|Another Major Office Automation Case Study
Client is amongst the world's top three office automation
companies. They already have an application in place for the
same purpose. However, there are some shortcomings in that
application which client wants to take care of through another,
more sophisticated application.
The sales executives visit the prospective clients for an
analysis of their office automation infrastructure. They analyze
the infrastructure in terms of cost to the client in operating
and maintaining the office automation products. They also
try to estimate the cost for the onsite or offsite storage.
They identify the areas for improvement in the client’s
processes. All the information gathered by the sales executives
is fed into this application and a presentation is generated
for the client. Through this presentation the sales executive
suggests to the client the means through which the client
can save on costs.
This product needs to be designed to assist the client in
providing value-added service to its customers. The Document
Analysis process equips sales people to conduct enterprise-wide
site surveys of workgroup/document workflow processes and
evaluates the related output devices currently in place. The
sales person can inventory the client or prospect’s
output devices and conduct complete volume and operating cost
analysis. The outcome is to determine if the output technology
in place matches the workgroup’s applications cost effectively.
The findings of the site survey, the complete output device
inventory, and the current volumes and operating cost would
be fed into the application. The application would compile
all the site survey information, compute all the math, format
the results both graphically and in text, and produce the
full color DOCUMENT ANALYSIS automatically. The application
needs to be completely user friendly with an interface that
is easy to navigate.
Limitations of the Existing System
The application in its current version has the following limitations:
No facility for database replication
– The existing application consists of only the client
application built in MS Access. This application runs
on the laptop/desktop of the Sales Executives who collect
and enter the details of the projects they undertake independently.
There is no facility for replicating the data to a central
server. Since there is no central repository of all the
projects being done by the Sales Executives, the Managers
do not have any idea of the projects being done by their
subordinates. This limits the managers from having a control
over the subordinates and the quality of work that they
are doing. Besides, in the absence of a central database
the company runs the risk of losing a prospective client
if a Sales Executive leaves the company, as the company
will not be able to capitalize on the information with
that Sales Executive.
Navigation not user-friendly – The
navigation provided in the existing application is not
at all user-friendly. It restricts the user into using
a specific mode of operation and data entry and does not
provide any flexibility. Besides, the application is also
very restrictive in navigating from one UI to another,
as it does not allow the user to keep more than one form
to be open
Security aspects not taken care of
– The application does not ask for login information from
the user before he starts using the application. This
opens a major loophole as it may allow an unauthorized
person to have access to all the projects that a Sales
Executive is working on if he/she is somehow able to take
control of his machine. Besides, the application does
not have any feature to allow for rights driven access
to the application.
GUI not very appealing – The GUI plays
a major role in the success of an application. The existing
application does not have a very appealing UI and it fails
the basic rules that are considered while designing a
The features that were proposed to the client
to take care of the limitations mentioned above are:
Disabling a remote user from using
the application installed on his machine if he is deactivated
at the server. This section works on the premise that
all the information that the user has collected regarding
the projects carried out by him/her while he/she was an
employee of client, is proprietary information of company.
If the user is no longer working for the client, he/she
should not be able to use the application as well as have
access to the information collected. This would make sure
that if a user has left the company and has been deactivated
by the administrator, he/she is not able to use the application
as well as view the data collected over the period and
use it for any other company that he/she joins.
Modular Design. Follows MVC model.
This ensures that the application developed is modular
and easy to manage. Also this minimizes the amount of
recoding done in the application.
Database security. Unauthorized access
not allowed. User to access only through application.
The database is compiled and password protected thus restricting
the user from making any modifications through the back-end.
Database to maintain the user and time
stamps. This would maintain a complete log of the actions
done by the user on the application. Similar information
is also maintained at the server so that the application
administrator has a complete control over the application
and its users.
Easy Navigation. Utmost care has been
taken to decide on the navigation for the application.
The user has multiple options to execute every task in
the application, which makes it highly user-friendly.
This also makes it a non-restrictive application enabling
the user to use the different features of the application
depending on his/her convenience. Also, all the major
functionalities of the application are available to the
user up front and are accessible to him/her irrespective
of the module the user is working on.
Attractive and user friendly GUI.
The GUI has been designed to enhance the interest of the
user in using the application. Also, the UI now projects
the brand image of the company as well as the application.
Enables easy data entry. The data
being entered in the application also involves the details
of all the equipment that a prospective client has. These
may involve entering the details of hundreds of equipments.
Features like data grid, spreadsheets and import feature
have been provided in the application to ease the data
Modules interlinked with the help
of Wizards. The information being entered is divided into
multiple stages. To enable the user to enter the data
easily these stages have been linked together in the form
Provision for direct access to any
of the modules through the links provided.
Synchronization of data between client
database and Central Database. To enable the company to
have a central repository of all projects related data
a feature has been provided to synchronize the data between
the client database and central database.
Periodic backup of data from the central
database server and maintaining the log thereof.
- Data Archival facility
- More organized Help File
- Help on each control on the screen
- Report generation in a well formatted word document
- Choice of templates for Power Point Presentations.
Since the application is based on a client-server framework
we have used VB 6.0 with back-ends as MS
Access at the client and MS SQL
at the server with data synchronization between the two.
VBA has been used in the application to
generate MS Word based reports, to save data into the database
when some changes are made in the MS Word based reports, to
save equipment details into the database when spreadsheet
is used as data entry mode, to generate reports in Power Point
and to save the data back in the database when some changes
are made in the Power Point based reports.
WinSock programming has been used for any kind of data
communication between client and server.