Designing a booking system for an Estate Agent.

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Joan de Guzman                ICT

Background and Investigation

1.1 An introduction to the organisation.

My client is Burnet Ware Sales & Lettings and they are an Estate Agent. Burnet Ware Sales & Lettings is an independent company which was established in 1882. They are based in South London with locations including Herne Hill, East Dulwich, and Surrey Quays. The company deals with residential sales or property, lettings, surveying and management. The purpose of the organisation is to offer their clients up-to-date lettings, sales, marketing and management services. The employees’ jobs also involve giving advice on buying or selling, letting or renting. For residential sales the organisation offers their clients free advice and valuations including feedback on viewings and updates on the progress of their sales and this is a no sale no fee arrangement. The managers visit the houses that are going to be put on sale and the property negotiators take the clients for viewing of properties. For Letting and Management they offer client a variety of properties to rent or to buy depending on their choices. They also offer full and part management services for landlords, as well as a tenant only facility. The organisation is a member of professional bodies for estate agents such as the NAEA (), ARLA (), and RICS () so clients are assured that the estate agent is a professional and regulated agent that offers quality service.

Burnet Ware Sales & Lettings is a very competitive company with high objectives. The approximate houses they sell a year are 500 and 200 minimum. The company has an approximate of 25 employees. The main office is located in Surrey Quays and has 11 employees and other branches have 3-4 employees spread out. My main contact will be Raj Tevari who is a good friend of mine. He is the associate sales director who deals will all the matter relating to the sales division at Burnet Ware and the branch that he works at is at Herne Hill which is the branch that I will be creating a new system for.

1.2 A description of the current system (or existing situation) and its environment.

As mentioned from above the branch that I will be creating a project on is the office located at Herne Hill. The office has 10 computers that are password protected which are linked to a central server. They use these to communicate internally and externally through the use of email. They also use these to store valuable information of the clients that they deal with. When storing client details they use database system storing information that they need to know such as email, phone numbers, address client names, and which type of properties they are looking to buy. This information is stored so that the negotiators are able to keep in contact with the client and to search for suitable properties for the clients to view. They also use a database system to store information on their employees including valuable private information such as the negotiators names, addresses, telephone numbers, emails, work duty rotas, their position in the company and how long they have been employed etc. The paper based documents such as property details and contracts are kept in a locked filling cabinet. Also several copies of contracts are kept in various locations and a central location in case a natural disaster might occur. Documents are saved on the computer are backed up on a weekly basis by using the central server.         

The booking system to keep a record of time and viewings for properties is still a paper based system. This is what my project is going to deal with. To keep a record of the time of the viewings scheduled they log the information using a diary with the date/times that the client wishes to view a property and with which negotiator. This situation can be very hard at times as there are many disadvantages with having a paper based booking system. A big disadvantage is that this doesn’t prevent double booking. Several clients might book for a same time of property viewings but also with different negotiators. This will create a problem with the organisations time management as one would have to give up their time slot also creating disappointment for the other client. Also having a paper based make rooms for human errors and is also hard to organise as some people’s handwriting are not easy to read.

The diary that is used to keep the information could also be lost or misplaced which would cause hassle to the company as they wouldn’t know which clients and properties are booked. The diary also doesn’t contain a specific time table which as stated would not prevent double bookings. These are most of the problems that my contact has stated from using a paper based booking system. Every end of the day the diary is kept and locked safe in a filling cabinet. Nobody specific is in charge of the diary as every working day it is placed in an individual table where the negotiators come over to write appointment details. The negotiators have specific jobs to be carried out. From the four employees that work at the branch of Herne Hill there is an administrator, Negotiator, Sales Manager and Sales Associate. Although specific role involves different tasks there aren’t enough employees in the branch which means they are trained to do other simple tasks such as showing clients around however the main person that is responsible for this is the negotiator. For evaluation of properties the person responsible for this is the Sales Manager. For details of what each job title involves look at 1.3 Identification of client and users.

