Land of Po Homepage CAITLIN project homepage Sitemap Search the web Feedback School of Informatics homepage Eat the word homepage Staff List Northumbria University Homepage Page banner with picture hotspots to: Feedback, Guest book, Site Map, Search, Caitlin, Eat the Word, School of Informatics, Northumbria University, & Dilbert

 

Go to

Home
Up one level

Dilbert link icon

 

Interview Notes
(with thanks and apologies to Carol Britton & Jill Doake)

Introduction

Your company, Analysts R Us, has been asked by the Edwards to come and investigate the possibility of developing a computer system for Stitch in Time. Fred, one of the senior consultants interviewed the Edwards but shortly afterwards was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and took a job in the City with a blue-chip firm of management consultants. Consequently, your team has been given the responsibility of taking over the project. Helpfully, before he left, Fred produced a transcript of his interview (he always tape-recorded his chats with clients. Something to do with ‘plausible deniability’ he said.)

Interview transcript

JOHN: Fancy a drink?

FRED: A cup of tea would be nice, thank you.

JANE: I’ve got some nice filter coffee if you prefer.

FRED: No, tea’s my drink thanks. No milk or sugar, just how it comes out of the pot. Now then, I was wondering if you could start by describing the main jobs you need to do to run Stitch in Time? What about your first contact with the customer, for example?

JANE: We meet them when we take the order, or at least we tend to speak to them on the phone, which is a real pain because it can take so long. Also, the customers tend to be rather chatty and want to know about the business and what we stock and then we have to explain about the different sorts of leggings and how the kits work, and so on. I try to get them to pop in so that they can see the fabrics for themselves, but often they don’t want to, which is understandable given that most of the customers are pregnant women who feel ill, or tired or both. Usually the women end up ordering several pairs of leggings because they’re so relieved to find a product that is just what they need. But it’s awkward dealing with large orders over the phone, especially when they choose a mixture of styles and fabrics.

FRED: So what happens when they ask you detailed questions? Do you have all the information in your heads, or do you need to keep looking things up? Also, could you tell me how you keep all the information about legging designs, prices, fabrics etc?: So what happens when they ask you detailed questions? Do you have all the information in your heads, or do you need to keep looking things up? Also, could you tell me how you keep all the information about legging designs, prices, fabrics etc?

JANE: We keep a list of the designs and fabrics we offer on a regular basis taped to the wall by the phone. Generally we can remember what the design or fabric is like just from the name so we try to describe them as best we can. : We keep a list of the designs and fabrics we offer on a regular basis taped to the wall by the phone. Generally we can remember what the design or fabric is like just from the name so we try to describe them as best we can. 

FRED: Is there a separate list of prices, or what?: Is there a separate list of prices, or what?

JANE: Yes, there is as it gets updated more often than the catalogue. We keep it by the phone as well. : Yes, there is as it gets updated more often than the catalogue. We keep it by the phone as well. 

FRED: Ok, so is this how you keep information about suppliers too? I notice your price list has the name and address of another company on it.: Ok, so is this how you keep information about suppliers too? I notice your price list has the name and address of another company on it.

JANE: Well, sort of. You see we only have one supplier at the moment, the materials wholesaler over in Nottingham. We’re hoping that we can start getting fabrics directly from the manufacturers as we’re starting to buy in quite large volumes, and that should increase too, especially if we’re able to expand the way we’d like. But it will also mean having to deal with more than one supplier.

FRED: Fine, ok. So tell me, how do you record a customer’s order?

JANE: Well, when they tell us what we want, we take it down in triplicate using carbon paper on our order forms.: Well, when they tell us what we want, we take it down in triplicate using carbon paper on our order forms.

FRED: Why three copies?: Why three copies?

JANE: Ok, well, two copies are sent out with the order. The customer keeps one as a kind of delivery note and the other one acts as an invoice which the customer sends back with the payment. We keep hold of the third copy until the signed copy comes back with the money. At the moment everything’s cash on delivery, though obviously it might be better, or even necessary, to allow credit accounts and other things like that.

FRED: How about pricing? Do you work out the cost when you take the order, or do you do it later?: How about pricing? Do you work out the cost when you take the order, or do you do it later?

JANE: Well, some customers want to know how much they’ve spent, but others aren’t really bothered, so it sort of depends. We prefer it if we can work it out later as it means one of us can do it when we’ve got a moment.

FRED: What happens next?: What happens next?

