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Please note that this Assessment document has 5 pages and is made up of 4 Sections.
Name: Elina Malniece
Section 1 – Understand the purpose of information technology in a business environment
1. In relation to your current business environment (or one that you are familiar with), identify at least two different types of information technology that may be used when completing work tasks.
In my recent job role as a receptionist in a small country Inn/pub, there were several types of information technology used. One of those was emails. Guests were booking rooms via our web page, therefore all conformation of the bookings were received in the form of emails. One of my responsibilities was to check our email account on daily basis and take appropriate actions to sort all emails out. This could be sending booking conformation emails, deleting unnecessary Spam emails and emailing special offers and discounts to our existing customers. We also used email to communicate with our suppliers. They used to send us their special offers and discounts and confirming orders. Sometimes satisfied guests send us emails to thank the staff members and landlord for a pleasant stay. We also had a lot of regular foreign guests. As our Inn was only small, we used to get to know our regular guests quite well and on many occasions we used to receive emails with attached pictures from our foreign guests. Another type of information technology used was searching the net for information. The landlord may give me a task to find new potential suppliers or research local catering auctions.
To do so I used Google search engine to type in keywords for my research and then go through the appropriate pages found to get the best results. Sometimes I used internet research for our guest needs. They might ask for the local train times, taxi companies, locations of specific places or opening times of their chosen restaurants. We also used spreadsheets to complete work tasks. Most commonly we used spreadsheets for staff rota and attendance. All members of staff had access to staff rota spreadsheet, which they could check and edit if asked for permission and discussed it with manager or landlord. Usually, at the beginning of the working week, the manager entered all details in the staff rota spreadsheet. We favoured electronic rota system against the paper based rota system for convenience purposes. This way it was easier to edit and delete information and save on paper waste. The landlord, manager and receptionist also had an access of the staff attendance spreadsheet. Details of each staff member attendance, holidays, lateness and sick days were entered into this spreadsheet. Other staff members were not allowed to edit anything in this spreadsheet.
This system helped us to be more organised and efficient when holidays and sick pay needed to be organised. Spreadsheets were also used for other purposes that only landlord had access to. For example, accounts information, sales and stock analysis and product lists. As a part of my receptionist duties, I had to use Word processing software (Microsoft Word). I used it for writing business letters, reports, staff and customer notifications and new restaurant menus. It is much more convenient and quick then a hand written letter. You have all the necessary tools to check spelling and grammar, edit or delete errors, choose font size and place bullets and/or numbering if necessary. You can also insert tables or separate rows, choose line spacing, highlight or highlight in colour words and/or sentences and choose font colour. The important thing is to make sure the person using this software is capable and know all their options and how to use them. We also used database system. Database is considered as an electronic filing system and helps to keep things organised. We used it for guest, staff and supplier information. Guest database was only accessible to the landlord and manager. If the receptionist needed to edit or retrieve something from the guest database, permission needed to be asked.
It was for the confidentiality and security reasons as guest telephone numbers, addresses, car registration numbers and credit card details were stored there. You wouldn’t want to breach confidentiality issues of your guests and leave their personal information laying around for everyone to see. We also had a staff database which was also only accessed by few senior people. A receptionist had an access of this database too and was allowed to edit or retrieve information if necessary. The supplier database was accessed by landlord, manager and receptionist, and any other members of staff had no business accessing it as they had no dealings with suppliers. This system helped a lot to be more organised and retrieve, delete and store information more efficiently. All the members of staff and the manager had mobile phones and used mobile information technology as necessary. We used to communicate by texts or emails to inform the manager of possible staff absence. If the manager was not on duty and needed to know a particular piece of information, the receptionist would then send the information via email on his phone. This way it was easy to deal with issues quickly and efficiently even if a member of staff was not on duty at the time.
2. What are the benefits to businesses (and others) of using information technology for doing work tasks?
Information technology, in one way or another, is used in most businesses. It is hard to imagine our working and personal environment without it. There are a lot of benefits that information technology can provide. For example, emails. It would make our work and personal tasks much harder without sending and receiving emails. Information can be sent and received in seconds worldwide with a help of an email. You can attach different documents, pictures and videos if necessary. Without emails that would be very difficult. You would have to send it via post, pay more and recipient would have to wait days to receive information. If you own a business and you need to send and receive information quickly, it is a huge benefit. Also if you need to do any business research, it would be extremely difficult to get the same results that you can get using information technology. You can find addresses and phone numbers of different companies and suppliers, compare the best offers and check on ongoing sales, arrange your business travel and get the best deals by comparing different companies, communicate with any foreign clients and/or suppliers minus the cost of the phone calls( you can use skype or online chat), purchase necessary goods without leaving the office, advertise your own business on appropriate web pages, social networking sites or create your own web page, and the list goes on and on.
