Home > Articles > Data

This chapter is from the book

Analyzing Business Needs

The business need has to be studied to tease out certain characteristics. These are roughly summarized as follows:

  • The business process, or what actually goes on in the business

  • The business rules, or what is allowed to happen, and what isn't

  • The business objects, the actual things that exist in the business

Put together, these things describe the goings-on within the business and in the business function you're trying to model. Some organizations have these things written down as formal procedures, whereas in other scenarios people just get on and do things; the procedures only existing in people's knowledge.

Whichever is the case, start by studying the information that's there by asking questions and forming a picture of what goes on.


In some cases, a database is commissioned so as to simplify or even completely change an existing process. You will need to distill out what needs to be done versus what is done.

You will often encounter a good deal of superfluous information. You'll need to take note of it, but distill it out of your model if it's not relevant.

Business Processes

Identifying business processes is often a good time for drawing a process flow of what you think is going on:

  • It helps you form a picture in your own mind of what's going on.

  • You can show it to other people who know the process and talk it through, reconfirming it to make sure that you have it right.

  • It may uncover missing links in your understanding, or even failings in the process as it's been described.

  • It provides a reference point to look back on as the project moves forward. By compiling notes and process diagrams as things develop, you have an audit trail of the development of your ideas and understandings.

A process diagram can be as formal as you want, created with special software, or can be a pencil-and-paper sketch. Figure 3.1 shows a simple process diagram.

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 A simple business process diagram.

Inherent in the language used to describe events in the process is the concept of transac-tions. A transaction is an essential part of the business process where a definable event occurs.

A business transaction may itself be comprised of smaller transactions. However, it may be important to carry out a transaction completely, or not at all.

For example, the system for an online store may dispatch the goods ordered and update the stock level, but not just dispatch the goods. In your process diagram, you will normally have such smaller events described, but it should be clear which of them are grouped together into transactions that must not be divided.

Because most electronic business systems and the Internet operate on a transaction basis, it is important to understand your business process as a sequence of transactions rather than any kind of real-time continuum.

Business Rules

When it comes to business rules, some things will be defined clearly, whereas many rules will be common sense. Rules declared by the business may come about because of business strategy, they may arise from local management decisions, or they may be in place because of legislation or other causes. Declared rules are the most easy to spot.

There are also "common sense" rules, which are present in an implied sense. With any kind of rule, never ignore the need to ask questions of the obvious, and look for clarification in what is obscure or complex. With implied rules, the need to ask questions is most important.

For example, the rule "customers' payments must be non-negative and greater than zero" might sound like a common sense rule for an ordering process.

But the statement must be questioned. If the answer is not clear, you need to understand the rule a little more, and perhaps ask some "What if?" questions.

For example, what would a negative payment mean, when applying the preceding rule? A negative payment from the customer would effectively be a refund, so to fully understand the scenario you need to find out how refunds are implemented.

And what of zero payments? Perhaps there's a "Buy one, get one free" policy, which under certain circumstances might mean that a zero payment would be allowed. Again, you must ask the question.

As with the mapping out of business processes, a paper and pencil (or even a suitable software package) is of great benefit for defining the business rules, whether they be declared or implied.

Business Objects

Business objects are the "nouns" or "things" of the system you're trying to model.

For example, a store with a product ordering system might have objects like these:

  • Products

  • Product categories

  • Customers

  • Purchases

  • Invoices

  • Credit card

  • Bank

Establishing the business objects is generally a little easier than establishing processes and rules, but make sure that you look out for both tangible things (such as products) and intangibles (such as purchases).

After you identify the objects, you need to study the characteristics of each. For example, an invoice might have the following characteristics:

  • Invoice number

  • Date of issue

  • Value excluding sales tax

  • Customer name and address

  • Value of sales tax

  • Value including sales tax

Putting the Picture Together

After you identify the business objects and understand the rules and processes that bind them together, a picture begins to emerge. With this picture, you can start to define the database application required to fulfill the need.

There's not a clear path for translating objects, processes, and rules into an electronic system, but business objects often translate roughly into database tables.

After all, relational databases were conceived to model business entities: each table often represents a business object, each column represents a characteristic of that object, and each row of data represents an instance of that object.

The business process you've described will to a large extent be implemented by the application software you specify. It will dictate what you have on each screen of the electroncic system and what information flows between which objects.

For example, "check the customer's credit card details" will typically be some form of query sent to the bank, and the outcome will be a screen telling the customer whether his card appears to be okay. Likewise the acceptance of the order may generate an email to the warehouseman to collect some products from the physical store.

The business rules will manifest themselves in several ways: they may influence the data types allowed in the tables (for example, a customer's name will be a text field, not a number), but will also dictate what's allowed by the application (for example, the application may check that a credit card number is a number, and not text).

Looking at the rules in relationship terms, they will dictate where there are one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many relationships between business objects—and thus between tables. For example, there may be many invoices for a given customer (but each invoice has only a single customer), so in this sense the business rules look likely to govern our use of indexes in the tables representing these objects (namely, invoices and customers).

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020