University of Phoenix's Virtual Instructor's Manual

Introduction to Business Systems Analysis


Section Two   Analysis

Section Overview

  1. List of Objectives

The purpose of the system investigation is to understand the existing system and, based on that understanding, prepare the requirements for the system. Generally the systems analyst will begin by gathering data, and then analyzing collected data. There is no standard procedure for gathering data because each system is unique. But there are certain techniques that are commonly used: written materials, interviews, questionnaires, observation, and measuring.

This is the beginning sub-phase of analysis. Techniques used in requirements determination have evolved over time to be more structured and, as we will see in this section, current methods increasingly rely on the computer for support. We will first study the more traditional requirements determination methods and progress to more current methods for collecting system requirements.

Traditional requirements determination methods include interviewing, using questionnaires, observing users in their work environment, and collecting procedures and other written documents.

Modern requirements determination methods are led by the Joint Application Design (JAD) technique. Other new methods are based upon group support systems, computer-aided systems engineering (CASE) tools and prototyping.

In some organizations, management is looking for new ways to perform current tasks. These new ways may be radically different from how things are done now, but the payoffs may be enormous; fewer people may be needed to do the same work, relationships with customers may improve dramatically, and processes may become much more efficient and effective, all of which can result in increased profits. The overall process by which current methods are replaced with radically new methods is generally referred to as business process reengineering or BPR.

Systems analysis is performed to ascertain what must be done in order to carry out the functions of the system. This will involve a decomposition of the functions of the system into their logical constituents and the production of a logical model of the processes and of the data flows necessary to perform these.

After investigation the systems analyst may have collected an unwieldy batch of interview notes, details of observations, questionnaire responses and sundry documents. Much of this information is unorganized and must be further developed. A traditional tool of systems analysis for developing, organizing and formalizing information within a system is the manual systems (document) flowchart.

If the whole procedure of processing data to produce information is to be computerized, data flow must be fully identified. Data flow diagrams assist in building a logical model of the system independent of physical commitments. They show the various flows of data between the processes that transform it.

  1. Chapter Summary
  2. The beginning of the analysis stage can be an unsettling time for a systems analyst. Typically, he or she has just completed a whirlwind of activity, convincing management and the end-user organization that it really is feasible to proceed with the project. The analyst has, in a sense, made a promise. Now to deliver on that promise, the analyst must plunge into the user area to understand it well enough to be able to plan an appropriate solution.

    This is a very big and very important chapter. It forms the heart of classical analysis and also contains new and accepted tools such as data flow diagrams. It may take more than one week to cover the material well.

    The concepts in the section are difficult, but students are somewhat handicapped because they usually do not have an opportunity for any true data gathering. In other words, the learning process is based on theory and discussion, as opposed to "hands on" experience. Some of these experiences will be simulated by using software to set up a group systems development project.

  3. Problems for Faculty to Assign or Work Through in Class

  1. Which of the five data gathering techniques would you be most likely to use in each of these situations? Explain why.

  1. Something is wrong in the accounts receivable department but you are not sure what or why. There are two business managers and seven clerical employees, and they seem cooperative.
  2. A business manager in a college registration office thinks employees spend too much time away from their desks in unproductive tasks and would like some data on just how much time is actually spent at their desks.
  3. In order to increase time usage of the company's 46 sales representatives, the head manager first wants a breakdown of the activities they spend their time on.

Answer: a. Since you do not have any information, there is no basis on which to construct a questionnaire and written records would not tell the whole story. There are only two managers; they should both be interviewed. If necessary, others among the seven could be interviewed.

b. Since employees are unlikely to fill in questionnaires about unproductive tasks in an accurate way, nor even want to discuss it, observation is the best technique here.

  1. The 46 employees could fill out a questionnaire about their daily activities, or perhaps keep logs over a period of time.

  1. Would it ever be appropriate to let an unstructured interview go in a completely different direction than originally planned? Explain.
  2. Answer: Certainly. There may be avenues about which the interviewer had no prior knowledge.