Administrative tasks benefit hugely from information technology, too. Documents can be written in a professional manner with the help of spelling checkers and different word processing tools. You can create great looking documents by knowing how to use these tools. Calculators, online dictionaries and thesaurus are available to help you do your work more efficiently. It is easy to amend any errors, delete any unnecessary documents, store and retrieve information fast from the electronic files. Knowing how to use databases, spreadsheets or presentation software is not only advisable for administrative roles but also essential. Some companies have large presentations and rely on devices that information technology provides. Financial and sales figures management would be twice as time consuming and inefficient without the use of spreadsheets and other information technology tools.
Use of the databases helps to create an organised and fast electronic filing system. Confidential files can also be secured by passwords to deny any unauthorised access. Choosing electronically based filing systems to store your information also cuts down on paper waste in the business environment. Arranging and confirming meetings with colleagues and communicating with suppliers is now made easy and quick by the use of information technology. Laptops, tablets and smart phones are often used by the members of staff that are not at their work stations. This way they can send and receive emails, research the net, communicate with their colleagues and check on other necessary information on the go. In a nutshell, without information technology our working environment would be less effective, efficient and organised. Things would take more time to complete and information could not be communicated as fast or proficient. Information technology allows us to be more flexible, professional and improves the quality and productiveness of our work.
Section 2 – Understand how to manage electronic and paper-based information
1. Explain the purpose of agreeing objectives and deadlines when researching information.
If possible, refer to specific examples from research tasks you have worked on to support your answer.
When doing research it is very important to agree on objectives and deadlines. If the researcher has not been given clear idea what is expected from this research it can result in misunderstandings, inefficiencies and wasted time and costs. The researcher should be given a research brief by a manager or the person requesting the research. That way it is clear to both parties what needs to be done, how the research needs to be reported and what are the deadlines. If the brief is not presented, it would be advisable for the researcher to ask the necessary questions and not to think that they look incompetent by asking. The research brief should include any valid information about the research, how detailed the research should be, any documents that the researcher should use, what is expected to be achieved by this research, how it needs to be presented, who is going to use it and for what purposes and agreed deadlines. Failing to provide this information, the researcher might misunderstand the importance, scale or usage of the research.
For example, if a manager asks a member of staff to research a possible change of companies’ supplier and make some notes, without any further clarification the researcher might translate it as, to make few notes about few companies that supply the product and write down some information in a note. Not knowing when this information is needed, the researcher might put the task aside as not urgent and hope to complete it later. The manager on the other hand might have a totally different idea. He expected to see a full, detailed, report, to present to other managers, about local companies who supply this particular product. He also expected it to be finished in five working days. When the manager approached the researcher, he obviously didn’t have the report and hadn’t even finished his research. It could be easy for the manager to blame the researcher for being incompetent and making him look bad in front of the other managers, but in this case it was the managers’ fault for not presenting the research brief and not agreeing on the deadline. Although, the researcher should have asked more questions regarding this research.
The purpose of agreeing objectives and deadlines when doing research is to avoid such situations. In my recent job role I have been asked to do a lot of different research and always have been presented with a research brief and informed about the deadline. If not, I always make a point to ask the necessary questions to get the best results and avoid misunderstandings. One time I was asked to do a research about local laundrettes that we could use for the Inn. In the research brief was specified the area I should be looking at, price range, collecting and delivery times, the format the research should be presented and the deadline. I knew that the only people reading it would be the manager and landlord and that I could use a simple informal report to present it. As a result everyone were satisfied and the research was successful. However, I used to work in an office before and on one occasion my boss asked me to research the sales figures of a particular product for the past five years. Again, the research brief was presented and deadlines agreed.
I was expected to prepare a formal report with tables and graphs and all the essential documents were supplied. I understood, that the report was meant for my boss to present to our foreign clients in a meeting. I completed my report within the deadline and was very satisfied with my work. When I presented it to my boss, he told me that he forgot to mention in the brief, that in fact, it was me who he expected to present this report in the meeting. I was in total shock because I didn’t expect it and was not prepared. He told me not to worry and that I will do just fine. I did the presentation, which did actually go very well, and my boss and clients were satisfied with my work. Although, in this case everything turned out for the best, it could just as well have turned out to be a total disaster. This shows how a little detail left unclear in the brief might change the outcome of the whole research.
