This computerised system works on software. As we have seen previously there are different softwares that can be used. Here we will see which is the best.
Software is something that can be ‘run’ on the computer to allow the computer carry out some specific tasks. The software is a program that is created so that the users can get the most out of the computer. The softwares that are chosen are from among the most famous and most commonly used ones. Thus it is according to the requirements that the system needs to be chosen. The software also should have many properties which helps the system and also it should allow the user carry out the specific tasks easily.
The documentation of the software means the papers or instructions that come with it. They have different problems that are tackled for new users. This combined with on screen help messages and computer tutorials helps the user and benefits him even if he does not know how the particular software is run. Only two types of softwares have documentation. One is the application specific software and the other general purpose software. The custom designed can also have documentation but it is not practical, as we will see later on.
1. Application Specific. This refers to the software that has been designed specifically for a certain purpose. The packages that usually include only this software or other software that is linked with it so data can be transferred. This means it is part of integrated software. They usually have documentation and help messages so the user finds it easy to use the software. In this system for example the need is for a package that can combine letter writing, stock keeping and finances. This way this software is very good to use.
2. General Purpose. These packages or softwares can be used in a variety of general situations such as name entry, date entry, etc. This is a common aspect and is dealt with by this software. This way the software that is used is usually used in systems that are only partially computerised because only parts of the menus are used for the actual purpose. It does have documentation and also comes bundled with other general purpose applications. However it cannot exchange data with application specific because it does have all the features of that particular package. They are used by users that are using computers for the first time and if the system is not too complex.
3. Custom designed. This software are designed by analysts and engineers. This takes time as the system analysts have to prepare all the programs on flowcharts and then have to actually design the system. There is no specific documentation because the designers usually explain to the user by actually showing how the system works so the software does not require documentation. Even so it is not practical to type out so many pages of documentation because it takes time and may not cover all aspects of the system and errors of the system. If the business asks for an addition or an update only the designer himself can do it.
Now we will select the software packages that can be used for this and which ones fit into one of these categories.
We will only compare with the application specific software and the general purpose softwares because the custom designed already have bee ruled out. This is because:
* Custom designed software has no documentation so the user depends on only verbal explanation
* The software does not have updates installed easily. This again has to be programmed.
* The software takes a long time to develop.
* The software is costly because it is original and it is being used for only one purpose.
* Errors take a long time to understand and also take time to correct because the software has to come into practice if the mistakes are to be known.
* Most Custom Designed software is based on the principles of Application Specific and General Purpose Applications.
Found only in professional software.
Yes. Available in all software
Data should be mobile
Yes but to a certain extent because the menus cannot be the same for different software.
Yes. Menus and the data can be copied in the same way.
Depends on data type supported
Yes. Uses validation procedures.
Easy to enter large amounts of data
Yes. But some may not be able to because of the lack of professional options.
Yes. Easily available because it has both amateur and professional options
Easy to generate results
Depends on the software used, if the software company has enabled that feature or not.
Yes. It is part of all the application specific softwares.
Easy to space out and read data manually
Yes. It is available in the general spreadsheet programs.
Interaction with other programs
Yes but only those that are included in its package.
Yes, but has file types that can be used on software outside the package.
Sorting of data
Possible but this is also very basic.
Yes and gives many options for sorting and filtering data.
As we can see the main problem with the General Purpose applications is that they do not have enough features to match those provided by the Application Specific softwares. This makes the obvious choice the Application Specific software types. Other important features that are included are:
1. The data that is stored is undivided and can be viewed altogether so there is not time is switching back and forth between records.
2. It is tried and tested by many international companies for the same needs and it has been successful.
3. It is more reliable and the updates are also helpful, unlike the General Purpose softwares.
Now that the software type has been chosen, we can now list the softwares that come under this category and the most suitable one for this application.
