The Formal Systems Approach as presented by Dr Lewis Branscomb former VP & Chief Scientist of IBM and former Director of NBS (NIST) The classic Formal Systems Approach to systems analysis is elegant in its simplicity and power (though not necessarily simple to carry out). As stated by Dr Lewis Branscomb it is: What is the apparent problem/issue as stated? What, after investigation, are the facts (and assumptions and constraints)? What is the real problem? What are the alternatives (alternative solutions, alternative explanations)? After analysis of alternatives, What is the best alternative or solution (or explanation)? What course of action should be followed? (plan, recommendation) Interestingly, this is a perfectly general problem-solving method that can be used for many things other than information systems. An Army Staff Study uses essentially the same steps (though presented somewhat differently). Diagnostic medicine uses essentially the same steps (though again, presented differently, often in terms of Subjective symptoms, Objective signs and test results, Assessment, and Plan). (Medical treatment is something else entirely, of course.) Detective investigation work uses essentially the same approach. Solving engineering and mathematical problems uses essentially the same approach. Scientific experiments and investigations use a similar approach, also. Case studies are often carried out using a variant of this approach. And so on. For a table comparing some of these areas and applications of the formal systems approach, see Formal Systems Approach General Comparison. Additionally, I often find this approach useful for organizing written papers such as technical reports, term papers, and so forth.