The simplest way to document a process is to simply create a list. The list shows each step in the process; each step can be checked off upon completion. For example, a simple process, such as how to create an account on eBay, might look like this:. For processes that are not so straightforward, documenting the process as a checklist may not be sufficient.
For example, here is the process for determining if an article for a term needs to be added to Wikipedia:. This procedure is relatively simple — in fact, it has the same number of steps as the previous example — but because it has some decision points, it is more difficult to track with as a simple list. In these cases, it may make more sense to use a diagram to document the process:. Process diagram for determining if a new term should be added to Wikipedia click to enlarge. As organizations begin to document their processes, it becomes an administrative task to keep track of them.
As processes change and improve, it is important to know which processes are the most recent. It is also important to manage the process so that it can be easily updated! A document management system stores and tracks documents and supports the following functions:. Of course, document management systems are not only used for managing business process documentation. Many other types of documents are managed in these systems, such as legal documents or design documents. An enterprise resource planning ERP system is a software application with a centralized database that can be used to run an entire company.
The system is a software application, which means that it has been developed with specific logic and rules behind it. It has to be installed and configured to work specifically for an individual organization. With a centralized database: All data in an ERP system is stored in a single, central database. This centralization is key to the success of an ERP — data entered in one part of the company can be immediately available to other parts of the company.
That can be used to run an entire company: If they so wish, companies can purchase modules for an ERP that represent different functions within the organization, such as finance, manufacturing, and sales. Some companies choose to purchase many modules, others choose a subset of the modules.
When an ERP vendor designs a module, it has to implement the rules for the associated business processes. A selling point of an ERP system is that it has best practices built right into it. In other words, when an organization implements an ERP, it also gets improved best practices as part of the deal! For many organizations, the implementation of an ERP system is an excellent opportunity to improve their business practices and upgrade their software at the same time.
But for others, an ERP brings them a challenge: Is the process embedded in the ERP really better than the process they are currently utilizing?
And if they implement this ERP, and it happens to be the same one that all of their competitors have, will they simply become more like them, making it much more difficult to differentiate themselves? This has been one of the criticisms of ERP systems: The good news is that ERP systems also have the capability to be configured with custom processes. For organizations that want to continue using their own processes or even design new ones, ERP systems offer ways to support this through the use of customizations. But there is a drawback to customizing an ERP system: Whenever an update to the ERP system comes out, any organization that has created a custom process will be required to add that change to their ERP.
This will require someone to maintain a listing of these changes and will also require retesting the system every time an upgrade is made. Organizations will have to wrestle with this decision: When should they go ahead and accept the best-practice processes built into the ERP system and when should they spend the resources to develop their own processes? It makes the most sense to only customize those processes that are critical to the competitive advantage of the company.
Organizations that are serious about improving their business processes will also create structures to manage those processes. BPM is more than just automating some simple steps. While automation can make a business more efficient, it cannot be used to provide a competitive advantage. BPM, on the other hand, can be an integral part of creating that advantage. An organization should look for processes that are essential to the functioning of the business and those that may be used to bring a competitive advantage.
The best processes to look at are those that include employees from multiple departments, those that require decision-making that cannot be easily automated, and processes that change based on circumstances. Suppose a large clothing retailer is looking to gain a competitive advantage through superior customer service.
As part of this, they create a task force to develop a state-of-the-art returns policy that allows customers to return any article of clothing, no questions asked. The organization also decides that, in order to protect the competitive advantage that this returns policy will bring, they will develop their own customization to their ERP system to implement this returns policy. As they prepare to roll out the system, they invest in training for all of their customer-service employees, showing them how to use the new system and specifically how to process returns.
Once the updated returns process is implemented, the organization will be able to measure several key indicators about returns that will allow them to adjust the policy as needed. As changes to the returns policy are made, the changes are rolled out via internal communications, and updates to the returns processing on the system are made.
In our example, the system would no longer allow a dress to be returned after fourteen days without an approved reason. If done properly, business process management will provide several key benefits to an organization, which can be used to contribute to competitive advantage.
Chapter 8: Business Processes – Information Systems for Business and Beyond
As organizations look to manage their processes to gain a competitive advantage, they also need to understand that their existing ways of doing things may not be the most effective or efficient. A process developed in the s is not going to be better just because it is now supported by technology. He states in the introduction to the article: Many of our job designs, work flows, control mechanisms, and organizational structures came of age in a different competitive environment and before the advent of the computer. They are geared towards greater efficiency and control.
