Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
The Fox and the Grapes

One late afternoon as evening approached, Owl spied a young fox sitting under a cluster of grapes. The grapes appeared to be just out of the fox's reach. Remembering a tale that a wise old owl had told her a long time ago about a fox and a bunch of grapes, Owl decided to help the young fox. Now Owl was quite versed in the art of systems analysis. The first task at hand was to put together a team, a team that with a diversity of skills and experience. From the air creatures she chose Sparrowhawk. From the water creatures she chose her old friend Trout. From the land creatures she called on Tortoise (he being much wiser than Hare). She assembled her team and started on the task at hand. Tortoise (who was quite old) asked the team if they wanted to use the traditional waterfall model of the Systems Development Life Cycle. Trout liked that suggestion. Owl suggested that the team used a more modern approach like Rapid Application Development, for she recalled from the tale something about the grapes going sour, so a quick remedy was needed. RAD would allow for the rapid development of a prototype and easy reversal of changes to the prototype if needed. So the team started brainstorming ideas. First the group had to agree on whether the problem was getting the fox to the grapes or the grapes to the fox. After an hour of spirited discussion during which Sparrowhawk threatened to eat Trout, Owl decided that the group was rapidly getting nowhere fast. She decided that the group needed to focus on getting the two entities together, period. The evolution of the prototype was amazing. Trout wanted to use water to shoot the grapes off the vine. Sparrowhawk wanted to propel the fox into the air high enough to reach the grapes. Tortoise wanted to combine elements of both ideas. The team assembled a unit consisting of a pulley, a rope, a harness and a bucket. Sparrowhawk would attach the pulley to the vine and thread the rope through the pulley. The harness would fasten around the fox on one end of the rope and the bucket on the other. Trout would push the bucket underwater and the current of the steam would grab the bucket, pulling the fox into the air and up to the grapes. The design was absolutely flawless. Owl approached the young fox and introduced the team. She scratched a Data Flow Diagram in the dirt and explained what the team was proposing as the sun began to set. The fox thanked Owl for her thoughtfulness but stated that all their hard work was not necessary. The fox was simply sitting there waiting to watch the sunset. The fox also explained that his great-great-great grandfather fox had been thirsty and that was why he had tried to reach the grapes. The young fox could have simply trotted over the stream to get a drinků

Moral: Before designing a solution, make sure you thoroughly understand the problem, or at least verify that there is one. It would have been wiser for Owl to ask a few questions before coming up with what seemed like an obvious answer. Owl was wise in Choosing RAD over the waterfall methodology when she perceived that speed was of the essence. The waterfall method would require completing the stages in order, whereas RAD allows quick development of a prototype.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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