  3. Compare collecting information by interview and by questionnaire. Describe a hypothetical situation in which each of these methods would be an effective way to collect information system requirements.
  4. Answer: Interviews provide large amounts of rich, detailed information, but they are expensive to conduct in terms of the time they demand. Questionnaires, on the other hand, can reach many people at once, making them relatively less costly than interviews, but the data collected in this way will not be as rich or as plentiful as is the case with interviews. Both techniques involve careful planning and execution to be successful. Deciding which technique to use will be dependent on such factors as the size and complexity of the information system under study, the size and complexity of the organization in which the system resides, the funding available, and the expertise and preferences of the analysts.

  5. Describe four traditional techniques for collecting information during analysis. When might one be better than another?
  6. Answer: Traditional techniques for collecting requirements include interviewing and listening, administering questionnaires, observing users, and analyzing procedures and other documents.

    Interviewing and listening involves talking with users individually or as a group to discover their views about the current and target systems; it also involves carefully preparing an interview outline and guide before conducting the interview. Interviews are best done when only a few people are involved, when you need open–ended questions or the questions vary from individual to individual, or when a more personal method is needed.

    Administering questionnaires involves designing a questionnaire and determining who should respond to it; this method is typically used when there are too many key users to interview individually. Questionnaires are best when many people are involved, each person is to answer roughly the same questions, and people are remote or do not need personal care.

    Directly observing users involves watching how people work in order to uncover information users may not be consciously aware of. Direct observation is best when detailed or complicated procedures must be documented, when you do not want people to know they are giving you information you need, when only a few people are involved, and observational data are representative of all situations.

    Analyzing procedures and other documents involves identifying and collecting written procedures, forms, reports, and other relevant documents in order to better identify data and processes that would be part of the current and target systems. Analyzing documents is the best technique when documents are complete and unbiased, when other forms of requirements determination are too obtrusive, and when history must be studied and people do not have first–hand data about history.

  7. An interview lends itself easily to asking probing questions, or asking different questions depending on the answers provided by the interviewee. Although not impossible, probing and alternative questions can be handled in a questionnaire. Discuss how you could include probing or alternative sets of questions in a questionnaire.
  8. Answer: One way is to ask open–ended questions to let the individual write whatever is on their mind. In this way the questionnaire can be more probing than if it had only closed–ended questions. Another method is to ask a multiple-choice question or a yes/no question, and then, depending on which answer the respondent chooses, have them branch off into a specified set of questions. Alternatively, you might create different versions of a survey instrument, for example, one for users and one for managers of users.

  9. Group interviews and JADs are very powerful ways to collect system requirements but special problems arise during group requirements collection sessions. Summarize the special interviewing and group problems that arise in such group sessions, and suggest ways that you, as a group interviewer or group facilitator or group facilitator, might deal with these problems.
  10. Answer: Some of the problems include difficulty in scheduling, enabling all group members to participate during the meeting, some people being afraid or not willing to speak in front of certain other people, conflicts existing among group members, keeping the group on track during the meeting, and accurately collecting all the information as multiple people speak at once. Some of the ways to deal with these problems include having training in team building, group dynamics, and managing conflict; having multiple interviewers work together; and using a technological aid such as CASE or GSS.

  11. Choose either CASE or GSS as a topic and review a related article from the popular press and from the academic research literature. Summarize the two articles and, based on your reading, prepare a list of arguments for why this type of system would be useful in a JAD session. Also address the limits for applying this type of system in a JAD setting.
  12. Answer: Numerous articles are available in the UoP online library or on the web. CASE tools are useful in JAD sessions because the JAD team can use the CASE tools (i.e., creating data flow diagrams, entity–relationship diagrams, and a data dictionary) together. This helps the team to better, and more quickly, develop the system. A GSS is useful in JAD sessions because more team members can participate, the GSS can help keep the team on track, the team members can use the electronic, anonymous brainstorming tools, and the GSS automatically, accurately captures the outputs of the sessions. Some of the limits to using CASE and GSS in JAD are the availability of the tools, the learning curve for these tools if the team members are not familiar with them, and potentially over–structuring the development process.

