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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Requirements Analysis | General Requirements Analysis Issues ]

Emotional Issues In Determining Requirements

"To thine own self be true"
-- William Shakespeare

You may be wondering: why choose "emotional issues" as the first thing to discuss when it comes to requirements analysis? The answer is simple: for a large percentage of PC buyers, emotions dictate their purchasing more than logical analysis does.

There's nothing to be ashamed about in this. Humans are emotional creatures, and it is no surprise that emotions often enter into all sorts of decisions. PCs are certainly no exception, and if anything, they are often worse than many other products, because they are so exciting and interesting that's its easy to get "hooked" once you start shopping. The very first PC I bought for myself was, I realized later, a very emotional purchase. Unfortunately, it was an expensive lesson that I would like, if possible, to spare you from learning the hard way.

I mentioned in another section that "value" is one of the most abused words in the English language. Another word that is similarly used far too much and too inaccurately is "need". (Just talk to my four-year-old for a few minutes! :^) ) When doing requirements analysis, the temptation is to talk a great deal in terms of "needs". Shoppers will say "I need A, B and C". Salespeople will say "You need X, Y and Z". But how many people actually stop to think about what they really do need? How many stop to try to separate what they need from what they want?

On a discussion forum recently I came across a young man who was putting together a "PC system for college". He was planning to spend about $4,000 on this machine. This puzzled a lot of people, since it's totally unnecessary to spend that kind of money on a PC for a student. He talked about how he needed a high-end system for the things he wanted to do. A long discussion ensued, and in the end, it turned out that what he needed this $4,000 PC for was a big music collection, burning CDs "while multitasking", playing high-performance 3D video games; and--probably most important to him--impressing his friends. This came as no surprise to me, since the tasks the typical college student needs to perform can be accomplished on a system costing one-quarter this amount. He was fooling himself as much as he was trying to fool anyone else.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with buying a more expensive PC just because you want to. Or deciding you want to spend $4,000 on a machine just for games. After all, people don't buy Porsches and speedboats because they "require transportation". However, remember the old computer industry saying: "garbage in, garbage out". This phrase means that no program, regardless of how well it is written, can produce good results when fed bad data. Similarly, you cannot hope to do a good job of determining what you should get in a PC if you aren't honest with yourself in assessing what your needs and wants really are.

So, if you're going to spend a lot of money getting a PC for fun, great! But starting with this in the forefront of your mind will let you accomplish this goal more successfully. It's a mistake to try to rationalize the decision ("I really need this 1 GHz PC not just for games, but also so I can balance my checkbook!") and end up with a compromise that doesn't get you where you really want to go.

Next: Listing and Prioritizing Needs and Wants

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