System Analysis

System Analysis 
Computerized Harbor Management System - Narrative
Computerized Harbor Management System - Document Flow Diagram
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Argument for BPR
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Argument for BPR
To err is human.  To really screw up takes a computer.   Consistent with this old adage, if we analyze an existing system and do not undertake a business process re-engineering project,  we will eventually end up with a computerized version of the existing system with all of its problems and weaknesses - to demystify  business process re-engineering, consider the following illustration:
Process re-engineering

Objective of activity
Demonstrate the value of value chain analysis to improve productivity

Description of activity
Best Burger is an up and coming fast food restaurant offering nutrition, value and service. Because of its popularity, it is not unusual to see some 10 customers in line waiting to order. To deliver on the promise of fast service, you are to review the current order-entry process and make suggestions.

To get started, you look at how customers are ordering from the menu posted on a large screen. The first customers order as follows

· Three Best Burger, two large fries and one medium fries, three large Coke

· One Best burger, one large fries, one large Coke

· Four Best Burger, two large fries, two medium fries, four medium cokes

· Five Best Burgers, three large fries, one medium fries, five large Cokes

· One large cup of coffee

· Three Best Burger, One large fries, two medium fries, three large Coke

· Four Best Burger, four large fries, four medium Cokes

· Six Best Burger, four large fries, two medium fries, four medium cokes and two large Cokes

Develop a process flow for the order entry process.

From the process flow, suggest changes to the order entry process to make it more efficient.

Solution:  Of course, in this case, the solution is to create "value meals"

How do we describe an existing or even a new system i a way that others can understand, such as designers, business managers and or architects? 
Of course, we can document current and or new requirements using a narrative description.  Part of the problem is that even the best technical writers are often mis-understood, not to mention that language is imprecise, can be ambiguous, can be long-winded and can be incomplete  Take for instance a description of a Computerized Harbor Management System in narrative form, as opposed to a document flow diagram (DFD)
 An alternative is to heed the old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words," and perhaps use pictures along with a narrative description. In general, system analysis, perhaps in conjunction with a BPR initiative,  is an analytical process used to determine what is required in a business system and to help the designers and keystakehodlers comprehend the situation using a variety of charting tools and modeling techniques.   The objective is to develop a logical model of the system under consideration.  
Some of the basic questions being asked are
Functional Requirements
What does the system do?
Data Requirements
What are the relationships between data?
Public Vs Private Data?
Usability Requirements


Information System Process Modeling 

Other Analysis Techniques




Computerized Harbor Management System - Narrative
The objective is to introduce a computerized harbor management system, as the current system involves the use of paper based index cards and radio communication meaning that records are not stored centrally, causing problems in the past.  The new system will provide centralized data storage facilities, operating on a number of terminals quayside and at headquarters The introduction of the new system will provide an efficient and effective way to manage the clients’ harbor.

The current system:
The current system relies mainly on paper based index cards and radio communication systems.  Ships arriving with cargo contact the harbor head office whose staff, then fill out an index card with the ship and cargo details. Once this process is completed, the data is then stored in a file and head office assign an appropriate berth depending on the type of ship and the cargo it carries. Following this a tug and a harbor pilot are sent out to bring the ship into berth. Once the ship is successfully tied up, the quayside the staff prepares the appropriate offloading equipment for the transfer of the cargo. The quayside staff then unloads the cargo and stores it in an appropriate storage shed on the quayside and customs are informed of its availability for clearance checks. On average customs take 14 days to check and clear the cargo before it is available for land based transportation. Customs have access to both the warehouses and the ships themselves. This allows them to check cargo, which is scheduled to be taken directly off the ship and loaded onto land-based transport. The quayside staff contact the head office and inform them when stored cargo is ready to be dispatched. On the day that cargo is due to leave, loading equipment is arranged by the quayside staff and the cargo loaded onto land based transport.

Cargo that is to be exported to other countries first has its arrival at the harbor scheduled with the staff at the harbor head office. They fill out index cards with these details, which are then filed. The quayside staff are then contacted with these details, and they arrange appropriate storage and offloading equipment for the arrival of the cargo. The cargo arrives by land-based transport and is either offloaded into suitable warehouse storage or loaded directly onto a waiting ship that has been brought into berth by the method detailed above. If the cargo is offloaded into storage, the quayside staff notify customs that the cargo is available for clearance checking.

