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Business Requirements Analysis consultancy to blue chip companies

Exercise 1 answer

(this is the answer to the Acme Fashion dataflow diagramming exercise)

There is no right answer - but there are plenty of wrong ones!

Different business analysts may (will!) come up with different ways of representing the same thing. The only thing to be careful of, if you're working in a team in real life, is that you all use the same names for external entities and shared datastores.

Here's ours for you to compare yours to.

(clickable, opens in a new window)

To make it easier to follow, we've repeated below the questions and answers from the interview session with Bo Sibbuts. Open the diagram in a new window so you can arrange it side by side with this one - that way it's easy to read the answers and see how they relate to the diagram.

Interview output for Process 1, Sell Product and Take Order, held Tues 11th

(This has been back to Bo for checking / correction)

Q1: How do you know whether an order received by post is from an existing or new customer? If from a new customer, how does Accounts know to do a credit check?

answer: As each piece of post containing a purchase order is opened, the presence of a customer number tells us. Any that don't have one are first checked against the Customer Master File and, if found, we hand-write the customer number on their purchase order. If not, we put the envelope and contents in the New Customers out tray for Accounts to do the credit checking on the new customer. We take these to Accounts at lunchtime and at 4:00pm.

The same applies to purchase orders received by email, which we're getting more and more of these days. We print them out and then do the same as for purchase orders we got through the post.

Q2: What's different about orders passed in by the travelling sales team?

answer: Well, the travelling sales team use a different coloured purchase order form for new customers. It has additional sections filled in with the info Accounts need to do their credit checks and add the successful ones to the Customer Master File. We don't know and don't care what happens to the unsuccessful ones.

The purchase orders from existing customers are added to the batch to have sales orders raised.

Q3: How do you deal with customers whose credit limit would be exceeded if the order were processed? What if part of the order could be filled without exceeding the credit limit?

answer: We get a list from Accounts at the start of each day for such customers. It shows us how much they can spend before going over their limit. As we open the post / print out email orders received, we glance over the list and put any problem orders into the Held Orders in-tray.

Any problems with the credit limit means we don't try and fulfil any of the order.

Q4: Same question for handling orders that can't be filled because of low stock levels.

answer: We use the personal touch and always try to phone the customer to ask what they want to do. The end result is some we put on back order (ie we put it in the Held Orders tray) and some we cancel. If we can't get in touch with them we'll put it on hold. That way it'll get dealt with in our morning processing.

Q5: What about back-orders? How do you deal with those?

answer: Every morning after we get the day-start lists we go through the previous day's stuff in the Held Orders tray to see if we can fill any of them now. If we can, we do, using the same process as for normal orders. This way, the customers who have been waiting get theirs filled first.

Q6: How do you raise Sales Orders from received Purchase Orders? Is making calls to customers to get orders part of the process?

answer: The Sales Order is a multi-part form. We start with a customer's purchase order and check that there is enough of what they want in stock and that their order won't cause them to go over their credit limit. The checking is done against the day-start lists we get from the stock room and accounts department.

If all is ok, we fill in the various saler order form parts - the first part is the actual order and gets filed in the customer master file with the purchase order. The next is a stock-pick page that also serves as a dispatch note. This goes to the stock room for fulfilment together with the final page of the multi-part form, the actual delivery note.

As we raise the sales order (if it gets past all checks), we record the details on our own copy of the master sales spreadsheet. At the end of the day, Awd Artaker takes everyone's copies and updates the true master sales spreadsheet by copying and pasting. I then run a macro that creates the end-of-day report on sales / returns that I then pass to Accounts and to Marketing. I stick up a graph, also created by the macro, on the wall showing how we're all doing.

Supplemental questions arising during / after the interview

Q7: Do you ever have any problems with the ordering process?

answer: Yes. Very occasionally orders from different customers for the same low-stock items (as notified on the day-start low stock list from the stock room) mean the second order can't actually be fulfilled because the first put us out of stock. And here's the thing. Because we don't update the low stock list when we process the first order, that can happen. I suppose we could update it...

Also, as we grow and increase our customer numbers and sales, we're finding it difficult to find the time to phone our customers, not only to try to get more sales but also to keep that personal touch going that is really important to us and our success.

Q8: Tell me more about this 'start-of-day' process and 'start-of-day lists'

answer: Well, simple one first. We get the list of customers nearing their credit limit from Accounts via internal post. We stick this up on the wall for everyone to easily get access.

We also get the stock list showing items we're running low on and a list showing the previous day's returns. The first we stick up on the wall and the second, we use to update the master sales spreadsheet. This helps us measure how well we're doing and lets us deal with any related issues customers raise when we're speaking with them.

Also, with the increasing numbers of orders as we grow, sometimes we can't process all purchase orders on the same day as we get them. So we squeeze this in before we get the first postal delivery. Sometimes we have to come in early to do this.

Q9: Tell me about the emailshots that go out to the customers

answer: At the start of every week (nearly always), we get a bundle of info on Marketing's latest advertising and offer campaigns. On Tuesdays we go through the master sales order spreadsheet and use a macro to extract the email addresses and names of customers where we have them. The macro goes on to do a mailmerge into an email template we create, in line with what we got from marketing.

Q10: Where are the selling prices held? You must use them when raising a sales order, no?

answer: Yes we do. Marketing provides the info whenever there are changes to volume discounts, base prices or special offers. They make a spreadsheet especially for us and we get it in the mornings as part of our day start stuff, if there is one.

If you're on the ball as a business analyst, there's some other things you should have picked up on. For example, some problems were mentioned that could turn into requirements and so should end up on the Problems / Requirements List.

Did you spot anything else?

Exercise 1 | Exercise 2 | Exercise 3

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First things first...

To do this exercise, you'll need to have read through our Acme Fashion Supplies case study.

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Client-site Business Analyst Essentials

All common ebook formats are included in the download.

If you have a discount code, enter it here:

Buy right now - only £4.50 (approx $6.50) - perfect for the daily commute!

...or you can peek inside via the ebook on Amazon