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Choosing system design methodologies: Part 2

Posted: 31 Mar 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:system design  design methodology  system functionality 

Before designing a system, we need to know what we are designing. In this context, the terms "requirements" and "specifications" are used in a variety of ways—some people use them as synonyms, while others use them as distinct phases. They are used here to mean related but distinct steps in the design process.

Requirements are informal descriptions of what the customer wants, while specifications are more detailed, precise and consistent descriptions of the system that can be used to create the architecture. Both requirements and specifications are, however, directed to the outward behaviour of the system, not its internal structure.

The overall goal of creating a requirements document is effective communication between the customers and the designers. The designers should know what they are expected to design for the customers; the customers, whether they are known in advance or represented by marketing, should understand what they will get.

We have two types of requirements: functional and non-functional. A functional requirement states what the system must do, such as compute an FFT. A non-functional requirement can be any number of other attributes, including physical size, cost, power consumption, design time, reliability and so on.

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