Mission Statement,
Customers, and
Mission Statements
e first thing we need to do when undertaking the development of a new system,
or redesign of an old one, is to prepare a mission statement. e mission statement
acts as a focal point for all involved in the system, and it allows us to weigh the
importance of various features by asking the question how does that functionality
serve the mission?” In agile methodologies, to be discussed later, we would say that
the mission statement plays the role of “system metaphor.
Writing mission statements can be contentious business, and many people
resent or fear doing so because there can be a tendency to get bogged down on
minutiae. Sometimes, mission statements tend to get very long and, in fact, evolve
into a “visionstatement. A mission statement should be very short, descriptive,
compelling, and never detailed, whereas a vision statement can be long. e mis-
sion statement is the “how” and the statement is the “what.A mission statement
is almost a slogan.
One of the most widely cited “goodmission statements is the one associated
with the Starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek series. at mission state-
ment read
To seek out new life, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
24 Requirements Engineering for Software and Systems
is statement is clear, compelling, and inspiring. And it is useful”—fans of
this classic series will recall several episodes in which certain actions to be taken by
the starship crew were weighed against the mission statement.
To illustrate further, there is an apocryphal story of a multi-billion dollar-
company that manufactured cardboard boxes and other packaging. e mission
statement was something like
Our mission is to provide innovative, safe, and reliable packaging to the
worlds manufacturers.
At a corporate retreat the senior executives began to bog down in arguments
over new plants, corporate jets, marketing, and so on. In the back of the room, the
CEO, a direct descendent of one of the companys founders was silently gesturing
with his hands. Finally the executives noticed the CEO’s actions, silenced, and
asked what he was doing. He said, “I am making the shape of a box—remember
what we do—we make boxes.” is reference to the mission statement brought the
other executives back on track.
So what might a mission statement for the baggage handling system look like?
How about
To automate all aspects of baggage handling from passenger origin
to destination.
For the pet store POS system, consider
To automate all aspects of customer purchase interaction and inven-
tory control.
ese are not necessarily clever, or awe inspiring mission statements, but they
do convey the essence of the system. And they might be useful downstream when
we need to calibrate the expectations of those involved in its specification. In glob-
ally distributed development in particular, the need for a system metaphor is of
paramount importance.
Encounter with a Customer?
Suppose your wife (or substitute husband,friend, “roommate,or whoever)
asks you to go to the store to pick up the following items because she wants to make
a cake:
5 pounds flour
12 large eggs
5 pounds sugar
1 pound butter

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