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Business Analysis: Data Flow Diagrams to Visualize Workflows

Process Modeling Techniques for Requirements Elicitation and Workflow Analysis – Now with Demo of AI Writer Jasper

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Duration: 2.5 hours
Format: Online course
Author: Tom and Angela Hathaway

Also available as a Book (Kindle and Paperback) and covered in this live classroom course

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What is this course about?

According to business intelligence studies, more than 90% of business processes, workflows, and data require Dataflow Analysis. As the name suggests, there is no better tool for Dataflow Analysis than a Data Flow Diagram (DFD).

Use DFDs to Find and Fix Workflow Problems and Improve Data Quality

An old Chinese proverb says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In the world of Information Technology (IT), we maintain that it may even be worth a whole lot more. For most people, it is difficult or impossible to envision a process flow, especially when someone else is describing it.

 Understanding current workflows, however, is critical to defining a future IT solution. Just as critical is understanding how data is created and consumed throughout the workflow.

To truly understand problems inherent in a business process or workflow, you need to help the practitioners visualize what they do. Visualization lets them identify better ways of working that remove current restrictions.

 Data Flow Diagrams are phenomenal tools for visualization. Working with business experts, you can help them identify problems and inefficiencies they don’t even know they have. These are not people problems; they are process problems. Understanding when and how to create and use Data Flow Diagrams will help you discover and capture the requirements for improving the use of digital solutions.

Why Should You Take this Course?

This course teaches by example using interview notes from involved domain experts how to: 

  • create a DFD level 0 starting with a simple Context Diagram
  • develop a DFD level 1 diagram to visualize and discuss project scope
  • drill-down specific processes to DFD level 2 or more to create more detailed diagrams that any audience will understand
  • use the DFD to help domain experts visualize their workflows within and across departmental boundaries
  • apply 3 specific Dataflow Analysis techniques that reveal hidden process and data problems – and suggest improvement opportunities
  • see how AI Writer Jasper can AI-Storm subprocesses for exploding or leveling the DFD
  • validate the completeness of requirements for optimizing the interactions between people, systems, and procedures

Ultimately, Dataflow Analysis is an essential tool that supports digital transformation in your organization.

In this 2½ hour self-paced video course, you will learn the benefits of process visualization for the business community, for the one wearing the business analysis hat, for those tasked with developing the solution, and ultimately for the entire organization.

 You will also discover how DFDs are powerful tools for recognizing and eliminating two of the major problems that haunt IT projects, namely Scope Creep and Project Overruns caused by late project change requests.

Learn by Example

“Business Analysis: Data Flow Diagrams to Visualize Workflows” uses a concrete business scenario to present a simple, easy-to-learn approach for creating and using Data Flow Diagrams depicting workflow and data manipulation from interviews with Subject Matter Experts.

You will learn how to create a Context-Level Data Flow Diagram and explode relevant process(es) to reveal the nitty-gritty detail (i.e., individual process and data specifications) that developers need to create IT solutions that the business community needs.

This course answers the following questions:

  • What is a Data Flow Diagram (DFD)?
  • What is a Rigorous Physical Process Model?
  • What is a Context-Level DFD?
  • Why should I use Data Flow Diagrams?
  • What symbols can I use on each type of diagram?
  • How can I drill down into a process?
  • Can I User an AI Writer to Identify Potential Subprocesses?
  • How can I show internal processes and flows that produce the results?
  • What does balancing a Data Flow Diagram mean and what is the business value?
  • What is the most efficient approach to balancing a DFD?
  • What business value do process specifications offer?
  • How can I express detailed specifications for processes and data?
  • What is “metadata” and why do you need it?
  • What does a fully balanced DFD look like?
  • What value does a DFD fragment provide?
  • How will a DFD let me identify Timing Anomalies in workflows or processes?
  • What value does business problem analysis using a DFD add?
  • Why should I us Error and Exception Analysis?
  • How does Dataflow Analysis lead to requirements for improving the workflow or business process?

Regardless of your job title or role, if you are tasked with communicating a workflow or functional requirements to others, this course is for you.

