Gower is a small family run company that provides a custom built IT system for Cemeteries and Crematoria in many authorities across the country. Wakefield Council is the largest authority, to date, in terms of sites (19 Cemeteries and 2 Crematoria), that Gower has served. Prior to Gower, Bereavement Services used a system called ‘Winnex’ which was a custom written Command Line Interface style application created in house back in the 1980s, and which used a great amount of manual labour to input data, and report on statistics and supporting data. Gower was selected by management after several years of tender for a new IT system to replace ‘Winnex’ with their product called ‘Epilog’. Gower's solution was both the most cost effective and also included many beneficial features. It is able to hold more information and handle more files, the graphical display improves the presentation and makes the system easier to understand and operate. The clear display also facilitates the creation of reports. The overall result is a system that is more effective and efficient, and requires less manual intervention.
The steps involved in developing an information system are:
The first three stages were completed by liaisons between management and Gower. Therefore, the admin team couldn’t contribute until the Testing and Implementation stages.
Testing can be introduced with a test version of the system installed on the PCs. Testing would commence initially by entering the same data that is entered onto the current system but in less quantity, followed by larger quantities to see how the new system copes. Finally, the system needs to be tested to see how it copes with errors, therefore deliberate errors should be created and the resolution of these errors tested.
Once testing is complete, the system should be implemented in parallel with the old Winnex system whereby all the data would be input into both systems and the data produced from each system would be monitored and assessed until they match accurately. Any differences that occurred should be checked on both systems to ensure that the difference isn’t the new system correcting an unsuspected flaw in the old Winnex.
Finally, once the system is working and all processes functioning, the processes need to be committed to documents in the form of User Guides/ Manuals. User guides should be written in plain English rather than technical language. It is most important that the literature used to train and guide the end user is user-friendly and easy to understand. The guide should cover: how to run the system, how to enter data, how to modify data and how to save and print reports. The guide should include a list of error messages and advice on what to do if something goes wrong. It should be a comprehensive document which can be improved by making it specific to the end users’ process.
In preparation for the installation of the new database, I created a folder in the Information Folder on the F drive: (F:\Environment\Cems & Crems\NEW Information\Gower Manuals) for the operation manuals. After the start of the system/project as problems kept developing and not being resolved an additional folder (F:\Environment\Cems & Crems\Elilog Errors) was created for Elilog errors. This was created at a higher level for those who are less computer literate to easily find and insert additional information.
The purpose and value of contributing to a new information system is to make it easier to operate and more accurate in its operation, thus increasing the integrity of the data contained. The easier the system is to operate, the better chances there are of the operators carrying out their work with fewer errors. This in turn makes the database more accurate and increases the integrity of the data and reports