I have chosen the Sunshine Health guesthouse, which is situated in Basildon, Essex. It was introduced last year. They have established their name in no time at all. They do face competition from holiday Inn and other senior guesthouses or hotels in the local area; it has 50 rooms in total (some single and double). It is considered to be a luxurious guesthouse in its area. However what makes it popular is that it is only 5km away from pizza hut, cinemas and other family recreations. Most of its customers come from surroundings area like Stanford-le-hope, Brentwood, Orsett, Billericay, and Grays etc. Majority of them come on behalf of their company for business meetings and conferences on weekdays, there fore all payments are done by their company credit card. On weekends there are more tourists and holiday seekers.
I have identified the sunshine health guesthouse as a potential client for my database project. This is because as this hotel was opened last year, it is probably not too familiar with using a computerized system to operate its business. Therefore I will create a relational database to solve all their problems in managing their business. How ever I will be using different methods of research to identify their problem in further detail. Of course once I have understood their problem in great detail it would be easier for me solve it to a grater extent.
Sunshine health Guesthouse is a guesthouse, which has 50 rooms. There are single and double rooms including en-suites. The rooms are of quite luxurious size designed to maximise user comfort. It is always booked however because it is located close to family recreations. Therefore is considered to be a holiday spot. So the bookings in time of holidays are done well in advance.
What do I need to know?
Before I can create the relational database for the company I need to know how the company stores their data or records, to do this I will be using two different research methods to find about them in great detail. By doing this I will get to know a lot about their company which will help me to understand and eliminate their problems to a greater extent. I will then need to relate to the problems that are associated with their current system before I can start to create their database.
From the interview I found that most of the bookings done by their customers are stored in registers i.e. the company relies on a complete manual system. Whenever a new booking is made, all the customer information is stored in registers. These details are written manually into a book a full of customer details. The company has used this book for years. The manager of the company is now coming to grips with the problems faced by this manual method of data handling. The guesthouse has enough bookings per day so therefore it becomes a tiring activity to keep filing in the details. As the data has to be re written again whenever a booking is made.
Problems with the current system
This system of data handling has presented many problems to the company. In recent times the company has been a victim of problems such as:
> Misplaced data due to human error on the event
> Difficulty in managing the records of customers
> Rewriting all the customers details every time a booking is done
> Time consuming to refer back to their orders for references and too much time taken on each order
> Data being stolen as well
The company started to lose their customers due to very slow service and a lack of management. They were not able to cope with the amount of bookings placed through.
What I plan to do?
I plan to first identify the guesthouse as a potential client (which I have in the introduction paragraph above) then I plan to collect data from the company to find out their current method of data storage by using any method of data collection e.g. interview, survey, etc. After collecting the information I need from the interview I will put a list together of user requirements they will need. After identifying the user requirements in detail, I then plan to state the system specifications they will need to purchase in detail I will identify a complex problem that the company would need to concern themselves with (this is basically the idea of taking data from one application into another i.e. a mail merge) Below is a summarised flow chart of what I plan to do in my analysis
Summarised flow chart to show what I plan to do in my analysis
Method of data collection
This is arguably the most important section of the analysis because the method of data collection has to be good enough to give us all the information we need to work effectively in the project. I plan to look at all options of data collection before I reach to any conclusions. The methods of data collection open to me are Questionnaire, Survey, Interview, Internet research and personal observations. So lets start off by comparing one method of data collection with another in order to spot out the most effective one and easy to do for me.
Some advantages associated with questionnaire as a method of data collection are
* The responses that we gather from a questionnaire are in more standardised manner, so in a way there are more objective
* Generally it is relatively quick but it can take a lot of time to layout and design the questionnaire in the first place before putting it into practice
* Capability to collection information from a large portion of a group if they are delivered are responded in on upon time
Some disadvantages associated with questionnaire are
* It could occur after the event which means participants may forget important issues
* They are standardised which means that if a questioned in misinterpreted by the user then there are no guidelines on the sheet to explain to them
* Some open ended questions may produce a variety of answers which may take a long time to process and analyse, however we could limit this by limiting the space we give to the user to a minimum
* The user may not be willing to answer the questions because they may feel that we will not benefit from the answers and so may not always end up with the right answer
As we can conclude from the paragraph above that it has more disadvantages then advantages therefore may not be the most accurate method of the data collection.
