The How To of Essential Modeling

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Also called abstract or business modelling, essential modelling can be an extremely valuable tool for the business analyst. Instead of modelling how things are done (the current system), or how they might be done (a proposed system), we model what is done, or what might be done. For example the purpose of a Customer Service Department is to provide customers with a level of service they expect (or the company defines). Things like call centres and customer relationship management systems are the how of customer service.

This switch in thinking is not always easy as we have to ignore the very practical matters of procedures, methods, people, technology etc. The more involved we are in the system that we are looking at, the more difficult it may be to look at things conceptually. We have to look at what business objective we are trying to achieve. The business analyst who can do this - and explain it to clients and management - becomes a most valuable asset to the business.

Author: Derrick Brown

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ajmarkos posted on Wednesday, November 5, 2008 7:46 AM
Derrick has done an excellent job in discussing the importance of focusing on the essential. It has been my experience that we, as BA's, often need to move away from the safety of being grounded in the implementation details and focus more on the essential - (as well as be more willing to move up the ladder of abstraction).

However, his diagrams also clearly illlustrate that use cases are ESSENTIALLY data flow diagrams without the data flows. This makes them, especially for larger scale analysis efforts, profoundly different. They are not basically the same thing.

The data flows are the lithmus test of compeltedness in functional diagrams. As a function is defined by its data inputs and outputs, without labeled data flows many logical "holes" in our understaning of functionality (whether we are working on a logical or physical model) remain hidden.

Tony
evitts posted on Monday, November 10, 2008 3:29 PM
Hmm, the use cases he identifies merely (and unfortunately) mirror the names on the bubbles. Otherwise there is no direct connnection of any interest. Use Cases capture behaviour and have no sequential connections, just relationships.
DFDs are no longer the subject of mirth in the world of more advanced analysis, but they are still definitely outside the pale. The analysis of inputs and outputs, formerly required when computer programs were sequential processors, has been replaced by objects and variations on objects that use messages to communicate with each other and do things. We capture these messsages in sequence and/or interaction diagrams, derived from use cases.
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