  13. One of the potential problems with gathering information requirements by observing potential system users mentioned in the chapter is that people may change their behavior when observed. What could you do to overcome this potential confounding factor in accurately determining information requirements?
  14. Answer: The analyst could conduct the observations unobtrusively, so that the effect on the users’ behavior is minimized. This could be done using a confederate or by a hidden camera. The analyst could also brief the users on the observation so that the users will relax and behave naturally. For example, you can make it clear to users that they are not being evaluated and that the observations collected will not be associated with anyone individually. In addition, the analysts could perform multiple observations over time. This would tend to minimize the effects of aberrant behaviors. Alternatively, the analysts could supplement their requirements determination with additional data collection methods.

  15. Summarize the problems with the reliability and usefulness of analyzing business documents as a method for gathering information requirements. How could you cope with these problems to effectively use business documents as a source of insights on system requirements?
  16. Answer: One of the primary problems with analyzing business documents is that they don’t give the full picture of how work is done and why. First, business documents are often incomplete, since people have selectively retained documentation. Second, business documents often describe the formal system as opposed to the informal system, which is more often the way the work is actually completed. Whether the business documents are accurate or not, they provide useful information. If the business documents are accurate, then much of the work of gathering information requirements is nearly finished. If the business documents are inaccurate, then the analyst can use these to understand how the work processes ought to be done, or are thought to be done, or, perhaps, should not be done. In any event, analyzing business documents should be done in conjunction with other, supplemental data collection methods. In addition, the analyst should speak to multiple people to gather their perceptions and uses of the documents.

  17. Suppose you were asked to lead a JAD session. List 10 guidelines you would follow to assist you in playing the proper role of a JAD session leader.
  18. Answer: Students might suggest the following for the JAD leader: the JAD sessions should be off–site, the proper people should be invited to the JAD sessions, establish clear ground rules for the sessions, set and follow a clear agenda, distribute the agenda to all participants before the sessions, remain neutral on issues, make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate, encourage people to be creative and break free of traditional ways of doing things, manage time effectively, and follow up with meeting notes.

  19. Write at least three closed-ended questions that you might use on a questionnaire that would be sent to users of a word processing package in order to develop ideas for the next version of the package. Test these questions by asking a friend to answer the questions; then interview your friend to determine why she/he responded as she/he did. From this interview, determine if she/he misunderstood any of your questions and, if so, rewrite the questions to be less ambiguous.
  20. Answer:

    1. Which of the following is the best thing about the word processor that you currently use to do your job (pick only one):

    a. good help system

    b. extra tools such as spell check, grammar check, thesaurus, and auto correct

    c. compatibility with other applications such as graphics package and spreadsheet

    2. Please rank the following three items in terms of their need for improvement in the next version of this word processor. Place a "1" by the item which is most in need of improvement.

    a. ease of use

    b. speed

    c. compatibility

    3. Should the next version of this word processor enable you to create and use hypertext markup language documents for use on the World Wide Web?

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    6

    7

    Agree

    Agree

    Agree
    Somewhat

    Neutral

    Disagree
    Somewhat

    Disagree

    Strongly
    Disagree

  21. An interview lends itself easily to asking probing questions, or asking different questions depending on the answers provided by the interviewee. Although not impossible, probing and alternative questions can be handled in a questionnaire. Discuss how you could include probing or alternative sets of questions in a questionnaire.

Answer: One way is to ask open–ended questions to let the individual write whatever is on their mind. In this way the questionnaire can be more probing than if it had only closed–ended questions. Another method is to ask a multiple-choice question or a yes/no question, and then, depending on which answer the respondent chooses, have them branch off into a specified set of questions. Alternatively, you might create different versions of a survey instrument, for example, one for users and one for managers of users.

13.   Figure 2-6 shows part of a guide for an interview. How might an interview guide differ when a group interview is to be conducted?

Answer: Because the group interview might be more difficult to conduct and more time consuming, the analyst might add to the interview guide "time certain" events or "time stamped" agenda items. For example, if the meeting begins at 8:00 a.m., and the manager of the users will come in to the meeting to give a brief talk, this event might be scheduled for 8:15 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. Other processes in the meeting will be postponed during this event. With time stamping, the analyst writes definitive start times next to each of the agenda items and then uses this to keep the group on track. Alternatively, the analyst might write specific questions that should be asked of specific members of the interview group. If several analysts are involved in the group interview, the group could be broken into parallel sessions, each with its own agenda. Finally, agenda activities should be allotted for discussion and interchange between the interviewees, so that consensus and synergy can occur.

