You are on page 1of 24


All things have a beginning, a middle and an end. And Information Technology (IT) is no different.
Indeed it could be argued that IT sees more rapid change than many other technologies. Think how
many 'upgrades' have happened with your favourite software.
For instance, imagine you have been working at a company for a few years.
At some point in the past a wonderful new system was introduced into the company. Everyone was
happy. Management could see their business improve. The workflow for employees was smoother
and more productive.
After the first few months of bedding in, the system worked well... and for a few years the system
did everything it was meant to do.
Time passed, people moved on, the company changed ... that wonderful system began to show its
age... the new manufacturing system now had problems exchanging data. Customer invoices no
longer flowed effortlessly from their newer systems into your aging IT system.
Workers grew tired of using old CRT screens - even their home computers were more modern than
It was time for a change.
But change has to managed to avoid disruption, chaos and inefficiency. This is where 'System Life
Cycle' comes in.

Object 1

2. Why build new IT systems?

New IT systems are being developed all the time in almost every type of organisation from a small
shopkeeper who wants a custom built stock control system to the NHS who want a national
database on which they can keep the medical records of every person in the UK.
Here are a few other examples of IT systems:
Banks - customer record systems, systems for ATM machines, systems for approving or
rejecting mortgage applications
Hospitals - pharmacy systems for keeping track of drugs and creating printed prescriptions,
appointment systems for outpatients
Government - online tax payment system, online census information
Supermarkets - stock control systems, payroll systems

A new IT system may be commissioned for a number of reasons:

The current one is out of date and no longer doing its job effectively

Technology might have moved on and new things are possible that couldn't be done with the
previous system

A competitor has developed a new system or process and the organisation needs something
similar in order to offer the same service to customers

The organisation has grown and the current system can't cope with the increased demands
placed on it. Perhaps the company had only a few customers to start with but now it needs to
be able to deal with hundreds of accounts.

A new part of the company needs IT support e.g. a new customer service help desk.

The company might want to improve the quality of a repetitive task. Doing the same thing
over and over is very tiring and tedious for a person. A robotic system may be able to help
with this. For instance the car industry makes heavy use of robots in their factories.

3. Problems with new IT systems

As was mentioned in the previous page - change is risky. Managing any change that involves IT
systems is particularly risky!
A survey of over 14,000 organisations showed that where new IT systems were being developed*
80-90% of systems fail to meet performance goals
80% of systems are late and over budget
40% of systems fail or are abandoned
Just 10-20% of businesses meet all their success criteria.

Only a small minority of the IT projects in the survey were successful.

Read the following news stories:

Offender IT failure 'a shambles'

IT failure 'causes 130m arrears'

IT delays 'put patients at risk'

What could have been done better?

What could reduce the chances of failure?

As people have learnt from past mistakes, a model has been developed and refined over the years to
try and maximise the chances of a successful project.
This method / model is called the SYSTEMS LIFE CYCLE.
4. The System Life Cycle (SLC)
The SYSTEM LIFE CYCLE is a process of stages which occur during the development of a

new ICT system.

If organisations follow the stages of the SLC, they should be able to avoid many of the problems
mentioned on the previous page.
The SLC consists of the following stages:
1. Definition
2. Investigation and analysis
3. Design
4. Implementation
5. Testing
6. Installation
7. Documentation
8. Evaluation
9. Maintenance
Although all projects should start with the definition stage and end with the maintenance stage, the
process is not always completely linear. After completion of one stage, it might be necessary to
return to an earlier stage.
5. Definition

The very first part of the SLC is to define

the problem.
The system analyst must determine why a new system is required.
After all, if there isn't a problem to start with, why would an organisation incur huge costs to
develop a new one?
In the definition stage the role of the analyst is to scope out the problem.
The analyst has a number of methods available to do this :-
Interviews with management to get their viewpoint
Interviews with staff to understand the limitations of the current system
Other methods that will be discussed later in this mini-web

6. Feasibility Study - constraints

Once the system analyst is convinced that there is a problem which could be solved with a new IT
system they have to determine whether it is feasible to actually go ahead and develop the system.
Some of the questions that will need to be answered are:

Cost How much would the new system cost to develop?

Would there be enough money available in the budget to develop
the system?
Time How long would it take to make the system from start to finish?
Does the company have the skills in-house or would it need to go to
a specialist software development firm?
Does the company have the necessary hardware to develop the
Hardware to develop
Would new hardware be needed to run the system and if so how
Hardware to run
much would that cost?
Does the company have the necessary software to develop the
What would the training implications be once the system had been
After finding out what is required is it technically possible to create
Technical feasibility
the system

8. Investigation and Analysis: investigating the system

In order to reach this stage in the SLC,

management would have listened to the alternative solutions presented by the system analyst and
have decided to either commission a brand new IT system or have changes made to their current
During the earlier 'definition' phase the analysis looked superficially at the current system and the
potential benefits of a new system.
During this 'investigation and analysis' phase they will carry out very detailed investigations in
order to fully understand the current system and the proposed new system.

