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A systems analysis, design, and development case study: Williams Bros. appliances inventory & point-of-sale system.


The primary subject matter of this case is Systems Analysis, Design, and Development. For Systems Analysis and Design students, this case provides a realistic, and fairly common, scenario that will require developing process and data models as well as user interface designs for the client. Furthermore, students in a Systems Development capstone course can use this scenario to develop an entire application from the ground up. The case has a difficulty level between three and four, appropriate for junior and senior level students. As a Systems Analysis and Design project, it will require approximately 12-15 hours to complete, outside of the normal course time to discuss process modeling, data modeling, and user interface design. As a Systems Development capstone project, it will require approximately 20-25 hours to complete. Students can examine Interview Notes and realistic document images. Teaching notes are also provided, with a proposed solution using UML.


Dr. Thomas Waggoner, an information systems professor at the local university, has just received a phone call from his friend, Ted Williams, co-owner with his brother Will of Williams Bros. Appliances in River Falls, Iowa. Ted is extremely frustrated with their current slow, manual method of processing sales and tracking inventory, and is afraid that they are losing sales because of it. Ted explains what he needs and Dr. Waggoner thinks that this will be a great project for his students. He makes an appointment with Ted to get a better understanding of the initial requirements. He then begins organizing the students in his Systems Analysis and Design class and his capstone class in System Development to see if they can develop a solution for the Williams Bros'.


"I'll be with you in just a moment!" apologized Ted Williams, co-owner of Williams Bros. Appliances, "Just as soon as I finish writing up this customer's sale."

"It's already been about 20 'moments'," thought the other customer, growing more and more impatient, "Why is it taking so long?"

Unfortunately, this very scenario was played out far too often. Ted, and his brother and fellow co-owner, Will, knew that during a regular weekday they seldom had more than one customer at a time ready to complete their purchase. However, on Saturdays, as today was, it was more the norm for at least two or three people to be waiting in line to pay for their selection, obtain warranty information, and arrange delivery. If they were having a sale, there could quite possibly be twice that number of customers waiting, growing impatient at the seemingly very time consuming process of writing up the sales order. Every so often, a customer gets tired of waiting and simply walks out the door, taking a potentially profitable sale with them. Just this morning, a lady who had (finally) chosen a top-of-the-line GE Stainless Steel, Side-by-Side refrigerator, decided against the purchase after having to wait more than fifteen minutes for it to be written up. "There goes my daughter's orthodontia payment this month," Will muttered, and shook his head. Later that evening after closing, Will broached the topic with his brother. "We have to do something about the way we write up sales--it is taking way too long and we are the customers are getting upset. There has got to be a better way! I think we need to get a computer and automate the way we do business." Ted quickly agreed, and thought of a friend from the local college who taught in the information systems department. Perhaps Dr. Tom Waggoner might have a suggestion as to how to make things easier and faster.

On Monday morning, Ted called Dr. Waggoner, who thought this sounded like just the type of project he had been looking for to use in his Systems Analysis and Design course as well as his senior-level capstone course in Systems Development which he would be teaching the following semester. They arranged to meet later that week, and Ted, Will, and Dr. Waggoner decided to see what the students could do. Ted and Will were grateful, partly because they believed that an automated inventory and point-of-sale system was precisely what they desperately needed, and partly because they were going to get a custom-designed system at no cost. And Dr. Waggoner was pleased to be able to provide a real-world systems development experience for his students.


The students in Dr. Waggoner's Systems Analysis and Design class were given the responsibility to gather requirements, develop logical process and data models, convert these to physical design models, and create screen and report designs. His Systems Development class in the next semester would then be responsible for taking the design specifications and building and implementing the system. The System Analysis and Design (SAD) students arrange to meet with Ted and Will Williams at their store, partly for the owners' convenience, and partly to "get a feel" for the business environment. The students asked many questions about the way that sales are currently handled. Below is a summary of their interview notes.

The students asked the Williams brothers how the delivery process took place, and determined that this was primarily a manual process. However, one aspect that Ted and Will mentioned would greatly help is storing information from the Sales form on the computer, and providing a report for each delivery date, sorted by promised delivery time which listed the customer name, address, and phone number, along with the specific items (including product id and serial number) that are to be delivered. Right now, this is done by hand and once in a while a Sales Order form is overlooked when planning each day's delivery schedule. When the delivery is complete, the customer will sign the second copy of the Sales Order form which is then filed in the "Sales" folder.

Williams Bros. Appliances

Current Sales System

Interview Notes

MIS 310

January 11, 20xx

When a customer enters the store (see store layout in Figure 1), they usually browse among the appliances and either Will or Ted will meet them and ask if they can help the customer find something. If the customer is interested in, for example, a stove, Will or Ted will walk them to that area of the store, show them what they have available, and ask if they had something particular in mind. They will answer any questions the customer may have, and then hopefully will "close the sale". At that point, the customer is asked to follow one of the owners to the Sales Counter. Will or Ted then gets a pad of two-part carbonless Sales Orders (see example in Figure 2) and begins to write down all the necessary information. Each manufacturer has a different coding scheme for the serial number and product number. For example, some manufactures use all numbers whereas other manufacturers use a combination of numbers and letters, such as 18X-Y28Z. Ted and Will have to be very careful when writing down this information so they won't accidentally transpose the characters.