Yet the watchwords of the new decade are innovation and speed, service, and quality. It is time to stop paving the cow paths. Instead of embedding outdated processes in silicon and software, we should obliterate them and start over. Business process reengineering is not just taking an existing process and automating it. BPR is fully understanding the goals of a process and then dramatically redesigning it from the ground up to achieve dramatic improvements in productivity and quality. But this is easier said than done. Most of us think in terms of how to do small, local improvements to a process; complete redesign requires thinking on a larger scale.
Hammer provides some guidelines for how to go about doing business process reengineering:. Configuration tables are also part of what makes an enterprise system. These are how a company can make their system unique to their business. They can change certain parts of the system such as not only having an inventory, but instead having inventory accounting. It just refers to any "process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information"—in other words, taking a lot of data about anything, including public information, and analyzing it with software to a useful end that can't easily be reached by a human alone.
It's using computers to sift through a large amount of data that a human being can't analyze. For example, supermarkets regularly have computers analyze massive amounts of data on which items are more or less frequently purchased in which locations so that they can stock stores with items that will be purchased by more individuals in that store's location. They also might change the prices of items slightly on certain days when those items are more commonly purchased, and they stock items close to one another that are often purchased together. There are many other uses of data mining besides just these which are examples that have actually occurred, not just hypothetical ones , but in general, data mining is most frequently used via corporations to cut costs or increase revenues.
Because prediction is the main goal, predictive data mining is the most common type of data mining, with popular and practical business application.
The process consists of three stages: Begins with data preparation which may involve the cleaning and transformation of data, selecting subsets of records, or performing preliminary feature selection operations to bring the number of variables or fields to a manageable range. Model building and validation. Involves considering various models and choosing the best one based on their predictive performance offering stable results across samples. Many techniques Bagging, Boosting, Stacking, and Meta-Learning developed to achieve this are based on so-called "competitive evaluation of models," which uses different models on the same data, analyzing their performance, and choosing the best.
Using the model selected as best in the previous stage and applying it to new data in order to generate predictions or estimates of the expected outcome. It is used to increase the productivity, improve the quality, improve communications through documentation, and to create a database for manufacturing. It is used in many applications such as automotive, shipbuilding, and aerospace industries, industrial and architectural design, prosthetics, and many more.
Also, CAD is used to produce computer animation for special effects in movies, advertising and technical manuals. CAM can also assist in all operations of a manufacturing plant, including planning, management, transportation and storage. The primary purpose of CAM is to create a faster production process and components. A specific type of support system often used by businesses is known as a decision support system. A decision support system enables a user to make decisions on demand, and interactively. These systems use both internal and external data to provide a user the tools to organize the decision-making information.
The concept of decision-making is to primarily allow the user needed information to make particular decisions. The system is not necessarily making the decision for a user; it is simply retrieving relevant information that will assist them in their decision. With that being said, DSS systems are primarily used to uncover unstructured information regarding issues middle and executive managers may face.
Once the data is retrieved from either internal or external sources, the system allows human-friendly access to retrieve the data. Examples of prospective data gathered would be: This system is indeed relatively simple to use through its interaction with the user of the system. DSS systems also allow great flexibility for the program, appealing to various ranges of information. You may not realize it, but whenever you fly on an airline, a massive amount of data has to go through a series of programs and locations and be approved before your flight can occur.
At a center, flight data information such as weather, weight, passenger information, and gate availability are all put together and interpreted to make a safe flight. United Airlines is a good example of this. They consolidated their dispatching center to one location, the 27th floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago. Their facility takes up an entire floor of the building and brings everything for a flight together.
A standard computer program is used to interpret all the data needed for a flight. After the dispatcher prepares a flight, the information can be transmitted directly to and airplane flight deck, or a United airport facility. The flight can then go as planned. At the same time, as dispatcher can decide to cancel a flight if the information calls for it, of if there is some kind of crisis to deal with.
Because of special programs and new technology, your flight can be completed safety, and without long delays. Artificial Intelligence AI systems are systems that allow computers to perform actions that are characteristic of human intelligence. These can include systems such as expert systems, which provide the user with the kind of advice one would expect to receive from a human expert. This can help businesses and individuals make important decisions and predictions that will increase performance and further enchantments.
There are also neural networks, which are systems in which the human brain recognition process is mimicked by a computer. This can be used in processes such as medical reading or biometric identification. Another advancing technology is robotics, or the study of robots. A robot is a device that can respond to sensory input, and is controlled and programmed by human intelligence. Ray Kurzwell, author, inventor and futurist, proposes the idea that artificial intelligence, genetics, nanotechnology and robotics will soon result in a human-machine civilization.