1.3 Identification of client and users.

The client is Burnet Ware Sales & Lettings and the users will be the employees at the office of Herne Hill as this is the branch that I will be creating a bookings system for. The system is only for these internal users. My main contact for the client is Raj Tevari. He will be one of the users of the proposed booking system as well as other four employees who all have different roles within the company. Daira Freipica is the administrator, Matt Flay is a negotiator, Vince Spoto is the sales manager and Raj Tevari is the sales associate. The administrator is responsible for typing, emailing contacts, preparing details and filing. The negotiator is responsible for showing the properties, negotiating offers and making appointments whilst the Sales Manager is responsible for taking on properties, liaising with clients and progressing sales whilst the Sales Associate is deals with the whole sales within the company, publicity and the image. Regardless of the job title everyone has the duty of carrying out bookings for clients and taking the clients for property viewings. All of the employees within the company are technical users. All of them will be technical users of the proposed system as I asked in the interview the jobs that the employees are responsible of. Each role involves specific tasks but as mentioned before there aren’t enough employees within the branch. This is why they are trained to do several simple tasks as well as their own. Raj said that everybody is responsible for booking a client. So everybody is involved with the system.

The organisation communicates internally and externally through the use of email.

They have sufficient ICT skills to work Microsoft programmes such as Word, Publisher and PowerPoint. They also have a basic knowledge of how to use Microsoft access but further explanation would still be needed to explain on how the system would work. Whilst talking to Raj I asked whether they have an organisational chart structure and he answered no. All the workers are on the same level and they work independently whilst still keeping in contact with colleagues.

The audience are the clients who booked an appointment for property viewings. They will require printed appointment slips when they come to arrange appointments in the office in person. This would mean that the system would need to be able to produce appointment slips in form by creating forms using access. The appointment slip should include the time and date of appointment, with which negotiator and the address of properties that they will be viewing on that day.

1.4 A business case (reasons) for change.

The problem is that the company’s visit booking system is paper based. There are many problems with this as this doesn’t prevent double booking. This might be difficult as several clients might book for a same time of property viewings but also with different negotiators. Another obvious problem is that there will always be room for human errors especially with hand writings as some will be difficult to read. The diary that is used to keep the information could also be lost or misplaced which would cause hassle to the company as they wouldn’t know which clients and properties are booked. The diary also doesn’t contain a specific time table which as stated would not prevent double bookings. A double booking is likely to occur as the diary doesn’t have a clear layout and a timetable. The diary does contain tables but this only sorts to date where they write information of the appointment. Writing information would be time consuming compared to if they were to use a computer system. This is because they would have to write contact information; address, telephone number etc. and details on which properties the clients are looking to view. If they had a computer system this would be easier as the details would already be stored in the system. Also another problem with having a paper based booking system is that it is vulnerable to damage e.g. spilled coffee. Several diaries would also be needed to be kept because each diary would run out of space. This will take up space and it will be difficult to look up information as you have to go through several pages unlike with a database where you can create commands to find history or specific information by date. Another problem which I found out from the investigation is that at times the employees have a habit of writing appointment details on post its and just sticking them onto their computer screen. This means that this could get lost and the employees would forget which appointment they would have and with which client.  

To solve this problem I will be creating a visit booking system for the company. The solution will be matched to the client’s requirements that I garnered from carrying out an interview with my contact Raj Tevari. Their main requirement is for me to develop a booking system that will replace their paper based booking system. This booking system should include the dates and times of visit and with which negotiator. My job is to meet these requirements for the client and suggest any more improvements that I could create to make the booking system more efficient to use.

The booking system will have a clear layout of the times and dates which the clients are booked for. It will also be organised according to the names of the client and negotiators, the company cars that will be used and the times of the booking and the address of the houses. This will be done to prevent human errors and double booking for the organisation. This will be more effective as the company would no longer have to use a diary to log in details which could be possibly lost. This would also save time as they wouldn’t need to copy up written details of the client as they could just type these straight away. The tables are more organised which means that the users could just click to select (for example to insert address) and this will save them time and prevent human errors. Lastly, this would solve the case of double bookings as the users would know which times and dates are already booked and with which negotiator.

