Computers and Technology
Submitted By aghuman39
INFO 361: Object-Oriented Systems Analysis and Design Guided Project Thomas’ House of Antiques & Treasures Thomas’ House of Antiques & Treasures (THAT) is one of the local community’s most exciting Thursday night events. Established in 1992, THAT auctions people’s prized heirlooms and estate treasures. Every Thursday night from 6:00 p.m. until the last item has been “knocked-down,” Coyote Clem, THAT’s colorful auctioneer, urges the audience to bid ever so higher in order to maximize the selling price of the item up for bid. The item caller, and also owner, Thomas, is ever so mindful that to garner the best price for consignor’s items, he needs to embellish the description of the item, often referring to its antiquity, design, rarity, and the possible missed opportunity of a life time. As an astute business man, Thomas knows that he must sell at least $10,000 worth of merchandise per hour, so being organized and knowing that the items being auctioned have reached their greatest potential are critical in achieving this goal. All auctions are preceded with previews that allow potential bidders the chance to examine the items closely. Bidders register to bid at each auction by filling out a registration form that includes the bidder’s name, address, contact information, business affiliation if any, tax number, and other demographic/business information. A number is assigned to a bidder upon registering and this number is used to record and track winning bids for the items auctioned. There are “preferred bidders” who are identified as those who repeatedly attend the auctions and purchase items frequently at the auctions. These preferred customers are assigned a permanent number that is kept on file in the office, enabling these bidders the privilege of not having to register each time an auction is held. Some customers register for a bidder number and attend the preview that begins the day of the auction, but not the actual auction. These ‘absentee’ bidders leave a card with the item number, brief description, and the highest bid amount they are willing to bid for the item. The customer may win the bid with a figure that is lower than the amount submitted if there is little interest and slow bidding for the item. There are other customers who register and do not attend the auction, but telephone-in their bids as the items they are interested in are put up for auction. These customers may have a scheduling conflict and cannot physically attend the auction, but this allows them the opportunity to participate. All registered bidders for each auction are kept on file, even if they do not receive a winning bid. These bidders/customers’ names and addresses are used for special auction brochure mailings and phone/email advertising of up-coming auctions. Those without permanent numbers must register for each auction and will receive a unique bidding number each time. There are those customers who consign items for auction. These customers are called clients. Some of these clients consign frequently, but most of the consigned goods result from estates that are being liquidated as a result of a family wishing to settle a will, or from elderly people who are moving to a smaller house or apartment and cannot take all their family heirlooms with them. In many cases, Thomas will purchase estates to lessen the trauma for the family. This reduces the complexity of inventorying the items and frequently results in Thomas generating jobs and more income for his workers and the business. To provide customers with an eclectic mixture of fine antiques and special-interest items each week, Thomas relies not only on consignments of estates, but also contracts with vendors of oriental carpets, French porcelains, silver, fine paintings, crystal, and garden statuary, who want to reduce their inventory. Maintaining accurate data that enables him to manage his transactions with these vendors is essential to a successful business relationship. Whenever a bidder decides to leave, he or she settles the account with the checkout staff located at the registration counter of the auction room. The checkout person uses the bidder’s number to determine the successful bids and the total amount owed, including tax. The final invoice includes the winning bids amount, a buyer’s premium (10% if payment is made in cash or by check, 13% if a credit card is used), and sales tax (5% of the total amount). If the bidder has a business license, this number is recorded and no sales tax is collected. Thomas employs four office staff and an auctioneer full-time, and keeps a list of temporary employees who help with running the auction by displaying the items for bidders to see what is being auctioned, and then assisting in removing the items to a storage area where customers can pick them up after settling their account. The receipt given to customers following the settlement of their account lists all the item numbers, the amount of the bid for each item, the total buyer’s premium amount, sales tax, the total amount owed, and the total amount paid. This receipt is used as a control mechanism by the staff as they locate and assist the customers in loading the items into their vehicle. One of the major tasks during the days prior to each auction is inventorying all the items to be auctioned. Numbers are assigned to each item using a code to determine the consignor and the specific item. These item numbers are written on a label that is affixed to the auction item and this number is recorded on a master list with an appropriate description for each item so there is no mistake as to the identification of the actual item. Photos of the items are taken and stored with the item description. Two copies of the master list are made; one is provided to the client/consignor, and the other is kept on file for reconciliation after the auction. Within a week following the auction, the reconciled list, with the winning bid amounts, is used to reimburse the client for the sale of the consigned goods. A seller’s commission of 30% of the total sales is charged the client for all services provided in conducting the auction. Thomas has always wanted to find an easier and more accurate way of tagging all the items with coded numbers. The current manual process is time consuming and expensive, and in some cases has resulted in the replication of numbers on different consigned items. Reconciling the auction results in these cases created problems with both customers/bidders, and clients/consignors. Items are sometimes lost and are not accounted for, thus causing an air of distrust by customers and clients. Thomas wants to ensure those who do business with THAT have positive experience and will return for repeat business. Thomas relies on the data collected on the auction sales to help in understanding the market. Reports are generated that serve to identify what items are selling best, and those which are slow movers, and any trends in customer or client participation. Management reports, detailing weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly sales are produced for financial management purposes. Currently, THAT uses a couple of PCs to record bidder information for auction brochure mailings. Electronic spreadsheet software is used to create simple financial reports. However, there is very little strategic use of customer and client data for providing a competitive advantage over other auction houses in the surrounding area. A website has been created that lists the items for the up-coming auctions. This data is keyed by hand and only provides the potential bidder short descriptions of the items. It sometimes contains errors which upset bidders. Thomas would like to be able to show bidders pictures of the items in hopes of generating more interest. The website listing is usually not completed until just prior to the auction, so very little value has resulted from this labor-intensive effort. Thomas is somewhat computer literate, but the staff does not have the required skills to design and build an information system to help streamline the business processes at THAT. Everyone recognizes the need for more accurate data and useful information. They know the business but not the information technology, and they don't have the systems development skills to implement a good computer-based solution. Thomas would like to present his executive board a proposal for developing such a system for approval and begin the project as soon as possible.…...