Monday, June 02, 2008

June 9, 2008


One of the biggest challenges in any system design effort is to produce a viable design that is well thought-out with all of the pieces and parts working harmoniously together. If something is forgotten, regardless of its seeming insignificance, it will undoubtedly cause costly problems later on. The task, therefore, is to produce a design that is demonstratively correct.

Fortunately, the answer is actually quite simple and something we have long advocated in our "PRIDE"-Information Systems Engineering Methodology (ISEM); namely, work backwards during system deign.

The primary objective of Systems Design is to define the system in terms of:

  • WHAT business processes (sub-systems) make up the system.

  • WHEN these processes need to occur (timing).

  • WHAT data will be required for processing.

  • WHAT inputs and outputs will be used during processing.

The emphasis in Phase 2 (System Design) of "PRIDE"-ISEM is to design a system that correctly satisfies information requirements. To do so, it works backwards, to wit:

  • From Information Requirements back to all of the data elements needed to produce it.

  • From the receiver of the Information back to the originators of the data.

  • From outputs back to inputs.

Later, during Phases 3 and 4, the process is reversed and design moves forward as opposed to backwards. Here, the design expresses how the data will be physically processed in order to produce information.

  • From the source of the data to the destination of the information.

  • From Inputs to Outputs.

  • From the start of the business process to the end.

This backwards approach to design in Phase 2 is based upon the "PRIDE" concept of Information Driven Design whereby information requirements are precisely designed in terms of the business actions/decisions to be supported, when they have to be made (timing), and the data elements needed to produce the information. Timing is an essential part of this approach because information is a perishable commodity. It only has value during a particular point in time. Users require information to support actions and decisions on a routine and timely basis, either instantaneously, daily, weekly, monthly, etc. All information systems operate routinely based on timing. Since this is true, why not make use of this timing consideration during system design as opposed to discovering it after the fact?

Timing will ultimately dictate how data will be collected and stored (availability requirements) and how data will be accessed to produce information. This approach implies that there are substantial differences between information and data, one of which is that data is the raw material used to produce information.

The supporting data must be defined in such a way that we can easily understand what primary data must be supplied by a User and what generated data must be calculated internal to the system. Data relationships can be extensive. For example, take NET-PAY which may be based on a complicated calculation:


The data elements used in the formula may also be calculated, such as:


What this means is that in order to arrive at the correct value for NET-PAY, we must be able to reach all of the primary values, such as HOURS-WORKED and PAY-RATE, in a TIMELY manner. If we cannot do this, NET-PAY will be incorrect.

Defining these data dependencies has typically defaulted to the programmer who redefines the relationships with each application and buries it in the source code, making maintenance and change difficult.

The timing and data specifications resulting from the information requirements will ultimately dictate the type of system to be created. For example, if information is required upon request and within a matter of seconds, this will probably result in an "interactive" type of process. However, if the information is required upon request but within a few hours, this will probably result in "batch" type processing (it may even be processable manually). These specifications are the basic building blocks for all systems and software design.

Information Driven Design organizes all of the data required to support the application, into logical files (objects). As such, it synchronizes the data base with the application.

Perhaps the biggest benefits derived from Information Driven Design is that it forces the Systems Analyst to consider all of the required data and simplifies processing. It also emphasizes the need for sharing data. As a design develops, consideration is given to using data from other applications. After all, why create new files and processes if they already exist?

With the logical system design defined, consideration is then given to the most appropriate way to physically process the data, either manually or computer assisted. Here is where Functional Decomposition and Data Driven design techniques excel. For software engineering, the characteristics of the data, its structures and what functions the computer must perform (e.g., create, update and reference) dictates the required programs. These specifications are the result of Information Driven Design. The physical characteristics of the data defines its validity. The data structures denote input, file and output relationships. The functional requirements determine how the data will be read and written in a program, whether sequentially, iteratively or selectively. In other words, Functional Decomposition and Data Driven Design will dictate physically "WHO" and "HOW" the data will be processed.

It is very important to understand that Phase 2 "System Design" represents the logical design phase. The design produced can be physically implemented many different ways. The ensuing phases therefore, Phases 3 and 4, represent the physical design phases which details the best way to implement the business process (sub-system).

