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The projects in this section give you hands-on experience analyzing business process problems, designing and developing a customer system for auto sales, and redesigning business processes for a company that wants to purchase goods over the Web.
A customer purchasing a Sears appliance, such as a washing machine, can also purchase a three-year service contract for an additional fee. The contract provides free repair service and parts for the specified appliance using an authorized Sears service provider. When a person with a Sears service contract needs an appliance repaired, such as a washing machine, he or she calls the Sears Repairs & Parts department to schedule an appointment. The department makes the appointment and gives the caller the date and approximate time of the appointment. The repair technician arrives during the designated time frame and diagnoses the problem. If the problem is caused by a faulty part, the technician either replaces the part if he is carrying the part with him or orders the replacement part from Sears. If the part is not in stock at Sears, Sears orders the part and gives the customer an approximate time when it will arrive. The part is shipped directly to the customer. After the part has arrived, the customer must call Sears to schedule a second appointment for a repair technician to replace the ordered part. This process is very lengthy. It might take two weeks for the first repair visit to occur, another two weeks to receive the part, and another week for the second repair visit to occur in which the ordered part is installed.
- Diagram the existing process.
- What is the impact of the existing process on Sears’s operational efficiency and customer relationships?
- What changes could be made to make this process more efficient? How could information systems support these changes? Diagram the new improved process.
- Management at your agricultural chemicals corporation has been dissatisfied with production planning. Production plans are created using best guesses of demand for each product, which are based on how much of each product has been ordered in the past. If a customer places an unexpected order or requests a change to an existing order after it has been placed, there is no way to adjust production plans. The company may have to tell customers it cannot fill their orders, or it may run up extra costs maintaining additional inventory to prevent stockouts. At the end of each month, orders are totalled and manually keyed into the company’s production planning system. Data from the past month’s production and inventory systems are manually entered into the firm’s order management system. Analysts from the sales department and from the production department analyze the data from their respective systems to determine what the sales targets and production targets should be for the next month. These estimates are usually different. The analysts then get together at a high-level planning meeting to revise the production and sales targets to take into account senior management’s goals for market share, revenues, and profits. The outcome of the meeting is a finalized production master schedule. The entire production planning process takes 17 business days to complete. Nine of these days are required to enter and validate the data. The remaining days are spent developing and reconciling the production and sales targets and finalizing the production master schedule.
- Draw a diagram of the existing production planning process.
- Analyze the problems this process creates for the company.
- How might an enterprise system solve these problems? In what ways might it lower costs? Diagram what the production planning process might look like if the company implemented enterprise software.
Improving Decision Making: Using Database Software to Design a Customer System for Auto Sales
- Software skills:Database design, querying, reporting, and forms
- Business skills:Sales lead and customer analysis
This project requires you to perform a systems analysis and then design a system solution using database software. Ace Auto Dealers specializes in selling new vehicles from Subaru. The company advertises in local newspapers and is also listed as an authorized dealer on the Subaru Web site and other major auto-buyer Web sites. The company benefits from a good local word-of-mouth reputation and name recognition and is a leading source of information for Subaru vehicles in the Halifax area. When a prospective customer enters the showroom, he or she is greeted by an Ace sales representative. The sales representative manually fills out a form with information such as the prospective customer’s name, address, telephone number, date of visit, and make and model of the vehicle in which the customer is interested. The representative also asks where the prospect heard about Ace—whether it was from a newspaper ad, the Web, or word of mouth—and this information is also noted on the form. If the customer decides to purchase an auto, the dealer fills out a bill of sale. However, Ace does not believe it has enough information about its customers. It cannot easily determine which prospects have made auto purchases, nor can it identify which customer touch points have produced the greatest number of sales leads or actual sales so it can focus advertising and marketing more on the channels that generate the most revenue. Are purchasers discovering Ace from newspaper ads, from word of mouth, or from the Web? Prepare a systems analysis report detailing Ace’s problem and a system solution that can be implemented using PC database management software. The company has a PC with Internet access and the full suite of Microsoft Office desktop productivity tools. Then use database software to develop a simple system solution. Your systems analysis report should include the following:
- Description of the problem and its organizational and business impact
- Proposed solution, solution objectives, and solution feasibility
- Costs and benefits of the solution you have selected
- Information requirements to be addressed by the solution
- Management, organization, and technology issues to be addressed by the solution, including changes in business processes
On the basis of the requirements you have identified, design the database, and populate it with at least 10 records per table. Consider whether you can use or modify Ace’s existing customer database in your design. Then use the system you have created to generate queries and reports that would be most useful to management. Create several prototype data input forms for the system and review them with your instructor. Then revise the prototypes.