Monday, November 2, 2009

Context Diagrams

Admittedly, I'm a whiteboard and diagramming addict.  I'm moving between office buildings after hour tomorrow.  For the move, I've marked 5 individual whiteboards to be delivered to my office.  While I love whiteboards and the ability to capture content using the 3 MP digital camera in my phone, I've been working for the past year to train myself to diagram electronically in real-time during meetings; to use MS Visio as a live design tool during meetings.  (It has worked effectively a few times.)

In the early phases of analysis and solution design, two of the most valuable pieces of documentation are a current state system context diagram and a future state system context diagram.  Some of the critical decision points in documenting systems analysis results and design plans include:
  • level of detail
  • accuracy assurance
  • shapes, colors, and sizes of boxes
  • labels
  • relationships
  • how many to times to ask "and then what?"
  • keep the diagram simple
As you begin to get into the weeds of detailed analysis, there can be a tendency to increase the level of detail in one small area of an existing diagram.  That's why it can be very valuable to layout a diagramming and documentation plan ahead of time that includes the clearly stated goal and objectives for each piece of documentation.

Diagramming is easy to do.  Documenting business systems context diagrams is hard to get right.

Word count: 3,290

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