The exploratory model is a systems development method ( SDM ) occasionally used to design and develop a computer system or product and basically consists of planning and trying different designs until one of them seems to be the right one to develop. This model works best in situations where few, or none, of the system or product requirements are known in detail ahead of time. This model is largely based on educated guesswork.
There are several steps in the exploratory model:
- A starting point is determined for the work. All the information available is gathered together in an attempt to get an idea of what the new system will be expected to do, and how it can be done.
- A rudimentary first-generation system is put together, based on the information gathered and the ideas formulated in the first step.
- The first-generation system is tested to see how it performs, what it can and cannot do, and what might be done to improve it.
- A second-generation system is developed from the first one, based on the improvements proposed in the previous step.
- The second-generation system is tested, as was the first. Its performance is evaluated, and possible improvements determined.
- The process is repeated as many times as necessary to obtain user satisfaction, or until it is decided that the project is unworkable.
- Routine maintenance is carried out on a continuing basis to prevent large-scale failures and to minimize downtime.
This model resembles the prototyping model, but it begins at a more nebulous starting point, and proceeds in a less formal fashion. This scheme is not particularly cost-effective and sometimes results in less-than-optimal systems, so it should be used only when no viable alternative seems to exist.