The current system

how staff / customers interact with the current system i.e. how tasks are carried out
how other systems interact with the current system
what is good about the current system
what causes problems with the current system
which parts of the system are critical to the business

The proposed new system

what the new system is expected to be able to do
how the new system is expected to do this
what people want from the new system
which working methods from the old system should be incorporated into the new system

9. Investigation and Analysis: investigation methods

In order to find the answers to the points on made on the previous page the system analyst will do
some or all of the following:

The analyst will interview selected staff who use the current
system in order to get a detailed overview of how things work.
Face-to-face Interviews
They will want to know what the main problems are and
whether users have any suggestions on how to improve the
way things work.

The analyst will observe users actually using the system. They
Observation will probably follow a complete process from start to finish
and note down every interaction that happens

Questionnaires enable the analyst to obtain the views of a large

number of staff/ users. Questionnaires are also easier to
analyse than face-to-face interviews but the trade-off is that
they don't give as much detail.

Most organisations have business documents and written

processes/ procedures relating to the current IT system. These
Examination of business
documents detail how the system works and the processes
which users should follow. The analyst will examine these
documents in detail.

Following information from the point it enters the system and

Paper trail
observing what outputs are created at each point in the system.
10. Investigation and Analysis: documentation

All of the information obtained through interviews, questionnaires, observations and paper trails is
carefully examined and analysed to determine the requirements for the new IT system.
The findings are translated into a set of specific diagrams which represent how the system will work
and the processes required.
The main diagrams are:

These show the relationships between the various systems in

System diagrams the company (or even outside if relevant) - how they
interact, what depends on what and so on.

Most systems deal with information in one way or another.

What really matters is how the information flows through
the system. How does it branch and re-join. What outputs
Data Flow Diagrams are created and so on.

The 'data flow' diagram seeks to show this movement

through the system.

People handle information in a specific way - they have a

'process'. For example, an employee makes an expense
claim. First of all their manager counter-signs the claim. It
then goes to the account manager who authorises payment
Process diagrams
and so on...This is 'process flow' in action.

Process diagrams try to show how people interact with the

system - who and when (and why).
Once the diagrams have been completed, two key documents/ reports are produced:
1. A full written analysis of the current system, the processes and the problem it causes
2. Detailed user requirements for the new system

These documents will be used by the system developers and so must be clearly written,
broken down into relevant stages and contain all of the necessary details for them to create
the new system.

11. User requirements document

The 'User Requirements Document' does not define the hardware or software design but rather
seeks to capture the essence of what needs to be done.
Some fairly standard headings within the document are:
An introduction ....
"The project has been developed in order to create a new invoicing system to replace the AIX400
computer system..."
The introduction gives a broad description of the project and its aspirations.

Context ....
"The project was developed in light of the up-coming new regulations and also the increasing
awareness that the existing system could no longer meet customer expectations ...."
This section provides the background to the project.

Specific details required

Having provided a broad description and some context to the project this section deals with specific
things that need to be included in the system.
The system will be able to use a query to create a mail merged personalised letter.
The system must create an invoice in less than 3 seconds
The system will be able to print a management report onto A4 paper, portrait layout.

Notice that these specific requirements are all measurable.

The document should NOT contain vague statements such as "The computer will run as fast as
possible..." because you cannot know if 'as fast as possible' has been met when the system finally
gets switched on.
The Requirements Specification is the 'contract' between project managers and the client. It will be
used at the testing stage to confirm that the system performs as the client expects.

12. Role of the user

The key point of the System Life Cycle Process is that it is the people who are actually going to use
the system who get a say in how it going to work.

They are called the 'user'.

This does sound like common sense but an amazing number of projects are carried out without any
regard to what the user actually wants - assumptions are made. And this is one of the key reasons
why a project fails.
This is the purpose of the 'User Requirement' document. The document tries to:
1. Eliminate misunderstandings
2. Reduce errors
3. Gain user agreement

The way it works is that the system analyst tries to understand what the user needs of the system.
The analyst then sets this out in a non-technical user requirement document. He may use a number
of diagrams and charts within the document to explain his understanding of their needs.
Users are then invited to comment on the document and provide feedback to improve upon it.
There may be several iterations of the User Requirements Document as users further explain to the
analyst what they need. Getting it right the first time is a rare thing!
This process continues until the user agrees that the system will do the job.
This is called the 'sign-off'. It is saying that the user buys into the project, that they are confident
that the project will do the job.
This sounds simple, so why do project fail so often? In terms of the user it may be because

1. They are not the right user! For instance if it is a system that the public need to use then have all
the types of customers been included? Is it too complicated for some people or too long-winded for
2. User requirement change within the lifetime of the project. This is a major problem as large
projects have a habit of becoming more and more complicated as people want it to do more and
more things. Sometimes this is called 'mission creep'.

