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Management Information Project Essay

In order to meet customer expectations and remain competitive, managers at HAWK want to extend the access to communications and Information that their employees have available at the home office and make the Information available to them at arrive centers and, eventually, at other locations outside the headquarters office. As part of an ongoing effort to improve business performance within HAWK, managers have become aware of complaints made by various customers. Several customers have complained that products and services provided by HAWK have not met the standards of quality which they expected.

In some cases this has happened because sales representatives have made promises which could not be delivered by the Product Installation and Repair employees. In some cases, the Product Installation and Repair employees were not even aware of the promises made by the sales reps. As products and services are being sold, unforeseen circumstances occur and new information becomes available which cause changes in the products and services required by the retail shops. As these changes are discovered, Change Orders are issued to document the chases In the service and sales contracts.

These change orders have been Issued as paper documents and faxed to everyone who needs them. Often the

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delay In delivering the paper change orders causes problems. Often, changes go through several iterations, resulting in multiple versions of the change order. When there are differences in documents used by sales, accounting and the employees delivering the products and services, frustration is almost inevitable. Currently, there is no method which makes information from change orders available on a timely and consistent basis to all parties which need the Information.

Currently, HAWK employees In the Accounting and Finance unit operate a version of the SAGE 50 accounting system. This system serves as the “back end” accounting system. Recently, HAWK executives held a meeting to discuss the possibilities for an extended information system which would handle several kinds of information through a distributed system. Such a system would be a “front-end” system which could empower employees from multiple business units to work effectively from remote locations.

This meeting followed requests by members of the Product Installation and wanted better access to company information systems while they were doing work away from the home office. Members of other groups had made similar requests in the past. Haw’s chief information officer (CIO) took on the Job of evaluating the company’s options for developing and adopting such an extended information system. In his weekly meeting with his managers, the CIO asked for help from several of his top employees to form an analysis and development team to research the project.

The CIO asked the analysis and development team to interview the managers of the five business units within HAWK to determine the needs and specifications for the proposed system and prepare a requirements document. The CIO called the project the “Fast Local Information Processing System”, or the “FLIP” system. INVESTIGATING NEEDS OF THE ORGANIZATION The first step developing Houston Area Windows Company’ Fast Local Information Processing (FLIP ) system is to investigate needs and define the system’s requirements.

To accomplish this, the analysis and development team interviewed the stakeholders, those persons who have important interests in the development of the system. The team knew, in general, what upper management had in mind for the system. The team talked with representatives of the five business units (Sales and Marketing, Product Installation and Repair, Training, Accounting and Finance, and Human Resources) who will be using the new system. Below are the results of this investigative phase.

Alex Webster, the manager of Human Resources (HER), says that HER workers are required to spend lots of time looking up payroll deduction information for workers. This information is kept on standardized forms filed at the HER office. The HER manager wants senior managers and other selected employees to be able to access archived records dealing with payroll deductions. Only HER employees can do this now, and only from specific workstations in the main office. Since turnover is extremely high, HER would like to be able to provide limited service to selected employees from other, sometimes remote, locations.

HER employees would benefit from having employees monitor some of their own information. The other employees would benefit from having access to current information about their own benefits and deductions. The Training branch of Houston Area Windows Company works with and trains new employees in the skills needed to install and repair air conditioning systems. This requires scheduling of trainers and other training resources. Hard Fox is the head of this group. Trainers already have PC-based (desktop) systems that allow them to perform this scheduling at the home office.

It would be helpful to have offset access to the scheduling tools and services used in training their clients. Trainers want a change in the system which will assist them with scheduling tasks which they must perform when they are away from their desktop computers. Trainers are requesting a tool that helps them keep track of appointments, access schedules, find resources, notes and references stored on the corporate servers, and consult with other professionals at HAWK. James Machinery, the manager of the Sales and Marketing branch of HAWK, has needs that are similar to the needs of the Training branch.

The Sales and Marketing (SaM) branch must communicate with suppliers who provide products to the service exchange certain documents. A device that allows them to exchange documents with suppliers from any location would be very useful. Currently, contract and delivery information is handled by the Sales and Marketing, Product Installation and Repair, and Accounting and Finance sections. This information is gathered by Product Installation and Repair (PRI) employees and then analyzed by the accountants. The results of the analyses are then entered into database via the accounting portion of the information system.

