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It is common for business today to rely heavily on data collected through an existing information system. Data with regard to business refers to a collection of related facts about a specific entity (Bagui & Earp 2011). Based on this it is possible to understand that the data has some form of relationship making the various elements useful. An example of a data collected about a client may include the name, address, gender, and telephone number.
Given that data is essential to an organization it becomes important to consider how the databases used within an organization are created. For example, one approach to the creation of a database may entail using piece of paper and creating list of relevant items. However, to build a good database requires that the developer follow a series of known steps in construction of the database (Bagui & Earp 2011).
Based on this approach to designing software a more suitable approach would require the developer to first get a list of requirements for the database. This would best be achieved by asking questions in interviews or through questionnaires (Bagui & Earp 2011). The next stage would require designing diagrams that represent these user requirements.
In line with this, a common approach would involve the design of Entity-Relationship diagrams. The final stage involves implementation of the diagrams to create the database. This approach is among the more favored approaches as it assures the database not only contains all relevant data but also adheres to necessary business rules. In this report the discussion presented will attempt to follow the preferred approach to develop and design a suitable database for a pet store.
Description of the organization and problems
The business selected for analysis in this case study is pet store known as Cuddles. Cuddles, has built a name in the provision of a variety of pets, pet accessories, medicines, and pet foods to its clientele. The business is located at a prime location and has reported increased sales in recent years thus creating a need to improve the decision making capacity.
In addition to that, the business is likely to expand and increase the number of branches. The management has thus decided to improve the existing information management system in advance to allow them cope with the increased demand that additional shops will create.
The business currently has an information system in place that caters for inventory and sales. The system is accessible at the sales counter and the administration office. However, it has come to the attention of the management that there is a need to include customer and supplier data in the system. This is because it has been observed that a lot of return business can be generated by helping clients manage their pets. It is crucial to inform the pet owners of new developments such as new vaccines and foods that they can administer to the pets.
In addition to this it has also been noted that manual assessment of inventory before making orders to suppliers for goods is becoming cumbersome and bad for business. With the increased demand that the business has been experiencing in recent times there is a need for a more suitable approach to handling supplies. Another problem with regard to supplies is due to the lack of adequate reporting from the information stored on the system.
It has been noted that if the system could provide periodic reports then it is likely that the overall performance is likely to improve significantly. This is due to the fact that with appropriate use of technology it is possible to ensure that required reports such as inventory reports are produced periodically to assist in decision making within the business.
Analysis of User Information and Requirements
Based on our observation of the business this stage of development requires an understanding of the user needs. First of all it has been noted that the current system does not address specific segments of the business such as the suppliers and customers. This suggests that the information on these two groups is currently stored on some offline media such as paper documents in a file. This implies that there is a need to include files within the system that will be used to hold information relating to the two groups.
It has also been established that among the reasons the business is finding difficulty in managing stock levels is due to the fact that business has increased significantly. It was observed that the current inventory record includes both pets and accessories in a single file. This suggests that the size of the file is large and for this reason it is difficult to keep track of changes in inventory. To appropriately solve this problem would therefore require that this file be divided into two to allow one file cater for pets and another for accessories.
In addition to the creation of files it has been observed that the system does not adequately address the needs of inventory management. In line with this it would appear that there is a need to have in place a mechanism that automatically checks inventory against some parameters. This will help in informing the management of stock levels and assist them in making suitable decisions regarding stock levels in time.
Finally it has been observed that there is a need for improvements with regard to the information produced by the system. This suggests that the database design should include aspects that will induce the production of relevant reports. For example, it would be wise to produce a weekly pet and accessory inventory report to allow the management to address any shortages in either category.
Conceptual Model: ERD
As earlier mentioned the best approach to designing a database involves the use of some data modeling techniques. It has been observed that the Entity-Relationship Diagram (ERD) is among the more popular techniques used in data modeling (Bagui & Earp 2011). For this reason this task will be handled using the data identified upon creation of an ERD.
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The first stage in the creation of an ERD is to identify categories from which the business requires data. These categories are known as entities in the ERD and the characteristics of these entities are the data items the business needs to collect (Bagui & Earp 2011). These characteristics of the entity are also referred to as attributes in the ERD. For example, in the case of the Cuddles database a customer is an entity and attributes of this entity include name, address, telephone, gender, etc.
Once the developer has identified all the entities and their attributes the next stage of development requires that relationships between entities are identified. A relationship is an association between two or more entities in the ERD (Bagui & Earp 2011). Once entities have been identified it is important to review business rules to ensure entities and attributes are correctly identified. Upon observation of relationships additional useful attributes may be identified and included in the diagram.
For example, after identification of customer attributes name, address, gender, and telephone it is observed that there is no appropriate identifier that can be used to tie the relationship between the customer and sales. This is due to the fact that more than one customer may share a name.
For this reason a more appropriate identifier such as customer ID will be used as an attribute. Once this consideration has been made and is reflected on all entities then it is possible to proceed to create the final ERD to be used in creation of the database (See Appendix A and B).
Bagui, S., & Earp, R. (2011). Database Design Using Entity Relationship Diagrams. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.