TeamB_BIS220_WK3_DatabaseProposal_FINAL-1

Week Three – Party Plates Database Proposal

BIS/220Database Proposal

Over the years, Excel has served Party Plates well as a spreadsheet and primary accounting tool. Excel has also tracked sales, and provided the data needed by the Sales Department. Easy and efficient to enter, store and manipulate data, the company has relied upon Excel’s simplicity to also serve as a primary database, building personnel information files for employees as well as developing customer, contact and potential client lists.

The software research team has been tasked with researching ways to improve the efficiency of the company’s informational system. Since the team members are primarily end users, they first met with the folks in our IT office for some background information and learned this: “As a general rule of thumb, databases should be used for data storage and spreadsheets should be used to analyze data” (Stille, 2009).

There are numerous practical advantages of using relational databases over standard spreadsheets:

Relational databases allow multiple user access to schedule, display and edit information simultaneously.

Another advantage of using relational databases over spreadsheets is its capability to create, link and extract large sums of information rapidly.

Employees will be able to collaborate and resolve problems in a timely manner, allowing productivity to increase.

To establish whether there was even a need for Party Plates to change, the team asked these questions:

Do the spreadsheets that contain related information?

Do updates made in one spreadsheet force updates in other related spreadsheets?

Is the amount of data becoming unmanageable?

Can all relevant data be seen on one screen, or is the user forced to scroll and jump around for answers?

Are there several people trying to access the data at the same time?

Does the user have difficulty viewing or analyzing specific data sets?

Accepted guidelines mention that answering “yes” to any two of these questions merit looking into a shift to databases from spreadsheets. The team answered “yes” to each and every question, and with that, moved on to discuss the pros and cons of each system.

Spreadsheets (Excel)

Pros Cons

Good at crunching numbers and formulas that perform repeated calculations (salaries, cost of operations or resources). While different pages of a spreadsheet can be linked, they cannot work together to the extent that a database can. Also, data must be included in that specific table or workbook and will not automatically update any changes made from outside data (such as a related spreadsheet).

Good at simple lists of data. Tough to manage an ever-growing list or a list that changes over time.

Easy to create charts and graphs of data. Limited comparison abilities since data for those charts must come from within that specific workbook or spreadsheet.

Analyzing and comparing “what-if” scenarios. Data entry somewhat more tedious as the data must be formatted in the desired manner. Mistakes will not be caught or corrected.

Databases (Access)

Pros Cons

Easily manages a large amount of information related to a particular subject. Databases are not easy to learn as most spreadsheets. The interface is not as friendly as that of a spreadsheet and somewhat intimidating to users.

Records can be used on an ongoing basis, continually drawn from for use by multiple users simultaneously. Higher software costs, and higher vulnerability to failure due to the data’s integration: one element might cause multiple failures

Allows a user to manage the database by drawing up different reports based on the data, pulling the required data together from different tables and spreadsheets. To be effective, a database takes a lot of work to build and customize to your needs. To be efficient, data must be backed up and maintained. Remember the GIGO mantra – “Garbage In – Garbage Out”.

Data entry is quick, and relatively simple because the data remains ‘raw’ (all appearance formatting comes from within the programming of the report). Structural changes are difficult once the queries, forms and reports are made, so someone with knowledge and experience should create those reports.

It is easy to see that Paper Plates would greatly benefit in transitioning to a database and the team next looked briefly at well-known systems that included Oracle, FileMaker and Access. In the end we chose to recommend Microsoft Access 2007.

As the “Old Faithful” of desktop databases, Access’ Microsoft Office interface is familiar and the process of filtering, sorting and querying the data is very much like Excel. All Excel files can be used with Access forms and reports, which allow the direct import of any established Excel spreadsheets now in use. Within a short time, the data from each of the now separate departments would be joined and working together, as one shared resource.

Again – the greatest strength of Access for Party Plates, is its tight integration with the other Microsoft programs, and is already a part of Office Professional Suite. Access has an extensive online help system, and the IT staff is Access-savvy and will be standing by to answer any questions or address any transition issues the departments have over the coming weeks.

References

Chung, L. (2014). Microsoft Access versus Microsoft Excel for Data Analysis and Reporting

Retrieved from http://www.fmsinc.com/microsoftaccess/dataanalysis/versus-excel.html

Microsoft. (2014). Top 10 Reasons to use Access with Excel. Retrieved from:

http://www.office.microsoft.com

Ranier, R. K., & Cegielski, C. G. (2011). Introduction to Information Systems (3rd ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.

Stille, K. (2009). Database vs. Spreadsheet. Retrieved from:

http://www.qcisolutions.com/dbinfo1.htm

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