Who should take this course?

  • Product Owners
  • Business Analysts
  • Requirements Engineers
  • Business- and Customer-side Team Members
  • Agile Team Members
  • Subject Matter Experts (SME) aka Domain Experts
  • Project Leaders and Managers
  • Systems Analysts and Designers
  • AND “anyone wearing the business analysis hat”, meaning anyone responsible for defining a future IT solution

What Can You Do After the Course?

Upon completion of this course, you can:

  • Document existing business processes and workflows in Data Flow Diagrams (DFD) to initiate business process analysis
  • Defend the need for Data Flow Diagrams, Context Diagrams, and Rigorous Physical Process Models
  • Use the right symbols for each type of diagram to ensure a common interpretation by all parties
  • Explode a high level Data Flow Diagram to its lower level details to reveal underlying processes and procedures
  • Balance DFD’s to identify missing processes and reduce late project change requests
  • Use Horizontal Balancing to discover missing data and minimize redundancies
  • Document process specifications for functional primitives to guide the solution providers
  • Express metadata to reveal informational details that developers need to build the solution
  • Apply workflow analysis techniques to reveal the cause of business problems, timing anomalies, and error/exception handling processes.
  • Leverage the results of workflow analysis to elicit requirements, user stories, scenarios, features, etc.
  • Improve the completeness of your requirements with our 360-degree framework
  • Evaluate the use of AI Writer Jasper for AI-Storming Lower-Level Processes for a Detailed DFD


Detailed Course Outline

Introducing Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) for the Business

  • Welcome to the Course
  • Business Processes, Data Flows, and Value Chains
  • What is a Data Flow Diagram and Why Do You Need One?

Modeling the Flow of Material and Data

  • Introducing Rigorous Physical Process Models to Identify Stakeholders
  • Drawing an RPPM Using Identified Stakeholders and Interview Notes

Visualizing Project Scope

  • Transforming a Rigorous Physical Process Model into a Context-Level DFD

How to Identify the “Right” Internal Processes for a DFD

  • Representing Increasing Levels of Detail Using a DFD
  • Identifying Candidates for Internal Processes
  • Selecting the Appropriate Processes to Include on the Detailed DFD

Drawing a Detail Level Data Flow Diagram (DFD)

  • Exploding or Leveling High-Level Processes on a DFD

Balancing the Levels Ensures Completeness

  • Balancing Data Flows from the Higher to the Lower Level
  • Balancing Data Flows from the Lower to the Higher Level

Detailed Process and Data Specifications

  • Defining Functional Primitives with the Appropriate Tool or Technique
  • Capturing Metadata for Critical Business Data Elements

Horizontal Balancing Reveals Missing Data Elements

  • Defining and Justifying the Value of Horizontal Balancing
  • A Walk-through of Horizontal Balancing on a Detailed-Level DFD

Creating and Using DFD Fragments vs Completely Balanced DFDs

  • Data Flow Diagram Fragments Support Lean and Agile Philosophies

3 Workflow Analysis Techniques Help You Define Requirements or User Stories

  • What Is Workflow Analysis and How Dataflow Diagrams Lead to User Stories
  • Dataflow Analysis using a DFD Reveals the Sources of Reported Problems
  • Example of Dataflow Analysis to Identify Business Problems
  • Step-by-Step Timing Analysis Reveals Non-Functional Performance Needs
  • Walkthrough of How to Represent Timing Information on a Dataflow Diagram
  • Exception Analysis Using a DFD Focuses Discussions around Errors and Exceptions
  • Demonstration of Exceptions and Error Analysis using a Dataflow Diagram

Workflow Analysis Exposes Specific, Justifiable Requirements and User Stories

  • Start with Requirements to ACQUIRE New Capabilities for the Organization
  • Problem Solving Requirements Can Involve ABOLISHING Existing Features
  • Requirements that AFFIRM Existing or AVOID Unneeded Features Reduce Assumptions

The Business Value of Data Flow Diagrams

  • Summary of the Creation and Analysis of Data Flow Diagrams
  • Where Can I Go from Here?

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