Database system case study



OCPPP (the Organisation of Chartered Physiotherapists in Private Practice) provide a range of benefits for their members who are all Chartered Physiotherapists. They had an existing membership system based on Access which had severe limitations, partly due to its design and partly due to the evolution of the business. Also, because the underlying database had been accessible to members of staff who had been able to create their own tables, queries and reports, its stability was a becoming a concern.

SUMMIT had already developed their new web site which provides some on-line member benefits and which had a rudimentary level of integration with the membership system. However, updates to member details to and from the web site involved a significant level of manual interaction.

OCPPP wanted a new membership system which would be built to 'industry standards', would provide a much higher level of automation for routine administration tasks and would implement a seamless but manageable integration with the web site.

SUMMIT's involvement

The project was planned out in two major phases.

In the first phase, the business needs were analysed and documented. This involved meetings and discussions with the management team at the OCPPP offices followed by a Business Requirements document which described WHAT the business needed the new system to do. This document was then reviewed by the OCPPP managers and their feedback incorporated. This document then formed the basis for the development of the new system.

Development occurred in the second phase where the business needs were translated into software which incorporated the business rules and provided control and automation for the business's activities.

The new membership system was installed after a 2 month development period. The existing member data was converted and transferred into the new system and the OCPPP office staff were trained and started using the system within a day.

The payback

The new system and its database are built using up to date Microsoft products so are highly reliable and operate seamlessly across several workstations in the OCPPP offices. They are also fully secured to prevent modifications which might affect their stability.

Updates to the system, and there have been several new features added since its original installation, are achieved with a minimum of fuss by simply copying a new version of the main system file onto the OCPPP office network server. The system itself handles all the updating of the database and workstations as necessary. This ensures that everyone in the office is working on the same data and is using the same version of the software.

The additional levels of automation provided have cut the time needed to perform routine tasks and, in one case (the production of a members' directory) the time saving was in the order of days! In the words of Kim Harvey, OCPPP's Operations Consultant:
"'A number of the programme enhancements have saved the organisation more than the original cost within weeks."

The seamless web site integration now means that, when members make changes to their details on the web site, those changes can be reflected back into the main membership system with the minimum of manual intervention - given that a requirement was that every change needed to be validated before being applied.

Building on firm foundations

OCPPP's new membership system was built upon an application framework developed by SUMMIT over the last 5 years and which has formed the basis of several database systems that SUMMIT has provided for a variety of customers.

This framework, utilising Microsoft technologies, has proved to be very flexible, highly reliable and an enormous benefit when considering how easy it is to apply upgrades and enhancements. Regardless of the number of workstations and their location, the framework detects that a new version of the system is available and proceeds to upgrade itself with no user involvement whatsoever.

The beauty of the approach is that the customer needs no technical knowledge whatsoever to run and implement upgrades to their system.