requirements.

Rather than feedback mechanisms, the Calkins methodology encourages continual user input throughout the process. Rather than iteratively modifying the system to accommodate changing user requirements, the Calkins methodology takes more of an incremental approach. Although not illustrated in the diagram, at each step of the process the system is evaluated by the users and minor changes can be made. This methodology, however, does not accommodate radical changes to the users' requirements. Rather, the idea in this methodology is to prevent the need for radical changes.

Calkins places strong emphasis on the involvement of users. This is an important and crucial factor. Changes that need to be made to the system commonly come from the users. Calkins acknowledges that changes will undoubtedly be necessary, and he states that a plan needs to be developed to deal with modifications after the system's implementation. This is an important strategy in any project. However, it is best to implement a system that meets the needs of the organization when it is first produced. Earlier sections have discussed the costly and time-consuming problems associated with significant backtracking in the process. A design methodology that accommodates change and the refinement of requirements before implementation is necessary.

This methodology explicitly addresses the participation of all levels of an organization. In particular, Calkins stresses the continual involvement of users in the design process. Other requirements (i.e., iterative discovery, communication emphasis, effective group-work environments, and education) are not formally presented in the Calkins methodology.