The News Shopper, based at Petts Wood was launched in 1965 by a famous Fleet Street editor, Sir David English, who was formally the editor of the Daily Express. During it’s early life the News Shopper was also owned by Rupert Murdoch, currently owner of News International, owners of Sky brodcasting and also the Times and the Sun newspapers. Now owned by Newsquest Media Group Ltd, the News Shopper is a free newspaper of 340,000 copies each week delivered to households in the boroughs of Bromley, Bexley, Lewisham, Greenwich, Dartford and Gravesham.
It has won many awards in the last five years, from Newsquest regional awards to national awards and even industry awards from organisations such as the Newspaper Society and a special award in Kent for its Sports pages. It also is host to an award winning website – www. newsshopper. co. uk and has its own digital news producer as well as a team of 30 journalists. The remainder of the newspaper group is made up of some 80 people in the advertising department and 20 in the production department.
The IT team, which is based at the regional office in Cheam is comprised of 5 engineers and a manager, with three of the engineers sharing a rota system at Petts Wood, with one of them, Andy Miles, being the Systems Administrator with prime responsibility for the centre. The three main departments, editorial, advertising and production each have a department manager. These managers report to the Publisher who has overall responsibility for the running and ultimate production of the newspaper.
However, the publication also has a Reader Holiday department associated with the business and it is this department that requires an improved database. The News Shopper is connected to the remainder of the South London region by a Wide Area Network (WAN). The Reader Holiday team is a stand-alone department based in the Classified department at Petts Wood and linked to the WAN. Identifying the staff Andy Miles will be my main contact at News Shopper Andy has worked at “News Shopper” as the main Systems Administrator for 5 years and is very experienced with the applications.
He is based in Pettswood, and gives 1st/ 2nd/ 3rd line user support regarding software and hardware issues and provides out of hours support to all South London production staff during the week. Andy also has the job of monitoring and maintaining all peripherals within the company, across three departments; this consists of maintaining and upgrading the software. Andy’s job holds a very large amount of responsibility for users and overall the company, so to prevent any data being lost Andy makes a backup tape every night, which is stored off site.
Andy is the person that people call if they are having difficulty with their computer; his main job is to keep everything running smoothly. From Andy I hope to get a wide range of information. Rob Whittlesea is the head of IT and Systems Administrating Manager of “Newsquest South London” and has worked there for 6 years. He has a great knowledge of IT and is very experienced with the network and all applications within “News Shopper”. He has authority over all IT staff in the region and has the final say in any decision on any IT matter. This gives him control over budgeting, upgrades and installations of new software.
Kelly Brooker is the Manager of the Reader Holiday team. She works with Claire Waldock and between them they deal with 20,000 holiday passengers a year; a part-time member of staff, Marion Spall, who is visually impaired, assists them. Although they have a PC each, and access to the Internet and e-mail, Kelly and Claire have very little knowledge of other IT applications, and they have never used an electronic database. The database that I am planning to introduce to the department will be more sophisticated than anything than they have used before. Therefore, there will be a need for training, which will be carried out by Andy Miles.
However I aim to create a user-friendly interface, which should enable them to pick it up very quickly, especially as they begin to understand the benefits of the new system. As the News Shopper is part of a large newspaper group, they are also a part of a region, known as Newsquest (South London). Kelly and Claire also look after the Reader Holidays for the whole of the region that has a readership of 2. 5 million. Current System The current system used by this department is very basic. It is a word processing package using a mail merging system with names and addresses of passengers that have used the service in the past.
Alongside these details they have a date, and very little else. There are two PC’s that have recently been upgraded to DELL workstations; 21″ monitors with 256 RAM running Windows 98, but run very basic software. The PC is linked to Wide Area Network (WAN) and is connected to the FTP server, which is also used by external estate agents to transfer their copy to News Shopper via the Internet. To help them understand the history of their customers, they have a number of filing cabinets with details of the holidays they have taken, including dates, destinations, whether they took out insurance, and how much they paid.
They also have information on whether these customers took more than one holiday with the Company. The holidays that are offered by the News Shopper are operated by a number of different tour operators – Travelscope, Destinations Travel, Diamond Travel, Harry Shaw, to name a few. Each tour operator specialises in different types of holiday ranging from coach holidays in the UK, to flight holidays to the USA and from continental coaching to ocean cruising. Kelly agrees a schedule with the operators and advertisements are placed within the newspapers. However, the operators do not pay for them.
Instead, the Company receives commission from the tour operator in payment. At various times during the year, a mail-shot is sent out to passengers that have travelled with one of these operators previously, and also to those who have simply asked for details or brochures of the holidays, to inform them of forthcoming trips. The mail merge system is used for this purpose. The range of holidays available is kept in a filing system and it is the teams job to collate those that they feel might be appropriate to their customers, rather than sending out the full list to everyone.
Because of the lack of a proper database solution, this is a very time consuming and inefficient method of communicating the information. The Problems No current booking information – At present the lack of an electronic solution for saving information on bookings being made means that manual instructions are required using hand-written booking forms. These forms contain all the information relevant to the individual holiday, including the names and addresses, personal details, holiday booked, number of passengers, value of holiday, insurance (if taken), pick up point (if applicable).
This information is then extracted and compiled into a manual report and sent to the individual tour operators for their information. A manual reconciliation is then made and sent to the accounts department for them to raise an invoice for commission. The new system, using macros will enable this process to be automated and create a more sophisticated and detailed set of reports. Only manual inventory information available – Details of all the holidays available are held in brochures kept in the filing cabinets. Therefore when a telephone enquiry is made, the member of staff has to put the customer on hold, extract the brochure and return.
The new system will enable them to call up the information on screen whilst maintaining contact with the customer. This improves customer service and efficiency. Not enough fields – The mail merge system currently in use only allows the team to merge letters with names and addresses and print out labels. The new database will enable them to take all the historical information they have about their customers on file in cabinets and match it to information they have been able to store about the holidays their tour operators are running in the future.
The database will be able to store all the information that the team feel important to know about their customers such as name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, age, demographic profile, past holidays taken with them, how much they paid, which travel company they travelled with, special requirements etc. Inability to search – The current system does not enable a search facility other than in an alpha sort way. The current system requires staff to search through filing cabinets manually.
The new system will be fully searchable by running macros enabling them to cross-match requirements and historical data with information held on holidays planned by the tour operators. Lack of reports and analysis – The current system is unable to provide any reports. The new system will enable Kelly and Claire to keep a record of commission due from the holidays as well as being able to calculate things such as what holiday is the most profitable for them to advertise down to the least profitable. It will also help them determine which holiday is the most popular with their readers.
Slow source of information – Although the information on the historical background of the passengers is available from the filing system and mail merge, it is extremely slow to obtain. The new system will allow access to all the information speedily, which means it is more likely to be used, which in turn will help to sell more holidays. No printed reports – At present any printed information has to be constructed manually from information gathered. This also is time consuming and consequently less accurate.
The new system will be constructed to enable the reports generated to be printed out from a networked laser printer. Only manual reports can be sent to other parts of the Company via courier – As previously mentioned all reports generated are of a manual nature. Consequently they can only be sent via courier to the regional office. The new system will produce reports that will be transportable via the WAN to all parts of the business including the accounts department who will be able to generate invoices from the information provided.
Poor security – The current system has no real security as the information is kept in filing cabinets and mail merge. However this is not a major problem at present as there are few reports of any value or sensitivity being created. Once the new system has been installed and it is creating new, informative and potentially sensitive reports, security will become more important. This will require a multi-level security system with restricted access for junior staff and full access for managers and senior staff.