The softwares that will be compared here are
1. Microsoft Excel
3. Lotus 1-2-3
Organised collection of data (viewing and entry- spreadsheet software)
Easy to use and adapt to
Easy to program validations
Updates easily available
Most used software
Easy to understand features
Easy transfer of data between different sections of the software
Colour for different fields
Editions designed with different company views and usage
Option for improvement to complex designs
Easy to enter calculation formulae
Most reliable and robust
One other major difference is that Sage has different softwares for different company sizes and so if the business grows then new software has to be taken and then all the data has to be updated. In Lotus there is no special feature for companies while Excel there is are features and functions that can apply to different companies because it has mainly been created with the businesses in mind. Lotus also works best when combines with Excel so the best software to use in this case is Excel.
There are a few more points about Excel:
* Microsoft developed it, thus making it reliable.
* It has been used for many years by many businesses that rely heavily on stock and financial solutions.
* It is usually sold as part of the MS Office package that contains a word processor, spreadsheet program, database software and also presentation software. Nowadays it also comes with Internet Explorer, used to navigate the Internet.
* It can be updated to quite easily since Microsoft updates it every year.
Some features of Microsoft Excel include:
* Validations that allow the user to enter criteria and also the error messages that will appear when the wrong data is entered. This can be applied for one field or for many different fields.
* The data can be entered in a particular way by choosing the Format fields option.
* The data that fits into a certain criteria can be highlighted to catch the user’s attention.
* Pivot Tables are used to show the goods that are there in stock and where they are located.
* Filter helps the data only that the user wants will be displayed so there is no waste in time.
* Macros allow the sheets to be linked to together.
* Vlookup allows the data to be easily transferred from sheet to sheet.
* Charts are used to show the progress of the business and also to find how they have fared for different items.
* Passwords to protect the spreadsheet.
* Goal Seek to find out the amount required to reach a certain value, very good to achieve sales targets.
* SubTotal to find the totals divided according to some fields.
So we can see why Excel has been chosen.
The operating system is also a software that is sued in the computerise system. Excel will use this operating system to allow us to interact. It is also used for many purposes.
The operating system that has to be chosen has to have the following:
a) It should create a suitable working environment for the user and for the chosen software package. This means that the chosen software should work well and should be compatible.
b) It should control the peripherals so the user can leave the computer on and the system should continue its task.
c) Control the loading and running of different programs, especially the software packages that have been chosen.
d) It should allow interactive use of the computer, since this makes the processing faster.
e) Reliable. The operating system should be stable. It should not give too many errors and it should have good capability.
f) GUI Interface. This means that the software should allow the user to see clearly and distinguish clearly by adding colour and graphics.
g) It should be support real time processing and also batch processing. This is so that the data can be retrieved there and then and also if the company has further requirements, is should be flexible.
The operating system that fits all these criteria is Microsoft Windows. It is mainly selected because it is flexible and compatible with many softwares. These softwares include the MS Office package that we will use. It also provides security and it has different editions. Any version is alright to use such as XP, 2000, etc. But XP is not usually used because it has a lot of advanced features that are not practical for amateurs. But for a business these can be used because it improves the security of the system on whole. Microsoft has been known for making Windows for a long time and many clients use it. It also supports other features such as networking that the company may use later on. It has GUI. This means that it allows the user to interact with the graphics on screen. The other good thing about Windows is that it does support the real time processes along with the batch processing. But if the computer shuts down or there is some mistake, the data will not be lost. It will be stored as a Rescued file and can be used again. It also automatically files from other softwares in this way.
Thus the best operating system that is used is Microsoft Windows.
Other essential software includes anti virus software. This is for the protection of data. This I have discussed in the section, Back Ups and Security.
The hardware to be used in this system has to be appropriate. This is because the hardware includes all the actual components of the system. This will allow the user to do several things such as manipulate the data, enter the data and print it or save it. It is important that the components of the system have to be in line with the system and the user expects of the system
The hardware in this case lists the configuration of the computers to be used all throughout the system.
Pentium 4 2.4 GHz
80 GB HDD
128 MB RAM
Floppy Disk drive
6 MB VGA Card
Printer- Ink Jet
Monitor – Standard
Pentium produces the best processors today. They are very popular as well as reliable. The processor carries data to and fro between the hard disk and the other parts of the system. If it has a good speed, the data transfer will take place, actions will be quicker and the data is processed faster.
