For this project, L’Monte was asked to evaluate the technical
feasibility of a hand-held, high-resolution liquid chromatography
(HPLC) controller. The specification for this proposed product
required that the controller manage two high pressure pumps,
a proprietary chromatographic interface module, a variety
injection devices, fraction collectors and similar equipment
used for chromatographic separations. The controller was
to be easily
programmable using a touch screen and a simple command set
and was to allow the user to create, store, retrieve and run
methods using various combinations of equipment attached
to the controller and interface modules.
The controller was to communicate
with the various attached devices through a combination of
a standard RS-232 serial line and a number of special purpose signal
running through the interface module. Above all, the fixed
for the controller had to be kept very low as this was intended
to be low-end market device.
From the outset, this was to be an
exploratory project whose principal goal was to determine
the technical feasibility of creating such
a controller running on an inexpensive hand-held computer.
The second objective of the project, once a working prototype
was to use the prototype as a tool to explore marketing
venues for the project. In addition to contracting for the prototype
creation as such, L’Monte also took on responsibility
for market research using online databases then available.
From the outset, this was a high-risk project. No one knew
if enough features could be added to a low-end, hand-held
controller to create
a system with enough functionality and ease of use to be
product. The first step was to identify the minimum set of
desired features, map these to a basic command set and create
interface design compatible with the touch screen devices
L’Monte then surveyed the available
hand-held computers and selected one that appeared most
likely to satisfy all
constraints such as unit cost, screen size and maximum
the best hand-held candidate thus allowed us to quantify
the hardware constraint picture.
Because of the many uncertainties
in this project, we selected
a spiral lifecycle development model. The major significance
of this model is that at each turn of the spiral, when
a delivery was made, a risk-benefit analysis was performed
for the project.
It was understood that a possible outcome of the analysis
would be a determination that the remaining risks outweighed
gain and the project would be cancelled. Thus the method
kept project team members focused on risk management.
The early deliverables for the project were encouraging in that
they implied that sufficient functionality and usability would,
in fact, be possible given the unit cost constraints for the
product. However, by the sixth milestone, integration issues
began to arise which made it clear that controller memory constraints
would probably prevent all of the required features from being
Although we were aware of this possibility early
in the project, it was not possible to determine this until
a sufficient number of subsystems were in place. On the basis of
the risk-benefit analysis for the sixth delivery, we helped
client determine that further product development was not necessary.
A decision was made to cancel the project.