13. Design phase

This is the next stage in the SLC and it follows on from the Investigation and Analysis stage.
Now that the project manager and the client have agreed on the requirements (Requirements
Specification) it is time to define how the project is going to be carried out.
This part of the System Lifecycle is called the Design phase.
The Design phase is about planning the project in detail so that that system will meet user
The following are tasks that must take place during this phase:

Project planning Project planning is all about handling people: how many, where and
when are they needed. In addition those people will need resources to
carry out their jobs: computers, offices etc. There are a number of
different project planning tools which will be used during this stage in
order to effectively plan out the project, timescale and the resources
required. These include:

Gantt Charts
Critical Path Analysis (CPA)
Project Management Software

This document will include the following information:

Data capture methods for the system

Data inputs to the system

Data outputs from the system

System Data processing within the system

specification The file structure for data storage

The user interface i.e. screen layouts, buttons, error messages

How information is accessed and indexed or sorted.

The operating system to be used

The hardware to be used to run the new system

A Data dictionary defines the:

tables, fields, records and relationships

Data Dictionary constants, variables and data structures
validation that is required in the system
query structures

Once the user requirements document and the system requirements

specification have been written the analyst will know exactly what the
Testing system should be able to do.
A test plan is written at this stage to test the key parts of the system once
it has been developed.

Prototyping A 'prototype' is something that represents what you will finally create
without having to worry about all the details - it captures the essential
details to confirm that the design is likely to work.

In software the prototype is often written in a kind of shorthand English

called pseudo-code, for instance 'Read in the record'.

The details do not matter at this stage but a record must be 'read in'.

14. Implementation (development)

Just to confuse you, depending on which version of the SLC you look at, implementation
can mean either the development phase of the system or the installation phase of the system.

For the purposes of the OCR A2 specification, implementation is taken to be the software
development stage.

Once the design stage has been completed

the software developers can begin to write the code and actually develop the new system.
The system could either be completely bespoke with every line of code being written by specialist
programmers or it could be developed from an 'off-the-shelf' application which is then customised.
The developers will follow the system requirement specification exactly, if it states to put a button
500 px by 100 px, colour #ffefdf in the top left hand corner that is exactly what they will do.
They should not deviate from the specification in any way without consulting the analyst.
During this stage some of the following are developed:
the tables and data structures
validation routines
data capture forms
data input forms
automated processing routines i.e. macros
the user interface i.e. screen, buttons, help messages
printing outputs

15. Testing

Once the system has been developed it

must be tested to ensure that it is working as expected.
Testing Team
A team of testers will have been chosen to test the system. They are known as beta testers. Their
role is to check that the system does everything exactly as specified in the system and user
Although this team will check if the system is user friendly that is not their main role. A separate
team is usually appointed made up of front end users to 'user test' the system once it has been passed
by the beta testers.

Test Plan
In an ideal world a test plan will have been written during the design stage. However, sometimes the
test plan gets left until now.
The test plan is a detailed document which a team of testers must follow carefully. It will set out
every single test they are to do on the system, what data they should enter and what result they
should expect to obtain.
For example one test might look something like this:

Test Part of Pass /

What is being tested Test data Actual
no. system Expected result Fail
Input mask on postcode to
Fail - should not
Customer check that numbers cannot
23 45CV523 be able to enter
input form be entered where letters
should be.

The first five columns are already completed in the test plan. The final two columns are left blank
for the testers to complete when they do the test on the system.
The testers follow the plan exactly. They enter the data just as it is shown in the plan and then they
record what happened and whether the test passed or failed.
If the test was passed they go onto the next test. If it failed they fill in a form to tell the developers
that they need to look at that part of the system again.
The testers normally take screen shots of every test to provide evidence of what they have done.
These can be referred to by the developers if they cannot replicate the problem. They can also be
used by an audit team at the end of the project to check that the testing was done properly.
This stage may seem to you a bit pedantic - after all why couldn't the developer have run this test
when they were coding the software and then fix it instantly? - Answer: Human Nature!
It is a very bad idea to have the person who codes the software to test it! This is because they know
too much and so will tend to make assumptions about how real users will use their software.
The best testers are those who know nothing about the system and will do things to the system the
developer never imagined! Just like real users!
16. Testing continued.