This approach to system design, although effective, is predicated on well defined Information Requirements. If they are poorly or superficially defined, than everything that follows will be wrong. Garbage in - garbage out. But if the information requirements are well thought-out, the chances of producing a good system design are not just likely, it is highly probable.

For more information on "PRIDE"-ISEM's Phase 2 "System Design" see:

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...

"If an information requirement is stated improperly to begin with, then everything else that follows will be incorrect."


Friends, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.

Bonnie Wooding, the President of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said, "Many of our members are just starting their careers and I will be recommending that they read this book, especially Chapter 3, Professional Development - a primer for business skills and filled with basic common sense advice that is simple, easy to follow and extraordinarily practical; and Chapter 5, Do’s and Don’ts of the Workplace, an excellent resource for those questions you are too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking foolish."

The Miami Hurricane recently reviewed it (10/22/2007) and said,

"the abundance of information the book provides is a good start for anyone about to take the first step into the real world. Though the concept of adulthood may seem intimidating, it's comforting to know that someone has at least written a guidebook for it."

Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book."

The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


I think we all have some sort of love/hate relationship with Walmart. Nobody WANTS to go there, yet you are inevitably seduced by their low prices. I guess this is why you see all walks of mankind sauntering down their aisles like zombies looking for the best deals.

As you approach any Walmart, the first thing that catches your eye are the beggars outside panhandling for a variety of causes, mostly local charities such as school programs. Once you get past the gauntlet of beggars you are greeted by a Walmart employee who is more than happy to give you a shopping cart. Next you notice wafts of food odors emanating from the local food court near the entrance, usually popcorn or whatever special they have that day. Frankly, I don't think there's anything better to put you in the mood for shopping like the smell of burning popcorn or corned dogs.

Following this, you start down the conveyor belt of narrow aisles that circle the store. Now it becomes a game of bumper cars as you weave in and out of aisles to avoid the unthinking clods who either stop without warning to examine some 29 cent item for sale or who lean heavily on the cart and move as if they have polio and are learning to walk for the first time. Wouldn't it be great if the carts every once and awhile discharged an electrical jolt to prod the people along a little faster, or at least to wake them up?

As I said, you see just about anybody at your local Walmart, representing every social strata imaginable. This means you also see some of the most avant-garde clothing worn by people, everything from pajamas, to suit and tie, with everything in-between. But most people dress incognito so they cannot be easily recognized. You also see a lot of people wearing sunglasses inside for the same reason. Yes, we love the low prices, but we don't want to admit to being a patron which I consider rather odd.

Frankly, I see the local Walmart as a sort of Statue of Liberty with a similar inscription:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to shop cheaply,
The wretched refuse of our teeming shelves.
Send these, the desperate buyers to me.
I lift my hand out just beyond the exit door."

What is perhaps most interesting about the Walmart phenomenon is that regardless of what we say about it, we keep coming back for more, which is all the company really cares about. Kind of sounds like an addictive drug doesn't it?

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, "Presidential Candidates":

An M.J. in New York City wrote...

"Very perceptive article. I'm afraid we're stuck with choosing between some very depressing candidates."

A D.K. in Washington, DC wrote...

"Interesting and entertaining article Tim. I suppose in a way it depends on how you define 'the best people' the country has to offer. After all, many very good managers and executives are busy running multinational corporations or non-profit groups and thus are simply not available to run for President (not to mention the pay cut most of them would have to take). So running for office takes a special kind of person. Someone who not only has the ability to raise funds, inspire voters (to vote for them), and speak effectively, but also someone willing to use those abilities for public life rather than personal financial gain. [Or given the speakers fees after one finishes their term, perhaps simply postpone financial gain.] As you suggest, sometimes we get it right. My own personal favorite, Abraham Lincoln, may not fit the mould of a candidate for today's times, but he was exactly what was needed for his own time. Sometimes it's all in the timing."

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

An M.H. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania wrote...

"Great post! I agree on the employee sickness thing and it has always been a pet peeve of mine as well. One way we combatted this in our small company was to not award sick days, only "PTO" or Paid Time Off days. We did however encourage working from home if you really were sick so as to avoid the spread of unwanted viruses in the office. BTW - I haven't taken an official "sick" day in over 5 years (knock on wood)."

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.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2008 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

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




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