JANE: The orders go into the orders file which is kept in the that box on the shelf over there. We put them into the box in the order we receive them, unless someone wants something especially urgently. Usually, we tell the customers that it will take up to 28 days before they get their leggings.: The orders go into the orders file which is kept in the that box on the shelf over there. We put them into the box in the order we receive them, unless someone wants something especially urgently. Usually, we tell the customers that it will take up to 28 days before they get their leggings.

FRED: How do the leggings get to the customers?: How do the leggings get to the customers?

JOHN: Well, if they’re local then I pop them round in the car after work. Otherwise we just stick them in the post.

FRED: Fine. I think I’ve got a good idea as to how you handle orders. We can always come back to this later. I’d like to know how you deal with your stock now.

JANE: I usually go and buy fabric about once a month. Or, we can have it delivered, but that costs quite a bit. These days, the wholesaler has agreed to deliver the stuff free if we spend more than £400. Obviously, it’s not convenient or affordable go and get just a few items we’ve run out of so I try and wait until I can go and put a big order together on which I can get the free delivery. When we’re running low on supplies I see if I can put a big enough order together to get the free delivery. But occasionally this has meant that I have ordered stuff we didn’t really need and, as it turns out, we couldn’t use it all up either. We’ve got yards and yards of Euro ’96 material lying around!

FRED: So how do you decide what to order then?: So how do you decide what to order then?

JANE: Well, like I said, it’s not always very scientific. I have a look round to see what’s running low, especially with the more popular fabrics like the blacks and dark blues. Then I’ll have a look through the orders we’ve taken to see what we’re likely to need. Ideally, I’d like to order so that everything runs down at the same rate.

FRED: What happens if you do run out of something and you can’t supply a customer’s order within the 28 days?

JANE: We tend to tell the customers that what they want isn’t in stock and they’ll have to wait a bit. They’re usually ok about this, as long as we tell them when they place their order. If we don’t find out until later on, then if we have their phone number then we’ll give them a ring to explain. I get John to do this as he’s got a nice calm voice and he’s good with the customers. Usually they’re very good about it. In fact, he can often persuade them to order something else instead. Though I guess that’s more because a pregnant woman can’t wait too long! Really, we’d like to get the 28 day wait down a bit too for the same reason. We always try to cover our backs by saying everything is ‘subject to availability’ when they place the orders, but we do forget sometimes.

FRED: So, you give orders to your suppliers a bit irregularly, but about once a month roughly speaking. What happens when the stuff arrives? How do you pay for it?: So, you give orders to your suppliers a bit irregularly, but about once a month roughly speaking. What happens when the stuff arrives? How do you pay for it?

JANE: The wholesaler sends a delivery note with the goods. I’ll check everything is there and sign for it. Then they invoice us and then I pay them by cheque.

FRED: What do you sign?: What do you sign?

JANE: Oh, it’s the bottom copy of their delivery note.

FRED: Do you record customers’ payments?

JANE: Of course. When a payment arrives we take our copy of the order out the filing box and put it in the past orders box. A note of the payment goes into the cash book. John tends to bank the money every week.: Of course. When a payment arrives we take our copy of the order out the filing box and put it in the past orders box. A note of the payment goes into the cash book. John tends to bank the money every week.

JOHN: Yes, on a Saturday morning when I go to fetch the newspapers.: Yes, on a Saturday morning when I go to fetch the newspapers.

FRED: What else goes into your cash book?: What else goes into your cash book?

JANE: Oh, pretty well everything. We keep track of all the money going in and out, such as payments to the wholesaler and running expenses as well as the customer payments.: Oh, pretty well everything. We keep track of all the money going in and out, such as payments to the wholesaler and running expenses as well as the customer payments.

FRED: Do payments every go to the customer?: Do payments ever go to the customer?

JANE: Sometimes, if something’s faulty or just doesn’t fit then we do give refunds.

FRED: Great! I think I’ve got a good idea of your set up now. What I need to do is go away and run over things in my mind a bit and then I’ll come back to you just to make sure I’ve got everything right. Before I go, is there anything else you think we need to cover?

JANE: No, I suppose not, but it’s a bit difficult to say. I just know I’ve got this feeling that if we don’t make things more efficient then we’ll have real trouble keeping on top of everything when we expand. We’re hoping to employ some people too, and that will mean it’s even more important to have things running properly as they won’t know everything backwards like we do. I’m worried about being disorganised and know that a computer system will help us deal with the larger orders we’re going to get from the department stores. I know we’ve got an excellent set of products but I don’t want to blow it by looking amateurish.

FRED: Well, that’s what Analysts R Us is here for. We’ll be in touch soon and I’m sure we’ll help get you organised.

JOHN: Brilliant. By the way, your tea’s cold.