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Conceptual System Design

During the system analysis, the analysis of system data is very important. Analysis of
data is made up of more than one level at the beginning (first level) and different ideas
are used at each level. At first level, analyst develops a conceptual system design.
Since the conceptual design sets the direction for the management information system
(MIS). It is vital that managers participate seriously and heavily at this
stage. Conceptual design is sometimes called feasibility design, gross design or high
level design.
The conceptual design phase takes as input.
1. A crisp statement of a management information requirement and
2. a set of management objectives for the MIS
In the conceptual design stage that the alternative overall MIS designs are conceived
and the best one is selected by the system analyst in consultation with the top
management. The feasibility of meeting the management objectives for the MIS is
assessed showing how the system will work at the high level is drawn.
Therefore, conceptual design is also known as gross design; high level becomes the
basis for the detailed MIS design.
Hence, conceptual design is a pre-design for the detailed design. In
fact, conceptual design is the centerpiece of the process. Only after conceptual design
is completed, it can be sure that the MIS can successfully be constructed.
The conceptual design involves the following tasks.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Defining problems in more details.


Refining the management objectives to set system objectives.
Establishing system constraints.
Determining information needs and their sources.
Developing alternative designs and selection one from these various designs.
Document the conceptual design and preparing the report.

1. Define the problemThere is no doubt that problems exists in any dynamic business. The most important is
that what are usually lacking are clear definitions of the problems and the priority
system on the basis of problem is the mainsolution. Therefore, management must take
the first step in MIS design by formulating problems to be solved. The problem can be
solved by the iterative process.
The goal for the business leads to the objectives of the general business. From the
objectives, plans are derived. Each business objectives and business plans are derived.
Each business objectives and business plans are associated with information needs.
These Information needs are the problems to be solved by the MIS function. The
statements of needs are enough for designing process.
1. Stating the information need.
2. Asking questions about that need.
3. Suggesting interpretation of that need.
4. Detailing the original statement.
5. Reviewing the more detailed statement of need with management.
These steps are repeated until the information needs and the problem to be solved are
really understood. The process of problem refinement flows naturally into the system
objectives.

2. Set System Objectives


Most of the time it is quite difficult to state objectives for systems that covers all the
functional areas.
The manager must define the system objectives in terms of the importance of
information demands and not in terms of the satisfaction of demands that are not
related to an objective. System analyst tends to stress processing efficiency and staff
and functional supervisors commonly believe that their objective is to complete the
required report in time for management use. This view disregards the real objectives of
the system design, managements effectiveness.
The value of system lies in the benefits of the users. When we ask for the objectives, a
college principal may reply, provide quality education and a government bureaucrat
may say provide more jobs for the unemployed. Despite its difficulty being specific is
necessary. System objectives should be expressed in terms of what managers can do
after their information requirements have been met.
In summary, the first steps in systems design attempts to answer the question what is
the purpose of the system? why it is needed? What is it expected to do? Who are the
users what are their objectives?
3. Establish System Constraints
The iterative nature of the systems design process is easily understood when we
consider the third step in the process-establishing constraints. It can also be called as
problem boundaries or restrictions, constraints enable the designer to stipulate the
conditions under which objectives may be attained and to consider the limitations that
restricts the design. The two steps of setting objectives and establishing constraints may
be considered together as one.
Constraints may be viewed as a negative limitation on systems design, there is a positive
benefit also. Establishing constraints will help to ensure that the design is realistic.
Constraints may be classified as external or internal to the organization.
External Constraints
The external environment of the organization is concerned by the customer. Order entry,
billing and other systems that interface with the customers needs in mind. If some
outputs from the system are not acceptable to the customer, a definite limitation must
be faced up.
The government imposes certain restrictions on the processing of data. That may be the
need to maintain the security of certain classes of information to comply with law and
regulation in the conduct of business (e.g. taxes, reporting).
Unions can also affect the operations of systems involving members in working
conditions.
Suppliers are also an important group to be considered when designing information
systems because these systems frequently interface with that group.
Internal Constraints
If top management support is not obtained for the systems concept and for the notion
that computer based information systems are vital for management planning and
control, the type of design effort cannot be implemented. A good environment for
information systems must be set, and one essential requirement is the approval and
support of the top management.
Organizational and policy considerations frequently set limit on objectives and modify an
intended approach to design of the system. Company policies frequently define or limit

the approach to systems designs.


