You are here


27 August, 2015 - 15:06

This chapter discusses reading and preparing documentation to portray aspects of business processes and related information systems. The text describes how to read data flow diagrams, systems flowcharts, and entity-relationship diagrams and, in the appendices, how to prepare data flow diagrams and systems flowcharts. In Chapter 3 we show you how to prepare entity-relationship diagrams. Proficiency with these tools should help you to read and prepare systems documentation, which will help you understand and evaluate business processes and their information systems.


Consultants, auditors, systems analysts, business process owners, students, and others use documentation to understand, explain, and improve complex business processes and information systems, such as an enterprise system. First, consider a typical enterprise system. This system probably includes all of the activities associated with receiving a customer order, picking the goods off a warehouse shelf, packing and shipping the goods, and billing the customer. Further, the Information System supporting this business process is likely to be used by dozens of people within and outside the organization. Enterprise systems have hundreds of programs that perform functions for virtually every department in the organization, process thousands of transactions and hundreds of requests for management information, and have people throughout the organization preparing inputs and receiving system outputs within the company and over the Internet.


For such complex systems, we require maps or pictures, rather than a detailed narrative description, to “see” and analyze all the activities, inputs, and outputs. Being able to draw these diagrams demonstrates that we understand the system and will be able to explain the system to someone else. For example, with a systems flowchart we can understand and analyze document flows (electronic and paper) through the business process, including its management system and information system. Perhaps our analysis will lead to system improvements. Data flow diagrams, systems flowcharts, and entity-relationship diagrams are much more efficient (and effective) than narratives for working with complex systems. The application of these tools, even to the relatively simple systems depicted in this textbook, demonstrates this fact.


In addition to using documentation to understand and improve a system, an organization can use it for other important purposes. For example, managers use documentation to explain systems and to train personnel. Auditors also use documentation to understand systems and to evaluate the systems’ controls.


Review Question

Why do we need to document an Information System?


Learning Objectives

  • To read and evaluate data flow diagrams
  • To read and evaluate systems flowcharts
  • To read and evaluate entity-relationship diagrams
  • To prepare data flow diagrams from a narrative