2. Identify the different ways of researching, organising and reporting information.
When researching information it is advisable to follow few tips to get the best results. When doing your research, it would help to make notes for your own benefit. This way, you can see which issues you already looked at and save time on researching the same things again. If you have a written brief, you could tick off the researched issues. Find out how detailed the research should be (how many words, pages, bullet points, etc.).If the appropriate documents or information sources are already identified in the brief you should concentrate your research on these but can also look at some additional, valid information. If the sourcing of the documents is left to the researcher, make sure all the documents that you are using are valid, correct and up to date. You won’t want to redo the whole research because you didn’t check the used documents and information properly. It also helps to make sure that you use your time efficiently and know how to use information. If the document is several pages long, ensure that you use indexes and check content pages to find what you are looking for and not waste time on reading useless information.
Also pay attention to relevant and important information, reading and analyzing it properly. Before summarizing your research, you must find out what type of presentation is needed. It may be a verbal presentation (one on one discussion, large meeting, etc.) or a written presentation (formal report, email, text, a simple note, memo, etc.). It is also important to know when your research needs to be finished, who is going to use or will be presented with your research and for what purpose. It could be senior people of the company, managers or other staff members. All this is important to know when doing your research as it can affect it severely. When organising your research information, keep in mind that it needs to be kept in a structured manner and retrieved easily when necessary. You may be using paper based files to store your researched information and any notes made. In this case make sure that the files are clearly marked and put away where you can find them. You can categorize information alphabetically or numerically but the files need to be organised to save time and look presentable for the recipient.
If you use electronically based files, the principal is the same as if you were using paper based files. Make sure all your folders are clearly marked and easily accessible by the relevant people. Information in the folders should be clear and structured to present to the appropriate recipient. How the information is organised mostly depends on how it will need to be reported. To report the researched information there are several types of documents that can be used. This should be clarified in the research brief or agreed between the researcher and recipient. You might be expected to report to your manager or supervisor in a simple, informal one on one discussion, where just a few notes about the subject are appropriate, that can hold a permanent record if necessary. In other occasions you might use a memo, which is more formal than a note and can also provide a permanent record. If you need to present information that is little more complex and only needed for internal use, you might choose an informal report. This looks more presentable than a note and can be used for larger quantities of information. Just check with the recipient in advance that this type of report is acceptable.
If the research is more complex and needs to be reported to external sources, a formal business report could be your choice. This way you can state all the findings clearly and link any information if necessary. Formal reports are also often presented internally if the senior people of the company are involved. Fax is another way of reporting your research if it is for the external use or colleagues at other branches. With this method you ensure that there is a permanent record and it is faster than sending a letter via post. If the research needs to be reported in a formal way to external recipients, you might choose a business letter.
Therefore it holds a permanent record and is very formal. Although, reconsider this method if you need the information to be delivered fast or it holds large quantities of attached documents. In those cases consider using email. It will be less formal, but can be sent instantly, worldwide and any documents can be attached. There is also a possibility of using text as your choice of reporting information but it can only contain small chunks of information and is very informal. When choosing the right type of reporting method, keep in mind the recipient needs, importance, formality and urgency of the information. Also, if the reporting format is specified in the research brief, make sure you stick to it.
3a) For your own organisation (or one you know well), describe the procedures that need to be followed when archiving, retrieving and deleting information. Your answer should cover procedures for both electronic and paper-based information.
In my recent job role as a receptionist, I had to know how to manage information correctly, electronic and paper based. That included storing, retrieving, archiving and deleting information. All important paper based documents, which thought to be archived, had to be checked by a manager. I was familiar with the procedures of archiving and new which documents are meant to be seen by a manager. These usually included suppliers’ contracts and employment contracts. These documents were put into marked files and put into lockable cabinet in the landlords’ office. Nobody was allowed there and even manager had to get verbal authorization for accessing any of these, if necessary. In all the years of working there I had no dealings with retrieving any of the archived documents. Because the Inn was only small, it meant that there were not a lot of information archived and lack of storage space wasn’t a problem. Most of the information about our guests we used to store electronically and used databases for that purpose.