Personnel needs and personnel availability are a major limiting factor in both the design
and utilization of information systems. Computer and systems skills are among the most
critical in the nation. The most significant constraint of all is the one concerning the
people.
Cost is a major resource limitation. The cost to archive the objectives should be
compared with the benefits to be derived.
Self-imposed restrictions are these placed on the design by the manager or the designer.
The manager will also restrict the amount of time and effort devoted to investigation. To
achieve the objective, the manager may have to scale down several requirements to
make the system fit with other outputs, equipments or constraints.
4. Determining Information needs and sources
For a good system design, a clear statement of information needs is very important and
necessary. Many organizations spend huge amounts on hardware and software to
maintain existing systems or build sophisticated data banks, without first determining
the real information needs of management: the information that can increase the ability
of managers in critical areas such as problems, alternatives, opportunities and plans.
The optimum results cannot be achieved unless managers can provide the specifications
for what they want out of an information system. The manager needs information for
variety of reasons concerned with the management process. The type of needs at
various times and various purposes depends largely upon two factors.
a) The personal managerial attributes of the individual manager and
b) The organizational environment in which decisions are made.
The information sources are important for determining information needs. The system
may require external information or the internal.
5. Alternative conceptual designs and selecting one
The development of a concept of a system is a creative process that involves
synthesizing knowledge into some particular pattern. The concept of an MIS would
consist of the major decision points, patterns of information flow, channels of information
and roles of managers and competitors. The concept is the sketch of the structures or
skeleton of the Information System, which guides and restricts the form of the detailed
design. If conceptual design is the skeleton, then detailed design is the flesh.
E.g. two teams of students are trying to do project on the tourist guide and contact
information system. One concept produced is a sketch showing a detail about the
particular places describing its culture, heritages along with the colleges. Hotels and
trade. Where as another team produces a sketch of description of colleges along with the
description of faculty and the fee structures on various needs.
It is obvious that each alternative concept of a system has advantages and
disadvantages. Sometimes one concept will dominate all others by major criteria.
6. Document the best design
Sufficient information has been accumulated to begin a more detailed description of the
system concept. This description includes essentially a flowchart or other documentation
of the flow of information through the system, the inputs and the outputs.
The manager should be involved to the extent that the system provides the information
required, the designer is concerned with the nature of the materials and equipment as

well as with technical processing considerations.


Details to be worked out later by the designer will include exact instructions as what data
are to be captured and when, the files are to be used, the details of how processing is to
be done, what outputs will be generated by the system etc.

Detailed System Design


Conceptual design in itself is not the end of the design process, rather it servers
as a basis for the detailed MIS design. The performance requirements specified by
the conceptual design become inputs to the detailed design phase, in which these
are further refined, detailed and finalized to be called the system specifications.

Thus, the main objective of the detailed system design is to prepare a blue print
of a system that meets the goals of the conceptual system design requirements.
Detailed system design involves the following phases.

Project planning and control.

Involve the user

Define the detailed sub-system.

Input/Output design.

Feedback form the user

Database design.

Procedure design.

Design Documentation

1) Project planning and control


In order to ensure an effective and efficient design of an MIS, it is very important
that a detailed design process should in itself be considered a complete project.
Therefore, the first step in the detailed design is planning and controlling, so that
standards may be established and a proper follow-up is made. Some of the main
points, which are important in planning and control of a detailed design, are given
below.

Project planning
1.

Formulate the project objectives.

2.

Define the project tasks.

3.

Prepare a network diagram of all events and activities so as to specify


sequential and parallel events.

4.

Schedule the work as per the requirements of the user.

5.

Prepare a budget for the project.

Project control

Get a feedback of the actual performance of the project with respect to time, cost
and work of the project and compare it with schedules, budgets and technical plans.
Take corrective action where required so as to maintain control.

2) Involve the user


System designers must inform the user regarding the new information system
being developed and gain their support and acceptance. In this phase, users are
assured that changes will benefit them or that they will not be at disadvantage
because of the new system.
3) Detailed sub system definition
In detailed system design, every system needs to be broken down to ascertain all
activities required and their respective inputs and outputs. In some of the cases,
sub systems are broadly defined in the conceptual design phase, but at this stage
they are specifically defined to work out every detail concerning the sub-system.
Decomposition of the system to operational activities in general is carried out as
follows.

System
Sub System
Functional component

Task
Sub Task
Operation
element

4) Output/Input Design
Having defined the subsystem well, by way of flow diagrams and a through
discussion with the users of MIS, the system designers now define the
specifications of outputs and inputs for each sub-system, in more detail. These
specifications will later be used by programmers to develop programs to actually
produce the output/input.

5) Feedback from the user


Having specifically defined sub-system, output and inputs, the designers once
again involve the user to get feedback. This step will increase the acceptance of
the MIS being designed. The system analyst should demonstrate the proposed
MIS to the users of the system/sub-system. This step will also reassure the top
management of the user organization that the detailed design project is
processing as per plans.

1)

Database design

A database is an orderly arrangement of all the records related to each other. It


servers as a data resource for the MIS of an organization. To have optimum
performance, storage and fast retrieval of data, database design is an important
phase in the detailed design of a system. For designing a database, the designer
should keep the following points in mind.

Identify all data tables and record types.


Identify fields for each table, the key fields for each table and relations between
various tables.

Determine the data type and width for each field of the tables.

Normalize the data tables.

Properly document data dictionary.


7) Procedure design
Procedures are the rules, standards or methods designed to increase the
effectiveness of the information system. The procedures detail about the tasks to
be performed in using the system. They serve as the ready recovers for the
designers as well as for the users. Sometimes they perform the task of a
supervisor over operators. There are a wide variety of procedures, which include:

Data entry procedures.

Run time procedures.

Error handling procedures.

Security and back up procedures.

Software documenting procedures.


In designing procedures, designers should:

Understand the purpose and quality standards of each procedures

Develop a step-by-step direction for each procedure, and

Document all the procedures.


8) Design Documentation
Detailed design starts with the performance specifications given by the conceptual
design and ends with a set of design specifications for the construction of MIS.
The outputs from the detailed design, i.e. design specifications, are handed over
to the programmers for writing codes to translate system specifications into a
physical MIS. Therefore, the system analyst should very carefully document the
detailed design. In fact, design documents should consist of comprehensive
details of all the design phases. Design documentation of detailed design report,
generally, consists of

System objectives,

Design constraints,

Inputs/outputs,

Data files,

Procedures (manuals)

Proposed system (a summery and detailed flow charts),

Input/Output specifications,

Program specifications,

Database specifications,

Cost of installation and implementation, and

System test conditions.