Glossary of Terms and Concepts

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Activity That set of tasks which are organized and broken down into a set of procedures to accomplish a specific goal. The distinction between a sub-function and an activity is as much a matter of interpretation as it is a matter of scope.

Analysis The separation of an intellectual or substantial whole into its constituent parts for individual study. The stated findings of such a separation or determination.

Application The specific set of activities under analysis. An application may consist of one or more activities within a functional area, or it may include all activities within a functional area. In some cases the application may cross functional areas. In some firms an application is synonymous with a system.

Attribute An aspect, quality, or characteristic of either an entity or a relationship which describes it. An attribute may be a physical characteristic, such as size, weight, or color, or a locational attribute, such as place of residence or place of birth. It may be a quality such as level of a particular skill, educational degree achieved, or the dollar value of the items represented by the order.

Baseline  An item or collection of items of a particular shape and form used as a reference.   A baseline configuration is a reference point for evaluating modifications and enhancements and a starting point for making those changes.  This baseline is normally considered the “official” version of an installed and operational Configuration Item.

Class  A set, group, collection or configuration containing  members having or believed to have at least one attribute or  characteristic in common. To classify is to organize or arrange according to class or category.

Client/Server That combination of common use, sharable machines which provide a variety of services to a network of personal workstations know as clients.  Server machines may be dedicated to providing file storage or peripheral device management (such as printers, scanners, etc.) services, or they may also function as personal workstations.

Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) also called Computer Aided Systems Engineering, Computer Assisted Software Engineering and Computer Assisted Systems Engineering. CASE products are collections of software tools assembled by a vendor to help the analyst, designer and developer to produce diagrams and models; analyze component relationships; produce code; manage component and model versions; produce reports; and to document the results of their analysis and design in narrative form.

Configuration  A specific arrangement of items assembled for a particular purpose.

Data analysis That process by which the data requirements of a functional area are identified, element by element. Each data element is defined from a business sense, its ownership is identified, and users and sources of that data are identified. These data elements are grouped into records, and a data structure is created which indicates the data dependencies.

Data dictionary An automated tool for collecting and organizing the detailed information about system components. Data dictionaries maintain facilities to document data elements, records, programs, systems, files, users, and other system components. A dictionary will also have facilities to cross-reference all system components to each other.

Data element The lowest unit of meaningful information in an automated file or on a document. A data element may consist of numbers, letters, or a combination of both.

Encyclopedia An integral part of a CASE product and designed by the CASE tool vendor specifically to collect and organize the detailed information about the data and process model system components developed using the CASE tool components. CASE encyclopedias maintain facilities to document attributes, entities and relationships, functions and processes, screens and reports, data flows, data stores, missions, goals, objectives, critical success factors,  users and organization structures, and other data and process model components. An encyclopedia will also have facilities to cross-reference all components of its data and process models.  A specific vendor’s encyclopedia cannot normally operate independently of its associated CASE tool.

Entity Any real person, place, or thing, or logical person, place, or thing which can be definitively described, and which is of immediate and/or ongoing interest to the firm as a whole or to some aspect of the firm. An entity may also be an idea, concept, or convenience.

Entity set All known or suspected variants of the singular entities which make up the global set. In the entity-relationship model, the entity set is treated as if it were synonymous with the individual entities which comprise it. That is, the set is treated as if each of its component entities is defined and behaves in a similar manner.

Facilities Management.  The process whereby one firm (the contracting firm) enters into a fixed length contract with another (the contractor) where the contractor agrees to operate and maintain the contracting firm’s information systems.  The Contracting firm normally agrees to provide all or a specified part of the necessary Information Systems equipment and supplies, and the contractor provides its own employees and management.  The contractor operates the contracting firm’s equipment, on the contracting firm’s premises.  Some or all of the contractor’s employees may be located on the contracting firm’s premises.

File A group of records, in automated or document form, which relate to the same subject and which are used and manipulated in the same manner.

Function A series of related activities, involving one or more entities, performed for the direct or indirect purpose of fulfilling one or more missions or objectives of the firm, generating revenue for the firm, servicing the customers of the firm, producing the products and services of the firm, or managing, administering, monitoring, recording, or reporting on the activities, states, or conditions of the entities of the firm.

Graphic User Interface (GUI) The term given to that set of items and facilities which provide the user with a graphic means for manipulating screen data rather than being limited to character based commands.  Graphic User Interface tool kits are provided by many different  vendors and contain a variety of components including (but are not limited to) tools for creating and manipulating Windows, Menu Bars, Status Bars, Dialogue Boxes, Pop-Up Windows, Scroll Or Slide Bars, Icons, “Radio” Buttons, On-Line and Context Dependent Help Facilities.  Graphic User Interface tool kits may also provide facilities for using a mouse to locate and manipulate on screen data and activate program components.

