Line of Business Specific Records


Line of Business Specific Records

This series is about understanding data fundamentals applicable to information systems. In this article and the next, record types specific to an organization’s line(s) of business are discussed. These records support maintaining data for an organization’s Products, Customers, Sales, and sale-related Locations. They will be viewed within the context of five generic line of business functions that represent the business processes involving any product as it goes through its lifecycle.

Line of Business Specific Records

NOTE: This article is Part 3 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.

Fundamental Line Of Business Data Concepts

Within the context of this series the fundamental data concepts product, customer, sale, and location have the following scope:

Product — This term is intended to represent either goods or services offered by an organization to its customers. Goods are things the customer can take ownership of, subject to available inventory. Services are resources (types of, or specific, persons or things) used by the customer for a period of time, subject to availability at a given point in time.

Customer — This term is used to represent an individual, group, or organization that consumes the organization’s products. Industry-specific synonyms for the term customer include account holder, passenger, patient, and student.

Sale — This term is used to represent any type of event where a customer commits to consuming one or more of the organization’s products. A sale can be immediate, such as an in-store purchase of groceries. A sale can be ongoing, such as periodic billing for the consumption of water or electricity. A sale can be a commitment to consume a product in the future, such as a ticket for admission to a concert or travel on a scheduled airline flight.

Location — Within the context of line-of-business records, a location is a place managed by the organization for the purpose of selling or the consuming of its products. Examples include, retail stores, hotels, library branches, and customer properties provisioned for access to utility services such as water or electricity.

Organization-Specific Lines of Business

A line of business centres on the products an organization offers for sale to customers. Unlike organization-independent record types such as STAFF MEMBER or GL ACCOUNT, which have names common across all organizations, the record types representing the line-of-business concepts product, customer, sale, and location can differ widely from business to business.

For example, in the commercial airline line-of-business, the record type representing the concept customer is referred to as PASSENGER. The sales process can start with a RESERVATION for space within a specified seating class on a scheduled FLIGHT. The good news is that while line-of-business-specific record names vary widely in this way, they tend to be similar among organizations in a given line of business.

Every organization will have at least one product, and therefore one line of business. An example of an organization that has multiple lines of business is the Walt Disney Company. Its products include films, film-related merchandise, and its Disney-themed amusement parks, hotels, and cruises.

Product Lifecycle Business Functions

At the highest level the five generic line-of-business functions seen in the diagram above are common for any product. Within a given industry sector or specific organization the business processes within these functions can vary. This is due to the differences in the types of products, customers, sales, and locations involved. For example, the process of distributing films to movie theatre operators or streaming services differs from the process of renting hotel rooms to guests.

While processes within each of these functions will differ based on the specific line of business, the overall objective of each function is common for any type of product.

Marketing — The objective of marketing is to identify and maintain products that strike a balance between the organization’s goals and objectives, and the affordable needs or wants of customers (or potential customers). Product-related decisions include what new products should be offered, what changes, if any, should be made to existing products, and when to cease offering a product. These decisions may be supported by a business case that presents projected revenues, costs, and risks for one or more options.

When the organization decides to move ahead with an option, the product development phase of the product’s lifecycle begins.

Product Development — The objective of the product development function is to ‘bring the product to market’. Having decided to add, change, or decommission a product, things need to happen within the organization. The decision may be as simple as changing the price of an existing product, or as complex as engaging in a whole new line of business. Existing business processes may require changing, or whole new processes may need to be put into place.

If new or existing business processes are to be supported by an information system, that system needs to be put in place, modified, or data within it updated (e.g. pricing changes). If an existing information system is being replaced by a new one, migration of data may need to be carried out. Where staff are affected by changes to processes and/or an information system, training needs to be conducted for those affected.

Only after all the necessary additions or changes have been successfully ‘put into production’ is the organization ready for the sales phase of the product.

Sales — The objective of the sales function is to get customers through the product’s sales process (ideally along the process’s happy path). Where a process involves an information system, the product development phase has produced (and tested) what’s required to support selling. The products and locations have been set up in the system and are ready to be referenced during the sales process. The process may include adding a new customer. It will certainly involve recording details relevant to the sale. For long-running products, there will be processes for recording consumption over time.

NOTE: Where customers are encouraged or allowed to self-serve, they must be able to gain access to the appropriate user interfaces (e.g. web pages).

When a customer has a problem or issue after a sale, or during the operation of a long-running product, the processes within the product’s customer care lifecycle phase come into play.

Customer Care — The objective of the customer care function is to deal with customers in situations where something has gone wrong, or appears to have gone wrong, with the product they have been sold. For example, it’s broken, or is believed to be broken. Or the normal operation of a customer’s long-running product is not operating correctly, or appears to be not operating correctly. Or a customer wants to return the product, or cease consuming a long-running product.

To resolve these types of customer-related issues, customer care staff need access to line of business-specific details about the organization’s products, customers, sales, and locations. Ideally these have been recorded in the information system during product development, sales, and customer care phases of the product lifecycle. Where customers are provided with self-serve support options, such as frequently asked questions, those product-specific details should be accessible.

Product Decommissioning — The objective of the product decommissioning function is to end access to an existing product within the sales process. From an information system perspective, it’s about preventing new instances of the sale event occurring. For long-running products, where possible, existing customers would be switched to an alternate product that has been added as a successor product, or some other similar, available product.

Additional business processes within this function would include such things as notifying sales staff of the product being decommissioned, removing it from any advertising campaigns, and as of a designated date, curtailing customer care for it.

Having looked at the objectives of line of business functions that support any type of product going through its lifecycle, the next article will take a more detailed look at the four fundamental data concepts representing line of business specific records.

Next Article — Part 4 - Product, Customer, Sale, and Location 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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sightshooton posted on Monday, May 30, 2022 6:46 AM
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