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I’m looking to document my business’ overall system architecture. I want to capture what system/s everything starts in, what systems it flows into and why, and where everything ends up. As part of this I also want to identify the processes that allow the data to flow from one system to another including why and how.

Being unfamiliar with documenting on this level, I really don’t know where to start. I want it to be easy to read but detailed as well.

To give a little bit more information, I’m not really concerned with what happens to the data inside each system, just the inputs and outputs.

How can I document this?

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closed as too broad by gnat, Kilian Foth, Bart van Ingen Schenau, GlenH7, World Engineer Mar 12 '14 at 14:28

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

4 Answers 4

I believe you want to track all the processes in your business. In that case, have a look at Business Process Modeling Notation. If you get familiar with the concepts, then you have a lot of software to model it. BPMN is the standard model for the architecture of business processes.

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We use a wiki for all our documentation. Here are the advantages as I see them:

  • it's easy to update
  • it's easy to read
  • it's easy to distribute and access
  • many have the ability to create images inline. We're currently using Confluence which has a utility to create Gliffy diagrams
  • many also offer the ability to export as a PDF or Word document for ultimate flexibility

For the documentation you're talking about, what we often do is create a high level page with the overview of the system diagrams and links to other wiki pages - allowing users to drill down and learn about the system subcomponents in greater detail.

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Data Flow Diagrams may help you for this purpose. If that omits too many details, try Functional flow block diagrams. Here is a nice post on Stack Overflow comparing DFDs to UML Activity Diagrams, which may be also of interest for you.

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You actually don't need to go out and pay for anything elaborate. In fact since you are new to this, I would recommend you take a lean approach at first until you start to understand what you really need. At which point you will know the answer to your question.

I document a high level explanation of business process which is more operations related but is also applicable to systems, tools you can use and some actions that you can take and the only cost is your time - http://www.kylembrown.com/process/stop-repeating-the-same-task-by-automating-with-documented-processes

Hope this helps.

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