Fundamentals of Database Systems

A retail store wants to offer its products online in response to numerous customers requesting to be able to purchase the company’s products electronically. The company is beginning to see some growth in spite of the recent economic downturn. The company strives to meet the needs of its customers, including giving them the perception that they are the company’s highest priority. Being a profitable operation has not always been the case, and the company has historically struggled with customer service issues, inventory-management problems, employee turnover, and poor productivity overall. Naturally, the stakeholders of the company began to lose faith in the viability of the company, and unfortunately, numerous stakeholders have dissolved their relationship with the retail store entirely. Approximately 7 years ago, the company hired a freelance information technology (IT) organization to create a data-driven information system that would support customer records and order entry. The store manager convinced the owner of the company that this route was the way to go. After all, anything would be an improvement over what the company had at the time. The owner felt that because it was important to have an efficient way to track customers and orders, any computerized system would be sufficient. He was not too proud to share his lack of technological skills, and often deferred to others when it came to making decisions in this area. He often joked that perhaps some computer training would do him and his employees some good. He was never really assured that his data were backed up correctly or that his system was secure. And what if the system crashed or the data started to appear unusual? He also had never heard of any of his employees backing up the system files. If he lost all of his data, he would not know where to turn or what to do. The very idea of his business depending so much on technology was almost too stressful to think about. Deep down, however, he really wanted some assurance that his information was reliable and secure. The customer records and order entry system that was installed solved a few problems for the short term but quickly proved to lack the capability to meet the goals, objectives, and overall data needs of the company. The freelance technology company provided no documentation on how to use the system or even how it was designed. A large component that was missing was having the ability to track the product inventory. The system in its current state does not seem to be fully functional and often lets employees override the store procedures that the owner has clearly stated should be adhered to. For example, customers are given discounts when they are not eligible, certain products are completely depleted from inventory without being flagged for reorder, and prospects who have never placed an order are set up as customers with a fake order to give them free product samples and promotional materials. This usually involves a person who is friends with an employee collaborating to set up fake order for a product that is not even real. Although the owner does not feel that he is very technically proficient, he admits that perhaps he should have researched the needs of his company and the possible options before jumping on the first opportunity that presented itself. He knows that he reacted to the problem instead of responding in an effective manner. After all of that trouble, employees cannot keep track of customer records, orders get misplaced on the system, and products that are not in inventory keep coming up as available. The problem has gotten so bad that the owner has directed all employees to resort back to the manual method to handle all daily business transactions.

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