A consulting project described in the case study could be managed by the system analyst in several ways. Specifically, it is important to consider the overall project sensitivity in terms of financial limitations, legal restrictions as prescribed in credit laws, and personal data restrictions that prevent Credit Wonder from speaking with credit account holders in terms of call frequency and time limitations. Considerably, the creation of the new database will require significant planning efforts related to testing and documentation writing to support main programming activities and develop account management policies that respect customer privacy and adhere to existing laws.
First, the system analyst will be required to proceed with test planning and introduce a set of specific test cases that correspond to the most common scenarios of the consulting project. For instance, it is specified that Credit Wonder seeks for collecting the history of settlements, the date of personal contact, and extra notes per client, which means that three separate cases should be developed per each specification. According to Dennis et al. (2012), this strategy refers to the unit tests aimed to analyze a program or associated module that is linked to a particular function and therefore is designed based on the programming code that was validated as error-free. The black-box approach of unit testing is proposed in this case, since Credit Wonder already provided program specifications and database designers are informed about program deliverables in advance (Dennis et al., 2012). However, if there is any uncertainty with the settlement’s history of the data being fed into the database using a sophisticated encryption process, the white-box testing approach might be required.
Second, the analyst might refer to specific system-related efforts such as requirements testing, security testing, and documentation testing. For the described project, requirements testing is essential to ensure that cross-platform integration of credit card data and associated programming modules do not create new errors and facilitates invalid actions, such as the creation of blank records for card account holders (Dennis et al., 2012). Security testing is important to maintain data confidentiality given that credit card accounts include personal data and might be attempted to be stolen by hackers without the application of appropriate protection mechanisms. In its turn, documentation testing is needed to ensure that there is a set of formal guidelines on contacting account holders, processing payments, and updating system records based on the new data feeds occurring within the database.
Finally, a system analyst can manage the described consulting project by developing communication mediums that will support programmers and support staff throughout project implementation. The main focus should be made on reference documents that are intended to guide specific actions in updating the database, such as making changes in the field properties or adding a new system record (Dennis et al., 2012). Furthermore, the secondary focus should be made on developing procedure manuals related to contacting credit card account holders, generating a regular report on successfully collected written-off accounts, and adjusting the format of additional notes summarized per user (Dennis et al., 2012). Moreover, system analysts should also introduce tutorials that explain how to use basic components of the database, following the logic of reading each tutorial in a sequence for better comprehension.
A system analyst might consider several stakeholders to get the necessary system requirements. The first point of contact is the project manager, who oversees project execution and manages the master plan related to resource management, costs, and final deliverables. For the case of a highly structured project approach with the assembled project team and carefully assigned responsibilities, system analysts are likely to be briefed on the system requirements before the project start. However, in certain cases, it is better to come up with a set of interview questions to clarify specific points related to overall objectives, constraints, and project expectations.
Another group of stakeholders is programmers, who are naturally responsible for different tasks and therefore should be interviewed within their areas of responsibility. For the credit card consulting project, it is important to start from the front-end developers responsible for designing an interface that feeds database information for users, given the importance of usability and privacy in managing credit account data. Some of the probable interview questions are how the user will submit account information and retrieve the account status, what are the security considerations for managing personal data, and what encryption algorithms are used to protect the web-to-database information exchange. Furthermore, a system analyst should interview database designers responsible for data integrity and structure to ensure that the appropriate database management system (DBMS) coding and notation principles are used during system prototyping. Eventually, database programming professionals might be interviewed several times to reflect on potential changes that emerge as the data is fed into the system after collecting external information related to costs, settlements, and additional commentaries.
Finally, a system analyst may attempt to interview direct customers to understand their needs in managing accounts, as well as evaluate potential concerns related to the personal data processing in a database. The purpose of such inquiry is to link the conceptual understanding of database programmers about the future system functionality, develop the unit, security, and documentation tests, and evaluate customer expectations about future collaboration with Credit Wonder. Furthermore, customer information will help to create unit tests to evaluate the most efficient strategy for structuring and updating personal information in the consecutive stages of project development. However, customer interviews should be limited to technical questions and will eventually require formal consent to approach account holders based on the legal restrictions and requirements for cooperation.
To structure the database requirements, analysts can help in developing the appropriate navigation models and designing the relevant documentation structure. For the investigated consultancy project, a database analyst may start by designing a table of contents that logically organizes information and could be used as a reference point both for developers and users. In the majority of cases, such tables are used for linking particular parts of system design elements and therefore considered as the informal user manual. Next, the analyst can compile a list of topics and integrate one with the embedded search engine, which allows browsing the database and regurgitating the meaning of particular topics pertinent to user account management, security, or access preferences. Furthermore, it is important to ensure full functionality of text search given the potentially mounting number of additional comments per credit card account that are directly collected from users in a course of interview or purchasing process verification. Specifically, analysts might consider topic categorization, such as the reason for applying for the crediting service, the background for a non-collectible debt classification, and the anticipated benefits of such account processing by Credit Wonder.
Another advantage of involving database analysts in requirement planning and structuring is the use of process dashboards that can help in matching together tasks, commands, and terms. For instance, for the task of finding the settlement record per customer, the list of commands might include ‘find’, ‘browse’, and ‘full search’ with Boolean search commands such as OR, ELSE, and AND (Dennis et al., 2012). The relevant commands of a kind could be effectively used in database structuring given the mounting number of requests and procedural optimization efforts. Furthermore, as the database will keep growing, additional requirements might emerge if the company will opt for the cloud computing services in hosting the database of personal records, either related to existing account details or pursuing the need for expansion.
Finally, the expertise of database analysts is a perfect source for developing supporting graphical tools such as data flow diagrams, case diagrams, and use cases. System analysts mostly benefit from the opportunity to present the data graphically based on the extensive business case analysis and interviews with multiple stakeholders. System integration and acceptance tests further encourage them to provide more exact specifications for account management and overall system design, regardless of the limitations imposed by resource planning and management peculiarities (Dennis et al., 2012). However, it is also important to ensure the integrity between project stakeholders and the overall structure of the database, given the overarching number of cloud-based database storage solutions that in one or another way may not fit already specified and approved business requirements. Consequently, the requirement planning also should be based on a clear analysis of stakeholder needs and risk assessment related to the integration of project opinions voiced by data analysts and the team of developers.
Dennis, A., Wixom, B.H., & Roth, R.M. (2012). System analysis and design (5th ed.). John Wiley & Sons.