The first Question that I ask is who.
Who is going to use this? Is this going to be used by a few people in one department or
many departments company wide? Is it going to be used by data entry clerks, CEOs, or
both. (Be sure to plan for the future. I have found that once I show a company how useful
the database can be, it usually incorporates many other tasks like inventory or employee
information). What is the level of the User? Is this user going to be a person that is
knowledgeable in the SQL language to the point where they can write there own queries to
get their reports? Or, are these people going to need an extensive help file so they can
start the program? Who is going to run the reports that may be needed from the database?
Is it going to be the Administrator running reports on demand or will it create procedures
on the fly when the user needs them, can it be a stored procedure that will run every night?
There are many questions that need to be answered when it comes to Who and these are just a few.
In my scenario, here are the conclusions that I came to.
The bookkeeper and the CFO were going to use this also, quite a few data entry people.
Neither the bookkeeper or the CFO are very computer savvy, but neither of them are going
to need help turning the computer on, either. The data entry people will need some
additional training, but a help file could easily be written to ease the learning curve.
So basically, the information will have to be presented in a fashion that is easy to learn
and use due to the variety of user skills. The reports will have to be generated on the fly
for the CFO and bookkeeper, so they can have them on demand. They also need to be versatile
enough so that the reports could be built with peramaters from the user on the fly.
With this set questions answered, I listed all my facts on a white board and I came up
30 different people that would or could be using this system. The most helpful information
that I learned from these questions being answered was that there were going to be a longer
interview process than originally though.
Second Question- Where.
This question covers a couple things. Where are the users. Are they located in the same
office that you are or in another state? Are the users connected via VPN (Virtual Private
Network)? Are they connected to the Internet? Are they working from home or in the office?
Are they on a laptop or a server? Will a sales person need to access this information in
the field. If so, how can they get the recently updated data or update the database, for
that matter, if they add info in the field? In my case, I had to look at a few different
groups of people. The first group consists of the accounting department and the second,
the data entry department.
The CFO and the Bookkeeper are both located in the same building as I am. They both are
on the same network and can use a simple ODBC connection to access the database. This is a
huge advantage. I can set them up to use any combinations of programs for them Access,
Crystal Reports, or Visual Basic to name a few. (I dont recommend any one over the
others, although I use Access as a front end for many of my apps). My data entry people,
however, limit what I can do. I have some people 30 miles south and others 1000 miles north. The
users that are 30 miles south are on a VPN, but the ones that are north of me are not. I
still could use a reporting programs, but I am not going to need to (the data entry people
will not need to see the reports). So, I can set them up a sercured page over the Internet,
although, Security will be an even bigger issue now. Everyone, though, will be using this
system either at home or in the office on a desktop machine. No one will need to use this
in the field. The environment is very stable and, chances are, there will be few changes
to this app.