CS507 - Information Systems - Lecture Handout 19

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System Design

System design can be explained and presented in narrative form. But the benefits of diagrammatic view cannot be understated. This helps to give a snapshot of what the entire system looks like. Various diagrammatic tools can be used while designing the system.

As an example consider the following DFD which indicates a simple process of recording transactions and posting into general ledger

System Design

User/Accountant uses chart of accounts to access the relevant accounts in order to prepare different vouchers according to requirements. The purpose behind this entire activity is to record various transactions. The next step is posting of all these transactions in the system. This process updates the general ledger.

Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD)

Another diagrammatical tool used in system design is ERD. ERD as shown below indicates simple relationships. These relationships can be read as follows.

  • One department has one supervisor
  • A department may have more than one employees


  • An employee may be in more than one departments
  • An employee may not be working on any project but a project must have at least one employee working on it

Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD)

This is another form of ERD used to show the relations between various fields in files used to record specific data.

another form of ERD

The above figure shows a hotel booking system. Various records have been kept for each entity.
However each entity shares a relationship with for logical purpose. For instance, the field for room ID has been kept in reservation for access to further data. User information has been kept separate, however link has been made to reservation, session and logs by making user ID common to all three tables. Such kind of relationship helps in keeping

Design of the information flow

It is a major step in the conceptual design. Following aspects should be covered

  • Flow of data & information and transformation points
  • The frequency and timing of flows
  • The extent of formality in these flows – input forms, report formats.

Design of data base

It involves determining scope and structure:

  • Scope – Whether the database is local or global. If interdependence of organizational units is high, the data base has to be global in order to prevent sub-optimization of sub units. As it becomes global, the cost of maintenance enhances.
  • Structure – refers to the ways data is stored in partitions and sequences. Various design methodologies can be used for devising a suitable structure in accordance with the needs of the organization and the new system.

Design of the User Interface

This phase involves determining the ways the information system will interact with the users. Some elements are

  • Source Documents to capture raw data
  • Hard-copy output reports
  • Screen layouts
  • Inquiry screens
  • Interrogation languages for the data base
  • Graphics and colour displays
  • Voice output to guide users or answer queries
  • Screen layouts for manipulation by a light pen or mouse
  • Icons for pictorial representations

The design process begins with stratifying system users and then identifying their needs. e.g.

  • New users dealing with system infrequently,
  • Experts dealing regularly

Physical Design

The logical design is converted to physical design in this phase. The physical design involves breaking up the logical design into units, which in turn can be decomposed further into implementation units such as programs and modules.

Design of the Hardware/ Software Platform

New system requires new software and hardware not currently available in the organization. For example

  • User workstations might have to be purchased to support an office automation system.
  • A minicomputer might have to be purchased to provide extra processing resources to the new system.

Program Development

The development phase involves converting design specifications into executable programs. Once the analysis and design is complete, the software is either developed according to the needs or most suitable is purchased. Similarly the specifications of the hardware are seen and acquisition is made according to the situation. Primary procedural programming activities include

  • The creation and testing of source code
  • The refinement and finalization of test plans
  • Writing and reviewing program modules or components
  • Integration of Completed components with other components to ensure the components properly interact. The process continues as component groups are progressively integrated and as interfaces between component groups and other systems are tested.

Procedures Development

In this phase, following documents are prepared.

  • Technical manual – This is meant for the Data Base Management and highlights the system infrastructure, inputs-outputs of the system and flows of system processes. Documents include
    • DFD’s (Data Flow Diagrams)
    • ERD’s (Entity Relationship Diagram)
    • Use cases, test cases
  • User manual
    It defines the operations of the system in layman’s terms i.e.
    • Getting started with the software
    • Operating the software
  • These manuals are generally function related.


The purpose of this phase is to identify as far as possible any errors and deficiencies in the system prior to its final release into production use. For instance errors in

  • User interface
  • Procedure manuals
  • Job design
  • Organizational structure design

In reality all system features cannot be checked at the outset. For instance, users might realize that the system has inadequate procedures manual only after the system has been properly implemented.

Change Over

This phase comprises of those activities undertaken to replace the new system in operation from the existing system. Following ways of change over can be undertaken

  • Abrupt change over – stop the existing system abruptly to shift over to new one
  • Phased change over – Both are run but output of both the systems is used since functions performed are different.
  • Parallel change over – Both systems are run simultaneously for a period of time and output of either of the systems is used. Functions performed by both are same.

Operations & Maintenance

The new system is run as a production system and is periodically modified to adjust for better functioning.
Following can be various forms of errors.

  • Removal of coding/logic errors – Logic errors discovered in the system are corrected.
  • Modifications / system rewrite – Changes in the system environment may necessitate system modifications.
  • Perfective maintenance – Changes might be made to improve processing efficiency.

Evaluating Waterfall

Arguments for water fall

  • Waterfall model places emphasis on documentation (such as requirements documents and design documents) as well as source code.
  • Other methodologies which save time in software development can de-emphasize documentation. In such methodologies project knowledge is stored mentally by team members. Should team members leave, this knowledge is lost, and substantial loss of project knowledge may be difficult for a project to recover from. Extreme Programming is an example which will be discussed later.
  • Waterfall model is preferred for its simple and arguably more disciplined approach. The model itself progresses linearly through discrete, easily understandable and explainable "phases" and is thus easy to understand
  • It also provides easily mark able "milestones" in the development process. It is perhaps for this reason that the waterfall model is used as a beginning example of a development model in many software engineering texts and courses.

Arguments against water fall

  • It is argued that it is impossible to get one phase of a software product's lifecycle "perfected" before moving on to the next phases and learning from them.
    For example clients may not be aware of exactly what requirements they want before they see a working prototype and can comment upon it - they may change their requirements constantly, and program designers. This is an example of iterative model (to be discussed later)
  • Waterfall model advocates more reliance on fixed, static requirements. Designers may not be fully aware of future implementation difficulties when writing a design for an unimplemented software product. That is, it may become clear in the implementation phase that a particular area of program functionality is extraordinarily difficult to implement.
  • Another problem is that the waterfall model assumes that the only role for users is in specifying requirements, and that all requirements can be specified in advance. Unfortunately, requirements grow and change throughout the process and beyond, calling for considerable feedback and iterative consultation. Thus many other SDLC models have been developed. The choice of phases differs in various standards and organizations.