Test Selection
It is important to realise that with the best will in the world it is not possible to test every part of the
Consider a system having 8 data inputs that can applied in any combination. The maths says that
there are over 16 million possible combinations of just 8 inputs!
So the skill of the testing team is to carefully select a practical number of tests that can be carried
out in the time available and yet be confident that the system is working.
This is why complicated software often has bugs even after being released. It is simply not practical
to test everything.

Test Data
It is important that any testing which checks the validation routines should include:
Data that is within the normal range and will be accepted
Data that is on the extreme limits of the range but should be accepted e.g. if the validation says that
price <=100 then 100 should be tested as that is right at the outer limit.
Data that should fail (erroneous data) should be tested. For the test mentioned previously, the test
might be: enter 100.01

Iteration or Looping Around.

If an issue is found it may actually be a problem with the user requirement itself. It is quite common
for the user requirement to not consider an unexpected situation.
For instance, the document might state that the system is to be used by 10 people at the same time.
But by the time testing is underway something changes in the company and now the system needs
to deal with 20 people instead.
In which case the client has to agree to change the user requirement document.
Then testing continues with the modified user requirement document.
Changing user requirements part way through a project causes delays and extra cost. It is often the
most common reason a project fails especially on large projects.
Testing is usually an 'iterative' process.

17. Installation Stage: Methods

Depending on which version of the SLC you are using, you might see this stage called the
implementation stage, the installation stage or the changeover stage. For the OCR syllabus,
the term 'implementation' is used to mean the development phase.

The system has been developed and tested.

It is working correctly and doing everything that was agreed during the design stage. The business
is waiting in eager anticipation for the new system to be handed over to them.
A key decision is which method of the four different methods of installation will be chosen. These
1. Direct
2. Parallel
3. Phased
4. Pilot
Direct method
This is where the company literally switches off the old system and switches on the new one. This is
probably the most straightforward method but is also probably the riskiest.

Advantages Disadvantages
Most risky method - if something goes
New system available to everyone in
wrong, there is nothing to fall back on. Have
company immediately
to wait while the problem is fixed.
Have to transfer all of the data to the new
Often the cheapest method of installation
one before the old one can be switched off
There will be a period of time where no
system is available because can't have old
Don't need to keep duplicate sets of data
one working while new one is being
switched on
There will be a period of upheaval while the
system is brand new and staff are finding
their way around it

Parallel method
This is a more popular method than the previous one. With a parallel changeover the organisation
runs both the old and new system in parallel for a time. Once the organisation is sure that the new
system is working properly and that staff are ready to begin using it they will make the decision to
completely change over. During a quiet period, perhaps during the night or at a weekend, the data is
fully transferred from the old system which is then shut down.

Advantages Disadvantages
Less risky than the direct method. If the
Time consuming as data has to be entered
new system fails, the old system is still up-
onto both systems
Less stress for staff as they still have the One system can become out of sync. with
security of the old system the other.
Staff can take their time to learn to use the Maintaining duplicate sets of data can lead
new system to errors
Extra cost of running and maintaining two
18. Installation Stage: Methods Cont.
Phased method
This is where the old system is still active but parts of the new system or modules are brought
online, for example, perhaps just the data entry screens and the printing modules are made available
but the 'back end' of the system remains the same. Once any problems are ironed out with the new
modules then extra modules will be introduced. Effectively the installation happens in small

Advantages Disadvantages
Less risk of the whole system going wrong,
This method of installation can take a long
if something happens, it will only affect that
period of time
specific part.
As parts of the system are used, users ask
Staff are introduced to the changes in small
for changes which then hold up the
installation of the next phase
It might be difficult to integrate the old and
the new systems

Pilot method
This is where the complete new system is installed and tested in a small number of departments or
branches. They then use the system and report their feedback and any issues to the analyst. Once the
organisation is confident that the system is working as expected, it will be rolled out across the
whole organisation.

Advantages Disadvantages
Even though it is only introduced to a small
Only a small part of the business is affected.
number of departments, those chosen will
The rest of the business continues using the
have the same disadvantages experienced as
old system for now
for a 'direct changeover'
Those staff using the new system might not
Any problems or issues are identified
be able to easily share data with the rest of
without it affecting the whole company
the company who are still on the old system
When the rollout happens, staff from the
Extra work for IT staff who are having to
pilot departments can be involved in
support two different systems
training other staff

challenge see if you can find out one extra fact on this topic that we haven't already told you
Click on this link: Rollout methods
19. Installation Stage: Training
Staff training is part of the installation phase.

