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Systems Documentation Techniques

Professor Merle Martin Professor Yan Xiong College of Business CSU Sacramento


Why Document System Data Flow Diagrams Flowcharts Difference between DFDs and Flowcharts

Why Document Systems?

User confidence that you understand system Successive refinement of detail down to programming level Ease of Program Maintenance, System Modification, Reengineering, and Replacement

Why Document Systems?

Problem Solving Humans solve complex problems by breaking them into smaller and smaller modules until they fit into the human mind solving the modular sub-problems aggregating small solutions into total solution


Why Document Accounting Information Systems Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) Flowcharts Difference between DFD

Data Flow Diagrams

Data flow diagram (DFD) graphically describes flow of data within any system Used to document existing systems and to plan and design new ones No ideal way to develop a DFD judgment within standard rules

Data Flow Diagrams

DFD composed of only four elements: Data sources and destinations: External Entities Another organization/organization unit which exchanges data with the focal system A person who interacts with the system (customer of a banking system) Another information system Data Flows Processes Data Stores: Temporary or permanent repository of data

DFD Symbols
External Entity Source

Data Data Process Flow Flow Data Flow

External Entity Sink

Data Store

DFD Symbols
1.1 Process Payment





Remittance data
Customer File


Data Flow Diagrams Explosion

Data flow diagrams subdivided into successively lower levels in order to provide increasing amounts of detail This decomposition process is called explosion

Data Flow Diagram Explosion

Context Level Ist Level Explosion 2nd Level Explosion Succeeding levels as necessary Until reach primitive level Ready to code

Context Diagram

Includes only External Entities Data Flows All elements included on Context Diagram must be included somewhere on lower level diagrams Data stores rarely included!

Context Diagram

Why discourage Data Stores on Context Diagram? Author includes them Context Diagram shows interaction of your system with outside world Data Stores are INSIDE your system, not in outside world

Purchase Inventory Requisition System Order Entry System

Purchase Order


Special Order

0 Purchasing

Purchase Order Notification

Receiving System

Context Diagram

1st Level Explosion

Also includes all data flows and external entities Now data stores are added Excellent means of confirming understanding of system between analyst and client Each process will be exploded into lower level DFDs

Ist Level Explosion

Purchase Requisition 1 Edit Order Approved 2 Order Set Ship Mode

Inventory Problem Orders

Order Entry

Draft P.O
P.O. Copy 3 Prepare P.O. P.O.Notification

Vendor Receiving

2nd and Succeeding Levels

Must be consistent with parent DFD Same external entities Same data stores Same data flows

2nd Level Explosion (Process 1)

Purchase Requisition 1.1 Log-in Order

Order Entry
Log-in #s

1.2 Edit Order Edited Order

Logged-in Order


Problem Orders

1.3 Approve Order

Approved Order

Process 2.1

DFD Rules -- Process

A. No process can have only outputs (a miracle) B. No process can have only inputs (a black hole) C. Verb phrase labels

D. Data cannot move directly from one data store to another data store -- it must be moved by a process. E. Data cannot move directly from an outside source to a data store -- it must be moved by a process. F. Data cannot move directly to an outside sink from a data store -- it must be moved by a process. G. Noun phrase label

DFD Rules -- Data Store

DFD Rules -- Source / Sink



Data cannot move directly from a source to a sink. It must be moved by a process. Noun phrase label

DFD Rules -- Data Flow

J. A data flow has only one direction of flow between symbols; a data flow may flow in both directions to and from a data store (usually two symbols) K. A fork in a data flow means that exactly the same data goes to two different processes or data stores.

