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Documenting Business Processes and Information Systems

27 August, 2015 - 15:01

Wander through the offices of a group of systems analysts and you will likely see many flowcharts and other diagrams taped to the walls. These diagrams are roadmaps for the systems and processes that run the business. The analysts themselves may have created them, but more than likely business process owners or business process experts provided the description or narrative of the existing or proposed process. Business professionals who work with complex information systems can benefit greatly from knowing how to understand and create flowcharts and narratives of their business processes. These professionals may be users, designers, or evaluators of business processes, as well as systems professionals.

A recent graduate described how he has used flowcharting and other documentation techniques in his job:

Auditors and consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP use flowcharts and systems narratives in a variety of engagements, including financial audits, business process reengineering, and security reviews. During financial audits, auditors review business applications—such as sales, billing, and purchasing—and the processes associated with those applications. To document each process, the auditor conducts interviews with the process owner, writes a narrative, and prepares accompanying flowcharts. Then, the auditor reviews the narrative with the process owner for accuracy and completeness. These documents allow an auditor to design the audit, identify areas where controls may be needed, and prepare audit findings and recommendations.

With the increasing use of computers in business today, flowcharting is essential in financial audits to allow the auditor—as well as consultants and the business process owners—to see information flows and identify areas where information may be changed, manipulated, or even lost. In addition, with the reliance on automated processing systems for financial information, the IRS now requires flowcharts and narratives to be created and maintained for all automated processing systems used by businesses. 1

In professional services firms, individuals may work on many different types of jobs at many different clients. It is rare that auditors and consultants work with the same systems year after year. This has made it necessary for documentation of information systems to be created and maintained for all clients serviced by such professional services firms and carried forward for each subsequent audit or other engagement. Such documentation is usually kept as part of the audit bundle and on disk, or in the automated working papers.” 2