Currently, estimated delivery sheets are created from Progress Report sheets which have been filled out by Product Installation and Repair employees. This has been a source of considerable frustration for the PRI employees who have to wait for their own work to be entered into the accounting system before it is available for them to use. The PRI employees have to wait for the clerical workers to enter the information and then wait for the accountants to process the information before the employees can use their own information to work with their clients.

One area of improvement suggested by the CIO would be the development of an application which would allow PRI employees to enter estimated delivery information into a local, front-end database which they loud access in consultations with their clients. Product Installation and Repair (PRI) employees realize that certain suppliers are considering expansions from their current accounting systems to much more complicated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. This would allow them to better follow the products and services provided for the clients.

Other suppliers, with main offices in Mexico, would like the option of dealing in Spanish rather than English. If HAWK decides to expand its services to cover the needs of these clients by including facilities from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, the technical expertise must come from department head Ray Boonton or from Paula White, the other senior employee in the PRI branch who has ERP experience. An area of concern in the SaM branch is the poor access to the invoice system.

Invoices are prepared by the accounting system and then sent directly to the customers. SaM employees do not have current knowledge of what invoices have been sent or what invoices have been paid. SaM employees can ask the accounting group (headed by Mary Evans) for invoice reports, but the current process is slow and acrimonious. A front-end system which provided invoice content and current status information to SaM employees would be quite helpful. Employees in all branches need to consult with others inside and outside the HAWK organization.

These employees use information which currently is only available from the main office. Sometimes, employees need to access this information while away from the office. A few of the requirements which are common to all units were summarized below: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; All units are under pressure to provide better service to their customers. All units want faster access to information. All units want limited (indirect) access to some information from the Sage 50 accounting system.

Most units want the ability to indirectly access data and enter some data remotely using standardized corporate forms. Most employees want access to information from external locations such as an time text and forms sharing for communicating with others inside and outside of HAWK. All units want the ability to exchange documents among employees. Armed with this initial information, team members are now ready to start the next logical step of the process, preparing a requirements document.

System Requirements – Hardware After interviewing representatives from the various business units at Houston Area Windows Company, the analysis team members feel that they understand what services the new Fast Local Information Processing (FLIP ) system should support. As with most business systems, the analysis team should consider components and interfaces used to access the services (the front-end of the system) and supportive hardware and software used to deliver the services (the back-end of the system).

A primary goal of the FLIP system is to extend communications and information services beyond the main office to employees in the field. Houston Area Windows Company wants to be sure that the features provided by the new system are completely compatible with features available to employees at their desks. The front end of the FLIP system, therefore, will require that compatible interface capabilities are delivered by both remote devices and desktop devices. The new system requirements will make demands on corporate servers which run the SAGE 50 package as the back end of the system.

The corporate servers host the accounting system and the primary database used by the accounting system. The analysis and development team members must organize their considerations of storage, recessing, and input/output considerations for the remote devices, desktop devices, and server devices on which the system would run. The analysis and development team members recognize that much of the functionality of the new system is already available to employees at the desktop through their home office workstations.

The company implemented common, standardized workstation platforms 24 months ago. The analysis and development team members agree that Houston Area Windows Company does not need to upgrade or purchase additional hardware for users to run current software applications at their desks. The CIO who initiated the investigation phase of the project realizes that the use of remote devices will dictate some requirements of the server and software that will support the FLIP system.

When meeting with the potential users of the system, the analysis and development team initially determined that remote devices should be small enough to carry and use easily in a hotel, an airport or a taxi. HAWK currently has a few laptop computers. Although these would meet most of the needs for the new applications, currently owned machines are considered by some to be “too bulky to use in a cab”. All HAWK employees have cellular phones. These devices have very limited keypads and relatively small display screens. They cannot be used to easily compose or analyze lengthy documents.

The analysis and development team reviewed the goals of using remote devices within the FLIP system: to communicate by voice, text messaging, forms sharing and e-mail; to access corporate information such as customer records; and to provide analytic tools. If most of the processing will take place on a separate Because data will also be stored on the front-end server, the remote device would not require large amounts of data storage capacity. Because employees will use the emote devices for text communications, filling out reports, and other text-intensive data entry, the remote devices should have adequate keyboard capability.

