Fact Finding Techniques
The set et of tools that a systems analyst users to learn more and more about the area to be computerized.
(a) Record scanning: A systems analyst studying the existing system leads to go through several records that the users build up, move around, refer to over and over again and finally preserve for some time period. Such records could take several forms. For example, in a banking environment, it could be vouchers, scrolls, registers, ledgers, etc. in a laboratory it could be journals, charts, experiment templates, etc. in the government scenario, it may be citizen’s applications, supporting documents, notes or memos prepared etc. in a warehouse it could be the bin card, delivery challans, goods inspection note, stock ledger, etc.
All these records are closely perused to learn the sources and sinks of information, data flows in time sequence, processing as it takes in small steps, data manipulations and reports generated, etc. Record scanning also throws light on the size and scale of transactions, peak and lean periods, processing steps of bottle necks, human interventions, exceptions tackling etc.
(b) Interviews: while record scanning helps in getting snap shots of the process at various time intervals as reflected in documents, an interview is the best tool to appreciate the reasoning that tells us exactly how the processing takes place, how the decisions are arrived at, whether some small yet significant data carried in the heads of concerned people that is not getting documented, etc. an interview is a dynamic tool that could squeeze a lot of information that is typically in a latent form in the minds of people.
It needs substantial preparation – both long term and short term – conduct successful interviews. As a long term preparation, one needs to develop inter-personal skills, documentation habit, good vocabulary and tactical ways of interview modulation as per the tensor of the other party. For short term preparation, one has to study the subject matter before hand, visualize the interview, draw up a check-list of coverage, etc.
It would also be pertinent to state human dynamics may lead the interview to an undesirable mode where an adept user may dominate and trivialize the interview.
(c) Questionnaires: where the systems analyst needs to interact with several people of comparable designation, role or status and who may also be posted at far-off places, a questionnaire is a natural choice that supplements an initial interview of a few people.
Questionnaires presuppose several factors. Firstly, it should be a well thought, neatly structured document that is to be filled up by the respondent without the systems analy6st being personally available. It should be developed after the initial interviews so that is contents appeal to and interest the respondents. It has therefore to be explicit, self-contained and still concise. Ease of its forward and return transmission also impacts on its success.
(d) Observations: this tool believes that ‘Seeing is believing’. While records may depict every single detail, interviews with users may also leave some points untouched. This is not to doubt user intentions, but out of sheer habit some workflow points may be too obvious for them and hence may not be expressed. Observations come in handy to cover all such mances.
Besides, observations also helps figure out if the records or interviews deviate from reality. Users may at times knowingly or unknowingly misrepresent the workflow. Reasons behind this may be a bit of inconvenience, preoccupation with other deadlines, and fear of loss of power that they may have to face with the proposed system. Closely watching the work flow with a patient and inquisitive eye pays a lot in systems study.
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