The Systems Development Life Cycle

Summary of the Four Stages in the Systems Development Life Cycle

Written by Morgan Micheels


There are four phases in the systems development life cycle. Planning and investigation, analysis, design and implementation, including following-up and maintenance.

Planning and Investigation

The planning and investigation stage begins with a formal investigation conducted by the systems study team, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the clients existing system. Sweet Tooth has hired outside consultants to perform their systems study; in this case the system study team consists of James, Jenna, Mary, and Morgan (JJM&M). After the formal investigation of the current system is complete JJM&M Consultants will develop a plan for the remainder of the study.

In order to successfully implement a new Accounting Information System (AIS) for Sweet Tooth, we as the consultants strive for success. In doing so the study team will begin with a focused investigation that:

  • Approaches specific problems at Sweet Tooth with a broad point of view
  • Uses an interdisciplinary study team (JJM&M) to evaluate Sweet Tooth’s information system
  • Ensures the systems study team works closely with the steering committee that sweet tooth has selected

During the planning stage if and when problems are identified in the current system we will conduct a preliminary investigation and report our findings to Sweet Tooth’s steering committee. This information is reported in the form of a preliminary investigation report and will include information that separates the symptoms from the causes of the problems that were identified, offer solutions or alternatives, and recommend a course of action. From there Sweet Tooth’s steering committee will have the final say in what the next step will be. They may decide to do nothing, perform additional preliminary investigations, or proceed to the next stage.


Analysis

The main goal in the analysis stage is to analyze the current system that Sweet Tooth uses in depth by identifying information needs and pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of their existing system. JJM&M will not overanalyze the current system that Sweet Tooth uses, but rather focus on identifying and understanding Sweet Tooth’s goal of making a profit and possibly expanding.

In order to fully understand why Sweet Tooth has not been profitable and to better assist them in designing a new information system that fits their business needs we may ask Sweet Tooth to:

  • Gain access to existing documentation
  • To observe the current system in action
  • To complete a questionnaire
  • To review internal control procedures so we can identify the strengths and weaknesses
  • To interview the system participants

After we have obtained sufficient evidence to better assist Sweet Tooth in designing a new information system we will present our findings in a systems analysis report suggesting possible solutions to the problems that were identified. Sweet Tooth’s steering committee will then have the opportunity to analyze the recommendations we have developed and from there they can either withdrawal from the project, ask for additional analysis, or proceed to the next step.

As the consultants for Sweet Tooth’s system study it is our goal to design a system that is tailored to fit their needs and to offer options to choose from. In order to do so we must first establish feasibility by evaluating the practicality of each alternative system. JJM&M will examine technological, operational, schedule, legal, and economical feasibility for each proposed system.

  • Technological Feasibility – establishes what technical resources, such as hardware and software, are needed for a system.
  • Operational Feasibility – examining the proposed systems compatibility with the current system Sweet Tooth uses.
  • Schedule Feasibility – estimation of how long the new AIS will take to become fully operational.
  • Legal Feasibility – complying with all applicable laws , such as financial reporting requirements.
  • Economic Feasibility – evaluating whether the expected benefits exceed the estimated costs.

Design

Once feasibility is established and Sweet Tooth approves, JJM&M will start designing the detailed system design, which consists of identifying the outputs, process procedures, and inputs. We will first examine the required system outputs by determining the types of reports that Sweet Tooth will need in order to improve John’s ability to monitor business activities and the company’s financial position. Next we will identify the process procedures that will need to be implemented in order to produce the desired outputs; a flowchart does a great job illustrating business processes. Finally we will address the input data the new system will need in order to fulfill the outputs and process procedures, for example we will develop a chart of accounts for this stage in the design phase.

After the design team has specified the inputs, process procedures, and output requirements of the new system we will summarize our findings in a systems specification report. The specification report will then be forwarded to the steering committee for review and approval. Once Sweet Tooth’s steering committee approves of the detailed design work they will have the opportunity to decide if it is practical to make or buy an information system. Based on the size of Sweet Tooth, acquiring an AIS from outside vendors will more than likely be the best solution. Sweet Tooth’s steering committee, with the help of JJM&M, will create a request for proposal specifying the system requirements, which will then be sent to outside vendors for bidding. The following factors should be considered when evaluating each of the vendor proposals:

  • Performance capability
  • Costs and benefits
  • Maintainability
  • Compatibility with the existing system
  • Vendor support

Following the consideration of vendor proposals Sweet Tooth’s steering committee will make a final decision on a software package. Additionally, after selecting a vendor we will want to check with the Better Business Bureau and clients of the vendor of choice to ensure they are a reputable company before the new system is implemented.


Implementation, Follow-up, and Maintenance

The system implementation stage consists of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together from the analysis, design, and software development work to implement Sweet Tooth’s new information system. In order to be successful when we implement the new system it is essential that Sweet Tooth cooperate with JJM&M Consultants to:

  • Prepare a physical space for the new hardware
  • Determine functional changes that effect reporting and personnel
  • Assign employees to specific job functions
  • Work with the vendors to train employees on the new system
  • Install computer equipment
  • Ensure internal controls are in place and encourage all users to follow the controls
  • Convert any data files from the old system to the new system
  • Acquire and install the software obtained from the vendor that was selected
  • Test the new software to ensure it is operating as planned
  • Convert to the new system (direct, parallel, or modular conversion)

After the new system is in place for some time we will follow-up with Sweet Tooth to ensure that the system is meeting the businesses goals of becoming a profitable company and possibly expanding. If there are issues that arise or are still not resolved we will revisit with the steering committee and may recommend further system studies in order to offer revisions to the system.

Additionally the system will need to be maintained through the course of its useful life. Since Sweet Tooth does not have an IT department, nor are they big enough to need one we would suggest outsourcing this step to an IT professional that is knowledgeable in maintaining an AIS.

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