Business system planning

Business systems planning (BSP) is a method of analyzing, defining and designing the information architecture of organizations. It was introduced by IBM for internal use only in 1981,[1] although initial work on BSP began during the early 1970s. BSP was later sold to organizations.[2] It is a complex method dealing with interconnected data, processes, strategies, aims and organizational departments.

BSP was a new approach to IA;[3] its goals are to:

  • Understand issues and opportunities with current applications
  • Develop future technology supporting the enterprise
  • Provide executives with direction and a decision-making framework for IT expenditures
  • Provide information systems (IS) with a developmental blueprint

The result of a BSP project is a technology roadmap aligning investments and business strategy. BSP comprises 15 steps, which are classified into three sections by function.


Study authorization

The essential first step in BSP is to obtain authorization for the study from management or an interested department. A number of roles must agree on the purpose and range of the study:

  • Managing director
    • May be a sponsor or team leader
    • Verifies and approves study results
  • Sponsor
    • Provides financial support
  • Team leader
    • Chooses team members (four to seven people)
    • Coordinates activities
    • Documents and implements study (usually longer than eight weeks)
    • Presents results to management
  • Team member
    • Usually a department head
    • Analyzes and determines organizational information needs
    • Recommends future IS content
    • Presents results to management
  • Secretary
    • Documents study
    • Assists team leader


The second step is the team leader's study preparation. Its goal is to:

  • Set timeframe
  • Obtain documents
  • Choose managers to interview
  • Procure meeting and interview space
  • Inform team members of:
    • Organizational functions
    • Organizational data-processing level

A product of this step is a lead study book with the above information, a study schedule, IT documents and diagrams.


At the first meeting of the study, the sponsor explains the purpose and expected results of the study; the team leader presents the study plan, and the IT manager describes the current state and the role of IS in the organization.


The analysis is the most important part of BSP. The team searches for an appropriate organizational structure as it defines business strategy, processes and data classes[4] and analyzes current information support.


This step define strategic targets and how to achieve them within the organization:

  • Adaptating to the customer´s desires
  • Centrally-planned reservations, stock, payments
  • Improvements in checking in, shipping, presentation, advertising, partner relations and stock management
  • New customers
  • Noise reduction
  • Paperless processes
  • Product-portfolio expansion
  • Loss and cost reduction
  • Simplifying customer order cycle
  • Transport coordination
  • Upgrade of production line
  • Updating information

The team works from these strategic targets. Organizational units are departments of the organization. Each department is responsible for a strategic target.


There are about 40-60 business processes in an organization (depending on its size), and it is important to choose the most profitable ones and the department responsible for a particular process. Examples include:

  • Contact creation
  • Hangaring
  • Invoicing
  • Monitoring
  • Airplane coordination and service
  • New-customer registration
  • Service catalog creation
  • Reservations
  • Employee training
  • Transfers
  • Car rental

Data classes

There are usually about 30–60 data classes, depending on the size of the organization. Future IS will use databases based on these classes. Examples include:

Information support

The purpose of this step is to check the applications used by an organization, evaluating the importance of each to eliminate redundancy.

Management discussion

In the final analytical step the team discusses its results with management to confirm (or refute) assumptions, provide missing information, reveal deficiencies in the organization and establish future priorities.

Issue results

All documents created during the analysis are collected, serving as a base for future information architecture. The organization classifies and dissects all identified problems; a list is made of the cause and effect of each problem, which is integrated into the future IS.



Defining information architecture

To define an organization's information architecture,[4] it is necessary to connect the information subsystems using matrix processes and data classes to find appropriate subsystems. The organization then reorders processes according to the product (or service) life cycle.

Establishing IS-development priorities

A number of criteria (costs and development time, for example) establish the best sequence of system implementation. High-priority subsystems may be analyzed more deeply. This information is given to the sponsor, who determines which information subsystems will be developed.

Verifying study impact

An IS planning and management study should be conducted. When the organization has finished its work on processes and data classes, it should explore the functions and goals of the system with a list of requested departmental changes and a cost analysis.


Final recommendations and plans are made for the organization during this step, which encompasses information architecture, IS management and information-subsystem development and includes costs, profits and future activities.


This is the agreement of all interested parties (team, management and sponsor) on future actions.

Final step

The organization should establish specific responsibilities during the project's implementation. There is usually a controlling commission, ensuring consistency across the IS.

BSP, in addition to its value to IS planning, introduced the process view of a firm. The business process reengineering of the 1990s was built on this concept. It also demonstrated the need to separate data from its applications using it, supporting the database approach to software development methodology.


The effectiveness of BSP and other similar planning methodologies has been questioned:

  • The historical analysis shows that BSP and subsequent enterprise architecture (EA) methodologies are "fundamentally flawed".[5][6]
  • The research concludes that "the [BSP] approach is too expensive, its benefits are too uncertain, and it is organisationally difficult to implement".[7]
  • The research concludes that "given their great expense and time consumption, [...] findings seriously challenge the utility of the [BSP and similar] planning methodologies".[8]
  • The research concludes that "in summary, strategic information systems planners are not particularly satisfied with [the BSP methodology]. After all, it requires extensive resources. [...] When the [BSP] study is complete, further analysis may be required before the plan can be executed. The execution of the plan might not be very extensive".[9]
  • The study of BSP and similar planning methodologies concludes that "the evidence [...] presented here strongly supports the need for a fundamental rethinking of IS planning methodologies".[10]


  1. Gordon Bitter Davis, Gordon B. Davis (1999) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management and Encyclopedic Dictionaries, The Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Management Information Systems. p. 173
  2. Antonia Albani, Joseph Barjis, Jan L.G. Dietz eds. (2009) Advances in Enterprise Engineering III: : 5Th International Workshop, Ciao! 2009, and 5th International Workshop, Eomas 2009, Held at CAiSE 2009, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 8–9, 2009, Proceedings. p. 57
  3. John Zachman 1982. "Business Systems Planning and Business Information Control Study: A comparisment. In: IBM Systems Journal, vol 21, no 3, 1982. p. 31-53. In this 1982 article John Zachman explains:
    Business Systems Planning (BSP) and Business Information Control Study (BICS) are two information system planning study methodologies that specifically employ enterprise analysis techniques in the course of their analyses. Underlying the BSP and BICS analyses are the data management problems that results in systems design approaches that optimize the management of technology at the expense of managing the data.
  4. Business Systems Planning (IBM Corporation), paper 2. Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University.
  5. "Enterprise Architecture Frameworks: The Fad of the Century", Svyatoslav Kotusev, British Computer Society (BCS), July 2016
  6. Kotusev, Svyatoslav (2018) The Practice of Enterprise Architecture: A Modern Approach to Business and IT Alignment. Melbourne, Australia: SK Publishing.
  7. Goodhue, D.L., Quillard, J.A., and Rockart, J.F. (1988). Managing the Data Resource: A Contingency Perspective. In: MIS Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 373-392.
  8. Lederer, A.L., and Sethi, V. (1988). The Implementation of Strategic Information Systems Planning Methodologies. In: MIS Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 445-461.
  9. Lederer, A.L., and Sethi, V. (1992). Meeting the Challenges of Information Systems Planning. In: Long Range Planning, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 69-80.
  10. Goodhue, D.L., Kirsch, L.J., Quillard, J.A., and Wybo, M.D. (1992). Strategic Data Planning: Lessons from the Field. In: MIS Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 11-34.
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