ITGS Syllabus

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Topic 187

Identifying domains that are suitable for expert systems by Chirag

Before an expert system can be developed, the need has to be established and the problem to be addressed must be clearly identified and defined.

It is strongly recommended that this be done in a structured study to include the following issues:

• The problem/need to be addressed and the system benefits.
• Organizational risk factors.
• Technical risk factors.
• User risk factors.

Once a suitable problem domain has been defined for the expert system, the next task is to narrow the scope of the development effort by clearly defining the set of problems that the system will be expected to solve. The narrower the scope, the better are the chances that the expert system can be successfully built. However, if the scope is too narrow, the application becomes trivial. Judgment must be used in establishing the scope of the system as deterministic methods are not available. If the development tool is too limited, it will be impossible to broaden the scope of the expert system by expanding the knowledge base. This highlights the importance of selecting the proper development tool to fit the particular problem.

Before embarking on an expert system development effort, the expected benefits of such an effort must be clearly defined. There are two categories of benefits that are typically cited as reasons for developing an expert system. One category consists of concrete, quantifiable reasons such as savings of time and money, utility as a training tool, etc. The other category of benefits consists of tangible but not quantifiable reasons.

Once a problem domain has been identified and the initial effort at narrowing the scope of the expert system application completed, the experts whose expertise will be modeled must be selected.

The two main criteria that should be used to identify the experts are:

1. The candidates must be an expert in solving problems in the problem domain of interest and must be recognized as such by the potential user community. The need for the candidate to be an expert in the field is essential for the development of the expert system. The need for the expert to be recognized as such by the potential user community is primarily useful in selling the potential users on the viability of the given system as a useful problem solving tool for them.

2. The experts must be dedicated to the successful development, testing, evaluation, and implementation of the system and be available and willing to spend the time (perhaps months) that will be required to accomplish this. The failure to identify such a person or persons and obtain a firm commitment means that the development project should not be undertaken.

Other useful characteristics for the domain expert(s) to have included the ability to communicate effectively have an orderly mind, patience and the willingness to teach.
User risk factors must be considered and resolved in the initial planning phases of the expert system development.

If representative end users are not involved in the planning and development stages, the system probably will not be accepted by the user community.

Issues include:

- The end users must want the system and have a vested interest in its success.

- The computer proficiency and other skills and interests of the end users must be accommodated.

- The environment or conditions under which the system will be operated must be accounted for.


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