Once the cargo has been cleared, the quayside staff then make arrangements for equipment to be available for when it is scheduled to leave by ship. On the date of departure, a ship is brought into a suitable berth as detailed above, and the cargo loaded. The ship is then taken out of the harbor and is free to leave.

When cargo is to be loaded or unloaded directly from land based transport, the quayside staff for suitable loading equipment makes arrangements, and the cargo is then loaded or unloaded onto a waiting ship. Once this has been completed, the quayside staff then notify customs that the cargo is aboard and available for clearance checking. Customs board the ship, check and clear the cargo, and then the ship is either taken out of the harbor and is free to leave, or cargo is unloaded onto inland transportation.


Computerized Harbor Management System - Document Flow Diagram




DATA FLOW DIAGRAMS -Data flow diagrams illustrate how data is processed by a system in terms of inputs and outputs.  Information systems are usually modeled using DFDs.  DFDs may model not only logical information flows, but also the underlying physical architecture

In this case the shadowed squares are represent data sources/sinks, circles represent processes and parallel lines represent data stores - Click here for tutorial

CONTEXT DIAGRAM   A context diagram is a top level (also known as Level 0) data flow diagram. It only contains one process node (process 0) that generalizes the function of the entire system in relationship to external entities.  Click here for tutorial


Illustrate the logical structure of databases.  Model relationships among the entities involved in business processes

Used to model, analyze and design process:  
Identify missing functions
Identify non-functional parts of the process


Use storyboarding as if you were going to shoot a film.

Control Charts

control charts
Control charts are a method of Statistical Process Control, SPC. (Control system for production processes). They enable the control of distribution of variation rather than attempting to control each individual variation. Upper and lower control and tolerance limits are calculated for a process and sampled measures are regularly plotted about a central line between the two sets of limits. The plotted line corresponds to the stability/trend of the process. Action can be taken based on trend rather than on individual variation. This prevents over-correction/compensation for random variation, which would lead to many rejects.


Flow Charts

Flow chart
Pictures, symbols or text coupled with lines, arrows on lines show direction of flow. Enables modeling of processes; problems/opportunities and decision points etc. Develops a common understanding of a process by those involved. No particular standardization of symbology, so communication to a different audience may require considerable time and explanation.


  • The Tools of Quality; Quality Progress, June 1990; J T Burr.


Radar charts

polar chart
Polar, or `Radar' charts are a form of graph that allows a visual comparison between several quantitative or qualitative aspects of a situation, or when charts are drawn for several situations using the same axes (poles), a visual comparison between the situations may be made. The example shown here plots the strategy development style of an organization based around the six labeled poles. Different companies' strategy development styles are reflected in the shape of the hexagon drawn to link the plotted points.
Between three and eight attributes can be plotted on each chart. Many more than eight becomes confusing. Scales for each attribute are arranged radically and the points plotted on each radius are joined to generate a shape that can be visually compared with the same plot for another situation. In a gap analysis situation, the `desirable state' and the `present state' data can be plotted on the same chart to demonstrate graphically the gap between them. Similarly in a change situation where 'before' and 'after' results can be graphically compared.

Cause and Effect Diagram

generic fishbone diagram
The cause-and-effect diagram is a method for analyzing process dispersion. The diagram's purpose is to relate causes and effects. Three basic types: Dispersion analysis, Process classification and cause enumeration. Effect = problem to be resolved, opportunity to be grasped, result to be achieved. Excellent for capturing team brainstorming output and for filling in from the 'wide picture'. Helps organize and relate factors, providing a sequential view. Deals with time direction but not quantity. Can become very complex. Can be difficult to identify or demonstrate interrelationships.


  • Sarazen, JS., The Tools of Quality; Quality Progress, July 1990.
  • Production Systems; J L Riggs, Wiley, 1987.
  • Production/Operations management; Terry Hill, PHI, 1983.

