Monday, June 16, 2008

June 23, 2008


The subject of current systems analysis is usually greeted with dismay or disdain by systems departments. There are many reasons for this. In many installations, the support of current systems takes more than 85% of the systems department's time, and the departments are more than ready to get on with new systems development and bury the old, non-working systems as quickly as possible. In cases where systems do not require a lot of maintenance, the systems department may find that the current systems are not giving management the kind of information it needs for effective decision making; these current systems become likely candidates for replacement.

However, there are some very legitimate reasons for documenting existing systems:

  1. The documentation process will make development personnel more knowledgeable about the enterprise's business. Users often complain that the systems people are ignorant or naive about the business, and usually there is some justification in this complaint. The process of capturing current systems will educate Systems Engineers in the business of the company.

  2. Documenting current systems will clearly show:

    • What information is being produced.

    • Who is using the information and how.

    • What data resources are being used (data, records, files, inputs, outputs).

    • What processing is being executed, and what is not.

    Quite often, user personnel do not use existing systems simply because they do not understand the purpose of the system or how it is to be used. If a system has been properly documented, perhaps only a few modifications are required as opposed to a major new development effort. Unless we understand clearly what the old system is doing, how can we design a new system to replace the old? How can we plan the conversion from the old to the new? Most of the current system contains resources that will be reusable for the new system. Data, records, files, inputs, outputs - most, if not all of these can be reused in systems development.

    Weaknesses and misusages of current systems will also be uncovered. Because of inadequate documentation, it is not unusual to see a good system be misinterpreted by users, including operations personnel. As a consequence, the system is only partially utilized and the benefits not fully realized.

  3. Programs and files which only serve the purpose of unnecessarily occupying computer storage space can be identified and removed.

Capturing current systems can be a huge undertaking. A single company can have hundreds of systems and sub-systems, and thousands of procedures and programs, some of which are very old. It is important to remember that the intent here is to ONLY IDENTIFY AND DESCRIBE THE CURRENT SYSTEM, NOT TO CORRECT DEFICIENCIES. Quite often, there is a temptation to try to correct an obvious problem at this stage. As a consequence, the task of capturing current systems takes longer and longer. When errors or problems are spotted they should be documented as future Modification/Improvements and not corrected as part of this effort.

How much definition is enough? Ultimately it is based on the organization's needs. No two companies will approach the problem in the same way. Their requirements will vary. However, simplicity is recommended when describing the various information resources.

Capturing current systems is an exercise in reverse engineering. Whereas, system design is a top-down effort, current systems analysis begins with an examination of the procedural flow and works up and down the system hierarchy.

What systems or sub-systems do you begin with? Start with those that provide operational information - those that are at the heart of the business operations. Those parts of the systems that provide policy and control information can be delayed until the operational systems have been captured, since they will require the same data created in the operational systems.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Keep the faith!

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...

"Only when the Systems Engineer can walk in the moccasins of the user does the engineer have a right to design a system for the user."


Folks, be sure to check out our eBook on management entitled, "The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture." This is a frank and candid description of the state of the art in management and includes essays on the problems in management today, along with some pragmatic advice on how to deal with them. Basically, this is a condensed course in management. As such, it is suited for managers, either those aspiring to become a manager or for those who need a refresher course. It will also be of interest to young people entering the work force, and is excellent for college curriculums.

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We have also produced a one-day training program of the same name. For more information on both the eBook and course, please visit our web site at:

While there, look for our MS PowerPoint presentation describing both the book and the training program.


I read recently that NBC will be charging $3 million for a 30 second ad at next year's Super Bowl. Yes, that's $100,000 per second to promote your goods or services. This announcement caught a lot of people by surprise as it marked another milestone in advertising rates. For example, Fox charged $2.4 million just two years ago. Interestingly, the price was just $42,400 in 1967, the year when the Super Bowl began.

I guess this means Super Bowl advertising is more inflationary than the rising cost of crude oil. Whereas crude oil has risen in price 3,698% since the late 1960's, Super Bowl ads have risen a whopping 7,075%. Take that, you stingy Arab oil producers.

You've got to wonder who is going to pay for these 30 second spots. I'm sure the breweries, cola kings, Hollywood movie studios, and automotive manufacturers will be well represented, but I think you'll start to see the little guys drop off this year. Think about it, that's a lot of beer, soft drinks, and cars to sell before you see a return on your investment.

The Super Bowl is also used to introduce new ads for the year, some remarkably entertaining, such as the unforgettable 1984 Macintosh ad. McDonalds, Pepsi and Budweiser have also had their share of memorable Super Bowl ads. And at $3 million per spot, I seriously doubt we're going to see much schlock.

Is there a limit to how high Super Bowl rates will go? If history is any indicator, evidently not. And remember this, it will be us, the consumers, who must ultimately pay for NBC's greed. But then again, the consumer has never been particularly smart, and that is just what NBC and the advertisers are counting on.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.

Also, if you happen to be in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, be sure to stop by and check out our new Palm Harbor Business OASIS, a new business venue offering local business people a place to meet, work, network, and relax. Why pay a lot for leasing office space when you can become a member of the OASIS for as little as $100/month? For more information, visit our web site at:


I received the following e-mails from my "Pet Peeve" entitled, "Microchipping":

An E.V. in Romeo, Michigan wrote...

"This has been discussed for a few years now. It will probably happen. I'm sure it will happen for people with Alzheimer's Disease."

A J.G. in Pampa, Texas wrote...

An O.O. in Bathurst, Australia wrote... "There are "trendy" nightclubs in Florida have combined with banks so the "pretty young things" can have a microchip instead of carrying credit/debit cards. The company is VeriChip but there have been serious doubts about their safety. I'm not so sure it sounds such a good idea yet." ;-)

I received the following e-mails from my "Pet Peeve" entitled, "A Day at the Beach":

A C.C. in Winder, Georgia wrote...

"I guess some women and men don't know that they look scary. When the skin and connective tissue underneath it starts heading south, this is not the time to wear a bikini.. not for either gender... and it is up to us to TRY not to look at the oddity of it all."

Again, thanks for your comments. For these and other comments, please visit my "Bryce is Right!" web site.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

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This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."




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