1.5   Evidence of the use of relevant investigation techniques.

I will be using an interview technique to find out more information about the client and the existing system they use. I will be using this technique as it is the most effective technique to find out the specifics that the client wants and to identify the current problems that they are having with their current system. To find out the client requirements and to provide the best solution to the problem I will be an interviewing Raj Tevari who is my main contact asking several questions on how the system works within their organisation. For this I will need to construct questions that will show clear results to help me make a judgement. Another investigational technique that I would use is Observation. O will use observation to be able to analyse further how the current system works in action. This is an effective technique to find out how they are exactly using the system and to make a clear judgement whether the system is ideal to use.

I will also be personally observing the current paper based booking system in action to analyse how it works. By observing I will also be able to see what it wrong with the current system and to suggest how improvements can be made. Also by carrying out an observation I will be able to analyse user skills and which types of hardware and software the company uses. This way I will be able to know who needs explaining on how the system is going to work and take note of user skills before creating a complex system.

Here is the interview transcript that I carried out interviewing Raj. At the end of the interview I should get a clear perspective why the current system is not reliable and to be able to understand the clients requirements to be able to create a suitable solution.

Interview Transcript

  1. How many other employees do you work with in this branch?

I work with three other employees with different job titles but everyone has the same goal; to sell properties.

  1. Does everyone use computers and which type of software does the company use?

Yes. Everybody in this company uses computers as it is required. Everyone must have basic knowledge on how to use software to store and produce information. We mainly use Microsoft excel to work out calculations, present graphs and to enter figures. Microsoft Word is the most commonly used one as we use this to type letters to clients. We also use Microsoft access but to only store contact details in our database.

  1. Is there one specific person who is responsible for booking?

No. Anyone can carry out a booking depending on who picks up the phone first.

  1. Is there a specific person who is responsible for client viewings?

The best person for this would be our negotiator Matt Flay as he is responsible for showing the properties, negotiating offers and making appointments. However, anyone of us can take a client to view a property when an employee is busy or not available.

  1. When storing client information which specific details do you require?

We store details so that we can keep in contact with out clients. We obviously would need to know the specifics such as email, phone numbers, address, client names and which type of properties they are looking to buy. This just makes it easier for us as we can focus on suggesting suitable properties that they are looking for.

  1. How do you organise a client viewing?

The client calls us up and asks to view a property. We ask them which specific type of property they are looking for, the price range and the times that they are available. We then ask for these details and log the information using a diary.

  1. How do you organise which employee can take on the role of a negotiator to show them around?

Sometimes the employee who spoke to the client takes on the role of taking the client on property viewings. However, depending whether he/she is busy he/she will ask who is available and can make a substitution. This is then logged on the diary. Sometimes to remind us we stick reminder notes on our screens showing the client name and viewing times.

  1. Have you ever dealt with a double booking?

Not that I know off but maybe with my other colleagues as sometimes it is difficult because the booking information isn’t written down on the diary. We have to rely on our memory and organisation skills.

  1. So you do not have a booking system?

Not a proper system. We just use paper base as I mention we use a diary. However, a new booking system will be much efficient and useful as this would be more organised and can store information for future reference.

  1. When taking the clients for property viewings do you use your own cars or does the business have its own company cars?

Sometimes we don’t really need cars as the properties are off walking distance but we do have 3 company cars which we could use to take the clients for property viewings.

  1. Do any of the employees within the Herne Hill Branch have any ICT qualification?

Not any particular qualification. As mentioned from before we have sufficient knowledge on using applications such as word processing software and spreadsheets as this is the most common software used when carrying out tasks for our jobs.

  1. So what kind of interaction do you have when using computers?

Well, aside from doing our usual tasks whilst on the job to communicate with other employees, branches and the head office we often use email to send reports, presentations and other documents. Whilst off the job I assume that everyone uses the World Wide Web for leisure such as online shopping.

  1. What do you think would be useful to include in the visit booking system?

It would be good if the booking system is simple to understand for everyone to use. I think that the details that should be included are the client details and how many visitors are included which should no longer exceed by 4. This would just be easier so that the negotiator know what to expect and whether which business car to use. It would also be useful if there is an option to select the negotiators names to book for a particular booking. That would be the key requirements that we are looking for but any extra function/option would be useful to keep the booking more organise and efficient to use.  

