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Case Study: Nexus DistributionFrom The Systems Planning AssignmentNexus Distribution is a small film distribution agency that focuses on limited release art-house films. It has been in business for a decade and has an existing information system for administering its business processes. Joy Moody started Nexus with her long-time professional contact Deane Jackson. Joy has a leadership and marketing role and Deane manages operations. Louise Taylor and Elizabeth Page are spotters who attend film festivals (eg Sundance, Cannes, Sydney, Toronto, London, etc), identifying films that align with the Nexus Distribution focus, bidding for, and often signing, those films. This team of four work closely to sign 15-20 films each year, optimising the distribution of each film so that returns for Nexus and for their clients (the film-makers and the theatres) are maximised.
The existing information system consists of three databases.
Louise and Elizabeth do most of their work while travelling and they communicate with Deane via email, text messaging and phone calls. Louise and Elizabeth attend only the largest film festivals together; usually they work independently of each other. When they are at a film festival, they work highly irregular hours and, in addition to the tasks outlined above, their work includes socialising with, and occasionally entertaining, potential and existing clients. Clients are entertained when the film they have made is of such high quality that more than one distribution agency is competing for its distribution rights. In these cases, Elizabeth and Louise take the clients out for dinner or to a bar in order to build robust working relationships and to create an opportunity for uninterrupted discussion of why and how the client’s interests are best served by Nexus. Louise and Elizabeth are consummate networkers; they are confident, good-humoured and charming in all social circumstances, building relationships with and between people working at all levels of the international art-house film industry.
However, the communication practices between Nexus staff are not up to date and this has led to inefficiencies and wastage of Louise and Elizabeth’s talents and efforts. As their time at film festivals is expensive (flights, accommodation, registration fees, entertainment costs, etc) it is desirable that their time is not wasted. For example, a new film may be shown at several film festivals simultaneously; if Elizabeth has already seen it at Toronto and passed on it (or bid for it and signed it), when Louise is at the Venice film festival, she does not need to waste her time viewing that film and can focus on other films. There are many other instances in which their communication practices fail to optimise the (mostly asynchronous) day-to-day collaborations between Louise, Elizabeth and Deane.
While Louise and Elizabeth work on building Nexus’s catalogue, Deane builds its distribution network (in addition to his significant administrative role). This entails signing various distribution service providers (both independent and chain) to the Nexus distribution network. A distribution service provider might be a VOD (Video on Demand) provider, a chain of theatres, an independent theatre, etc. Deane spends about half of his recruitment effort approaching providers that do not already screen art-house films. The other half is spent on providers which already adopt an art-house focus. While it is a key facet of the Nexus business model, building the distribution network does not consume anywhere near as much effort, money and time as spotting films. Deane estimates that for every dollar spent on building the distribution network, a hundred are spent on spotting films.
Deane is directly responsible for accounting, travel arrangements and reporting. Also, he is indirectly responsible for contracts, which he outsources to a legal firm specialising in contracts for this type of work.
Joy’s role is largely centred on vision and leadership. However, prior to starting Nexus she built a reputation in film marketing and her practical skills in this area are an essential ingredient in Nexus’s success. Every time a new film is signed to Nexus, Joy, Deane, Louise, Elizabeth and the film-makers have a four hour meeting. Occasionally, these meetings are in person, but more often they are held online. These meetings can be hard to schedule because participants are very busy and in different time zones.
During these meetings, in order to design the film’s marketing strategy, they leverage Louise or Elizabeth’s observations of the film, Deane’s knowledge of the Nexus distribution network, Joy’s marketing expertise and the client’s vision. A marketing strategy includes artistic vision, media, release windows and release schedule.
Artistic vision is primarily driven by the client and Joy with input from Louise or Elizabeth. It is actioned by Deane, who reviews the artists who have worked with Nexus in the past, considers the artistic vision, and prioritises the artists according to how well their unique talent, reliability and experience match up with the marketing strategy’s artistic vision. After the meeting, Deane approaches the artists one by one to discuss their availability and to eventually establish a contract.
Media (film, video, television, DVD, VOD, etc) is negotiated between Joy, whose mission is to optimise returns, and the film-maker, whose mission is exposure. With input from Louise and Elizabeth, who have viewed more films than anyone else in the meeting and who therefore have the most comprehensive view of the international market, a binding consensus is reached and documented.
Joy and Deane, who aim to maximise the size of the audience, are largely responsible for determining release windows and schedule, however the client’s needs are taken into consideration. This is achieved by application of market intelligence and expertise. In most cases, a film is screened in theatres on a schedule that will maximise the audience (eg avoidance of major cultural events, avoidance of similar films, knowledge of forthcoming films, etc). Also, films are screened in theatres (primary distribution service providers) prior to being released via secondary distribution service providers (eg VOD service providers, DVD runs, etc). The duration for which the film is screened in theatres depends upon various factors (audience, the film’s performance in other markets, the agreement between Nexus and the film-makers, the agreement between Nexus and the theatres, etc). For most films, the theatrical release date is preceded by four weeks of postering and trailers, wherever possible working with the film-makers in order to leverage the social profiles of those who worked on the film (eg the actors and crew). For highly anticipated films, these four weeks may extend to six or eight and may require Deane to schedule interviews for the film-makers or actors with local media.
