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Information system development in action

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A web aid to help understand key concepts of programming

My next Amazon e-book title “A web aid to help understand key concepts of programming” will be released within the next 24 hours! Looking forward to it! See the books description below. I will add a link as soon as it’s released.


The new computing curriculum will be introduced in the UK during Autumn 2014. As in all subject areas pupils enter with different levels of understanding. Pupils will be expected to understand what algorithms are and how to write and debug computer programs. By the age of eleven they will be expected to design, use and evaluate programs modelling real-world problems.

This research and practical report reviews data collected from university lecturers and students and also evaluates existing internet based solutions. The report explores how a dynamically content managed website could be used as an aid to help the understanding of programming concepts, by emulating principles encountered within adaptive hypermedia systems; Providing an individual learning experience as opposed to a “one solution fits all” approach to teaching computing.
A web aid to help understand key concepts of programming
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The importance of project management, correct analysis & design phases

To understand the importance we must first understand the definition of Project management, Analysis and design phases


Project Management


The definition of project management is the planning, organizing and management of resources to complete a set goal or task within a specific time frame.


Planning: consists of correct analysis and feasibility of the intended project identifying key constraints such as budget, resources, this could include money, time, materials, manpower etc.  This will be covered in more detail further on in this report.


Organizing: is the identification and organization of the phases that a project must go through to achieve the desired objective and how these phases relate to each other.


Management: consists of handling the above mentioned elements of organization whilst adhering to the key constraints and needs identified in analysis whilst keeping to the project ‘time frame’. Organising a project can be achieved by relating to and following the six phases of the System Life Cycle, which is illustrated below.


The phases of the System Life Cycle


  • Preliminary Investigation (feasibility)
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Maintenance


Good project management practice is finding the balance between the key factors illustrated below, whilst following the structure of the system life cycle. An understanding of change in one key factor can affect other factors which is the key to a successfully managed project. For example increasing the time frame can increase cost.



 The project management triangle


The project management diamond

To help measure the success of a project it should have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time (within estimated project time) SMART targets through out.




The Analysis phase of a project is the second phase of a system life cycle and is used to accurately identify and document the user requirements. This is to ensure that the system is fit for purpose whilst meeting the specifications set by the customer, be it money, time, resources etc. Correct analysis will lead to correct and hassle free implementation of a new system, meeting a good level of service by achieving the design requirements and specifications set out by the customer. This also leads to customer satisfaction and possible future business opportunities as a result.




The design phase is the third stage within a system life cycle. It concerns the designing of a new system based on the requirements identified and documented by the previous two phases of the project; in order to achieve a solution that can be developed into a working solution in the next phase called the development stage.


So why is all this so important?


By not following the concepts and phases identified it can lead to.

  • Inadequate identification, documentation and tracking requirements of the project.
  • Poor plans and planning processes.
  • Poor identification of resources needed to complete the project.
  • Inadequate communication, including progress tracking and reporting.

What is the impact of this?

The impact of not correctly analyzing, designing and managing a project means there may be direct impact (i.e. not as intended) on time, scope, cost and quality. For example not correctly identifying the size of a project can lead to it costing more and taking longer to complete and trying to offset these factors against each other will have an impact on quality and ultimately customer satisfaction as they do not have a solution that meets their needs.



Real life examples of the importance of project management, correct analysis and design


Bad project Management, Analysis and design example

The case of the Government run department named NHS connecting for Health attempting to upgrade the IT infrastructure of the National Health Service is an excellent example of poor project management, analysis and design.

The below quotes have been taken from a BBC report online dated Thursday 15th June 2006 http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5084886.stm and Thursday 25th October 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7061590.stm they are real life examples of poor Analysis, design and project management.


  • “The NHS comprises hundreds of businesses, and it was more complicated, more time-consuming and more expensive than they thought.”
  • “Tony Collins, of Computer Weekly magazine said the job of introducing an NHS-wide IT system was simply bigger than the government expected.”
  • “Doctors have consistently complained they were not fully consulted about the system.”

Due to the above poor Analysis this then led experts to question the impact and effectiveness of the design phase of the project.

