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Conceptual System Design Essay

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. Defining problems in more details.
2. Refining the management objectives to set system objectives.
3. Establishing system constraints.
4. Determining information needs and their sources.
5. Developing alternative designs and selection one from these various designs.
6. Document the conceptual design and preparing the report.

1. Define the problem-

There 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 main solution. 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, management’s 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 customer’s 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. Whereas 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.

Design Methods

There are a no. of methods for designing information systems. Following is a brief description of some of the popular methods.

• Problem Partitioning

• Structured Design

• Top-Down Design

Problem Partitioning

• The method is based on the principle of ‘divide and conquer’. In this method, instead of solving the entire problem at once, the problem is divided into small manageable parts that can be solved separately.

Structured Design

• In this method, a structured chats is created, which can be used to implement the system. The chart depicts modules defining each module by the specific function. Various tools like flow-charting, data flow diagrams, structure charts, structured English, etc. are used in a structured design.

Top-Down Design

• The top-down design is based on the concept of a system which suggests that a system consists of sub-system, which has sub-system of their own. In other words, a system may be termed as a hierarchy of sub-systems, the highest level sub-system corresponding to the total system.

Detailed System Design

As already stated, conceptual design in itself is not the end of the design process; rather it serves as a basis for the detailed MIS design. The performance requirements specified by the conceptual design become inputs to the detailed design phases, 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.

i. Project Planning and control

ii. Involves the User

iii. Define the Detailed Sub-Systems

iv. Input/output Design

v. Feedback from the User

vi. Database Design

vii. Procedure Design

viii. Design Documentation

A brief discussion on each of the phases is given below.

Project Planning

In order to ensure an effective and efficient design of the 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

i. Formulate the project Objectives.

ii. Define the project task.

iii. Prepare a network diagram of all events and activities so as to specify sequential and parallel events.

iv. Schedule the work as per the requirements of the user.

v. Prepare a budget for the project.

• Project Control

i. 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.

ii. Take corrective action where required so as to maintain control.

Involve the User

System designer must inform the users 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. It is also important to take users in confidence so as to obtain information for the design of the system. This will also help managing resistance to change and would ensure successful implementation of the system.

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.


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