For nearly five years, CTA has been designing, developing, deploying, and maintaining
systems, on-line applications, and reporting platforms for a large nation-wide
organization with a real estate portfolio of over 6000 properties. These business
user facing tools are critical to the daily business functions and operations
within this property management organization.
Understanding the business process in detail is crucial to the development of
useful tools for the end user, and involving the end user frequently throughout
the development life cycle ensures the end product meets user expectations. CTA
uses proven business process analysis techniques to not only accurately capture
the business process details, but also feedback implementation details during
the development process to ensure minimal misinterpretation is introduced into
the end product.
Several examples of these techniques are described below.
Web-Based Budget and Forecast Application Suite
In order to ensure a highly complex, integrated suite of on-line budgeting and
forecasting applications met the financial requirements of the organization, CTA
conducted extensive face-to-face interviews with all stakeholders. Using the information
gathered during interviews, CTA developed a formal business workflow review to
ensure not only were the functions of the applications well understood, but also
organizational interpretations were consistent in terms of functionality and responsibility.
These formal reviews provided the cohesion necessary to develop a set of detailed
requirements specifications that form the foundation for the development life
cycle. Prototypes and mockups were developed throughout the process and presented
to the business user community to ensure requirements interpretation was consistent
between the end user community and the development staff. Future enhancements
were handled in the same way with formal interviews, workflow clarification discussions,
formal requirements specification reviews, and prototype and mockup presentations.
Data Mining and Reporting Platform Specification Development
In most organizations, critical business data is distributed in systems that are
at best loosely integrated and at worst completely independent. Management often
has the need to combine data from these separate systems to understand the overall
health of the organization. A data warehouse bridges the gap between these systems
by collecting the appropriate data from the operational systems of a business
and storing it in a manner that is useful from a reporting perspective. Since
business rules and data structures are unique to any given operational system,
clearly understanding the business process is crucial to extracting and presenting
the aggregate date.
CTA used standardized integration templates to meet this challenge. The first
step in this process was to define a standardized, generic integration process
for new or legacy data sources. To make this process repeateable, a new source
template was constructed that specified a set of data to collect during the discovery
phase for any new source. The information captured using this template became
the foundation for the functional and physical requirements for that source. This
information also enabled the end user to identify whether new or merged systems
could be readily integrated with existing systems, and provided a guide to the
necessary steps required for integration. Understanding the impact of a major
change to a business operational system required careful analysis of both the
operational system and the data warehouse. Capturing this information in the integration
templates reduced the amount of time spent by the development team in manually
analyzing the impact of changes. Used in conjunction with detailed report specifications
and report format mockups, the likelihood of development errors was significantly
reduced as all impacted programs were readily identifiable.
Standard templates were also created to provide a strategy for the addition of
new reports. These templates identified the data elements and specific criteria
used in the data warehouse configuration and were used to determine the extent
of modifications or enhancements to existing extraction processes for new data
entities. The report specification included all of the information needed to build
the report, such as a list of data elements and report formatting considerations.
This served as the documented requirements set for each report.