  • “Leading IT experts wrote to MPs in April questioning whether the programme had been properly designed to meet the needs of 24-hour health care.”


Good project Management example

Jeremy Hore the chief integrator at Atos Origin speaks about IT systems incorporated into the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the advantages of good project management, Analysis and design in a podcast with Computer Weekly’s Warwick Ashford on the website posted on 1st September 2008. http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2008/09/01/232087/podcast-it-at-the-beijing-olympics-interview-with-atos-origins-jeremy.htm Jeremy Hore also mentions how as a result of successful project management, Analysis and design can help to cope with unexpected changes such as late entry of the Iraq team and disqualifications due to doping.


  • “We had been working on the project for a long time.”


  • “We did a lot of work upfront with the organizing committee in terms of transferring knowledge and establishing a relationship.”


  • “We started testing early on and had an excellent testing facility.”


As a result of the success and professionalism by Atos Origin they have secured a contract with the International Olympic Committee. Covering Olympic events up to and including the 2012 Olympic Games.


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Fast Food: An effective staff training framework

So exited, another e-book successfully completed and launched. This unique book entitled “Fast Food: An effective staff training framework” covers staff training in the fast food industry, introducing an easy to follow and implement five step framework. The framework covers both new and existing staff and will result in a noticeable improvement in both your personal training technique and overall operational effectiveness of the store as well as increased motivation of staff improving your chances of pay rises or promotion!

The second part of this book discusses in detail how a web based training information system can be developed in order to support steps three and four of the framework in order to cut training time and improve content consistency.


Fast Food: An effective staff training framework
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Fog, cloning and mass imaging

Over the last twelve months I’ve been involved in some large scale operating system upgrades due to Microsoft finally stopping support for Windows XP. These OS upgrades have all been achieved not by using expensive Microsoft solutions such as System Center Configuration Manager, but by mass imaging computers with a Linux-based, free and open source computer cloning and imaging system called Fog.


FOG System Overview

Image 1 – Fog overview (taken from fogproject.org)

This is a basic diagram of how FOG works. All devices on the network require PXE boot as the first boot device, when a machine boots FOG then determines if a task is waiting for the device or if the device should boot to the hard drive (Client 1). Client 2 depicted in the diagram is pushing an image to the FOG server and storing it. At a later point this image can then be pushed out to other computers. The manager controls all the FOG tasks and can access the FOG server via any web enabled device from desktop computers to iPhone’s.

There are a large variety of computers on the network i’m involved with. Developing an image for each computers hardware configuration was inefficient and would use a significant amount of storage capacity on the FOG server storage node. In order to resolve this issue I developed a Universal Windows 7 Operating System image that contained a library of machine specific drivers. During the automated post imaging phase the computers choose and apply the drivers specific to that hardware configuration from the driver library.


FOG image upload

Using a virtual machine to create a hardware independent OS image

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Information System Books

It’s been a while i know… but I’ve been busy beavering away fighting the technology corner by writing some short tech related e-books and publishing them, you know what they say “The pen is mightier than the sword”!


Information Systems: Development Methodology and Evolution


PayPal: A beginners guide to integrating PayPal into your own e-business solution




Expert Systems: An introduction
MBeard Online Amazon Author Page

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them!

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An brief investigation into CSS Frameworks in website development

I have recently been investigating the use of CSS frameworks for rapid prototyping and production of webpages. In particular I have spent time implementing the 960 grid system (click here for further info) in the development of a number of websites.

On a personal level I found the framework to work very well especially when used in conjunction with a reset style sheet. This approach enabled the reduction of browser inconsistencies in things like default line heights, margins and font sizes of headings. So far I have tested with IE 6,7,8,9 Firefox, Safari and Opera. The only noticeable variation observed was the positioning of a single image on an entire test website when using IE6. 

There is an on going debate surrounding the best approach to develop a webpage structure tables or div elements, of which I have practical experience of both approaches. I would say the technique used to layout a website is down to personal preference and that both approaches can work well if implemented correctly. Ultimately website ranking algorithms have a greater focus on website content as opposed to the sites script structure, so therefore if a websites structure is well defined then the majority of resources should be aimed at the quality of website content.