Managing Business Process Documentation
Kurzwell may be a bit ahead of his time with his ideas and theories, but at the rate technology progresses in this age, it is hard to predict the heights it will reach . Some predictions have been made for in the field of artificial intelligence. Reinforcement learning is a process in which a computer works to answer a question or solve a problem and then associates the positive outcome of solving the problem with the actions it took to solve it.
In this way, the computer learns without explicit instructions or examples. Reinforcement learning is expected to be useful in real-world situations such as automated driving and industrial robotics. Generative adversarial networks are systems consisting of one network that generates new data after learning from a training set, and another network that tries to discriminate between real and fake data producing realistic synthetic data. Real-world uses for this could be to make video game scenery, to de-blur pixelated video footage, or to apply stylistic changes to computer-generated designs .
IBM Watson, developed by a research team led by David Ferrucci, is a question answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language.
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IBM Watson combines artificial intelligence and sophisticated analytical software in order to perform its question answering capabilities. Some features that cognitive computers display are adaptability, interactiveness, contextualism, and iteration. The Watson system was placed between the two contestants and, just like the other two competitors, had no internet access.
Currently IBM Watson's focus areas are commerce, education, financial services, health, internet of things, marketing, supply chain, and human resources. The information systems department is also referred to as the information technology department. It is responsible for running, maintaining, and developing the computers and information systems in an organization.
They also ensure the programs run smoothly. It includes all the computer and network personnel of that organization. The IT person that is most involved in system development is the system analyst. The system analyst manages the things related to designing and implementing modified systems. A person who is very important to system development is the business analyst. It is one of the biggest growing jobs because of the large increase in the use of technology.
Documenting a Process
It is all about finding the most effective use of electronic communication. Some other IT jobs are business analysts, application programmers, operations personnel, and security specialists. A business analyst will analyze the organization and its documents in order to assess and process that information. They help understand the policies and actions that a business has and then helps to achieve their business goals. Business analysts make a strategic plan, look at the business model analysis, process design the organization's work, and then interpret for technical systems.
An application programmer will take the technical and functional parts of a business and review the tech system. They look for ways to increase efficiency, manage things better, and enhance the work system to perform at its best. An application manager will usually create new applications that combine programs together for efficiency. This job is useful because they get to see the progression of things in the business from one day to the next.
Additionally, they monitor and respond to security incidents. In order to be a systems developer one must have basic coding skills. One must know at least one programming language. One must know how to fix problems on the fly if ever a system failure occurs. One must learn to keep maintenance of such systems so that the chances of system failure is minimized.
The field itself is highly technical in nature involving plenty of computer science and mathematics in an environment which is always and rapidly evolving with technology. One must also learn how to work in a group for in an organization you will most likely have a defined role in a group of programmers and system developers.
So not only must you have the technical skills but also the soft skills such as communication and teamwork. Possibly even leadership if you were to take in a position wherein you are the leader of the group. You can also work as an adviser to those who are using the systems in business settings. The most important role of the systems developer is to be the support system in the organization in order for everything to be able to run as smoothly as possible.
In the industry today, many businesses have been outsourcing their work. Outsourcing occurs when businesses hire others outside of their company to perform different tasks, like creating new software or databases for the company. Some examples of outsourcing today include customer service, technical support, payroll accounting, and credit card processing. This is becoming more prevalent through the years because outsourcing has many advantages to the business itself. Offshore outsourcing is another term used, but the work is done in another country.
India, for example, is one country that generates much revenue from offshore outsourcing alone. Although many speculate that American jobs are at risk, outsourcing to other countries benefits the business as a whole. The company saves a lot more money than if they were to keep technical support, customer service, etc.
Another advantage of having offshore outsourcing is that there can always be someone working on a project, gathering information, and helping a client because of the different time zones. A lengthy project can be completed faster than would a normal project worked on in just the United States because 24 hours a day, somebody is always working on the project. One downfall of outsourcing is cultural differences. Language barriers can be detrimental to a company at times.
Homesourcing is a new trend that many companies are taking advantage of and adopting. This is the transfer of service industry employment from offices to home-based employees with appropriate telephone and Internet facilities. Another aspect that companies have to look into is security with newly outsourced employees when they are first hired. These steps are as follows: Each step is important and builds up on the step s that happened previously.
While these are generally the steps always used, they do not always occur in the same order. The effects are still the same. As the first step in the SDLC, preliminary investigation plays a large role in determining whether or not a system or system modification would be worth making. The main point of doing a preliminary investigation is to determine what problems need to be fixed and what is the best way to go about solving those problems, if solutions do in fact exist.