The use of the high memory disk is because the user will need to store a lot of his data in the computer so there has to be enough space to allow him to do this. Since the company is a big one, the user expects to have a lot of data in graphical form also which means that there should be enough space for him to store it. The user will also be recording details of past years so the data has to be saved for reference. Even this will need a lot of place. Thus, we are going to use a memory disk capacity.
The MB RAM defines the amount of data the computer can process at a time and which it can hold temporarily while the computer is running. In this system there will be a few softwares that will be working but not too many so the chosen RAM should not be too high nor too low. 128 MB RAM is perfect for this system.
Floppy disks and CD-ROMS will be used for back up storage in case of any damage to the original data.
Printers will be used to print reports at the end of the year. The user may also use it for printing invoices or bills. The ink jet printer has been used here because the company has to print good reports and also good bills. They do not need a laser printer because they are not printing any graphics. It is just reports involving finances but even then it should look respectable and so the ink jet printer is used.
VGA Cards are used to make the display on screen better. But we do not need a high memory VGA Card because the data is only letters and numbers and there are no graphics on screen that the user will use.
Mouse, keyboard and scanner are all part of input. They are used to input the data and then manipulate it. The keyboard will be most required here because most of the data input will be through the keyboard. The mouse will only be used to change functions or features or to operate the system as a whole. The scanner will be used to scan invoices that may have come from other companies or to scan records.
The monitor will be used to display the data on screen. This will allow the user to make changes on hand and not to waste time printing and checking the data. It will be done on the spot on the monitor. No LCD screens are required because there is no fine detail to be displayed when the data is prepared, so a standard monitor is enough.
This hardware configuration is perfect for the system. It will allow the user to enter, manipulate and print the data as required.
Back Up and Security
Back Ups are very important in any system. This is because without back ups the system is prone to deletion and manipulation. Once the data has been entered, the data can easily be changed. This way the company will not know when the data is changed and where. It will again be a long process to check and rectify the mistakes. The back up here means that we will use other storage devices such as floppy disks and CDs to store the data and to provide as a back up in case something happens to the original. Then the original can then be stored in place of the damaged files. The files can be manipulated by any unauthorised personnel and even damaged by events such as a fire, etc. this way there is no cover for the data and it all maybe lost very easily. So back ups are used so that nothing like this happens. The data is changed almost everyday according to the need of the company. So the back up should be updated everyday or whenever, the change takes place. This applies even to the stock because the stock also changes everyday. Back Ups will prove beneficial because it protects the data by allowing to be replaced and also provides the cover required.
Back Ups can also be used to guard against virus although they cannot prevent it. Virus is a program that copies itself and can destroy important files that are crucial to the running of the system. This way all the data can again be lost. By backing up the data, even if the data gets affected, the back up can be used to replace it and also start from the user had left off. No time is wasted this way.
Security here means that the data has to be secure for use and also protected from manipulations. Backing up the data covers security in one way and another way is to use passwords. Passwords can be used so that no unauthorised personnel can enter the system and manipulate the data. Passwords have a user name that corresponds to it but in this case, there will be more then a few users so to keep a track of all the passwords and user names it will be difficult. So a single common password is used and that is changed every now and then. This changing of the password will also be helpful if someone from outside will come to know the password. The data is well protected by the password as we have seen.
The next form of security has to be guarding against viruses. Viruses destroy files and can cause damage to the system and its overall running. So here we have to use appropriate software. The best software to use in this application is the Norton Antivirus. This detects and removes viruses instantly. It also checks for the virus on disks and removes them there and then. Hacking is also a major problem nowadays. Hackers can take control of the computer and then change the data in the files and can control the system. Since this system does not use any network connections, there is no need for this software.
The security of the data is very important. This is because the data is the primary source of information to the basics of the company. Every little financial and stock detail is stored on the computers. When there is a virus, one user should tell the other user so that the virus is not spread in the entire system. This helps protect the rest of the computers from getting a virus.
