JCK - A Veteran-Owned Small Business

since 1989

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Business Event Analysis & Modeling (BEAM™)

BEAM™ for Decision Support Systems

Extended Relational Analysis (ERA™)

Structured Query Language (SQL)

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What is User Focused Data Architecture?
But wait – isn’t that “systems analysis”? Don’t we already do that?

Well – we’re supposed to. But are the current methods working? Or are they contributing to that 65% failure rate? How does systems analysis, as currently practiced, work?

There are two things that mark most systems analysis techniques. One is process orientation – the analysis is focused on modeling (mimicking) the processes of the operation. This goes by many names, one of the more common being “business process modeling”. This is so pervasive that many analysts simply equate the two – systems analysis is process modeling. But process modeling has a few drawbacks:
  • Process is a moving target. Operations change their processes to accommodate new requirements, or even to improve how they fulfill existing ones. Sometimes an operation will try several processes to accomplish a goal.
  • Process depends on perspective. It’s very common to find that a description of a given process can vary greatly depending on who you ask. Different people may do things different ways, so what a process model reflects may depend on who you ask.
  • Process orientation treats the data as incidental or secondary – something that can be indirectly discerned from the steps of a process. This makes it easy to have forgotten or ill-defined data requirements.
Conventional systems analysis is also analyst oriented. The technical field is awash in modeling methodologies for capturing processes, and all share a common shortcoming: they’re all constructed by technicians, for technicians. Whether the analysts do a good or poor job of interviewing the users, the results are captured in a form that may make sense to the analyst, but it opaque to the user.

This doesn’t disturb the analyst, for he thinks the model is being constructed for his benefit. However, it means the users can’t verify the model – they have to take the analyst’s word that their descriptions were well understood and represented. Given the complexity of most business situations, having the model represented in a form unverifiable by the most knowledgeable party is a recipe for miscommunication.

Thus, even though process modeling is presumed to be the de facto analytical standard, we have to ask, “how well is it working?” Being the standard in an industry with a 65% failure rate is no compliment. But what else is there? What alternatives exist to process modeling and its numerous abstract methodologies?

As it happens, there is an alternative. It is a theoretically sound, field proven, and woefully neglected. It’s called user-focused data architecture, and it’s been around for several decades.


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