Specifying, choosing and implementing computer systems

Stage 2 – Determine the information required

Activities and tasks

‘Activities’ are high-level responsibilities such as buying, marketing and selling which aim to achieve the objectives of the organisation. ‘Tasks’ are sub-divisions of activities which are carried out by one person from start to finish, although a single task (such as shop sales) may be assigned to several people. Activities and tasks should be based on objectives to be achieved, not departmental structure, existing job responsibilities or current processes, since these may be inefficient and not suitable to operate the new computer systems.

Having got an overview of the requirements, you should be able to define the activities and tasks involved in the computer system (SS 2-1 Tasks) since this will help in identifying the requirements of the system, choosing the system and in implementing it. The proposed features of new system (WP 1-2) can be added to this spreadsheet, amended as necessary. As the project progresses the activities and tasks involved will be clarified and the spreadsheet updated.

The tasks on this spreadsheet will eventually be linked to the screens of the purchased system and provide planning for testing and training. Thus this spreadsheet spans both specification and implementation phases, while the requirements spreadsheet (SS 2-2) covers specification and choosing.

Objective and information requirements

This part of the project determines the information required from the system and therefore forms the basis of the requirements for the new system. The information required defines the database structure and the input necessary. It is the most important part of the project and will take time and care.

 Each user will need to be interviewed to:

o Determine their objectives, the decisions they need to make to achieve these objectives and the information they require to make those decisions (SS 2-2). The objectives are given a reference number which links them to the job (WP 1-3).

o Uniquely number each objective/decision/information to enable easy identification.

o Assess the significance (‘S’) of the information required (3=essential, 2= desirable 1 = wishful).

o Identify activities and the task within those activities as noted on SS 2-1. These will need to be updated as the project progresses.

o Obtain copies of existing reports that they receive. Ask them what improvements need to be made to these reports as well as new reports required.

o Obtain copies of any input documents used.

 Although the above information can be recorded in a word processed document, it is preferable to record it in a spreadsheet (SS 2-2), since it is much more easily manipulated. An example is downloadable from the website. Examples in this document are extracted from the spreadsheet.

 Allocate each objective/information combination to the activity/task which will fulfil the objective by producing the information.

 Ask in particular about problems encountered (for example the use of different currencies, customers who have forgotten their credit card). Although you don’t need to document procedures, you do need to understand the scenarios that the system will have to accommodate.

 Again think in terms of detail because that is at the end of the day what you're going to have to produce.

 It can be useful to draw up the format of the output which a user needs to fulfil one or more of their objectives (SS 2-3)

 Understand the risks affecting the output so that the management of these can be documented in the procedures. Risks and PIRs arising should be noted on the appropriate forms and referenced.

 The Tasks and Requirements spreadsheets should be updated throughout the project as you understand more of the requirements.

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