Installing an ICT based system also has another advantage; it will prevent employees with little or no experience from making wrong decisions on how much is worth after it has been sold twice or has had a numerous number of re-sprays for example because a computer system can be set up to calculate these automatically.
The task I am going to provide a solution for is decreasing the workload for the employees and overall reducing the amount of headache for Mr. Sharma by introducing a computer based system which can eliminate the problem of human error. If there is a computer based system it will help keep the records accurate and therefore prevent loss.
Installing this computer based will prove extremely useful to RRS Motors because it will remove all the hassle of the previous system, leaving the employees more time and concentration for the actual business and therefore increasing the turnover.
Judging from my interview with him, I can infer that he is very eager to introduce a computer based system which will help him expand his business and take it to new heights which before he believed to be unreachable because of the extremely impotent paper based system which had many serious flaws mentioned above. There are two main reasons for him wanting to install a new computer based system: the first being that as his customer database is increasing a rapid rate, it is extremely hard to manage using a paper based system whereas on a computer based system this would take significantly less time. The second reason being that he has noticed a surge in the amount of business he is getting from outside his area, probably because of his reasonable prices and seemingly able staff, he has realised that with a computer based system he could expand his business by maybe opening another showroom in the area wherefrom he is getting a good response.
I construe that the current paper based system is no match for the scale at which Mr. Sharma is planning to expand his business and the computer based system will also eliminate the treacherous task of having to manually update databases of customer details or stock etc. Based on these two factors I will design an automated computer-based system which can record and manage large amounts of information in the form of databases and update these automatically.
To continue I need to know the process by which a car/part is purchased at RRS Motors. My observations have led me to the following cycle:
- The customer chooses the car/part which s/he is interested in buying.
- He informs an employee of his choice and the employee fills out a form containing his personal details (if s/he is a first time buyer from RRS Motors) and the details of the car/parts s/he wants to buy.
- The stock is checked to confirm if what the customer is looking for is available or not.
- The payment is made via the three payments methods available: Cash, Cheque or by Debit/Credit card.
- The order a processed and two receipts are printed, one for the customer to keep and one for the firm to keep as a back-up record and the forms are also photocopied.
- Stock updated in register.
Here is the overall process represented visually via a diagram:
While examining this diagram I have noticed one thing time and time again which is the fact that a huge amount of time is wasted filling out forms and manually updating stock. Before I suggest a suitable computer based system, I need to know the budget available.
The hardware and software available is limited but luckily is enough to surpass the old paper based system. RRS Motors has in its office four desktop computers. All four of these computers have identical specifications:
- 120 GB HDD
- 512 Mb RAM
- Intel Pentium 3 processor @ 3.2 GHz
- 15 Inch LCD Panels
- Brother MFC-410CN Multi-purpose Printer
- Internet Connection: Dial-up
- Windows XP Home Edition SP2
- Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
- Anti-Virus Software: None
The specifications on these computers are sufficient to start a computer based system because:
- 120 GB HDD: Seeing as only document files will be stored on these computers, 120 GB is more than enough as the average document file barely reaches between 1-2 Mb.
- 512 Mb RAM: This amount of RAM is once again more than enough because only applications such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel will be running, these applications do not take up much RAM at all therefore it is definitely the computer will not run slowly if this RAM is used only to run applications mentioned above.
- 15 Inch LCD Panels: Because the monitors are LCD, they will give strain to the eyes, even if one of the employees is working on them for a long time as well as that 15 Inch is relatively large size screen so that’s no problem either.
- Printer: The printer, although it is multi-purpose, is a DeskJet printer which cannot print a lot of information in a short span of time so a Laser Jet printer might have to purchased, these are quite affordable so I don’t think this will be a problem.
- Internet Connection: For the scope at which MR. Sharma is thinking of expending his business Dial-up Internet is extremely slow and out-dated so he will definitely have to get broadband, preferably a wireless router as well so the hassle of wires is eliminated. The reason for needing an internet connection is that it is essential for effective communication via e-mail to customers especially as well as employees.
- Windows XP SP2: This is one of the latest operating systems and also the most common therefore I don’t think the customers will have any problems with it and neither will the employees because they are probably already used to using these at home.
- Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003: Once again I don’t think this will be a problem because it is the most common software package used for the purpose of word processing etc.
- Anti-Virus Software: Anti-Virus software is essential if the computers are to remain in good working order because since the turn of the century, there has been a surge in the amount of viruses sent via emails and also on certain websites. I suggest Norton Anti-Virus as it is one of the renowned names in anti-virus software.
Now that I know that the equipment available is sufficient, I need to make sure that the end user is able to make use of the system’s complete potential.
