The Development of a Documentation Mechanism for Creating Maintainable Information Systems Using Hypertext

Lesley A. Gardner
2000 Journal of Intelligent Systems  
This paper describes the development of a hypermedia documentation mechanism for information systems development. The use of hypermedia as a software engineering tool for the creation of maintainable information systems has been extensively explored with significant findings. These developments led to the specification, creation, and use of the Fully Integrated Environment for a Layered Development (FIELD) system. To supplement these investigations, a complex environmental control organization,
more » ... the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Authority, was used as a case study. The development of FIELD and its use for the documentation and development of a prototype information system for the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Authority is described, and the overall methodological implications for future information system development are discussed. It is postulated that the development of such a complex information system may be improved by this method of using hypermedia. This paper reports on the initial findings of this investigation and the appropriateness of these ideas for general application in the information systems development field. using hypermedia. FIELD was developed by using the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Authority as an experimental application. Many CASE tools now exist and, to a degree, provide good diagramming and logical progression facilities for information systems developers. Such systems tend, however, to provide storage only for the information generated by the tool, which limits the developer's access to information from other sources. As rigidity does not allow the developer to use information in a full and practical manner, such inflexibility, therefore, does not allow these tools to be used for extensive modeling of the system but more as simple informationstorage devices. CASE tools often do not facilitate the import of important documents from different sources, including other CASE tools and original information sources. In the short term, these factors may not seem to be very important. In the longer term, however, when a decision has been made on the basis of original documents, being able to verify that the solutions drawn from these are correct in the light of all the evidence is useful. Verification is less likely to happen if the relevant information is not held in an accessible form. It is also apparent that CASE tools are unlikely to support the import of multiple media sources of information (for example, sound, video, and so on), and are therefore unable to benefit from these rich sources. When considered individually, each point may not appear to be a major detraction, but when taken together, potential problems may arise. Such inflexibilities may, over time, cause the developer to produce an information system that is fundamentally flawed because development will be based on partial knowledge and a partial understanding of the system. Given that these problems appear to emanate from the inflexibility of CASE tools, it is plausible that a more flexible method should be employed. The use of hypermedia may provide some solutions. Whilst it is not envisaged that a hypermedia tool would completely replace the logical and diagramming facilities that CASE tools provide, nor would it reduce the need for developers to work as a team, the management of such information sources might be more effective through a hypermedia information systems development system. Hypermedia development information storage systems provide more flexible modes to work with because hypermedia allows the import, manipulation, storage, and export of multiple media. Storing the original
doi:10.1515/jisys.2000.10.5-6.557 fatcat:qwpycrza5jf7bn4utx46vijp2m