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System Design

Outline
System Design determines how the problem is to be solved. Deliverables will be outlines of several
different technical solutions that will meet the requirements. Alternatives usually include:
a)
b)
c)

a very cheap solution which just meets the requirements and no more
a medium priced solution which meets requirements well and will often have some
additional features that the developer knows will be needed
a high cost solution providing everything the customer could ever need!

Differences can include: system boundaries, automation boundaries, hardware, software, design
strategies, user interface, and costs.
Models built before the System Design stage
Before the System Design stage you will have constructed a number of models. These are:
Current Physical Model - What the current system does and how it does it
Current Logical Model Current Physical Model with the how removed to leave what
Required Logical Model - What the required system is to do
In particular, the Required Logical Model takes the Current Logical Model and:

incorporates new requirements


eliminates inefficiencies
removes anything that results purely from the current physical implementation

The System Design Stage


We now need to move back into how things are done, rather than just what is done.
Current
Physical
Model

Current
Logical
Model

Require
Logical
Model

Require
Physical
Model

Required Physical Model


The System Design involves building several versions of the Required Physical Model. Alternatives
will usually include:
a)
b)
c)

a cheap solution which just meets the stated requirements and no more
a medium cost solution which meets the requirements well and will often have some
additional features that developer knows will be needed either initially or in due course.
a high cost solution providing everything the customer could ever need, giving the most
flexible option

Some work may already have been done on ideas for alternative systems. This will have been done
as the final part of Problem Definition, and during the Feasibility Study (if one was necessary).

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The purpose of the system design is to work from the Requirements Specification and produce about
three alternative designs. These designs will be in outline form rather than full detail. They only need
to include sufficient detail for a review of costs and benefits.
The deliverable is a report, and the final result should be a decision on the design to be used. This
may includes elements of the more expensive options, rather than be a choice of just one of the
options.
Design Options
In considering the system design, a number of options are available:
Centralised vs. distributed system
File-based vs. database system
Batch or on-line processing
Data input methods
Application package or customised software
Type of hardware
Centralised vs. Distributed system
Distributed Systems use:
A Two or more geographically separated computers
A Computers linked by telecommunications or wired or wireless networks
Centralised Systems use
A One single computer
A May have remote terminals linked by telecommunications
Advantages of a distributed system are:
Telecommunications costs between sites are reduced (if most processing is local to the
individual sites)
Greater flexibility as computers can be added to the networks when needed
Company is not reliant on a single computer which may fail
Disadvantages of a distributed system are:
Commonly used data is often replicated at some or all of the different sites
Lack of standardisation of equipment at the different sites is possible
Control is more difficult
File-based vs. Database system
A file-based system uses a series of separate data files for each application. In effect, each
application is treated separately, with its own data. Data duplication is therefore likely.
Database systems use an integrated database often consisting of related tables. The aim is to
minimise (eliminate if possible) data duplication. Each application accesses common data.

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Database systems are suitable when:


- The same data is shared by several applications
- Data in one part of company is closely related to data in other parts
- The company's data structure is stable
- Applications using the data are likely to change over time
- Flexible enquiry and reporting facilities required
A file-based system is suitable when:
- There is little or no common data usage across applications
- Fast transaction processing is required
- Reports are standard and unlikely to change
Advantages of Database Systems are:
A Data redundancy is minimised
A Programmer productivity is improved
A There is centralised control over data
A Data can be shared easily
A Physical details of the storage are hidden from users
Disadvantages of Database Systems are:
A The design needs to be complete and integrated rather than piecemeal
A The processing speed is slow
A Database management software and extensive disk storage need to be purchased
Batch and On-line Processing
In batch processing, transactions are entered and held temporarily until the entire set is entered, then
processed together. For on-line processing, transactions processed immediately they are entered.
Advantages of batch processing are:
- Good for control (check totals and transaction counts)
- Efficient (processing can be done when computer not busy)
Typical applications are: payroll, sales ledger and purchase ledger
Advantages of on-line processing are:
- System data kept up-to-date
Typical applications are airline bookings and current stock, and anywhere where enquiries are being
dealt with directly.

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Data input methods


Data can be input with a variety of methods, including:
Keyboard
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Optical Mark Recognition
Bar-code Scanning
Voice Input - but note that:
A It has a limited vocabulary
A There is a need for training
Application Package or Customised Software
Application packages are written by a third party and sold to many companies. They are therefore
considerably cheaper than designing and writing customised software. Application packages also:
A are quick to implement
A can be demonstrated in action
A may not integrate well with existing software
A may not suit requirements precisely
Application Packages are suitable when:
Cost is a major factor
Quick implementation is important
System requirements are standard for a type of business
Company does not have mature systems development team
Established packages from reputable companies exist
Type of Hardware
Different types of computer may be involved, such as:
A Personal
A Workstation
A Mini
A Mainframe
Also different types of
A network
A peripherals (storage, input, printers, etc.)
The choice will depend on the details of the applications, and will determine/be determined by input
and output requirements, speed and storage.
Automation Boundaries
The automation boundary is the boundary between processes that are performed within the
information system, and processes performed outside of the information system. These can vary
according to system cost

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Design Reviews
Walkthroughs - Short reviews in which the analyst presents part of the system to colleagues
for feedback
Formal Reviews - Longer reviews with customers and management, normally at the end of a
stage in the System Life Cycle
Summary
The purpose of System Design is to produce about 3 alternative outline designs. These often take
the form of a cheap, a medium cost and an expensive option. The factors involved include:
centralised or distributed system, file-based or database system, batch or on-line processing, etc.
Once again the deliverable is a report. A decision is required, probably following a formal review, on
the exact design to be used.

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