|1||Introduction, software features and navigation.|
|2||Data entry, using the help system.|
|3||Systems analysis, data flows.|
|4||Transaction processing, data quality.|
|5||Database, queries and searches.|
|6||Network layout and design.|
|7||Data integration, ties to Microsoft ® Excel.|
|8||Tactical decisions, analyzing data.|
|9||Sample models by discipline (production, marketing, etc.)|
|10||Expert system applications.|
|11||Strategy, industry analysis and research.|
|12||Expand the application (optional), planning.|
|13||MIS support and organization.|
|14||Security and privacy controls needed.|
Specific assignments are provided in each chapter of the Post/Anderson textbook for using the Rolling Thunder database. The assignments are tailored to the content of the chapter. They include basic data entry, creating queries, and building models; as well as strategic analysis, organization of MIS, and security issues.
Answers to all of the exercises are provided in the Instructor's Manual. With the Microsoft® Word copy on CD, you can cut and paste the query answers directly into Microsoft ® Access to get up-to-date results.
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The introductory exercises in Chapter 2 are designed to familiarize students with the application. Do not emphasize the grading, since they can also be used to test the lab setup and highlight potential problems.
Although Rolling Thunder is not a large company, there are many related systems. It takes time for students to understand the interrelationships. Yet, this learning is exactly what students have to do when they get a job, or analyze business problems. The exercises in this chapter teach students how to begin their investigation.
Chapter 4 highlights the transaction processing features. It also asks students to identify issues related to data quality and integrity. In particular, they should see the issues of size, and consistency. On slow networks, they will also quickly appreciate the issue of processing and transmission speed.
Chapter 5 contains 20 realistic questions in the Rolling Thunder exercises. Each question has a level-of-difficulty rating to assist in choosing appropriate questions. More difficult questions involve multiple tables, complex Boolean processing, or possibly sub-queries. The SQL answers are provided in the Instructor's Manual. Additional questions can be derived by expanding or modifying any of the questions.
Chapter 6 asks students to examine the operations of the company and determine appropriate computer networks. As more advanced projects, students could be asked to identify current products and prices.
Chapter 7 expands on the use of queries and asks students to integrate the data into Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. The assignments call for introductory analysis of the data, including creating graphs.
Chapter 8 asks students to think about tactical problems and models that might be used to make decisions. Some basic financial questions are given as examples, and to illustrate the basic use of models.
Chapter 9 contains 14 different models that highlight tactical decisions. The disciplines include production, marketing, accounting, finance, forecasting, and human resource management. Depending on student background and capabilities, answers could range from descriptive papers to integrated database-spreadsheet analyses. The decision-tools built into Excel (statistics, optimization, etc.) can be used to analyze complex problems. Data can also be exported to other packages (e.g., SAS).
Instead of assigning one question for everyone, you might want to give students a choice of three or four models, so they can pick one that fits with their training and capabilities.
Chapter 10 exercises ask students to identify complex decisions and potential uses of expert systems and other advanced tools. If the tools are available (e.g., ExSys), students could be asked to design a basic system. Other than the lack of tools, the difficulty lies in finding an expert. However, there will likely be several students who know enough about bicycles to provide additional information about components and compatibility issues.
Chapter 11 asks students to investigate and discuss the basic components of strategy in this industry. The bicycle industry provides an interesting (and relatively ignored) target for strategic analysis. While bicycles have been around for over 100 years, the industry was in a decline for many years. Sales started to climb in the last 20 years, and mountain bike sales have driven the industry forward in the last 5 to 10 years. Innovation is high (in some areas). New companies are continually trying to enter the market (especially in components). Sales are driven by several large firms but none are dominant (except for Shimano in components). Sales of the product generally requires a high-level of personal contact, so there are thousands of small retailers. There is tremendous potential for change.
Ideally, chapter 12 calls for asking students to develop extensions to the Rolling Thunder application. The problem is that many students do not have the background, and few instructors are willing to devote the time to teaching the in-depth skills needed. However, if you have good students, you might ask them to expand the database into new areas. An intermediate step is to ask them to use the report writer to create basic reports. For that reason, there are few reports in the database.
Chapter 13 asks students to apply the issues of centralization and decentralization to Rolling Thunder. They should think about the level of support that will be needed, who will be in charge, and other basic issues in managing the information.
Most of the common privacy and security issues can be raised in the Rolling Thunder case, from prevention of theft, to customer and employee privacy. The basic exercises ask students to identify potential problems and possible solutions. More advanced students might be asked to modify the database to provide additional security and privacy. Note that to avoid common problems (lost passwords, etc.) security is currently not activated in the student version of the database.
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