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Software Engineering - Systems Flowchart

Systems Flowchart

Various programs and modules you design for a proposed application offer an interesting comparison and contrast with the manual work that has been performed hitherto. While both the erstwhile and the new system exhibit considerable similarly in their functioning (what they do for processing and manipulation of data), there are certain dissimilarities in the form and manner (how they process and manipulate data). There may be a regrouping of some similar tasks in the new system, while some tasks in the old system might be split into multiple processes. Thus the tasks in the erstwhile systems may undergo renaming, reshuffling and restructuring when they appear as menus and options in the new systems. Besides, there may be some new controls or transformation of earlier controls, too (Password security, back up methods, system parameter settings, etc).

As all these factors cause some changes in the data processing activities, there needs to be some illustrative part of the design to depict the logical as well as chronological flow of various programs, modules and menu-options in the system. This is where the systems flow chart comes on the scene illustrating the revised workflow.

It encompasses the following:

(a) All the processes are automated in the system:

These processes are indicated with a rectangular box containing the name of the process within the rectangle. Examples of the processes could be capturing the master data for payroll, building up the monthly transactions, updating the master file with the transactions, computing the payroll for the month, generating the reports, etc.

(b) The inputs and outputs are related to each process:

Each process depicted by a rectangle is connected by various inputs it receives and the outputs it gives out. The master building for payroll will have inputs from the keyboard; the report generating process will give out the pay-sheet for the office, individual employee's pay-slip, etc.

(c) The data files/tables to be handled by the process:

Different files needed by a process are alongside that process to clarify the major data needs of that process. The payroll process of merging the transactions in the master (for updating the master file based on the transactions file) will be shown along with the master file (in read and write mode) and transaction file (in a read only mode).

(d) Data flows and sequencing

Each process is indicated with the respective data flows it receives from some file or input through the keyboard; similarly each process is shown with the outward data flows from the process to some file or to some user. The placement of various processes clearly marks the general sequencing of running the programs. Thus, the sequencing forms a sort of chaining of all the processes on the time line indicating their chronological sequence.

The systems flow chart provides a handy and picturesque tool that helps system designers in multiple ways:

(a) One-page bird's eye view of the system.

(b) An all-comprehensive list of processes, inputs, outputs, data files, etc.

(c) An insight of the logical and chronological flows of the system.

(d) Quick understanding of individual processes and data files.

(e) Familiarization about the process dependencies.

(f) An effective tool for documentation and discussions with users.

Needless to say that each and every change in the overall architecture of the system needs to be reflected in the system flow chart with continuous updates to keep it current.

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