Sources of Business Systems Design Direction
Business system designs are driven by business needs. However, the end system design must:
At the highest level the design must reflect the ideal state of the firm. As the design is refined, a balance will be achieved between this ideal state and what is feasible, practical and in some cases achievable. This balance will reflect the capability of the firm to make the needed system changes, the resources it can devote to making those changes, the time it will take to to fully implement all the changes, and it time within which the changes must be made.
The products of the framework phase are a set of blueprints or models each of which is accompanied by a set of definitions, descriptions and narrative explanations. Because of the limitations of modeling constructs and techniques, and to keep the blueprints or models relatively easy to understand, each blueprint or model identifies an aspect of the system change set, and the structure within which those changes must be made. These blueprints or models incorporate the set of one or more factors, influences, driving or controlling forces which together act as primary determinants on the structure of the system, the detail procedural changes which need to be made and the data which are needed by each detail procedure. These models or blueprints are interrelated and changes to one are almost always accompanied by changes in the others.
Business System Design Determinants
When completed each component of each of the models which comprise the framework product should be directly tied to, supportive of, and derivable from one or more of the primary determinants of business, its goals, objectives, missions, strategies, etc.
While in some instances a specific framework product component may also be a determinant of the framework itself, generally speaking these determinants represent external influences to the firm and the framework product components represent the firm's business actions and reactions in response to those external influences.
Since the sum of these determinants usually constitute the determinants of the strategic planning model of a firm, the framework level can also be thought of as the strategic business systems plan of the firm. The remainder of this chapter will be devoted to the identification and definition of some of the most common framework determinants followed by a brief discussion of each determinant. The determinants are presented alphabetically and not in order of importance.
Applications are usually discussed within the context of systems automation. An automated systems application is a set of computer programs designed and written to support the routine processing requirements of a specific set(s) of users. An application may support one or more activities within a given user area or given set of user areas, or it may include all activities within a given user area or set of user areas. In some cases an application may cross managerial, responsibility and authority lines.
Since most firms have some level of automation already in place, the manner in which many of the firm's processes and tasks are performed and the sequence in which they are performed are dictated by the operations of these automated applications.
In many cases the only documentation of procedures, data coding structures, editing and validation rules and business rules themselves appears within the program code of these applications.
In redesigning systems, the firm's reliance on these existing systems, the difficulty of changing them, and the investment in time and resource which they represent all have a strong influence on any systems redesign. In addition, since in most firm's these applications have a heavy interdependence of both data and processing special care must be taken to examine them thoroughly and to plan the changes around the firm's ability to change these applications in a concerted and coordinated manner.
In any business environment, and thus in any system redesign plan both management and operational staff must make certain assumptions about business growth which in turn affect processing volumes. They must also make certain assumptions with respect to what the competition will or will not do, what legislation and regulations will or will not change, what technological changes will occur, what will happen to their sources of supplies, what social and economic trends will develop, what changes will occur within their client or customer populations, etc.
They must also make certain assumptions with respect to the financial health of the firm which in turn will affect the amount of funds the firm can devote to the systems redesign effort. Other assumptions might have to do with manpower and skill availability, management stability, firm ownership, stock market growth or decline, etc.
Budgets are usually also developed for major projects, not as much to project income as to project and monitor project expenses. The design project budget is usually a part of some other budget or budgets within the firm. The project budget is one of the single most controlling factors in determining project scope, since it is the budget which determines the resources available for the project effort.
Although this book uses activity as part of a hierarchy of task groupings, many other works use different definitions of these terms and thus different hierarchies.
The hierarchy of system, process, activity and task, is arbitrary and the size and number of groupings of tasks within each is also arbitrary.
Functions may generate revenue for the firm, service the customers of the firm, produce the products and services of the firm, or manage, administer, monitor, record or report on the activities, states or conditions of the entities of the firm.
automated. Business processes are the second level of aggregation or grouping in the hierarchy of system, process, activity and task.