14.  Group interviews and JADs are very powerful ways to collect system requirements but special problems arise during group requirements collection sessions. Summarize the special interviewing and group problems that arise in such group sessions, and suggest ways that you, as a group interviewer or group facilitator or group facilitator, might deal with these problems.

Answer: Some of the problems include difficulty in scheduling, enabling all group members to participate during the meeting, some people being afraid or not willing to speak in front of certain other people, conflicts existing among group members, keeping the group on track during the meeting, and accurately collecting all the information as multiple people speak at once. Some of the ways to deal with these problems include having training in team building, group dynamics, and managing conflict; having multiple interviewers work together; and using a technological aid such as CASE.

  1. What unique benefits does a GSS provide for group methods of requirements determination, such as group interviews or JAD?
  2. Answer: Group support systems provide unique benefits for group requirements determination through allowing everyone the opportunity for equal participation through typing instead of talking, and anonymity allows the shy and those afraid of criticism to participate.

  3. When conducting a business process reengineering study, what should you look for when trying to identify business processes to change? Why?

Answer: As part of the BPR effort, key business processes should be identified. Key business processes are the structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specific output for a particular customer or market. Once these key business processes have been identified, those activities that can be radically improved should be identified. Primary candidates include those activities that are viewed as important, changeable, or dysfunctional. Benefits of BPR include radical improvements in speed, quality, and customer satisfaction.

  1. Testbank

  1. Describe systems analysis and the major activities that occur during this phase of the systems development life cycle.

Answer: Systems analysis is the part of the systems development life cycle in which you determine how the current information system functions and assess what users would like to see in a new system. There are three sub–phases in analysis: requirements determination, requirements structuring, and alternative generation and choice.

2.   Define each of the following terms:

  1. Joint Application Design
  2. Prototypingf. formal system
  3. Group Support Systems (GSS)
  4. Requirements determination
  5. Requirements structuring
  6. Formal system
  7. Informal system
  8. Business processing reengineering

Answer: Joint Application Design is a structured process in which users, managers, and analysts work together for several days in a series of intensive meetings to specify or review system requirements. Prototyping is an iterative process of systems development in which requirements are converted to a working system that is continually revised through close work between an analyst and users. A group support system is an information system, typically consisting of a series of networked computers, in which specially designed software allows group members to share files and to enhance group communication and cooperation. Requirements determination is that phase of analysis in which analysts gather information on what the system should do from as many sources as possible: from users of the current system, from observing users, and from reports, forms, and procedures. Requirements structuring is that phase of analysis in which analysts document and organize the information they have collected about an information system. Formal system refers to the official way a system works as described in organizational documentation. An informal system is the way a system actually works. Business process reengineering refers to the overall process by which current business methods are replaced with radically new methods.

3.   Match following terms to the appropriate definitions.

open-ended questions

Questions in interviews and on questionnaires that ask those answering the questions to choose from among a set of pre-specified responses.

closed-ended questions

Trained individual who plans and leads JAD sessions.

JAD session leader

Person who makes detailed notes of the happenings at a JAD session.

scribe

Responses to questions in interviews and on questionnaires that have no pre-specified answers.

key business processes

The structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specific output for a particular customer or market.

Answer: d. open–ended questions
a.  closed–ended questions
b.  JAD session leader key business processes
c.  scribe
e.  key business processes

Multiple Choice

  1. The first sub-phase of analysis is:

  1. alternative generation and choice.
  2. requirements structuring.
  3. requirements determination.
  4. project identification and selection.

  1. Analysts gathering information from as many sources as possible about what the new system should do is indicative of:

  1. requirements determination.
  2. requirements structuring.
  3. alternative generation and choice.
  4. project identification and selection.

  1. Which of the following statements represents the impertinence characteristic of a good systems analyst?

  1. You must challenge yourself to look at the organization in new ways.
  2. Every fact must fit with every other fact.
  3. Assume anything is possible, and eliminate the infeasible.
  4. You should question everything.