Although the existing IS meets Nexus’s administrative needs, the ongoing daily communication problems and the difficulties of scheduling and running online meetings need to be addressed. Deane thinks Nexus needs its own app so that database updates can be done by anyone at any time and he has contacted your workplace, IT Foundry, to enquire further. You have been allocated the task of systems planning for the development of an app for Nexus.
Also, although they are very talented, experienced and respected in their fields, the entire Nexus team are inexperienced in systems analysis and design. They are confident you will come up with relevant ideas, they anticipate your suggestions and they expect you to catalyse and drive all technical aspects of the project. These clients are very much open to suggestion.
New InformationThe preliminary investigation you wrote up for the Nexus project enabled you to develop a basic understanding of the business context. Your scope lists captured the project’s key elements and made a positive impression on Joy, Deane, Louise and Elizabeth. They have approved the project’s progression to system analysis and you have scheduled a meeting with them.
Recall: you can make assumptions in this assignment (as noted in the instructions above). Also, you can use the course forum if you have any questions.
1.Prepare for this meeting. Write an agenda that includes six topics you would like to discuss with them (if you do not know what an agenda is, look it up on the internet). These topics should be derived from your planning documents and should enable your clients to talk about the things you need to know during systems analysis (eg, the data and how it is processed).
Put your answer here.
After this meeting, the following requirements are known:
·Louise and Elizabeth must be able to enter data into the Catalogue database from their smartphones
·Louise and Elizabeth must be able to query the Catalogue database with their smartphones
oFor example, when they are planning their viewing schedule Louise and Elizabeth need to be able to check whether a film has already been viewed and signed (or passed on)
·Dean must be able to enter, access and amend data in the Travel and DistributionNetwork databases from his smartphone and from his desktop computer
·Louise and Elizabeth must be able to view future travel itineraries and hotel bookings on their smartphones
·Louise and Elizabeth must be able to enter, access and amend information on their relationships with clients or contacts from their smartphones
oFor example, a new client or contact’s name; if they are a filmmaker (a director or a producer), which film and how were they involved with that film; if they’re not a filmmaker, what their business is and why the relationship is important to Nexus; whether the client or contact was made by Louise or Elizabeth; when and where the client or contact was made; their entertainment preferences; etc
oA new database will be needed for this relationship data
·Joy must be able to view summaries of recent business activity from her smartphone and from her desktop computer
·Joy wants to be able to tailor these summaries on an ad hoc basis
oExamples include recently established client relationships; recently signed films; Louise or Elizabeth’s notes on the recently signed films; recently planned travel; an annual overview of the film festivals attended by Louise and Elizabeth; when and where these festivals are held, etc.
·The whole team must be able to schedule and conduct meetings on smartphones (Joy, Deane, Louise and Elizabeth) and desktop computers (Joy and Deane)
oScheduling must account for Louise and Elizabeth’s travel itineraries and for whichever time zone they will be in at the time and date of the meeting
oNo one from Nexus will be involved in scheduling – the system will automatically find the four best dates and times
§These dates and times will be sent to the client (their contact details will be in the new relationship database or, if necessary, the app will alert Deane and he will look up the contact details in his paper file, enter the details and, accordingly, the app will update the relationship database)
§The client will choose which of the four dates and times is best for them
§The app will make the booking, alert all participants, update their calendars and, on the day, provide an alert 15 minutes before the meeting starts
oIt must be possible for a client to call in to these meetings (Skype, phone, any other method)
oMeetings must be voice recorded for future reference
oA new database will be needed for the meetings data
You make a start on systems analysis. You realise more detailed information will come to light over time, which may require you to amend your current analysis.
Recall: you can make assumptions in this assignment (as noted above). Also, you can use the course forum if you have any questions.
2.What is the purpose of a full set of data flow diagram?
3.Do data flow diagrams show system logic and decision points? Explain.
4.Why is it important for a systems analyst to understand how data flows through an information system?Draw a context diagram for the Nexus information system.
5.Draw a Level 0 DFD for the Nexus information system.
6.With respect to DFDs, what does ‘balanced’ mean?
7.Draw two Level 1 DFDs for the Nexus information system.
8.Write a brief ‘how to’ guide (100-200 words) to help the Nexus team understand your DFD diagrams.
9.Name the data stores in the Nexus information system.
10.Draw a FDD for the Nexus information system.
11.Identify and name four functional primitives in the Nexus information system.
12.Draw a modular design for two of the functional primitives named in your previous answe
13.Draw a decision table for each of the other two functional primitives.
14.For which components of the Nexus information system will you recommend prototyping? Why
Note that UML will be assessed in detail in the exam.
15.Explain how you will make the build or buy decisions for the Nexus information system.
16.You prepare to deliver a 30-minute presentation to Joy, Deane and your manager at IT Foundry. You decide to use a PowerPoint presentation. How many slides will you include and what are their titles?
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