Free Data Flow Diagrams Tutorial
Data Flow Diagrams - Introduction
Data flow diagrams can be used to provide a clear representation of any business function. The technique starts with an overall picture of the business and continues by analyzing each of the functional areas of interest. This analysis can be carried out to precisely the level of detail required. The technique exploits a method called top-down expansion to conduct the analysis in a targeted way. [pic]
The result is a series of diagrams that represent the business activities in a way that is clear and easy to communicate. A business model comprises one or more data flow diagrams (also known as business process diagrams). Initially a context diagram is drawn, which is a simple representation of the entire system under investigation. This is followed by a level 1 diagram; which provides an overview of the major functional areas of the business. Don't worry about the symbols at this stage, these are explained shortly. Using the context diagram together with additional information from the area of interest, the level 1 diagram can then be drawn.
The level 1 diagram identifies the major business processes at a high level and any of these processes can then be analyzed further - giving rise to a corresponding level 2 business process diagram. This process of more detailed analysis can then continue – through level 3, 4 and so on. However, most investigations will stop at level 2 and it is very unusual to go beyond a level 3 diagram.
Identifying the existing business processes, using a technique like data flow diagrams, is an essential precursor to business process re-engineering, migration to new technology, or refinement of an existing business process. However, the level of detail required will depend on the type of change being considered.
Data Flow Diagrams – Diagram Notation
There are only five symbols that are used in the drawing of business process diagrams (data flow diagrams). These are now explained, together with the rules that apply to them. [pic]
This diagram represents a banking process, which maintains customer accounts. In this example, customers can withdraw or deposit cash, request information about their account or update their account details. The five different symbols used in this example represent the full set of symbols required to draw any business process diagram. External Entity
An external entity is a source or destination of a data flow which is outside the area of study. Only those entities which originate or receive data are represented on a business process diagram. The symbol used is an oval containing a meaningful and unique identifier. Process
[pic] A process shows a transformation or manipulation of data flows within the system. The symbol used is a rectangular box which contains 3 descriptive elements: Firstly an identification number appears in the upper left hand corner. This is allocated arbitrarily at the top level and serves as a unique reference. Secondly, a location appears to the right of the identifier and describes where in the system the process takes place. This may, for example, be a department or a piece of hardware. Finally, a descriptive title is placed in the centre of the box. This should be a simple imperative sentence with a specific verb, for example 'maintain customer records' or 'find driver'. Data Flow
[pic] A data flow shows the flow of information from its source to its destination. A data flow is represented by a line, with arrowheads showing the direction of flow. Information always flows to or from a process and may be written, verbal or electronic. Each data flow may be referenced by the processes or data stores at its head and tail, or by a description of its contents.
[pic] A data store is a holding place for information...
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