If the customer purchases any parts with the appliance, such as hoses for a washing machine, the information for each part is also recorded on the sales order. When they thought about it, the owners agreed that writing up the sale was the most time consuming aspect of the entire process. Ted and Will then use a calculator that is (usually!) on the Sales counter to add up the subtotal of all the items purchased. Unless the customer is tax exempt, such as a school, church, or charitable organization, they then refer to a sales tax table that is taped to the Sales counter to calculate sales tax. If the customer is located more than 20 miles away, and if their purchase is less than $350.00, then there is also a $15.00 delivery charge added to the sale. The person writing up the sale uses the calculator again to calculate the total amount due from the customer. After a quick check that everything was written correctly, the customer is asked how they would like to pay for the purchase. If the customer pays by cash, Ted or Will recounts the cash, uses the calculator to determine the amount of change due, and remits the change to the customer. If the customer pays by check, they will be asked for their driver's license number unless one of the owners knows the customer personally. If the customer pays by credit card, whoever is handling the sale will "swipe" the card, enter the appropriate information, wait for an approval code, and write this code on the top of the sales form. They will confirm with the customer the delivery date and time, and write this at the top of the sales form, also. The top copy of the Sales Order form is given to the customer, and the second copy is filed in a "to-be-delivered" manila folder.

Since the day was getting late, the students asked if they could schedule another interview early the next week. On Monday afternoon, the students met with Ted and Will again to talk about the process of receiving new inventory and keeping track of what was in stock. Building on what they learned in the previous interview, each student took their own notes and then met later to summarize and verify that each was consistent. The following is a summary of their collective interview notes.

Williams Bros. Appliances

Inventory and Point-of-Sale System

Interview Notes

MIS 310

January 18, 20xx

When the owners need to acquire additional inventory, they refer to various manufacturers' catalogs and promotional materials, as well as industry reports and evaluations. They currently stock products from Whirlpool, GE, Kitchenaid, Maytag, Frigidaire, Tappan, Amana, Hotpoint, Roper, White Westinghouse, Sony, RCA, and Toshiba. If a customer prefers to special order a product, they can also accommodate them. Most special orders take 2-3 weeks to arrive.

For regular stock items, Ted or Will completes a two-part carbonless Purchase Order (see example in Figure 3) and mails or faxes it to the manufacturer's regional sales manager. After all the information has been entered, they calculate the extended price for each line item, and total the purchase order. The top copy is sent via mail or fax, and the second copy is filed in the "Ordered Inventory" folder.

When the ordered items arrive, Ted or Will pull the second copy of the Purchase Order out of the "Ordered Inventory" file and confirms that what they received was what they had ordered. If there are any items that are backordered (they ordered something but it didn't arrive with the rest of the shipment) they write a note on the purchase order, make a copy, and place this now third copy back in the "Ordered Inventory" folder. The second copy showing the items that were received is placed in the "Update New Inventory" folder.

Before the end of the day, Ted or Will goes through the "Update New Inventory" folder and records all products they received that day in a three-ring notebook--one notebook for each manufacturer (see example in Figure 4). When a product is sold and after it has been delivered, Ted or Will goes through the "Sales" folder, and for each product that was sold, selects the appropriate inventory notebook, matches the sold item with the listed item based on product number and serial number, and write down the date of the sale in the notebook. At the end of each week, one of the owners will also go through the "Sales" folder, and create a "Weekly Sales Report" of everything that was sold during the week. This report lists the product, manufacturer, product number, serial number, cost, and price. This report is then totaled to provide a record of weekly sales. Ted and Will would like to be able to see sales by product line, and by manufacturer, and would also like to create this report daily, but they just don't have the time.

After the Systems Analysis and Design students completed the interview, they met to discuss their project strategy. What to do next? Dr. Waggoner provided the following requirements:

Requirements for Systems Analysis and Design Students:

1. Prepare a system proposal that includes an executive summary, the requirements of the system, and identification of your team members.

2. Develop appropriate process models (Use Case Descriptions and Diagram or Data Flow Diagrams--context level, level 0, level 1) per your professor's instructions.

3. Develop the appropriate data model (Class Diagram or Entity-Relationship Diagram) per your professor's instructions.

4. Develop preliminary screen and report designs for each user interface identified above.

5. Prepare a one-page "pre-implementation review" outlining what went right and what went wrong on this project.

Requirements for Systems Development Students:

1. Complete the above requirements, or refer to the packet of materials provided by your professor.

2. Using Microsoft Access and/or Visual Basic, develop a comprehensive, user-friendly, working system that will meet the requirements of Williams Bros Appliances.

3. Prepare a user manual describing how to use the system.

4. Prepare a one-page "post-implementation review" outlining what went right and what went wrong on this project.





Terry L. Fox, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
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Author:Fox, Terry L.
Publication:Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2011
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