Integrated CASE (I-CASE) A collection of products designed to allow the tools contained within them to communicate with each other and to transfer analysis, design and development data between them.  Thus the data modeling tool may share data with the process modeling tool and both will share data with the code generation tools.  the measurement tools may collect data from both and both may support the testing tools.  Rarely however,  will one CASE product permit and facilitate the transfer of data from its storage facility to that of another CASE product.  Thus once a design is begin in one CASE too it is difficult or in some cases impossible to transfer that design information to another CASE product with completely reentering all the information

Interview A formal face-to-face meeting, especially, one arranged for the assessment of the qualifications of an applicant, as for employment or admission.... A conversation, as one conducted by a reporter, in which facts, or statements are elicited from another.

Life cycle  The course of developmental changes thorough which a project passes from its inception as a project request to the mature state as characterized by a stable production environment..  A progression through a series of differing stages of development.

Method A means or manner of procedure, a regular and systematic way of accomplishing something. An orderly and systematic arrangement. Procedures according to a detailed, logically ordered plan.

Methodology The system of principles, practices, and procedures applied to a specific branch of knowledge.

Metric - A standard of measurement.   The term is most often used to identify  things that will be measured rather than the measurement process or the individual readings or points.  Some examples of metric might be:  lines of code, number of phone calls, number of resignations, or number of tests.

Model A representation, either graphic, narrative, or a combination of both, of a physical or conceptual environment. A model must identify the major components of the environment, describe those components in terms of their major attributes, and depict the relationships between the components and the conditions under which the components exist and interact with each other.

Outsourcing.  The process whereby one firm (the contracting firm) enters into a fixed length contract with another (the contractor) where the contractor agrees to operate and maintain the contracting firm’s information systems.  The Contractor firm agrees to buy all or a specified part of the contracting firms Information Systems equipment and supplies, and to hire as their own employees all or a specified part of the contracting firm’s Information Systems employees.

Personal Computer (PC) - Any combination of processor, input device and output device designed for use by a single individual.  Personal computers may also be called workstations.  Personal computers may have a character orientation, a graphical orientation, may be connected to other personal computers, or may operate in a stand alone mode, and may or may not have connectivity to a mainframe.  Personal computer software is normally characterized by an operating system which provides basic file access, management  and display services and well as application scheduling and management.

Plan That sequence of activities which are to be followed. A plan states each task, the estimated time to complete it, the persons assigned to perform it, and any task-to-task dependencies. Plans are updated on a periodic basis with actual results, and new estimates are determined. At any point, the plan should reflect actual progress and remaining work.

Platform  The term used to distinguish between the different classes or sizes of computing machinery –mainframe, minicomputer and microcomputer (or personal computer or workstation), between the various operating systems on each machine, and in some cases between stand-alone machines and networked machines.  In some cases the term platform is used to distinguish between one combination of machine and software and  some other combination.

Procedure The specific steps which must be followed in order to accomplish a specific task or activity.

Process A sequence of related activities, or it may be a sequence of related tasks which make up an activity. These activities or tasks are usually interdependent, and there is a well-defined flow from one activity to another or from one task to another.

Program A sequence of instructions which may be followed by a computer to perform a specific task or tasks.

Prototype   A model on which later stages or development is based or judged.  Prototypes are usually primitive forms used to evaluate a design.  Prototypes may or may not actually work.

Record A group of one or more data elements which are stored together and which represent information which relates to a common topic. A record may be automated, or it may be a business document.

Relationship An association, linkage, or connection, either real or suspected, between entities of the same or different set which describes their interaction, the dependence of one upon the other, or their mutual interdependence.

Repository A tool independent of both DBMS and CASE products designed to collect and organize all analysis and design information regardless of source.  Repositories can collect information about the components of the data and process model components developed using the CASE tools, as well as that information collected about non-model Information systems components such as data elements, records, programs, systems, files, and users.  Repositories maintain facilities to document attributes, entities and relationships, functions and processes, screens and reports, data flows, data stores, missions, goals, objectives, critical success factors, users and organization structures, and other data and process model components.

Review  A reexamination or reconsideration.. A retrospective view or survey.  An inspection or examination with the intention of evaluating and correcting flaws or errors

Security The protection of the firm's records and resources from unauthorized access, modification, or other interference includes an analysis of ownership, access, modification, use, and a determination of what protective or restrictive measures must be taken to ensure adequate protection of the firm's files.

Standards The rules which must be followed in order to accomplish a specific activity or task. Standards are established to ensure that all work is performed in a uniform manner.

System A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent (business functions, processes, activities or) elements forming a complex whole .... a functionally related group of (business functions, processes, activities or) elements, for instance, a network of structures and channels, as for communications, travel, or distribution.

Systems analyst One who engages in the study of, and separation of, a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent (business functions, processes, activities or) elements forming a complex whole into its constituent parts for individual study.

Task The lowest unit of discrete work which can be identified. An activity may be composed of many tasks. Tasks are highly repetitive, highly formalized, and rigidly defined.

Users Business personnel in other areas of the firm who manage, supervise, or perform the direct and indirect operational, managerial, and administrative tasks of the firm. Users provide the impetus for the development of these systems, in many cases they fund the development and implementation process and provide for their ongoing operation, and in all cases they supply the policies, guidelines, business requirements, specifications, and background information about the particular area to be systematized and automated.

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A Professional's Guide to Systems Analysis, Second Edition
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.