A feasibility report is the product of the preliminary investigation in most cases. The report will tell companies if they can afford the change, if it will work with the other systems and technology already in their company, and if it will be beneficial to the company to make the changes. If all these things come back positively from the systems analyst, then the system will receive the "all clear" to head to the next step of the SDLC. This second step, system analysis, is used to investigate the problem on a larger scale and fine tune all the information a company has on the issue. Data collection and analysis are the two main points of interest inside system analysis.
Gathering information about the current system and users allows analysts to develop an idea of what seems to be the real problem and how they should go about fixing it through data analysis. To illustrate systems that are based on the concept of objects, tools like use case diagrams and class diagrams are used. Use case diagrams are used to describe the behavior of the target system from an external point of view, while also illustrating the users who interact with the system.
On the other hand, class diagrams provide an overview of the target system by describing the objects and classes, and their relationships, inside the system. As mentioned above, system analysis is the phase of system development where the problem area is fully studied in depth and the needs of system users are assessed. The tools that will help accomplish this phase of collecting data and data analysis are entity-relationship diagrams ERDs , data flow diagrams DFDs , decision tables and decision trees, business process modeling notation BPMN , and class diagrams and use case diagrams.
To describe the use of these tools in depth you will need to understand that any tools or processes used during this phase will aid in understanding the problems or issues of the current systems and how to improve them.
So you will see several visual aids, charts, tables, diagrams, models, etc. All this is to help clarify and make sense to all personnel involved how the current system may be improved. Essentially, the new system requirements are defined and; in particular, the deficiencies in the existing system must be addressed with specific proposals for improvement. Entity-relationship diagrams and data flow diagrams are used to model the entities in a system and the flow of data between the entities.
So, these kinds of diagrams will create a visual for the logical interaction between the individual entities that use the system. Business process modeling notation is a graphical, standardized notation used to model a business process. This type of modeling is similar to a flowchart and is meant to be understood by all users of the system. After all of the data has been analyzed, it is time to design a blueprint for the system that specifies what it will look like and how it will work.
First you have to develop the design by using a few key tools. One important tool is the creation of a data dictionary , which describes the characteristics of all data that is used in a system. Other important creations that the systems analyst will use include different diagrams which help to better describe the proposed system. It has been argued by some that the ever-increasing rate of developing technology has made it impossible for the every day systems analyst to do their job thoroughly. The economics of industry are pushing in a way that doesn't favor design, only production.
In addition to a data dictionary, the systems analyst also has to create input designs to help illustrate the input screens and other user interfaces that will be used to input data into the new system. To ensure that the data is input accurately and secured against data loss, it is essential for the system design to contain some form of a security feature. Also, an output design helps identify the specific outputs required to meet the information requirements, select methods required for presenting that information, and design reports, or other documents that carry the information.
Lastly, once the new system has finally been designed, a cost-benefit analysis is performed to determine whether the expected benefits tangible or intangible benefits of the new system are worth the expected cost. This analysis will then help determine if the design for the new system is worth implementing. Once the design blueprint has been approved, it's off to the proverbial grocery store. The organization needing a system will have a set budget and a list of components needed to make their system work properly.
With this budget comes a few courses of action. The first thing to think about is whether the company should create their own software for their system or buy the software from others. It is typically cheaper and less time consuming to buy preexisting software but the customization options are limited. If the preexisting software doesn't offer the options required of the system blueprint, then the company will likely have to make custom software to meet their needs. Assuming that it okay for the company to buy preexisting software, the next step is to choose where to buy from.
To help them choose, they can prepare an RFP, or request for proposal, which asks vendors what software the company might need to consider buying. If they already know what software they need and just want potential prices, the company can file an RFQ, or request for quotation. The Purchasing Department of a company usually decides which vendor deserves to receive the quote.
A benchmark test is a systematic process that evaluates both the hardware and software of a system. Some determinants used for the test include examining for the amount of workload that a system is capable of processing, the capability of solving complex scientific problems using a range of computations, offering legitimate data for the system to process and viewing the performance and scalability of the software, and many more.
These benchmark tests can be offered through third-party organizations where there sole purpose is to test the offered systems. These tests allow for the company to immediately discard incapable systems offered by vendors.
Computer Science & Information Systems
The implementation phase of the System Development Life Cycle is an important one. End user testing is imperative to assure a smooth transition. Any required documentation, including instructions and manuals should be developed during the process. Training, for both the system administrators and end users, should also occur during this phase. During some implementations, it is convenient, and sometimes even necessary to run the old system and the new system in parallel.