The information stored included telephone numbers and addresses of the guests, credit card details and car registration numbers. We had to apply confidentiality and security procedures for these databases. Only several people (landlord, manager and receptionist) had authorised access to this information. It was all stored in a very organized and efficient manner to make retrieving of the information easier. Also, guests had to fill in registration forms on their arrival that we stored in a filing cabinet. Because some of the information was sensitive, all files were clearly marked and locked away. Landlord, manager and receptionist had a key for this cabinet so no unauthorised people could access it. It was easy to retrieve this information as it was organised in alphabetic order and all files were clearly marked. We also had a suppliers database were all information and contact numbers about our suppliers was stored. It was accessible by landlord, manager and receptionist as other members of staff had no dealings with this.
Again, it was a very organised and proficient system that worked well for easy access and retrieving of the information. Any paper based invoices and other important information were store in special files in a filing cabinet. On a daily basis I had to go through a lot of emails. Some of them were important documents that had to be stored in the appropriate files. For example, we had a file for conformation emails, file for invoices received, file for invoices going out, promotions file, etc. That way, if you needed any information that was in these files, it was easy to retrieve it as they were clearly marked. Some of the emails were no use after they have been read so they could be deleted. After all relevant people have read these, we didn’t store thank you emails, irrelevant complaints or supply offers that didn’t apply. Some of the emails just needed a quick reply and could be deleted after that.
Our computer system had a SPAM filter so most of the SPAM emails were received in the spam mail box and were easily deleted. But it was advisable to go through the list quickly to ensure that none of the valuable emails have been sent to a SPAM box because it has happened before. We also used to receive promotions and advertising booklets via post but it was easy to go through those, keep necessary ones and chuck the rest. Once a year in January, I had to go through all the files (electronic and paper) and check for the ones that can be deleted or shredded. It included invoices that were out of date, information that has changed and is not needed anymore and out of date promotion deals. That way we made space for valid information, increased storage space and knew that all files were up to date.
3b) When following the procedures outlined in Question 3a above, are there any legal requirements to consider?
As the Inn was collecting, processing and storing personal data there were few legislation rules to follow. One of them was Data Protection Act 1998 that applies for all organisations storing personal data. The Act requires that personal information is processed fairly and lawfully, for limited purposes only, is adequate and relevant, not excessive, accurate, up to date, not kept for longer than necessary, processed in line with the rights of individuals, secure and not transferred to other countries without appropriate protection. When the data is collected, you must tell the person why you are collecting it and how it will get used. By law the person can always ask to access the records and make any changes if the information is not correct. In my case, the staff records had to be kept safe and only kept as long as they were needed. For example, if a member of staff leaves and has no interest of coming back, all personal records should be deleted or shredded. If there is any sensitive information required, such as health and criminal records, it all should be stored separately. As we were dealing with guests and their personal information on daily basis, there were legal requirements to consider. By law a hotel, guest house or Inn should keep each guest details (over 16 years of age) for at least twelve months.
These details should include: guests full name, nationality and passport number and place of issue (or any other document that shows identity and nationality). You must make sure that all information is stored securely either on a computer or in a lockable filing cabinet. The Data Protection Act also applies on guest records. In some cases you would have to notify the Information Commissioner’s office about how the organisation is using personal data. This applies only if the information is held on a computer or other electronic device. If the information is stored in manual files, this does not apply. There are also exceptions if the information is held electronically. You don’t have to notify Information Commissioner’s office if: ✓ You hold only necessary data on the people necessary for you to do your own advertising. ✓ You do not disclose the information to any third party not involved in your advertising without consent. ✓ You only keep the personal information as long as it is necessary for the advertising. ✓ Staff administration.
✓ Accounts and financial records.
As some of these exceptions applied to the Inn I was working for, notification to the Information Commissioners office was not necessary. Because we stored, processed and transmitted cardholder data, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council standards had to be met. By law we were responsible for the security of the cardholder’s data on the time of payment and in any cases it has been stored. These standards make sure that card readers and point of sale systems, store networks, wireless access routers, payment card data storage and transmission, and payment card data
stored in paper-based records are protected. To meet the standards you should:
✓ Buy and use only approved PIN entry devices.
✓ Buy and use only validated payment software.
✓ Don’t store any sensitive cardholder’s data on the computer or on paper.
✓ Install and use a Firewall on your computer.
✓ Make sure strong passwords are in place.
✓ Make you’re your wireless router is password protected.