The CIO would like the initial implementation of the new project to be made available to 8 “key” employees. He would like to limit the new hardware costs for these key employees to under $ 1,000. 00 each. He hopes that the system could be extended to other (less critical) employees for a new hardware cost less than $ 800. 00 each. Specific Application: Additional details about payroll information requests When an employee is hired at Houston Area Windows Company, that person selects room a list of benefits and services which require contributions from the employee.

The employee contributions are deducted from the employee’s pay each pay period. These deductions are combined with required deductions for Medicare, social security, state income tax withholding and federal income tax withholding. Each pay period, all deductions are subtracted from gross pay and paychecks are printed by the corporate payroll program. If an employee wants to review his or her selection of deductible benefits, he or she must turn in a signed request on a special form to the Human Resources department.

When these form are received, the HER department logs the request and creates a report of selected benefits for the employee. This report is printed by HER and delivered to the employee by company mail. If an employee wants to change his or her selection of deductible benefits, he or she must turn in a signed request on a different special form provided by the Human Resources department. When a request for change in deductions is received, the HER department logs the request and creates a special form for the employee.

This form allows the employee to change selected deductible benefits. Then an updated report f selected benefits is printed by HER and delivered to the employee by company mail. Some deductions are the same every pay period. Other deductions vary because they are based on a percentage of gross earnings for the pay period. If an employee wishes to estimate his or her gross pay, deductions and net pay for a particular period, he or she must do so without any help from the payroll system or the Human Resource department.

It is clear that many employees would like much more direct access to their benefits and deduction information, including a mechanism which would allow them to estimate their deductions and net pay based on hours worked ruing a pay period. Specific Application: Additional information about Training Programs Because of the high turnover at Houston Area Windows Company, HAWK has chosen to offer training courses in the skills needed to install and repair reconditions.

HAWK offers these training courses to new employees and also offers the courses, for a fee, to students enrolled in the Houston Community College Air Conditioning Tech program. Until recently, all the information about training courses was passed by ads in newspapers and notices in the HOC course offerings. Management is considering expanding the availability of its offerings by posting ascriptions of its training courses on the internet and accepting applications for its courses from clients using an internet portal. Currently, when an interested person course description and a schedule of available training courses.

The course description describes the content of the available courses. The course description also includes information about the time, place and cost of each training course. If the prospective trainee indicates an interest in a particular training course, a staff member in the Training department calls the prospective client on the phone. Training customers must sign a contract and receive an invoice. As training progresses, trainees are required to complete various tasks and submit evidence of their understanding and completion to the training course instructor.

The training course instructor evaluates the progress of the trainees and posts that evaluation to the trainee’s course record. Currently, trainees can check on their progress only by receiving feedback from the instructor during training sessions or contacting the instructor. When a trainee completes a particular training course, a certificate is issued. When a trainee needs to verify his or her total training accomplishments, that trainee must cake a request to the training department.

When such a request is received at HAWK, a staff member in the Training department prepares a report showing all training programs taken and the results achieved during each training course. There has been a certain amount of complaining by trainees that the composite training reports are slow to arrive and often inaccurate. Specific Application: Additional information about Estimates, Bids, and Actual Costs The employees in the Product Installation and Repair branch at HAWK work with customers to make sure that all services are properly completed and all purchased equipment is delivered on time ND as promised.

One of the Jobs of the Product Installation and Repair branch is to compare actual times and costs with budgeted times and costs to provide the kinds of early warning that could prevent “flubbed” installation or repair services. “Flubbed” deliveries are those whose actual cost or delivery time is unacceptably higher than budgeted cost and delivery time. Experience has shown that in many “flubbed” deliveries, early hints of potential problems provide opportunities to correct flawed processes before things get completely out of control. Certain employees in the

Product Installation and Repair branch at HAWK work with established customers to provide customized assemblies and repair services. These services are ordered on an individual basis. The person who will perform the work must estimate the time and resources necessary to complete the task. That person must provide a written estimate which describes the parts and services required. The special service agreement serves as a contract between the customer and HAWK. Then the responsible employee must perform the services necessary to meet the terms of the agreement.

Currently, there is little follow-up to improve the quality of cost and time estimates. Specific Application: Additional information about Access to Invoices As Sales and Marketing employees at HAWK work with clients, disputes occur from time to time over the status of invoices. Some clients are seriously late in paying their invoices. Having this information available to the employees who work with these clients can reduce the risk of non-payment by preventing employees to sell or provide extensive services to non-paying clients.

