IRM Training - White Paper
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of Essential Modelling
Derrick Brown, Course DesignerIRM Training Pty Ltd ACN 007 219 589Suite 209, 620 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne, Vic. 3004, AustraliaTel: +613 9533 2300
essential modelling can be an extremely valuabletool for the business analyst. Instead of modelling
things are done (the currentsystem), or
they might be done (a proposed system), we model
t is done, or
might be done. For example the purpose of a Customer Service Department is to providecustomers with a level of service they expect (or the company defines). Things like callcentres and customer relationship management systems are the
of customer service.This switch in thinking is not always easy as we have to ignore the very practical matters of procedures, methods, people, technology etc. The more involved we are in the system thatwe’re looking at, the more difficult it may be to look at things conceptually. We have to lookat what business objective we are trying to achieve. The business analyst who can do this -and explain it to clients and management - becomes a most valuable asset to the business.
The term “essential modelling” was coined by software modelling gurus of the 1970’s and80’s. McMenamin and Palmer in their book
Essential Systems Analysis
were among the firstto explain it
.The reasoning behind essential modelling was sound then and remains so today: if we are toimprove or re-design a system then we need a way of looking at it which will help us focuson what it does, what business function it performs. Essential modelling evolved as atechnique to help analysts and business users understand the
of a system. It can beused both in analysis – to understand the purpose of a current system – and in design todescribe what is needed. It is an especially useful technique for tackling business process re-engineering as it helps us with an
perspective of the process.
Diagramming techniques for essential modelling
Originally the tool of choice for essential modelling was the data flow diagram (DFD) as wewere primarily focused on modelling processes. Equally valid today are UML diagrams (e.g.use case) which allow us to model the behaviour of a system without specifying how it willbe implemented. A typical UML project is iterative, that is we go through a number of cycleswhich add more levels of detail. We can apply an essential modelling perspective for our firstuse case diagram by including only business functions.At this point we should be mindful that the main purpose of a DFD and a UML diagram is tohelp us build better systems. They are design tools that help us communicate withdevelopers. In essential modelling however we are using them as analysis tools, to help usconceptualise business processes. You won’t find essential modelling defined as one of the13 UML diagram types but if you already use UML then you’ll find it an equally versatileessential modelling tool, alongside the DFD.
Essential Systems Analysis, McMenamin S.M. & Palmer, J., 1984