All the relevant members of the staff at the Inn took great care in making sure that all sensitive and confidential information about individuals was kept secure and met all legislation requirements.
4. Why is confidentiality critical when managing information?
Keeping certain things confidential in a business environment is a very crucial part of the job. Not doing so can lead to major problems, court hearings and compensations being paid out. It is very important for the business to keep their sensitive documents confidential. It includes contractual agreements with clients or suppliers that involve information that all of the involved parties would consider confidential, business negotiations with clients or suppliers that involves very important and sensitive information, any business secrets that need to be kept under wraps (for example, any particular recipes or samples) or any personal information that is kept about individuals. Breaching any confidentiality issues in these cases can lead to major business secrets being leaked to competitors, therefore loss of business, personal information being misused and human rights violated causing distress to the individuals and important, sensitive information about the business ending up in the wrong hands. All these issues can lead to complaints from the clients and suppliers, and possibly loss of business from them, court hearings that involves major expenses, distress and reputation of the business being damaged, and extra expenses on compensations for the clients/customers/suppliers/staff.
If your business is processing and storing any personal data on staff members or other individuals (e.g. suppliers, clients, guests or customers) and have breached any of the Data Protection Act requirements, consequences can be considerably damaging. For example, lost or misused personal information can lead to heavy fines and compensations. If the individual suspects that the personal information about them is being misused (that could involve keeping excessive information that is not necessary, losing important documents, passing personal information to third parties without consent or denying access for the individual to see the information) and the company is breaching any Data Protection Act rules, the individual has a right to notify the Information Commissioners office for them to undertake the Assessment procedure. If the office finds any rules broken, it is an individuals right to claim compensation through courts. This can very damaging to the company as the reputation is being damaged and there are excessive costs. If the case is on a large scale, the time and expense involved is enormous. There can also be press involved and that’s when it gets really damaging.
If there are articles in the newspapers written about companies’ poor attitude to confidentiality requirements, nobody will want to do business with this company again (or no individuals will want to be employed by this company) and this may even result in bankruptcy. Business should also pay extra attention to the legislation if they are using CCTV cameras. Any inappropriate recordings can be just as damaging as misused documents. If there are no signs that indicate of the CCTV recordings, the company is breaking the rules and can end up paying major compensations to the individuals. The same goes for recording or monitoring phone calls. In a nutshell, confidentiality is extremely important when managing information. Misuse of any personal information (breaching the Data Protection Act 1998) or leaked sensitive business secrets can result in loss of business, major costs on court cases and compensations, loss of trust from staff and customers, reputation of the business damaged and in worst cases even bankruptcy.
Section 3 – Understand the purpose of producing documents that are fit for purpose
1. Identify at least two reasons for producing documents that are fit for purpose.
Producing documents that are fit-for-purpose is very important. It ensures that the recipient of the document is getting what he/she have requested. Fit-for -purpose documents make your business look organised, efficient and professional. If the document produced is incorrect in any way or lacking relevant information it is not fit-for-purpose and can have damaging effect on the business and the author. The recipient might be very disappointed and complain; therefore the author can look unprofessional and foolish, and also may give a wrong impression for the whole company. The document might have to be redone due to its ineffectiveness or incorrectness and a lot of time can be wasted (authors and recipients). Having clear idea what the purpose of the document should be also makes next steps, of producing quality final document, much easier and quicker. If the document is agreed to be fit-for-purpose, deciding on specification of content, layout, quality standards and deadlines can be much easier.
To ensure that the document is fit-for-purpose, the author of the document might use a specific format/template or agree on document specification in advance with everyone involved. Either way it is important to assure customer needs and know how the document is going to be used or presented. For example, if the manager asks a member of staff to write a report for a board meeting and the format that the staff member used is not correct, the whole report might be useless, even if all the relevant information is there, as it had to be written in a specific format, that the company provides for all board meeting reports. Another example, the staff member hasn’t clarified the purpose of the document and just made few notes about the requested subject.
It turns out that the findings had to be written in a formal report format that needed to be copied and distributed to several managers. Because you can’t present few scattered, hand written notes, the report had to be redone. It made the author look very foolish and unprofessional, and also had an impact on the manager that requested the report, making him look bad, too for not clarifying the purpose of the document. There were lot of delays and wasted time because of this, and very dissatisfied managers. To avoid any of these issues, it is important to clarify in advance what is the purpose of the document. Then you can decide which format needs to be used (if not specified) and how the final document should look and be presented.