Some advantages for using the survey method are
* Surveys are generally inexpensive
* They can be administered from remote locations using mail, telephone
* Some standardised questions may give more precise answers from the user
Some disadvantages with the survey are
* Surveys can be inflexible in that the designs remains unaltered throughout the data collection
* It must be ensured that a large number will reply to a selected sample
* It may be hard for users to recall information if it is after the event
* It could be that the user may feel uncomfortable giving answers to controversial questions
* It is hard to determine if the user has answered truthfully
* The results could be interpreted
To conclude the survey method of data collection is not very accurate either because the disadvantages make me overlook the advantages that it has.
Some advantages for interviews are
* They can be structured which is useful to extract the desired information
* A practical advantage is cost because it is relatively cheap until using large samples
* Small samples takes less time
* The user chooses whether or not to participate means it is an ethical advantage regarding consent
* It can be regarding a wide range of issues
* They can be flexible as it can be used in different ways
* A comparative high response rate than other methods
Some disadvantages it has are
* The interview effect on many people, some get nervous and so on
* It is very difficult to repeat unsuitable for embarrassing topics
* No check on verbal responses
As we can all see it is much merrier picture comparatively in the paragraph above, which tells me that it does have disadvantages but is more accurate comparatively to other methods of data collection that I am to use to solve their problem.
Some problems associated with Internet research are
* The company concerned with may not have a website in order to find the information
* There may be no information or very scarce information about the company on the internet
* The information found may be outdated or misleading
Advantages of Internet research are
* Ease of accessibility since it can be used anywhere anytime
* Very quick to find information
* Reasonably cheap to use
As you can see it is well-balanced option but the company I am basing my project upon doesn’t own a website yet as it is completely relied upon a manual system of data storage. However there may be other background information about my company on the Internet, which could be useful to look up
Another way I could collect data is by personal observations i.e. looking at the company’s database but because it is a completely manual system that is out of option.
After considering all the possible options of data collection I plan to use the interview because I feel it would be very easy to collect the information that way for me, the interview would be made friendly enough so there is no pressure on the user to respond in any certain way. This is a very quick and direct method of collecting information; all the information can be gained on the spot. However stating that I also plan to use another method of data collection i.e. questionnaire as well. This will help to gain the maximum information about the company, which could be really useful when deciding the user requirements.
How am I going to administer the interview?
Well I plan to call up the managing director of the company asking for an appointment. After I have booked the appointment I will prepare a list of questions I need to ask them in order to gain the information. However I do believe that the interview will be bound by time restrictions so all efforts would be made to make sure that I don’t cross the time allocated. As I have said before the interview would carried out in a formal manner. A healthy atmosphere would be created to conduct the interview.
Interview questions and answers
Q – What is the active method your company uses to store and handle data?
A – Well at the present moment all the customer details, their accommodation details and their invoice details are stored in a register. The receptionist writes in all the details manually
Q – Have you ever been faced with any problems as a result of your manual system?
A – Yes plenty to mention, recently we misplaced some important customer details due to human error on the event, this however presented difficulties in managing the records of the customer. It presented problems referring back to the details for reference. All the data had to be retyped. In simple words it was a chaotic scenario to be in stuck in.
Q – How did your customers react to this chaotic scenario?
A – They were very upset. This system failure caused many to wait in queues for hours. We started getting a waterfall of complaints from the customers. The system had just gone very slow caused a tremendous them. We started losing profit due to a big draught of customers. Oh! It was simply a nightmare to go through.
Q – and finally do you see any solutions to this growing problem?
A – Yes certainly! We called a meeting with the board of directors and decided things cannot continue in this fashion. Therefore we invested an awful lot of money for the whole system to get computerized. We initially want to create a relational database to solve our problems. This system would mean a much better service to our customers. It would mean literally no manual work for our reception staff. Learning from our mistakes if the system is quick and reliable then customers would prefer to come in. This means a lot more profit for us. You know how it is happy workers, happy business! (Laughs)
Analysis of the questions
As you can see from above that the company has admitted to having problems as a result of over reliance on a manual system. It has been through a lot in a short span of time. They have also identified a relation database to solve all their problems. Although I did run of the time then the company allotted me for the interview. This is why I did not manage to touch on how they wanted their forms, tables to be designed e.g. colour schemes etc. In order to achieve this information I will be writing out a questionaire to the company. The interview went well.