DFD Rules -- Data Flow

L. A data flow cannot go directly back to the same process it leaves M. A data flow to a data store means update (delete or change) N. A data flow from a data store means retrieve or use O.Noun phrase label

Other DFD Issues

Two additional guidelines


to a process are different from outputs of that process Every process in a DFD has a unique name

Draw a Context Diagram and a 1st level explosion Current System Description for the payroll system at No-Wear Products. Time data are recorded in each department using time cards and clocks. The time data are sent to the payroll by different departments. Payroll clerks review the time data for their completeness. Human resources send the payroll data on personnel changes, such as increases in pay rates and new employees. Payroll clerks update the payroll file based on these changes. At the end of the period, payroll clerks enter the time card data into the payroll file for processing. The payroll supervisor reviews the file and makes necessary corrections. Payroll clerks send the direct payments to the bank and also the direct deposit slips to the departments.


Why Document Accounting Information Systems Data Flow Diagrams Flowchart Difference between DFD and Flowchart


A flowchart is an analytical technique used to describe some aspect of an information system in a clear, concise, and logical manner. Flowcharts use a standard set of symbols to pictorially describe transaction processing procedures.

Flowchart Symbols

Flowcharting symbols can be divided into the following four categories: 1 Input/output symbols 2 Processing symbols 3 Storage symbols 4 Flow and miscellaneous symbols

Flowcharting Symbols: Input Output Symbols

Symbol Name


Online keying Display

Input/output; Journal/ledger

Flowchart Symbols: Processing symbols

Symbol Name

Manual operations Computer processing Auxiliary operation

Flowchart Symbols: Storage Symbols

Symbol Name

Magnetic disk

Magnetic tape

Flowchart Symbols: Flow and miscellaneous Symbols

Symbol Name

Document or processing flow

On-page connector

Off-page connector
Terminal Decision

What are Document Flowcharts?

A document flowchart illustrates the flow of documents and information between areas of responsibility within an organization. A document flowchart is particularly useful in analyzing the adequacy of control procedures. Flowcharts that describe and evaluate internal controls are often referred to as internal control flowcharts.

What are Computer System Flowcharts?

System flowcharts depict the relationship among the input, processing, and output of an AIS. A system flowchart begins by identifying both the inputs that enter the system and their origins. The input is followed by the processing portion of the flowchart.

What are Computer System Flowcharts?

The resulting new information is the output component. System flowcharts are an important tool of system analysis, design, and evaluation.

What are Computer System Flowcharts?





What are Program Flowcharts?

A program flowchart describes the specific logic to perform a process shown on a systems flowchart. A flow line connects the symbols and indicates the sequence of operations. The processing symbol represents a data movement or arithmetic calculation.

What are Program Flowcharts?

Input data No

If a condition is met Yes

Perform calculation Update record

What are Program Flowcharts?

The input/output symbol represents either reading of input or writing of output. The decision symbol represents a comparison of one or more variables and the transfer of flow to alternative logic paths. All points where the flow begins or ends are represented by the terminal symbol.

Flowchart for Processing Credit Orders

Enter sales order

Approved for credit? Yes Inventory available? Yes Fill order


Reject order





The Dewey Construction Company processes its payroll transactions to update both its payroll master file and its work-in-process master file in the same computer run. Both the payroll master file and the work-in-process master file are maintained on disk and accessed directly. Data to be input to this system are keyed onto a tape using a key-to-tape encoder. This tape is then processed to update the files. This processing run also produces a payroll register on magnetic tape, employee paychecks and earnings statements, and a printed report listing error transactions and summary information. Prepare a system flowchart of the process described.

Job Time Tickets

Key to Tape Encodings

Job Time Records Tape

Payroll Master File

Payroll Processing System

Work in Process Master File

Earnings Statement Payroll Register Paycheck

Error Transactions and Summary


Why Document Accounting Information Systems Data Flow Diagrams Flowchart Difference between DFD and Flowchart

Differences Between DFDs and Flowcharts

DFDs emphasize the flow of data and what is happening in a system, whereas a flowchart emphasizes the flow of documents or records containing data. A DFD represents the logical flow of data, whereas a flowchart represents the physical flow of data.

Differences Between DFDs and Flowcharts

Flowcharts are used primarily to document existing systems. DFDs, in contrast, are primarily used in the design of new systems and do not concern themselves with the physical devices used to process, store, and transform data.