Computer Technology Associates
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  Business Process Engineering

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.

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