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Features and Benefits of the IDEF0 Activity Modeling Method

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This chapter presents the basic principles of IDEF0—the assumptions behind its graphics and the rules for applying its analytical process.

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This chapter presents the basic principles of IDEF0—the assumptions behind its graphics and the rules for applying its analytical process. Expanding on Chapter 1, the discussion examines the scope of topics that can be handled by IDEF0, the benefits of its use, and a comparison to other popular graphical diagramming methods. Chapter 4 gets even more specific as it presents the detailed syntax and semantics of the IDEF0 graphical language, as officially defined in the Federal Standard.

The Seven Basic Principles

There are seven principles—or rules of conduct—that must be followed in order to apply IDEF0 techniques successfully:

  1. The method must accurately represent the problem area: A graphical model of a system should be developed so that the system elements and their interactions can be defined, documented, communicated, discussed, and analyzed effectively.
  2. The model must have a top-down, modular, hierarchical structure: The model should depict the system top-down by defining modular system elements that interact to form a hierarchy.
  3. The model must separate function from design: By definition, what the system does (function) must be kept separate from how it does it (design). That is, more than one design can be developed for a single function; this distinction is important. Because of this, design improvements may be developed without disturbing the basic function. If a more drastic (functional) change is called for, then basic functions can be changed and a new design created to meet the new functional requirements.
  4. The model must reflect both objects and actions—things and happenings: The modeling method must be able to depict all forms of things and happenings. Restriction of the modeling scope to raw data would leave out the people, resources, raw materials, human factors, and other important influences on the operation of the enterprise, all of which are critical in managing change.
  5. The model form must be graphical: The form on which the model is recorded must be graphical, not mathematical or textual. The graphical form must communicate concisely and rigorously to the people who must validate that the model reflects the real functions and processes of the enterprise.
  6. The model must be the product of disciplined, coordinated teamwork: To build a model and to achieve consensus among the enterprise staff requires disciplined, coordinated teamwork. The IDEF0 method must therefore contain the working rules and procedures for developing and validating the model in an organized way (reader/author cycle forms and procedures, librarian configuration management procedures, and the like).
  7. The model must present all information in writing: By having a standardized form on which all information (interview notes, conclusions with their rationale, definitions of terms, and so on) is retained, the method assures that information is not lost during the early stages of the planning cycle. With its forms and procedures, IDEF0 provides a convenient means of retaining information.
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