In other cases, errors may occur in can provide valuable services by verifying the status of reliable clients and giving them positive support in resolving the problems. The possibility of Sales and Marketing employees checking on the status of invoices does not mean that they would have direct access into the corporate accounting system. Access would be “read only” from a special front-end system, allowing no changes to be made to the status of client accounts within the company accounting system.

One type of investigative query would be to check the status of a particular invoice for a client. Another type of investigative query would be to request a list of certain accounts payable to show patterns of billing dates and payment dates for a particular client. A hired type of investigative query would be to compare the amounts billed to the clients with the actual work done on behalf of those clients in order to prevent accidental over-billing and accidental under-billing.

Other possible Applications Custom Assemblies and Repair Services (“CARS”) : The CIO mentioned that there were a number of “flubbed” deliveries involving Custom Assemblies and Repair Services. It would be useful to have reporting capability for deliveries which are unacceptable late or above estimated costs. This would require a system which handled queries about late and over-cost deliveries. Change Orders : The CIO also mentioned the possible advantages of a Change Order system.

Currently, when an order is changed, paper documents are created and copies of those paper documents are sent to affected parties. This practice is slow and inconsistent. It would be useful to have storage and reporting capability for orders which have been changed. This would require a system which handled queries about change orders from all affected parties. Status of Purchases and Inbound Deliveries : The CIO also mentioned the possible advantages of a system which would allow affected personnel to track the status of purchases and inbound deliveries.

It would e useful to have ad-hoc reporting capability for all purchases and inbound deliveries. This would require a system which handled queries about any purchase order or any inbound delivery. System Requirements – Software After interviewing representatives from the various business units at Houston Area Windows Company, the analysis team members feel that they understand what services the new Fast Local Information Processing (FLIP ) system should support.

As with most business systems, the analysis team should consider components and interfaces used to access the services (the front-end of the system) and supportive hardware and footwear used to deliver the services (the back-end of the system). The CIO who initiated the investigation phase of the project realizes that the use of remote devices will dictate some requirements of the software that will support the FLIP system. The CIO is aware that developing a system from scratch can be extremely costly and time- consuming.

He knows that there are products available from vendors which might be able to handle the requirements being proposed. In the past, these vendor provided packages were too expensive to consider. Systems called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems provide extensive tools for dealing with customer relationship problems. Portions of ERP systems called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) modules have been developed in a modular fashion so that they can be marketed changing. New technologies may provide solutions which were not feasible in the past.

The IT employees at HAWK are familiar with the Windows 7 operating system and the Microsoft Mobile Operating System. They use Microsoft Office 2007 for end- user applications. The programmers use Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 (C# or Visual Basic) for more complicated applications. The programmers and the CIO are aware hat the Windows 8 operating system has been released and will eventually replace the Windows 7 operating system, and that Visual Studio 2010 has been released to replace Visual Studio 2008 on newly purchased computers.

Houston Area Windows Company is considering a move to replace all remaining Windows 7 systems with Windows 8 systems and replace Visual Studio 2008 with Visual Studio 2010 within the next year. The CIO has decided that any new applications which will be developed must run under one of these operating systems ( Windows 7, Windows 8 or MS Mobile). The CIO wants to know how a transitions from Windows 7 o Windows 8 and from Visual Studio 2008 to Visual Studio 2010 would effect the operation of the proposed FLIP system.

The analysis and development team has decided to create Prototype models for all proposed new applications. The prototypes would include alternate designs for data entry forms and additional Report forms. The analysis and development team has decided to include documentation and the associated (prototype) forms and reports in the preliminary design document. The CIO has decided that prototypes for the new system including new forms, new reports, and new data structures will be developed on desktop machines first and hen deployed to remote devices after they have been tested and approved on the desktop machines.

The CIO has suggested that any new prototypes should be developed using either Microsoft Office products or Visual Studio products. In particular, the CIO has suggested that the analysis team use MS Word, MS Excel, MS Access, MS Vision or Microsoft Visual Studio to develop prototype forms and reports. It is obvious that some trade-offs must be made in selecting the components to be included within the FLIP system.

