Organization-Independent Records

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May 01, 2022
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We begin our exploration of information system data fundamentals by looking at types of records applicable to any organization. Records such as     GL ACCOUNT, STAFF MEMBER, and ASSET are well-understood within any organization large enough to warrant information systems supporting Accounting, Human Resources, or Asset Management functions. These functions and record types are well supported today by commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) packages. So well supported, it’s difficult to imagine any organization justifying a decision to develop an in-house solution rather than buy a commercially available one.

Organization-Independent Records

NOTE: This article is Part 2 of Information System Data Fundamentals For Business Analysts. See Part 1 – Series Introduction for links to other articles in the series, plus definitions of the terms Information System, Record, and Field within the context of this series.

Generic Business Functions

The high-level business model shown below represents business functions applicable to any organization, regardless of it being in the public or private sector, and for profit or not for profit. The functions are seen categorized as Management, Line of Business, or Support.

High-Level Business Model

Management and support functions are generic in that their processes and record types are common to any organization. The line of business functions are generic in that they describe the life cycle of any product or service an organization deals in. However, the processes within those functions and the record types supporting those processes will vary by industry segment and even by organization within a given segment.

This article focuses on the generic record types associated with management and support functions. Part 3 and Part 4 of this series look at the line of business functions and their line of business-specific record types.

Generic Business Processes and Record Types

Within each management and support function are a number of generic business processes. For example, Human Resources involves processes such as Organizational Management, Recruitment, and Payroll. Each of these processes is described briefly below along with the generic record types needed to manage the information a given process deals with.

NOTE: As you read the process descriptions below, consider how each can apply to any organization in any industry sector. For example, a term such as 'staff member' is used in relation to a position within the organization. When a staff member is on an employment contract, they are part of the payroll process and eligible for benefits such as paid leave. If they are on a service contract, they are paid based on an invoice for their time and are not eligible for paid leave. Again, this is generic to any organization regardless of the line(s) of business the organization operates.

Organizational management is about maintaining the generic record type POSITION and its relationship to other positions in the organization’s management structure.

Recruitment is about finding and engaging a suitable person to fill an existing, budgeted, vacant POSITION. When the process involves hiring from within the organization, existing STAFF MEMBER records will be referenced (those on employment contracts). If there are no suitable/available internal candidates, the process will create a new APPLICANT record for each person applying for the position.

The successful candidate will be an existing or new STAFF MEMBER instance. If the position is filled by a person that has signed an EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT the contract will have details of the agreed salary (or wage) and negotiated leave benefits. If the position has been filed based on a SERVICE CONTRACT, that contract will have been signed for an agreed rate, either with the individual or with an agent representing that individual.

Payroll involves referencing STAFF MEMBER records involving salary or wage details. The process needs to adjust the periodic salary paid within the pay period based any unpaid LEAVE. For a person on a wage, the system needs to calculate the total pay based on HOURS WORKED, factoring in overtime rates (where applicable) plus payment for any accumulated LEAVE taken.

The resulting EMPLOYEE PAYMENT will also need to be reduced by any taxes or other deductions authorized to be withheld.

NOTE: Payments against a service invoice are not managed by a payroll process.

Information System Record Properties

As part of requirements elicitation, the business analyst is responsible for documenting the most appropriate business name and definition for each record type. In addition, the following properties should be addressed:

  • Alias(es) — other business terms that users of the data dictionary may know this concept as
  • Owner — typically the organizational position responsible for sourcing and/or maintaining instances of the record (e.g. Head of Recruitment in the case of STAFF MEMBER).
  • Data Sources — if records are added or updated online – the type of user granted access to the system to perform that activity. Other sources include data import functions, or ‘system generated’ if records are added or updated by a batch process.  
  • Current Volume — order-of-magnitude number of instances of the record. Of particular interest when numbers are low (under 100) or very high (above 10,000).
  • Expected Growth — order-of-magnitude additional instances (per day, week, month, or year). Of particular interest when growth will increase the total by one or more orders of magnitude.
  • Delete and/or Archive Conditions — Once created within an information system, records are typically archived rather than deleted. Deletion is most commonly done if a recorded was created by mistake and does not represent information the business needs or if there are privacy regulations that mandate personal data are not retained beyond the point it is needed by the organization.

COTS Generic Business Information Systems

There are numerous commercially-available information systems covering one or more processes within a management or support function — for example, Accounting systems, HR systems, Asset Management systems.

An ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system offers an integrated set of modules that span multiple management or support functions. The advantage of acquiring multiple modules from the same vendor is that the data is integrated (i.e. entered once, referenced multiple times). The alternative is to either have interfaces between systems, copying data from one to the other, or to re-enter data into each system as required.

Next Article: Part 3 — Line-of-Business-Specific Records


Dan TaskerAuthor: Dan Tasker

Dan is the author of over 30 requirements-related articles and other resources. His 45+ year career in Information Technology has involved organizations in a variety of industry sectors in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. His business analysis experience includes projects involving in-house software development, software vendor solution development, and COTS software acquisition and implementation. He continues to be passionate about quality requirements and helping business analysts produce them. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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