Business Subject Area
Business subject areas are a method of producing and discussing a level of grouping of tasks aggregates one level higher and one level broader than that of functions.
Business subject areas may also be narrower than a function and can be organized along a horizontal perspective of business activities rather than the traditional vertical perspectives.
As business systems are integrated, they begin to span more and more functional management areas. The process of integration causes a break in the traditional linkage between functions and the systems and processes they traditionally managed. Most redesigned business systems cross functional or managerial lines. Many systems, especially data collection systems, have no functional manager or responsibility point but are treated as common systems to the firm.
Tasks are usually performed by a specific individual or group of individuals and are usually performed in conformance to a set of written step by step instructions incorporated in a procedure, standard, or manual.
Tasks are repetitive and measurable. Most managerial activity is directed to monitoring, controlling, measuring and predicting the products at the task level.
Clients determine what products the firm will produce or distribute, what services it will offer, how much of those goods and services will be offered, and consumed, what quality and features will be incorporated into those goods and services, and how much the firm may charge for those goods and services. Clients may also to some extent determine the accountability the firm must assume for any harm caused by its goods and services, and how much profit the firm may make as a result of doing business.
Critical Success Factor
A critical success factor is usually stated in terms of a number or range of numbers, which are targets or goals of operating performance. Critical success factors may be stated in terms of measures of internal or external states or conditions, and are usually in terms of a formula bringing together several individual business measures. Critical success factors may also be stated in terms of comparisons between one measure and another, ratios of one measure and another, or test between measures.
Critical success factors are hierarchical in nature and in many instances one or more critical success factors may be used to create still another critical success factor.
Decision Support Objective
Decision support objectives are usually stated in terms of information availability, measurability, or historical information accessibility. Decision support information is usually analytic in nature and usually comparative of period against period.
Data Subject Area
An entity may also be an event, or set of events, states or conditions.
A data entity is some person, places, thing, etc., about which the firm collects and need to collect data on an on-going basis. The need to collect information about the data entities is what determines much of the processing requirements of the firm.
Issues are usually recognized points of dispute which need to be resolved before some action or set of actions can be take. Issues may also highlight areas of disagreement which must be resolved before decisions can be made or directions set.
Legislation governs what the firm may do, how it may do it, what charges it may levy, what liability it must assume as a course of doing business, what responsibilities it must undertake in order to do business, what profits it may make, what kinds of products it may produce or services it may offer, how it must compensate its employees and what benefits it must offer its employees, what information it must make available to the public, what records it must keep, how long it must keep those records, how it must treat its competition and how when and where it may compete. Legislation governs where it may get it raw materials from and to whom it may or must sell its products or services.
Locations are also where the firm does business, where its employees work, or where its customers or clients may be found.
Organizational units are usually managerial concepts and are most closely equated with functions in that they are managerial conveniences for aggregating business activities and assigning responsibilities and authorities for the performance of those activities.
Plans are developed for almost all projects or activities undertaken within a firm. Plans usually include a schedule of activities, assignment of roles, responsibilities and authorities for the accomplishment of those activities. Specific plans may also be drawn up reflecting allocation of financial resources (a budget), interactions with other groups both within the firm and external to it who must participate or who must be informed of progress of the activities. Plans may also be drawn to reflect manpower allocation and participation in the project activities.
Stakeholders, may be customers, clients, stockholders, employees, or any group of persons or companies that are directly benefited by the firms performance (positively or negatively).
A firm usually has one strategy (or set of strategic objectives, and many sets of tactical plans as to how to achieve those objectives. Tactical plans are usually generated by each level of management and passed down to the next lower level.
Although technology is usually associated with the physical sciences, it also encompasses all natural and social sciences as well. Technological changes in the areas of philosophy, psychology, information sciences and theory and mathematics may also affect how, when and where the firm does business.
Data Directed Systems Design - A Professional's Guide
Written by Martin E. Modell
Copyright © 2007 Martin E. Modell
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Except as permitted under United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.