As we have seen, the security of the data is very important. The back ups of the stock and financial details should be taken every day so that the company can always copy back the data, if they feel that the data is inaccurate somewhere. The anti virus software has to be updated also because there are new viruses appearing everyday. If the system is updated everyday, then the back ups should be taken everyday.
We will collect data from the owner and some other people involved with the business. This will help us to understand the system and will also allow us to design a system that can cater to their needs directly. This will also help us to understand what work is involved and what the user wants to computerise. The software used will be MS Excel so it is necessary what sheets to use and what all data the user wants to be entered.
First we will be talking to Mr. Fahim, the owner of the business.
Q. Good Morning, Mr. Fahim. I would like to ask you a few questions about your system. I would like to know what system do you currently have?
A. Right now we have a manual system, where every part of the system we do by hand.
Q. How long have you had this system?
A. I have had this system for many years. I think it has been almost two decades.
Q. Are there any reasons to believe that this system is not as good as it looks?
A. There are plenty of reasons for me to think so. First of all the system is very slow. This is because the people are actually writing out every minute detail. So obviously, the data entry is slower. Then there is the problem of understanding the handwriting. There is also the problem of losing the files and also there is the problem of mistakes made by my staff. These are only a few problems that I can name.
Q. What other problems are you experiencing at the moment?
A. Just now, we had our annual stock taking. This took us a long time and our data was inaccurate. Our overall stock was in negative numbers. The outputs done by my staff were not good enough. But I don’t’ blame them. I personally feel the system is not good enough.
Q. Why haven’t you changed the system before this?
A. I haven’t done so because I couldn’t think of a reliable system to choose from. Every system had some faults and some areas of the business that would remain the same.
Q. I would like to know if there is a lot of data storage on your system?
A. There is a lot of data entry in the system.
Q. What all kinds of data do you enter?
A. Basically we divide the data into two parts. One is the financial and one is related to stock. This way it is easy for us to enter the data and also to retrieve it. The data that we enter involves the number of cartons of items, cost prices and also of the profits and also of the stock in hand.
Q. So you do this only for one branch?
A. Yes we do this only for one branch. One branch has one warehouse and one showroom so there is not much confusion. If there is need, we ask the staff in the other locality what the stock condition is and to prepare the reports for stock.
Q. So do you also import goods from your other branches?
A. No we don’t. We like to order directly from the agency. We save time and money by doing so. We also ask the staff in the other branches to do the same.
Q. Where all do you have branches?
A. We actually have many branches. But I would like to computerise the systems only in Tehran, Dubai, Ajman, Chicago and Amsterdam. This is because the rest of the branches do not have as many items as these warehouses and showrooms.
Q. Do these branches all have the same stock details?
A. Yes all of them have the same details relating to stock and finance.
Q. Is there any difference I should know about particularly between the branches?
A. Yes. Some items of stock are present in some branches while some do not. They have some items that are not the same. This way the items are properly divided and the agencies and keep supplying us the goods.
Q. What back ups are part of the system and what security is there?
A. There is no back up. This is because the staff does not have enough time to write the data all over again. Besides this there is no security because we have to keep all the files in a cupboard or in a shelf and then lock the room. But this can be easily broken and anybody can enter. So basically there is no security and the back ups would take a lot of time so we don’t opt for this.
Q. What other details can you give me of the system that you would like?
A. I would like a system in which the data can be entered faster and also the data can be viewed easily. There should be fewer mistakes and the data should be kept secure. This information is vital to our system and also for our company. The outputs should be more professional and also the data should be protected against damage.
Q. What system can you think of?
A. As I have said, there is no system that fully incorporates the needs of my system. However, there is the computerised system as you have mentioned. This system is good because I see that it completely fulfils the needs of my system. Also it allows to make changes as much as I want and also is good because I have seen people from big companies using it.
Q. How do you know when to re-order the goods?
A. The accountants and the store keepers keep a track of all the goods every now and then and then the see if the reorder level has been reached and they write out invoices and then send them to the company.
Q. What if they transfer goods to the warehouse or from it?
A. They have to fill out the documents related to it so that the warehouse keeper knows just exactly what changes have been made to the stock.
