Spreadsheets in Finance and Forecasting Lecture 2: Introduction to the Project Session Objectives The purpose of this session is to: Ensure that you understand what is required; Discuss the project timescale, and indicate some of the milestones; Offer some examples of what might be the end-product; Explore some of the methods by which you might investigate the context. The Project Brief Within a realistic context of application, identify a range of sources and targets of data both external and internal to the context, which are generated or supplied as part of the normal business working Formulate a range of spreadsheet models and applications which can be used to work with the data. Evaluate the usefulness of these models and applications. Breakdown of the task The task has five parts: 1. Finding and investigating a context 2. Discussing Initial Ideas 3. Development Work 4. Presentation of proposals 5. Creation and Submission of a report The Timescale Weeks 2-5: Find context, collect data, create draft systems analysis Weeks 5-7: Attend Formative Tutorial and discuss context Weeks 8-9: Create project outline proposals Week 10: Submit draft proposals as a presentation Weeks 11,12: Develop spreadsheet solutions Week after Easter Break Submit full project proposals The Formative Tutorial In Weeks 5, 6 or 7 Attendance at the you will attend an tutorial is individual formative compulsory and is tutorial. worth 5% of the Before this you will have submitted an A4 marks sheet with details of your context and what you have been doing The Formative Tutorial The purpose of the tutorial is to ensure that you are going along the right lines, and that: you have found a suitable context your data is suitable your analysis is effective you have good ideas The Presentation By the end of week The Presentation 10, you will submit a Powerpoint should be designed presentation. to last about 10 In this presentation minutes, use you will describe the PowerPoint and is context and outline your proposals. worth 10% You will only produce the slides, but will not be required to give an oral presentation. The Presentation The purpose of the presentation is to cause you to summarise your ideas thus far. It is likely that you will receive suggestions as to how you might improve, or what else you could do. Development Work This is the hard graft of the project You will need to devise spreadsheet models, and produce story boards and mock-ups. You are not required to produce fully working spreadsheets, but you do need to have realistic and fully developed ideas, which are capable of being subjected to critical analysis. Submission of the Report About 1000 words Fully structured To include full descriptions of the proposed spreadsheet solutions Analysis and Justification Sources, Bibliography etc. In this session We now consider the project brief, and some of the issues which you should be addressing over the next few weeks. There will be further lectures on the content of each of the other aspects. Finding and Investigating a Context What do we mean by a “context of application” ? Any organisation or situation which deals with money or information. The Context The context would normally be a small business enterprise, or a similar set-up which involves data and/or financial matters. One of the criteria here is that you should be thoroughly familiar with the context. Some Ideas (1) A small retail outlet: a newsagents a greengrocer a charity shop or possibly: a single small outlet of a large retail chain Some Ideas (2) A small organisation offering a service: a doctor’s or dentist’s surgery a travel or estate agent a branch of a building society or bank a hairdresser A Citizen’s Advice Bureau Some ideas (3) Trades people: a window cleaning firm a small builder a decorating firm an electrical contractor Some ideas (4) Other organisations: A Club A school A Charity A local action group Can I invent a context? Yes, but only do this as a last resort. You are unlikely to be able to invent the depth and complexity of data relationships without a real focus. Your Own Ideas Spend 2 minutes now, jotting down your ideas of some of the contexts you might use. Then spend 5 minutes discussing this with another person. Sharing Ideas We will spend a few minutes “thinking aloud”, where each person will describe a context they think they may be able to use. Criteria for selecting the context: You will be assessed on the quality of your product and on the relevance and “fit” of the product to the context. This means that you must have a thorough insight into the context, for example if you have worked there, or you have a friend or relative who has worked there. In addition, the context must provide a variety of different types of problem, and you need to have insights into the way things are currently done. What will I do in the context? The project models a scenario in which you are a consultant brought in to suggest improvements The Scenario You are an Ideally this should employee of improve service to CSTSB: Computer customers Solutions for improve the flow Today’s Small of data Business improve the Your brief is to presentation of provide the data manager of your improve ways of context with using the data computer solutions to their problems improve ways of managing data Be Selective The scenario is deliberately open. This means you are able to choose any aspect which has potential for improvement . Using Spreadsheets It is crucial that you develop spreadsheet solutions