Systems Design and Development

Business information systems (often referred to Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP systems) are widely used to electronically store, manage and retrieve information for a variety of purposes, including such things as staff records, sales (e.g. quotes and invoicing), customer relations management (CRM), production, stock control and finance (amongst other potential aspects).

Alternatively you may simply require a website that offers a customer the chance to view products and perhaps calculate estimates (such as entering room sizes for carpet fitting or finding out what fixtures and fittings are required for a specific job).

If you want to look into having a new system designed to capture and report your business information, the first things to think about are:

Information access requirements:

Do you require online access (perhaps with secure user login) to enable your staff and/or customers to be able to enter/edit/retrieve information from remote locations (desktop or mobile devices)?

Or do you want a server-based/desktop application  to allow access from only your office location?

What do you want the system to do?

Is it simply going to record and report on sales or do you need the system to mimic your entire workflow, covering all (or many) of the functional areas of the business?

Think about and make a list of everything that you want the system to do, for example:

  • Record details of customer quotes, job details, invoicing, staff details, stock/product listings, purchasing, staff scheduling…
  • Produce and send (email or ‘snail-mail’) customer documents for quotations, invoices…
  • Report on monthly sales figures, number of quotes that have NOT been actioned, staff KPIs…

Alternatively, perhaps you only want a CMS (Content Management System) that is to store and access your documentation.  Or maybe a website to promote the company and its products…

Project Scope

My work as a solutions designer starts with  discussion on what you want to achieve and an overall analysis of your business requirements.  From these discussions, I will scope the project, documenting an overview of what the new system will do (including limitations – what it won’t do), platform requirements (e.g. server-based/desktop application or web based for external access), costs and time-scales.

Identifying Data Requirements and Designing a Solution

Once the scope of the project is defined and agreed (signed off), I will then move on to do an in depth analysis of the data requirements for the system.  To do so, I will need access to your current systems and workflows, working closely with you and your teams to create sets of diagrams and documentation to support system development.  These include information such as: business rules (formulae and functions), data that needs to be stored in the database, use cases/user stories (business flow – who does what and how) and User Interfaces (UIs) – drawings of what the input forms and output documents will look like.

Note: some of these diagrams may look confusing but I am happy to go through them with you and explain how they are used if you would like clarification.

The system itself may be designed and created as a ‘whole’ or may be broken down into sections or modules, depending on the scope (how large the system is and what it is going to achieve): either way, I will work with you and the developers throughout the process to ensure that the final solution is created to fit your business requirements precisely.

 

Helen Ward
BA Hons (ICT with Education), PGCE

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