Observation Transcript:

I went in the office to observe how they take down bookings for clients. When a client makes an appointment over the phone the negotiators sometimes takes notes on post-its writing down the details of the client such as names and contact details. If they are not in the company’s database then they are included. The negotiator asks which properties the client is interested in and they negotiate a suitable time for both client and negotiator. This is then taken down on the post it. After agreeing to the viewing the negotiator just sometimes sticks these post-its on their computer screen and forgets to take a note of the visit in the paper based booking diary. This is the same for when the client makes a booking in person. There are times when negotiators make a note of visiting times and dates on the diary but however they do not take a note of which negotiators are already visiting a property and what time. The way they confirm this is by having a conversation with fellow negotiators about which time they are booked for.

I then went on to observe the skills that each user possesses. From observing I can tell that they have sufficient knowledge working with computer applications. On a daily basis they mostly use Microsoft programmes such as Word, Publisher and PowerPoint. The most commonly used programme is Microsoft word where they create documents such as letters and memos. The users have said that they know the principle of how Microsoft Access works but further instructions and training is needed. The main hardware they use is input devices such as keyboard so they could type information and mouse so they can control any other input or output devices. Another hardware which they use is a digital camera which allows them to take pictures of their products and upload it into their website. The output devices would be the flat screen monitor so they could edit and view their designs and a LaserJet printer to print of the posters to hand out to clients for further information of properties and to be put on display on the office window. To store their data and information they store it on a hard drive which then gets backed up into another hard drive so they have two copies. 

1.6 Requirements of the client.

The client has a few requirements that they wish to be in place. However, they do not mind having extra functions to help keep the booking system more organised and efficient to use.

To construct this proposed system the main feature that it will contain is data. Data will need to be processed to give out information. The data that the system will need are the details of the client such as names, surnames, addresses, contact details, telephone numbers etc. This would be the same for the negotiator only the system will only require the Negotiators names. The database would also need to include the addresses of properties they are selling. This way when an appointment is booked the user can link the address to the system. The address will need to include its post code, House number, address 1 etc. Lastly, a data that will be needed is the information about the company cars. The company has 3 company cars. This way when booking an appointment the employee could decide on which company cars they would use for the visit. In total the database should include four tables.

The client requires:

  • Details of the client: This will need to include the name of the client that is visiting. A register system: Miss/Mr/Mrs, First Name, Surname, Contact Details, Email
  • Negotiator Names: This will be a Drop down menu with all the negotiator names so that whoever is responsible for the visit can be chosen.
  • Visitor Number: this will show how many numbers of visitors is coming to the visit. However this will have a limit of no more than 4 visitors.
  • Property Address: Post Code, House Number, Address 1
  • Forms: Booking Form, Client Registry Form
  • Reports: timetable, confirmations slips, properties in demand.  
  • Car Table: for which car they are going to use for the visit. Drop down menu of 3 Cars and an option of N/A which means that no car is required.

The client mainly requires a complete booking system that can register a client and can make a booking. There should be a client registry form where all the details can be saved. The booking form is the main requirement as this is where the bookings are made. These forms should be able to be operated by mainly clicking buttons. To act as confirmation slips and timetables, reports would need to be produced. The main requirement that the client is asking is to prevent double booking. The details above are the main components of the booking system. All of these components will be linked together to create a booking system.

Analysis and Deliverables

2.1 Project Scope

The proposed system will be a booking system that will be efficient and easier to use. The system will be used to book client appointments for property viewings. This new system will replace the old paper based system as it will be much easier for the negotiators to log details without having repeat bookings. It will be much more organised than a paper based system as it is stored and done on the computer which would make the process of booking much more efficient. The proposed system is a booking system that will prevent double bookings. It allows the user to book an appointment for a client choosing the time and date of the appointment. They are also able to select which negotiator is responsible with the appointment, which car will be used and which property the client is looking to view. This is something that the old system is not able to do as it was an unorganised paper based system.

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The new system will be using a form based systems that is operated by clicking buttons which is similar as if they were shopping online. From the background and investigation their computers are networked and linked together by a central server. This means that this will stop data duplication. The database will be set up and stored in the central server and will each be individually configured in each work station.

With the new proposed system human errors will be reduced as the database will contain validation to limit what the user can enter and to check that the ...

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