  1. Which of the following statements represents the reframing characteristic of a good systems analyst?

  1. You must challenge yourself to look at the organization in new ways.
  2. Every fact must fit with every other fact.
  3. Assume anything is possible, and eliminate the infeasible.
  4. You should question everything.

  1. Which of the following statements represents the impartiality characteristic of a good systems analyst?

  1. You must challenge yourself to look at the organization in new ways.
  2. Your role is to find the best solution to a business problem or opportunity.
  3. Assume anything is possible, and eliminate the infeasible.
  4. You should question everything.

  1. The primary deliverables from requirements determination include:

  1. the information gathered during the determination process
  2. transcripts of interviews
  3. notes from observation and from analysis documents
  4. all of the above

  1. The purpose of requirements structuring is to:

  1. enable the analysts to gather information on what the system should do from as many sources as possible
  2. enable the analysts to develop a baseline project plan quickly
  3. enable the large amount of information gathered during requirements determination to be organized
  4. enable the analysts to rapidly develop a new system

  1. Traditional methods of collecting systems requirements include:

  1. individually interview people
  2. survey people via questionnaires
  3. interview groups of people
  4. all of the above

  1. If your analysis of several written procedures reveals a duplication of effort in two jobs, you should:

  1. indicate that one job be deleted from the new system.
  2. call the duplication to the attention of management as an issue to be resolved before system design can proceed
  3. justify the duplication of effort.
  4. restructure the task so that duplication is removed.

  1. Forms are an important for understanding a business because they:

  1. indicate the correct sequencing of tasks.
  2. describe how particular tasks are performed.
  3. indicate what data flow in or out of a system and which are necessary for the system to function.
  4. enable you to work backwards from the information on a report to the necessary data.

  1. A report:

  1. indicates the inputs required for the new system
  2. describes how a particular job or task is performed, including data and information that are used and created in the process of performing the job
  3. indicates what data flow in or out of a system and which are necessary for the system to function
  4. enables you to work backwards from the information on a report to the data that must have been necessary to generate them

  1. Drawbacks of prototyping include:

  1. a tendency to avoid creating formal documentation of systems requirements which can then make the system more difficult to develop into a fully working system
  2. prototypes becoming very idiosyncratic to the initial user and difficult to diffuse or adapt to other potential users
  3. prototypes being built as stand-alone systems
  4. all of the above

  1. The search for, and implementation of, radical change in business processes to achieve breakthrough improvements in products and services best defines:

  1. Joint Application Design
  2. Rapid Application Development
  3. Structured programming
  4. Business process reengineering

  1. Technologies that enable the breaking of long-held business rules that inhibit organization from making radical business changes best defines:

  1. business process reengineering
  2. technology barriers
  3. disruptive technologies
  4. business constraints

  1. Which of the following technologies disrupted the business rules of your having to find out where things are?

  1. distributed databases
  2. expert systems
  3. advanced telecommunications systems
  4. automatic identification and tracking technology

  1. Which of the following is a way that JAD can benefit from GSS?

  1. GSS-supported JADs tend to be more time efficient than traditional JADs.
  2. Comments are more likely to be obtained from everyone.
  3. GSS-supported JADs tend to be less structured.
  4. Both a and b

  1. Which of the following is not a modern method for collecting system requirements?

  1. interviewing
  2. group support systems
  3. CASE tools
  4. Joint Application Design

  1. A written work procedure

  1. indicates the job an analyst will need to perform on a given project
  2. describes how a particular job or task is performed, including data and information that are used and created in the process of performing the job.
  3. indicates what data flow in or out of a system and which are necessary for the system to function.
  4. enables you to work backwards from the information on a report to the necessary data.
  1. The official way a system works as described in organizational documentation is referred to as a(n):
  1. formal system
  2. informal system
  3. official system
  4. desired system
  1. The way a system actually works is referred to as a(n):
  1. unofficial system
  2. informal system
  3. actual system
  4. formal system
  1. Which of the following is a reason for directly observing end users?
  1. The analyst gets a snapshot image of the person or task being observed.
  2. Observations are not very time consuming.
  3. People often do not have a completely accurate appreciation of what they do or how they do it.
  4. Employees will alter their performance if they know that they are being observed.