The end user will be Mr. Sharma of course and his five employees. However their purposes will be quite different. The way that they will differ will be that the employees will only use the system to enter data regarding the invoices and customer details whereas Mr. Sharma will probably use the system to calculate monthly/annual sales, profits etc. Mr. Sharma should be able to edit the spreadsheets from past dates but obviously the employees should not be able to because this could mislead Mr. Sharma into thinking that he is making a profit when in actual fact he could be going into loss. No matter how easy my solution is, it will require a firm understanding of IT. To prevent misconceptions and problems with the computers in the near future, I will specify exactly how much the end user needs to be ‘in touch’ with computers, because this is after all, a computer based system.
End User Skills:
Mr. Sharma is an MCSE professional since the year 2000, but has not been ‘in touch’ with computers since therefore he is at a certain disadvantage when it comes to using the latest software in IT. Fortunately, he is quite familiar with Microsoft Word because he regularly uses it to type up letters to send to his customers and also because he has worked as a clerical assistant in the very early stages of his career. For the same reason he is also familiar with Microsoft Excel but he can only perform simple functions such as ‘SUM’. Therefore I will try to create a solution which is the least bit complex. Providently, if one or more of his employees is on leave, his understanding of computers is more than enough to assist a customer to buy car/parts should the need arise. As far as the more complicated functions are concerned, I will advise Mr. Sharma to ask his employees to explain these functions to him. The most prominent end user (Mr. Sharma) will need to access to all the spreadsheets containing records of daily sales etc. And he should be able to alter these whereas the less prominent end users (his employees) will only need to access the present day’s files in order to enter customer information, sales and check prices. All end users need to have access to the internet to research prices from competing businesses in the area to keep their prices competitive but only Mr. Sharma should be able to actually alter the prices of their stock, discount percentages etc. (if some of the employees cannot be trusted to only visit appropriate websites then net filters can be installed). Company affiliates such as the account would most probably already be qualified to be able to view/asses those documents so no training is needed for them. For my solution to in any way benefit the end users, I need to acknowledge their requirements.
End User Requirements:
Some of the requirements need Mr. Sharma to perform some of those harder functions, he can ask one of his employees to assist him in doing do. Mr. Sharma came up with the following requirements:
- “I need an automated process which calculates the total sales for the day, profit made etc.”
- “I want to be able to have automatic stock update of all cars as well as parts.”
- “I want to greatly reduce the amount of time spent producing an invoice and totalling at the end of the day, this would leave me a large amount of valuable time concentrate on some of the more broader aspects of the business such as expanding it.”
- “I need a template of both the customer contact form and the sales/invoice form so that the same data can be stored onto the hard drive.”
The objectives stated above are enough to tell me exactly what my solution for this company needs to include.
After acknowledging the requirements, I can conclude that the new computer based system must be remarkably superior to the previous paper based system. Most importantly, it needs to be much more automated than its predecessor. For the new system to be more automated, I have made a list of tasks to be carried out by the new system as well as the processing which must take place:
Objectives for Stock Spreadsheets (Quantitive/Qualitive):
- The application needs to run from the Hard Disk.
- To make it user friendly, a welcome screen should be displayed along with the company logo.
- Next, it should ask the user whether s/he needs to choose if s/he wants to buy/view cars or parts. This will make it very easy and simple for the user because s/he doesn’t have to find their own way around; they are directed at every stage about what to do. The different parts of the spreadsheets should not take long to load because there are suppose to be no large files e.g. images, animations etc.
- When the customer proceeds into choosing a car or part from a particular make (leading to separate screens which are easily navigable back and forth), there should be a measure set up whereby it will automatically update the new models available and if the customer wishes to have additional modifications on the car (spoiler etc.). If something is purchased, the stock should also be updated. Any additions which need to be made to the price such as tax is to be calculated automatically (17.5% of the price added onto the original price). All other calculations which are to be made need will be made automatically using formulas created by me and are only alterable by the most prominent end user (Mr. Sharma). This once again makes the system very user friendly because no one actually has to insert their own formulas or calculate anything by themselves.
- Once the customer has decided what they want to buy, the purchase will be added to that day’s sales along with the customer information and the stock will be updated instantaneously.
- The system needs to be very user friendly and has to be very easy to use.
Objectives for Forms (Quantitive/Qualitive):
- A professional looking letter head needs to be introduced and should be kept constant for the customer information and the payment form. It also needs to include a small space near the bottom for Mr. Sharma’s signature as a sign of authorisation.
- Both forms need to be precise in the information that they are needed for recording as well as being user friendly at the same time.
- To reduce the amount of time required to fill out the form (hopefully by about 50%) it should be filled in on the computer itself.
- No large files are to be attached (e.g. an image) to the forms as this would greatly increase the time it takes for the files to load (because the amount of RAM available is not enough to be able to load large files in a short amount of time).
Hence I will carry out my coursework according to my needs and start building it from Microsoft excel.