8. Examining documents

Interviews and questionnaires are primarily aimed at how people use the system. Examining documents is used to understand how data flows through the organisation i.e. how it is gathered, input, collated, manipulated and reported.

formal documentsTypical documents considered are :-

  • Data collection forms or input screens
  • Invoices
  • Purchase orders
  • Receipts
  • Formal reports
  • Bill of materials
  • Records
  • Calendars

These documents first of all define the kind of data being handled. Then the relationship between documents explain how the data flows from one part of the company to another.


Example: Buying a car

  1. The car sales person will sit with the customer at a data input screen, as they talk the sales person will be filling in the car details.
  2. After that the sales person sends the gathered information to the system that creates the formal purchase order.
  3. The purchase order is sent to company headquarters where accounts pick it up to raise an invoice.
  4. The invoice in turn triggers the factory to set up the car for build in the factory, including the bill of material.
  5. Records such as registration numbers are allocated to the vehicle and other records are updated.
  6. Management are provided with formal reports on sales.

Data flow can be very detailed and it is the job of the analyst to define how the new system will do this.

Examining the key documents and how they relate to each other is an excellent way of capturing this information.

Following a set of documents through the system is known as a 'paper trail'.

challenge see if you can find out one extra fact on this topic that we haven't already told you

Click on this link: Paper Trail