as the major element in your project. This means carefully selecting those elements from the context where spreadsheet solutions are relevant and applicable. You do not have to cover everything! What should I investigate? You should observe, interview and interact with the people, systems and documents Observing Watch what happens See what people do See how people react Participating It is not strictly necessary that you involve yourself in the day-to-day organisation However, this may help to give you insights, and to find out how systems work Interviewing Find out about systems, policies , procedures Find out what is important Find out what people would like Use multiple perspectives Looking at Documents It will be very helpful to obtain access to current files, in both paper-based and electronic forms. If you are not allowed to do this, perhaps you could get them described to you. Resources In Week 2 Resources you will find a document called Investigating Your Context. This document offers detailed suggestions as to how to carry out investigations. What sort of data is required? Any kind of data (financial or other) which is collected, used, transmitted or stored by the organisation. The Data The data you use does not have to be real, but it does have to be “realistic”. One consequence of this is that you should know how the data is produced, who it is for, what happens to it, and how it is used within the system. The formats of the data that you use for your project should have all the features of the real thing. Data Protection Act Considerations You should take care in your project not to uses real names, nor actual data which is traceable to a particular source. The Flow of Data It is important that you model the whole flow of data, and include processes as well as produce products. You need to consider all the aspects of the Input – Process- Output chain Also, consider whether there is any feedback from the output back to input which helps to modify the process Data Sources Who or what generates the data? How is it generated? What form does it take? How often? Processes What happens to the data along the way? Is it summarised, averaged, filtered or consolidated? Is it used in scenarios, “what if” situations or other forecasting tools? Data Destinations Who is the data for? What form does the final data take? What use will it be put to? The Feedback Loop Does the person or organisation receiving the data inform the person producing it or modifying it whether the data is of sufficient quality or value? Data Flow Diagrams As part of the project, you will need to construct diagrams which describe the current data flow, and your proposed amendments to it. These diagrams should give an overview of the sources and destinations of data. Data Flow Diagrams Sales Representative Record Sale Data Flow Diagrams will be crucial in helping you Invoice Clerk understand You will need and explain the to use these systems diagrams to explain both Bill Customer Customer the current systems and your proposals What sort of things am I looking to do in the project? These might cover a whole range of activities but which offer potential for using a spreadsheet. A Systems Approach The approach adopted in this module attempts to model how a project would be tackled in a real context. This normally occurs as a cycle of analysis-proposal- development-testing- evaluation.. Project Development Problem Specification Product Problem Evaluation Analysis Product Design Testing Proposal Product Development Project Remember, you do not have to actually Development create the spreadsheets, only think through the process to the design proposal stage. Problem Specification Product Problem Evaluation Analysis Product Design Testing Proposal Product Development Ideas and Examples Annual Budget for a Small Business This might consist of: Opening Balance Sheet Profit & Loss Account Cash Flow Statement Closing Balance Sheet Expenses Claims and Records Travel Claims System to include: Journey details Tables to summarise data Claims tracking Summaries, e.g. claims per employee, totals, averages Charts and comparisons Making Predictions Looking at Sales Figures and/or profitability of investments Measures of profitability Forecasting using a range of statistical and graphical techniques Keeping Accounts An accounting system for a charity: Subscriptions Expenses Purchases Cash Ledger Bank Account Transactions Providing a Quotation or an Estimate Production of a quotation using standard forms: Job details sheet Calculation of costings Printed quotation Automating Tasks A range of tasks, including: Standard Invoices and Receipts at billing and payment Month-end summaries Customer information updates Automated reports Other Suggestions Think about your contexts that you described earlier in the session. Which of the previous suggestions are relevant to your context? What other suggestions can you offer? The Scope of the Project As you can see, some of these are major undertakings, taking many hours and you will probably only be able to develop one or possibly two of these Some are “one off” sheets which could take you a few minutes to do. What should you do now? Spend some time now thinking about what you might do. Note down: A brief description of a possible context A short list of potential data sources there: o Financial data o Other data You should discuss this with the tutor before the end of the session.
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