Assignment 1: Building a Relational Database for Efficiency
Assignment 1 is worth 10 percent of your final grade for this course. You should plan to complete and submit this assignment after you have completed Lesson 4.
This assignment is to be completed individually, not as a member of a group or team.
Solomon Enterprises is small concrete construction company. They employ truck drivers who receive a base salary as well as a commission on sales. Currently, they keep data on customers and sale orders in Excel Workbooks (see the attached file). As their company and the number of sales grows, they are finding it harder and harder to keep track of their data. They would like to create regular reports to help them with decision making. Right now, they have difficulty retrieving information quickly and easily. They need your expert advice to help them with their data storage and tracking issues.
You are an Information Consultant with the Digital K&S Corporation, and you have been contracted to solve this problem by addressing the specific questions below. As an analyst/designer, you will review the current Excel file, and then design and build an Access database that will be a more efficient and effective method of handling the data.
Download the Excel spreadsheet here: SolomonEnterpriseReviewed.xlsx (attached in separate file)
- Your first challenge is to make sense of the data stored in the Excel file. After downloading the Excel spreadsheet, spend some time analyzing the data it stores. Think about the problems it is causing the organization, and how a database can help minimize or eliminate these issues.
In order to convert this data table into a relational database, you need to identify the entities, their attributes, and the relationships between the entities. Recall that in data normalization there is often a table that represents a transaction—think about what a transaction looks like for Solomon Enterprises. This transaction table becomes the centraltable—the one with relationships to the other entities which are part of that transaction.
Use the information on database design in Chapter 5 and Chapter Extension 6 of the textbook to inform and support your decisions. For additional help with building an Access database, see
- You will need to transform the Excel data into a proper Access database. Keep in mind that retyping the data from a spreadsheet into a database is not the best use of your time and it can introduce data errors. The data in the Access database must match the Excel data (except for the obvious data inconsistencies). You can import the data directly from the Excel spreadsheet. The tutorial videos above will help you do this.
- In Access, you will create database tables from the data stored in the Excel file you downloaded. In database design, each table should relate to a specific entity or event; that is, tables are often created for each noun (person, place, or thing). It is essential to eliminate redundancy as much as possible. This means that the data should appear in only one place. This results in less storage space used and, because data will only need to be entered (or changed) in one place, there will be fewer opportunities for inconsistencies or errors.
- When designing the database, you will need to establish relationships. These relationships are usually built by examining the tables and deciding which direction makes the most sense. Often, one table will represent a transaction. Consider a sales transaction. It consists of a date and total, but also has relationships to the customer who made the purchase, so the Sale should have a Lookup to Customer. Think about why this makes more sense than the Customer having a Lookup to Sale. You need to establish the relationships between the different tables in the database.
- Next, you should create both a query and a report that shows each of the following:
- the dates and locations of the deliveries made in the Chevy truck
- the most productive employee
- the most valuable customer
- the product that sells the most and the total units sold. What is the average amount per order for this product?
- The sales manager is curious how many repeat deliveries have been made by the same employee to the same customer at the same delivery address. This helps with planning as this employee has established a relationship with this customer and location. Create a query, sorted by the number of orders, to show this information.
- Solomon Enterprises is experiencing some financial difficulties and is considering adopting downsizing as a possible action. Which worker, employee, or driver should legitimately be concerned by that action?
- In addition to these queries, look at the data and create one additional query of your choosing, along with the associated report, that show some information that would be useful for Solomon Enterprise’s managerial decision making.
- Finally, you will write an analytical report to the executive team at Solomon Enterprises. This report should be formatted as indicated in Writing An Analytical Report. Ensure that it includes responses to the following:
- Explain the problems management will experience from the data integrity issues in the spreadsheet.
- Include a list of your tables, including their field names, and clearly identify all primary and foreign keys.
- Describe how your design and implementation of a database will solve previously mentioned issues.
- Describe the considerations management will need to take into account to successfully convert their system from the Excel spreadsheet to the Access database system.
After you have created your database file, click FILE→ SAVE AS→, then SAVE the file to your hard drive according to the following assignment naming standards:
OR (depending on the file format default of your version of Access)
Once the file has been created and completed, you can upload it in Moodle.
For this assignment, you must submit:
- an Access database with tables, reports, and queries as described in the Instructions section above. If you are not using Microsoft Access, see the note below.
- a Word document containing an analytical report that addresses the issues and/or answers the questions described in the Instructions section above.
Note: If you do not have access to a computer on which you can install Microsoft Access, you may use another database tool (LibreOffice Base is an example; there are others). Access is not available for MacOS. If you do not use Microsoft Access, you must also submit the following:
- an E-R diagram of your database that clearly shows the primary and foreign keys for each table.
- a screen shot of the first page of the contents of each table. Alternatively, you may create a report that dumps the contents of a table and submit a single page of that report.
- queries that you designed to create each report. Show both the query design and the query output.
- the reports required in the assignment.
You will be marked according to the following criteria.
Database tables set up correctly (fields, primary keys, and relations) (5 marks)
Reports created correctly (7 reports for a total of 2 marks)
Comprehension (3 marks)
When your assignment is complete, return to this page and follow the instructions for submitting it.
All of your course work must be submitted before 12:00 midnight (Mountain Time) on the final day of your contract.
To account for administration, processing, and marking times, please allow up to eight business days from submission for the return of your marked assignment.
Writing an Analytical Report
For Assignments 1, 2, and 3, you are required to prepare an analytical report. Unlike reports that are written for information-sharing purposes, analytical reports typically include an analysis of alternatives and recommendations.
Keep in mind that while reports share many features with other documents (such as memos and letters), they are usually meant to flow upward—from employees to management. By learning to write effective analytical reports, you can enhance your image with superiors and help your organization make wise decisions.
A decision you have to make as you prepare to write an analytical report is what writing pattern to follow. Analytical reports that follow the direct pattern put recommendations at the beginning, while analytical reports that follow the indirect pattern put recommendations at the end. If you know that the audience of your report is unfamiliar with the topic you are writing about, it is best to follow the indirect pattern.
In their textbook on business communication, Mary Ellen Guffey, Kathleen Rhodes, and Patricia Rogin provide a checklist for writing analytical reports (pp. 330-331). Their checklist provides a basis for the one that appears below but it has been significantly tailored for the purposes of CMIS 351.
- Identify the purpose of the analytical report; in other words, explain why it is being written.
- Preview the organization of the analytical report. Especially for longer reports, explain to the reader how the report is organized.
- Summarize the recommendations for the reader. (This applies when you are using the direct pattern—that is, you know your audience is familiar with the topic your analytic report covers).
Presentation and Discussion of Alternatives
- Discuss the pros and cons of the various alternatives you considered before settling on the recommendations you are making.
- Organize the information you will rely upon to present both the alternatives you considered and the recommendation you ultimately settled on for logic and readability.
- Supply proof to support the recommendations you ultimately decide to make in your analytical report. Such proof may include facts, statistics, expert opinion, or survey data.
- Consider using headings, lists, tables, and graphics to highlight key information.
- Make your recommendations. If there are several of them, use a list to present them. (This applies when you are using the indirect pattern because you know your audience is unfamiliar with the topic you are writing about).
- Explain what action needs to be taken if the recommendations are accepted.