The Hewlett-Packard Map

The Return Map is intended to be used by all of the functional managers on the new product introduction business team. It is basically a two dimensional graph displaying time and money on the x and y axes respectively.
Time is drawn as a linear scale while money is more effectively drawn on a logarithmic scale, because for successful products the difference between sales and investment costs will be greater than 100:1.
It is important to remember that money amount are shown rising cumulatively.
The time axis is divided into three parts:
  • Investigation,
  • Development, and
  • Manufacturing and Sales.


The purpose of Investigation is to determine the desired product features, the product's cost and price, the feasibility of the proposed technologies, and the plan for product development and introduction. At this point all numbers are estimates. Investigation is usually the responsibility of a small team and requires a relatively modest investment. At the end of Investigation, the company commits to develop a product with specific features using agreed-upon technologies.


The development phase is usually the primary domain of R&D; in consultation with manufacturing; its purpose is to determine how to produce the product at the desired price.

Manufacturing Release

The formal end of the development phase is Manufacturing Release (MR) - that is, when the company commits to manufacture and sell the product. When the product is ready to be manufactured and shipped to customers, sales become a reality and manufacturing, marketing, sales costs and profits are finally more than estimates.

New Metrics

The map tracks - in money and months - R&D; and manufacturing investment, sales, and profit. At the same time, it provides the context for new metrics:
  • Break-Even-Time,
  • Time-to-Market,
  • Break-Even-After-Release, and
  • the Return Factor.


  • House. C. H. and Price.R. L., "The Return Map: Tracking Product Teams, Harvard Business Review , January-February 1991, pp 92-101.


Force field Analysis

Force field analysis (Lewin 1951) is widely used in change management and can be used to help understand most change processes in organizations.

In force field analysis change, is characterized as a state of imbalance between driving forces (e.g. new personnel, changing markets, new technology) and restraining forces (e.g. individuals' fear of failure, organizational inertia). To achieve change towards a goal or vision three steps are required:
  • First, an organization has to unfreeze the driving and restraining forces that hold it in a state of quasi-equilibrium.
  • Second, an imbalance is introduced to the forces to enable the change to take place. This can be achieved by increasing the drivers, reducing the restraints or both .
  • Third, once the change is complete the forces are brought back into quasi-equilibrium and re-frozen.
Thomas (1985) explained that although force field analysis has been used in various contexts it was rarely applied to strategy. He also suggested that force field analysis could provide new insights into the evaluation and implementation of corporate strategies. More specifically Maslen and Platts (1994) applied force field analysis to manufacturing strategy. Force field analysis is potentially a powerful technique to help an organization realize a manufacturing vision.


  • Lewin K. (1951) 'Field Theory in Social Science', Harper and Row, New York.
  • Maslen R., Platts K.W. (1994) 'Force Field Analysis: A Technique to Help SMEs Realize their Intended Manufacturing Strategy', in Operations Strategy and Performance, 1st European Operations Management Association Conference, University of Cambridge, June, pp.587-588.
  • Thomas J. (1985) 'Force Field Analysis: A New Way to Evaluate Your Strategy', Long Range Planning, Vol. 18, No. 6, pp. 54-59.

Affinity diagrams or charts are a simple way for a group to cluster qualitative data and come up with a consensus view on a subject. Alternatively they can be used simply as an aid to stimulate debate.
Each member of the group is issued with a stack of post-it notes and a pen. A subject area or a "goal statement" is defined and everyone asked to write down any ideas they have on the subject, one idea to each post-it. A limited time is given.   The post-its are then stuck onto a whiteboard or sheet of paper and an attempt is made by the group to invent headings under which to cluster the ideas.
The post-its are moved to the appropriate group headings.

Decision Trees

decision tree (generic)
The illustration here shows a generic decision tree - rooted in the past, events and data come to a node at the present and then branch into a multitude of possibilities in the future. The decision tree can be used as a model simply to explain the complexity inherent in planning, prediction and strategic thought.
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Affinity Diagram
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What is Brainstorming?
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Cause and Effect Diagram
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Control Chart
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Data Collection
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Decision Making Tools
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Operational Definitions
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Pareto Chart
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Run Chart
SurveySurvey Handbook
PIHBProcess Improvement Handbook
PINFMSProcess Improvement Forms
IMPRImproving Planning
BPIBasic Process Improvement
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