Tools of Structured Analysis: Data Flow Diagram (DFD)

Analysis use various tools to understand and describe the information system. One of the ways is using structured analysis.

What is Structured Analysis?

Structured Analysis is a development method that allows the analyst to understand the system and its activities in a logical way.

It is a systematic approach, which uses graphical tools that analyze and refine the objectives of an existing system and develop a new system specification which can be easily understandable by user.

It has following attributes:

  • It is graphic which specifies the presentation of application.
  • It divides the processes so that it gives a clear picture of system flow.
  • It is logical rather than physical i.e., the elements of system do not depend on vendor or hardware.
  • It is an approach that works from high-level overviews to lower-level details.

Structured Analysis Tools

During Structured Analysis, various tools and techniques are used for system development. They are:

  • Data Flow Diagrams
  • Data Dictionary
  • Decision Trees
  • Decision Tables
  • Structured English
  • Pseudocode

2.1 structured_tools

Data Flow Diagrams (DFD) or Bubble Chart

It is a technique developed by Larry Constantine to express the requirements of system in a graphical form.

  • It shows the flow of data between various functions of system and specifies how the current system is implemented.
  • It is an initial stage of design phase that functionally divides the requirement specifications down to the lowest level of detail.
  • Its graphical nature makes it a good communication tool between user and analyst or analyst and system designer.
  • It gives an overview of what data a system processes, what transformations are performed, what data are stored, what results are produced and where they flow.

Basic Elements of DFD

DFD is easy to understand and quite effective when the required design is not clear and the user wants a notational language for communication. However, it requires a large number of iterations for obtaining the most accurate and complete solution.

The following table shows the symbols used in designing a DFD and their significance:

Symbol Name Symbol Meaning
Square   Source or Destination of Data
Arrow   Data flow
Circle   Process transforming data flow
Open Rectangle   Data Store

Types of DFD

DFDs are of two types: Physical DFD and Logical DFD. The following table lists the points that differentiate a physical DFD from a logical DFD.

Physical DFD Logical DFD
It is implementation dependent. It shows which functions are performed. It is implementation independent. It focuses only on the flow of data between processes.
It provides low level details of hardware, software, files, and people. It explains events of systems and data required by each event.
It depicts how the current system operates and how a system will be implemented. It shows how business operates; not how the system can be implemented.

Context Diagram

A context diagram helps in understanding the entire system by one DFD which gives the overview of a system. It starts with mentioning major processes with little details and then goes onto giving more details of the processes with the top-down approach.

The context diagram of mess management is shown below.

2.2 context_diagram

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