The CIO asked the analysis group, in conjunction with the potential users of the system to evaluate the relative importance of each of he functional requirements identified so far using a scale from O (totally Unimportant) to 10 (Absolutely necessary). The following table is the result of that analysis effort. Factor Access to corporate records and information systems Ability to enter data for corporate standardized forms Ability to exchange documents among employees Applications must be supported within Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows Mobile pop. Yester Access to the Internet and Web Remote devices must have adequate keyboard capability Less bulky than current laptops ( first 12 units) Multiple communications modes, including real-time text, for communicating with there inside and outside Houston Area Windows Company Importance 10 10 10 10 8 776 Access to information from remote locations, such as in an airport, hotel 6 or taxi Initial new hardware cost (first 8 units) less than $ 1,000 each Expandable to other users at less than $ 800 each (new hardware) Less bulky than current laptops (after The CIO wants the analysis and development team to consider these priorities in developing a requirements document suitable for internal or external use. Database Considerations Windows Company, the analysis and development team found that several of the pacified requirements for the Fast Information Response (FLIP ) system for Houston Area Windows Company involve database activities, including : ; ; Access to corporate information extracted from current (back-end) information systems Limited (indirect) data entry from special forms within proposed front-end system A primary goal of the FLIP system is to provide communications and information services to employees away from the home office. HAWK is a small company. The main database is controlled by the accounting unit.

This back-end database must interface with front-end applications which use Microsoft Access databases. Front- end applications use data from the main database indirectly, but the flow of data in front-end applications is almost always one-way (from the main database to an application database and then to the user of the application). Within the main database, there are tables used by the Accounting System, including Generalized, Accountabilities, Accountableness, Payroll, Generational and several specialized journal entry tables. Under strict control of the IT director, data can be extracted from these tables and inserted into the front-end FLIP system.

The Human Resources rope uses front-end applications which use data from an Employee table and the Payroll table of the main Accounting database. The Accounting and Finance group uses data from a Customers table and data from the Accountabilities table of the main Sage 50 Accounting database. The PRI group uses a Customers table and a Contraindicates table and interfaces with the Accountabilities table from the main Accounting database. The relationships among the various tables should be established by Relationship rules which relate named columns in different tables. For instance, the Contractions field would be defined as the primary key in the Contracts able. There can be only one record in the Contracts table for any specific value of the Contraction.

There would be a Contractions in the Invoices table, and also a Contracted field in the Credentials table and the Invoices table. These serve as Foreign keys. The Contracted field would be defined as a Foreign key in the Credentials table since there can be several services provided for any particular Contract. Since different employees would work on different contracts, the Contracts table would contain an Employed field which serves as a foreign key to establish legislations between the Contracts table and the Employees table and identify the employee with primary responsibility for the contracted project. The Contracts table would contain a Customer’s field.

This field could serve as a foreign key to establish relationships between the Contracts table and the Customers table. The CIO wants to considering two new applications which would expand the use of the Contract portion of the current database system. Contract information is currently handled by the accounting section using spreadsheets. This information is gathered by PRI employees and SaM employees, and then analyzed by the accountants. The results of the analyses are then entered into database via the accounting portion of the (back- end) information system. Currently, the spreadsheet is created from Progress Report sheets filled out by PRI employees.

This has been a source of considerable frustration for the PRI employees who have to wait for their own work to be entered into the accounting system before it is available for them to use. The employees have to wait for the clerical workers to enter the information and then wait for the accountants to process the information and produce reports before the employees can use their own information to work with their clients. One area of improvement suggested by the CIO would be the development of an application which would allow selected employees to enter cost estimate information into a local, front-end database which they could access in consultations with their clients.

A second area of concern is the poor access to the invoice system. Invoices are prepared by the Sage 50 accounting system and then sent directly to the customers. Most HAWK employees do not have current knowledge of what invoices have been sent or what invoices have been paid. Employees can ask the accounting group for reports, but the current process is slow and acrimonious. A front-end system which provides invoice content and status information to employees would be quite helpful. The analysis and development team has decided to create Prototype models for all proposed new applications. The prototypes would include alternate designs for data entry forms and additional Report forms.

The analysis and development team has decided to include documentation and the associated (prototype) forms and reports in the preliminary design document. The CIO has stated that prototype models for newly proposed data collection applications can be developed completely within the MS Office suite, MS Visual Studio, OR can be developed as HTML Web pages using other HTML editors. For security reasons, the CIO does not want the system analysis and development team to make changes to the Accounting portion of the database system. New applications will have access to local front-end databases which interface with the employee/users. The senior accountant will be in charge of interfacing local, front- end databases with the back-end database used by the Sage 50 accounting system.

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