Staff need to be shown how to use the new system and

how to access help should they run into difficulties. There may be member of the development team
on call for a short period of time or there may be a dedicated help line that staff can ring to get
There should also be documentation such as a user manual and on-screen documentation provided
to act as a source of reference.
20. Installation Stage: User Documentation
The development of the user documentation is left until after the testing

phase is complete. If it is created

beforehand, parts of the system could change as a result of faults being discovered.
User documentation is provided to the user which gives an overview of how to use the system.
Paper based user documents are usually in the form of a booklet or file.
The typical format of a paper-based user document includes
Table of contents
Short introduction or overview of the system
Brief technical details such as the hardware and software requirements to run the system
User Guide : this is the bulk of the document
Glossary of technical terms
Troubleshooting: usually a simple list of things to check before calling for further help

User documentation is often used during staff training sessions in order to familiarise the staff with
both the system and the user documents.

21. Installation Stage: On-Screen Documentation

As well as paper-based user documentation, many systems now also have on-screen documentation.
On-screen documentation can take the form of:
A help menu
Web pages
Popup help boxes
PDF documents
FAQ section
Video tutorials

Many help systems have a search facility to answer those 'How do I ....' type of questions the user
may have. Another popular format is the 'FAQ' or Frequently Asked Questions document.
Typical features of the help system include:
Text search facility
Hyperlinks and navigation buttons to move around the help documentation
Buttons with relevant text
Worked examples of how to use a feature
Links to related features
Multimedia help in the form of video tutorials or spoken word
'Tool tips' which appear when you hover over a word or sentence
Pop-up instructions when you press a certain function key

The online version has the advantage that it can be easily updated with the latest information
compared to a published paper based system.

22. Installation Stage: Technical Documentation

This is intended for technical maintenance of the system. Engineers and software developers will
refer to the technical documentation in order to make changes to the system after it has been

Technical documentation is created from the very

first stages of the development phase as the original project team set down the details as they build
the system.
Typical content of technical documentation includes
Source code with copious commentary explaining how that part of the code works
Data structures used within the system
File formats used
File naming convention
Validation ranges for data input
Macro scripts, including comments to explain each stage of the macro
Internal details of a database such as tables, relationships, records, queries used
Navigation layout such as a site map or link map of the system

Other technical details to help with maintenance include

Test logs and test results
Security details of the system
How to install the system
How to backup and restore the system

23. Evaluation

The installation stage is over: The system is

up and running. Staff are fully trained and bugs have been ironed out.
This next stage is called the 'Evaluation phase'. The evaluation stage looks at the overall project and
considers how things went.
Evaluation involves all the key players in the project. These include
Original client
Project manager
System Analyst
Support staff such as trainers
A selection of end-users

Each person role has a part to play in the evaluation.

During the evaluation stage, two key questions are considered:

1. Does the finished solution meet its requirements?
2. Does it solve the problem?
The key document that drives the evaluation is the User Requirements Document. Perhaps not
every detail will be covered, but certainly failures and particular successes should be discussed.
Further to those two questions, the evaluation considers
Lessons learnt from the problems encountered so the next project will be even smoother and
Any maintenance and support needed in the day-to-day running of the system

24. Maintenance

This phase continues for the lifetime of the

system. The technical documentation is essential to support the maintenance stage.
There are three kinds of maintenance needed:
1. Corrective maintenance
2. Adaptive maintenance
3. Perfective maintenance

Corrective maintenance
This is where problems are identified with the system after installation. Perhaps an item on the
template isn't printing out correctly or maybe one of the on-screen buttons isn't linking to the correct
A fault report is raised and the developers fix the problem. It is then passed over to a team of testers
who check that the fault has been fixed. Once it has been passed by the testers, the fix will be
released to the live system.
Corrective maintenance can also involve fixing hardware faults or replacing equipment as

Adaptive maintenance
This type of maintenance often occurs as a result of external influences or strategic changes within
the company. For example, the Government recently changed the VAT rate from 17.5% to 20%.
This change would have meant that many organisations had to make alterations to their systems.
Perhaps a bank decides to offer a new mortgage product. This will have to be included in the system
so that mortgage interest and payments can be calculated.

Perfective maintenance
The system has been in place and running fine for a while. However, over time, the end user will
often find tweaks or minor improvements which could be made to improve the way the system
works. Perhaps a slightly different screen or data input form. These tweaks are not major enough to
prompt a complete new system, so the maintenance team adapt the system to suit.

It is important to be aware that while the system remains in use the maintenance stage will be