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The term structured analysis, within the domain of software development, describes the set of techniques used in the design of computer applications. These techniques help explain the required steps within a computer application in a more humanistic manner. The results of a thorough structured analysis and design approach typically describe both the physical and logical layers of the computer application.
Software engineering is a complex process that requires intricate detail on the specifics about how the software application will function. The early pioneers of software engineering realized that this complexity required a method of formality that would not only document the system, but also explain the process in terms that could be understood by the general public. Structured analysis is the process that is used for documenting this complexity.
Structured analysis and design are broken into four primary domains within application architecture. These are the data flows, data models, structure charts, and state models. All of these domains are typically represented in a manner starting from a summary level and progressing into a detail level of interpretation.
One of the key tools used in structured analysis for this visualization approach are data flow diagrams. Data flow diagrams were first introduced into as a method of capturing the flow of data within an application, explaining how that data moves from process to process. Each process is connected using a line with an arrow, representing the flow of data between the processes.
Data models represent the relationships between data within an application in a logical manner. These models further clarify the data needed to complete the processes defined in the data flow diagrams. There are many tools and techniques used for the creation of data models, but the primary goal is to define the usage of data and the relationships between one data element and another.
Structure charts are used to define the summary structure flow from one process to another. These charts are used as a blueprint on how an application will communicate between processes or modules. Structure charts follow a functional decomposition approach, staring at a high-level design and breaking down into a detail design.
The final component necessary in structured analysis is state models. They define the state or behavior of an application. These models are joined with data flow models to define the events of an application.
Computer related or not, structured analyses are definitely a lot more complex than at first glance. I remember learning about this in my Web Design class, and it was pretty difficult. It's amazing what kind of work goes into building software. Who would have ever thought?