Process signifies that some transformation of data takes place. The number in the space at the top is used in multi-level DFDs (see below).

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1 Data Online Flow Diagrams s used in DFDs All DFDs are made up of just four key symbols, a notation which allows the system to be represented in enough detail to convey its meaning, but without adding unnecessary information about hardware etc. The four symbols are given below. If a series of DFDs are properly constructed, they will provide solid documentation of a system. Entity any data source or data destination. An external entity is not part of the system being described, but interacts with it. Customer Process signifies that some transformation of data takes place. The number in the space at the top is used in multi-level DFDs (see below). 3. Create customer record Data Store shows that data is stored in some way. However the physical media used (eg hard disk or magnetic tape) is not specified. Customer master file Data Flow this shows the flow of data between an entity and/or a and/or a data store. A Data Flow arrow should be labelled with a description of the data. New customer information They were originally proposed by Gane & Sarson, in Structured Sytems Analysis and Design Tools and Techniques, (Prentice Hall, 979). Since then, their use has become widespread. This document is Colourpoint Books. It may be used only for non-profit use in unmodified form within educational establishments. For contact see

2 Developing DFDs DFDs are developed in stages, with the analyst adding more detail in each diagram than in the one before. The first diagram produced is called the context diagram (or top level diagram ). It has four main features: The whole system is shown as a single ; No data stores are shown; Inputs to the overall system are shown, together with data sources (as external entities); Outputs from the overall system are shown, together with their destinations (as external entities). Figure shows an example of a context diagram, using generic names for the entities and the es involved. A real world example is discussed later (see figure 4). Figure : A generic DFD context diagram. Entity Entity 2 Input A Input B 0 System Name Output A Output B Entity 4 Input C Entity 5 Entity 3 Next, a Level 0 diagram is developed. This focuses on the single that was drawn in the context diagram by zooming in on its contents and illustrates what it does in more detail. Because we have simply expanded the single, the same external entities remain. Each new is given a number, the importance of which will become clear later, when we zoom in on these es too. Figure 2 shows an example of a Level 0 diagram. 2

3 Entity Input A A 2 B Output A Entity 4 Record A Record E Data store Data flow B Data store 2 Entity 2 Input B Record A Record E Entity 3 Input C 3 C Data flow C 4 D Output B Entity 5 Figure 2: A generic DFD Level 0 diagram. The next step in developing the DFD is to show more for any above that requires further explanation. The numbers previously assigned to es are used to tie them to their corresponding, more detailed, diagrams. These are called Level diagrams, with the referring to how far into the system we have zoomed. This of refinement is repeated until all of the system are properly described. For example, Process C from figure 2 can be shown as in figure 3. Note that the inputs from the parent and the outputs from the parent match those found in the Level diagram shown here. The dotted line is used in this example to show the boundaries of the original Level 0. Although this is not a necessary requirement of a DFD it can be useful to aid readability. 3

4 Inputs match parent (Level 0) Data store Record A Entity 2 Input B 3. W Transation record Transaction file Transation record 3.2 X data flow Z Entity 3 Input C 3.4 Y 3.3 Z Data flow B Data flow C Outputs match parent (Level 0) Figure 3: A generic DFD Level diagram. An example of an actual system Consider a simple parish administration system, used to produce the following information: For the minister / parish priest: A summary of households who are due a pastoral visit; A list of households who are due a visit outside their regular time, such as those with a recent bereavement or birth; For the treasurer: A weekly summary of parish offerings; An annual summary of offerings for the purpose of gift aid. Gift Aid is a scheme that allows charities to reclaim the tax paid by working people. For example, a 0 gift is worth the original donation plus the tax originally paid on it. 4

5 To produce a DFD for this system we first produce a context diagram. At this stage we must think about the inputs to the system. These are the parishioners name and address, of visitations and of gifts to the church. A context-level diagram of this is shown in figure 4. Parishoner Name/address Weekly summary Annual tax report Weekly offering Visitation Parish administration system Visits due Updates to parish Non-regular visits Figure 4: A context diagram for the parish administration system. This system is then refined (shown in more detail) as a Level 0 diagram as shown in figure 5. Note that the external entities and the data flows to/from them remain the same, but more detail is given to the original. 5

6 Parishoner Name/ address Add/ amend parish Name/address D Parish 4 Calculate annual tax summary Annual tax report Weekly summary Weekly offering 2 Enter weekly giving Offering Updates to parish Offering Address D Financial Visit D Visitation Visit Visitation 3 Update visitation 5 List parishoners due a visit Visits due Non-regular visits Figure 5: A Level 0 diagram for the parish administration system. The systems analyst then repeats this of refinement. For example, Process 5 ( list parishioners due a visit ) is developed in the Level diagram in figure 6 as a series of subes. If necessary, the sub-es themselves can be further developed. By carefully following this procedure, a complete set of data flow diagrams can be produced to accurately model a system. 6

7 5. D Parish Name/address List people due 6 -monthly visit Visits due Regular visit D Visitation Visit 5. List people who need a visit Non-regular visits Figure 6: A Level diagram for the parish administration system which expands Process 5 from figure 5. T a s k Discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of data flow diagrams. What are they useful for? What are they not useful for? 7

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