Q. What does the store keeper do in the warehouse?
A. He checks the actual amount of items in the warehouse and also informs the salesmen of the stock level so that they can order it again. This way he also helps during the stock taking.
Q. What exactly takes place during your stock taking?
A. During the stock taking, the staff makes sure that the proper stock is taken of the goods and also they have report how many sales have been made and what good they have sold. According to this, the staff in the office, makes reports regarding what items are there and what items bring good profit. This they report to me directly.
Q. What other reports does the staff usually generate?
A. They don’t generate many reports. They usually sort the data so that I can read the data better. They write the data on paper and then I file it from year to year and I keep referring to it from time to time for comparison.
Q. On normal days, what does the staff do at the end of the day?
A. At the end of the day, the cashier collects the money, checks the amount and then writes it down. This is kept for reference to the bank records that come at the end of the month. The bills that have been collected go to the office so that the staff there can check the data and then enter it in the accounts.
Q. So you think that that the computerised system will help you?
A. Lets hope so. I have seen computers being used to the full extent in most companies and I think they should be beneficial for us.
Q. What part of the system would you like to be computerised first?
A. I would like part of the financial and part of the stock part of the system to be organised for office use. This way I will know if the system will be good for use and also if my staff is suited to it. Since these two parts go together in the system, they have to be entered together.
The next interview is Mr. Henry, the head of the office staff.
Q. Good Morning Mr. Henry. I know that you are the head of office staff. What is your role in the business?
A. My role basically is to monitor the progress of the office staff. The office staff has a lot of duties to do and they have to be approved by me before going to Mr. Fahim.
Q. What does the office staff do?
A. The office staff is responsible for entering all the data into the account book and the stock ledgers. They also are responsible for collection of data at the end of the day from the showroom. They also have to make out cheques to the agencies at the particular date. They also have to see to it that the warehouse stock is in control. They have to also produce reports and sort the data at the end of the financial year.
Q. What kind of data do you enter?
A. The staff enters data according to stock and finance. The stock is entered according to the stock sold and stock in hand from the stock purchased. The finance part involves the cost price and the sales and the total profit.
Q. How do you sort the data?
A. We sort the data according to whatever Mr. Fahim wants. It can be anything related to stock and profit. We sort the data according to highest and the lowest values.
Q. So what else does the staff output?
A. The staff also has to check the output according to the profits, the most profits and the most number of goods sold. We usually use bar graphs to represent this.
Q. Is the system you are working with comfortable?
A. It is not at all comforting.
Q. Why do you think so?
A. First of all it takes us time to enter the data and also it takes time to check the entries. So we prefer not to check them. Then at the end of the year, we usually find a lot of mistakes. We also are unable to spend some time analysing the system and the sales. We are also unable to provide the customers with accurate details regarding the stock and the cost prices. So we are falling behind on many places. Sometimes we are also unable to make out cheques because the entries have not yet been made. So as you can see the system does not comply with our needs.
Q. What does your staff think?
A. My staff also thinks the same way. They also think that their duty time should be made shorter because completing their work takes them a lot of time.
Q. What possible solution do you have in mind?
A. According to me the company should either hire more office staff or deploy a computerised system. By employing more staff we will have more people so the work would be faster but by using the computerised system, we will not have as many people but the work will be done faster. So I would rather prefer the computerised system to everything else.
Q. Do you also deal with data from other branches?
A. Actually the stock never transfers but we do try to get some of the office work transferred so that even they have a good idea what our stock situation is and also to get rid of some excess work.
Q. Do you think that you would adapt well to a computerised system?
A. I think I should be able to. It has the same alphabets and once I understand it I’m sure I’ll be able to use it.
We can clearly see from the above interviews and the questionnaires that the staff does not like the current system. Form this we can also see the following things:
> They have long duty hours and this does not bode well for the company because the morale is low.
> The system is slow and does not support the work that they do.
> Outputs are not professional and this is also not good for the reputation of the company.
> The owner is not able to analyse his business as well as he should be able to.
From this we can also see that it is absolutely necessary to change the system. As we have selected the computerised system, we will move ahead and see how the system has to be designed. This we will see next.