After carrying out the interview and a questionaire I have managed to gather all of the company information I need in order to put a list together of user requirements. Below is a list of the user requirements
* Include a company logo
* The company colours must be used
* A copy of the each form needs to be printed
* It must be user-friendly
* Thee tables must be there: (Customer details, Accommodation/booking details, Invoice details)
* There should be queries relating to specific fields
* The look should be different in the sense it should stand out
* All membership information must be included
* Reports must include the length of their stay, their billing details and their customer information)
* There should be easy access between all forms
* Tables should be easily updated from any position
* Membership details should be able to be deleted
* Members should be listed alphabetically
* Data should take up as minimum space as possible
From the questionaire I managed to get information on all of the tables they would need for their key fields and fields
Table 1 = Customer details
* Customer Id (key field) Text
* Telephone number Number
* First name Text
* Surname Text
* Address Text
* Mobile number Number
* Email Text
* Postcode Text
Table 2 = Accommodation/ booking details
* No of rooms Text
* Type of rooms Text
* Arrival date Text
* Arrival time Text
* Departure date Number
* Departure time Number
* Duration of stay Text
* No of tables they required Number
Table 3 = Invoice details
* Cost of rooms Number
* Cost of meals Number
* Method of payment Text
* Paid by customer or by company Text
* Customer Id (Key field) Text
While creating the database I will bare in mind their user requirements above so I can meet their needs.
Input/process/Output of the current system
As said before the current system is totally dependent on manual file storage systems. I will represent the current system in a flow chart so that it is easy to understand and come to terms with its structure visually. This can also help us understand the problems they went through.
Flow chart to show the company’s current system
Input/process and output of proposed system
Now I will create a flow chart for the system I propose to them. Again this will be done in a flow chart so that it is easy to understand and comes to terms with my proposed system visually
Flowchart to show my proposed system
The desired system requirements the company need to purchase would be
* Pentium 133 MHz or faster processor (Pentium III recommended)
* Microsoft Windows 98, Me, NT 4.0, or 2000
* 32 MB RAM (64 MB for Windows 2000), plus 8 MB for each simultaneously
* running Office application
170 MB hard disk space (plus 50 MB for the System Files Update) CD-ROM drive
* Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher-resolution monitor with 256 colors
* For speech recognition: 128 MB additional RAM, close-talk microphone, and audio output device
* Graphics tablet recommended for handwriting input features
The minimum requirements required are
* 75 MHz processor
* Windows 95 OP
* 16 MB of ram
* 180mb of disk space
* High colour (16-bit display)
* CD-ROM drive
Although the company already owns
* 1 PC (Pentium 2 processor, 32mb of ram and 123 mhz)
* 1 printer
* Microsoft access 2002 and office 2002
Alternatives to software are
* IBM Lotus Software
* Delphi Software
Identifying a complex problem
During the construction of the database the company will need to identify and relate to a complex problem. A complex problem in this coursework can be classified as taking data from one application into another. The complex problem that the company would need to be aware of for is Mail merge. This means shifting the information from Microsoft Access (i.e. the database) to Microsoft Word. It involves generating lots of form letters.
There are various factors to bear in mind when creating a mail merge
* You store a list of names and addresses in one file
* In another file you write a letter substituting special symbols in place of names and addresses. For example I might choose to write Dear NAME
* If the information stored is incorrect then the word processor will automatically generate letter by replacing symbols in the second file
Here are the steps involved in creating a mail merge
* Start the Mail Merge Helper by going to Tools/Mail Merge.
* Select the type of Main Document you wish to create.
* Click Get Data to select your Data Source. There are four methods you can use for your Data Source:
* Open Data Source
* Header Options
* Select Edit Main Document. (Add all text that you want to appear with every record; and insert the appropriate merge fields using the Insert Merge Field button on the Mail Merge Toolbar)
* You can preview your data prior to performing the merge by clicking the ViewMergedData button on the mail merge toolbar.
* Prior to performing the merge, hold <Shift> and then select File/Save All. This will save the Mail Merge Main Document; and if the Data Source is a Word document, it will save that too.
* Perform the merge. Merge choices are (the options are Merge to New Document, Merge to printer, merge to email and merge to new document)
Above are the steps that I would follow when creating a mail merge for the company. It is a very useful procedure for the company because it makes things easier, more time-effective to carry out the procedure of creating form letters.
As I said before the questionaire is carried out purely on the basis of finding out the type of design they want in their forms and reports, the fields etc, Rest of the info was found out by the interview.
Would you like a company logo to be used on every report and form?
Yes/ No (circle your preference)
Would you prefer only company colors to be used?
Yes/No (Circle your preference) if yes please state what they are
Describe the colour scheme you would like in your forms, reports etc
Explain the number of tables and the types of fields you would prefer.
Would you like your form design to stay constant throughout?
All the information above would be used when creating the relation database for the company.