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Business Exercises

Business & Employment

Standard and Higher Level

Traditional Business

As the majority of employees of the world are working on computers, it has become very common for companies to monitor what their employees are doing on them. In particular, an employee's habits on the Internet and with email. The monitoring is conducted in an attempt to identify areas where staff are losing productivity to distractions online such as social media and personal web browsing. It has been reported that small businesses in the UK lose up to £1.5 billion each year due to time wasting on the Internet.

There are a number of legal reasons for employee monitoring as well, in the instance that those staff are working with sensitive data in a government department, the details on who has interacted with that data needs to be logged for auditing purposes. Telemarketing companies need to follow clear laws that force them to disclose to the public that they will be recording conversations. Methods for monitoring employees include Internet monitoring which keeps a log of sites visited, how long spent on those sites as well as emails sent and to which addresses. Another method is desktop monitoring software to keep track of non-Internet related activities such as application use, idle time, disk space, documents and windows opened, items printed, key strokes typed or insertion or removal of USB devices.

There are some ethical issues with monitoring as some may deem it an invasion of privacy. Some companies create Acceptable Use Policies to clearly define the expected behaviour for employees.
Another issue with monitoring is that while statistics can be collected, they may not be entirely accurate. For example, if an employee opens one application then does nothing with their computer for the rest of the day, the statistics would suggest they are not productive, but that employee could have been dragged into a meeting all day instead!


Teleworking

Employees who don't go to the office to perform their duties are called Teleworkers or Telecommuters. They can either work from home, or from another geographic location, using the Internet to connect to all of the information they need from their company. Teleworkers from home could use a desktop or laptop, but as well as that they usually require a VPN in order for them to access their company network while in a different location from the office. Teleworkers make use of collaborative software to keep track of what is going on and stay in touch with work colleagues. Software such as shared calendars, voice and video conferencing, version control for online document sharing, chat and instant messaging and many others can allow an employee to remain productive when they cannot make it to the office. As an employer, costs can be saved on overheads such as office space, rent, and power by having teleworkers. Employers can find the right employee no matter where they live in the world. And weather and natural disasters don't need to have an impact on productivity if a worker can continue their tasks in a remote location. Teleworkers have the benefit of not needing to commute, and having flexible working hours to take care of children or other scenarios.

Internets, Intranets and Extranets

  • Intranet - shares information privately amongst members of an organisation. It's only accessible by those with the correct credentials.
  • Internet - The global, public network on which the World Wide Web sits to share information.
  • Extranet - This is where an organisation makes access to their intranet available for some people who don't work directly for the organisation but may be doing business with them and need access to their info.
  • Spreadsheets

    Formulae
    Formulas can be built up to perform various calculations by referencing a range of cells. (E.g. A1:B3, which refers to A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3). When data changes in cells that the formulas rely on, the calculation result is automatically updated.
    Absolute and Relative Cell Referencing
    By default, all cell references are relative references. When copied across multiple cells, they change based on the relative position of rows and columns. For example, if you copy the formula =A1+B1 from row 1 to row 2, the formula will become =A2+B2.
    Absolute references, on the other hand, remain constant, no matter where they are copied. They are shown by using a dollar sign before either the row or column (E.g. = B4 + B$5 or = $A$1 * B2)
    Functions
    Most spreadsheet software has built in operations for performing common operations such as AVERAGE, SQRT (square root), COUNTIF, MIN, MAX, NOW. These are called Functions.
    Charts and Pivot Tables
    Using data to produce visual or graphical output. Examples include bar charts, line graphs, pie charts.
    Pivot tables provide a summary of data in a spreadsheet, with output such as counting, sums, sorting and filtering to produce a summary table.


    Additional Features
    One popular advanced function in spreadsheets is called Conditional Formatting. It allows a you to change the formatting of a cell depending on it's value. For example, if a cell was a negative number you could have the background of the cell change to red, but if the cell was over 100, it could be shown as green!

    Banking and Digital Money

    Electronic Funds Transfer
    Online and offline businesses both need to make sure they have access to EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) to ensure they can function efficiently moving money electronically through computer systems. It is also useful when it comes to auditing (keeping a record of transactions). This also includes ATMs (Automated Teller Machines).
    Fraud
    Credit card fraud from either physically stolen cards, or card details stolen online has always been an issue. There are many potential thieves around that could attempt this crime. Chip and PIN systems have helped to reduce fraud by providing a layer of authentication before a transaction with a card occurs, when using a card the personal identification number must be entered at the terminal. It is also more difficult to clone a card with an electronic chip on it.
    Supermarket
    Supermarkets are full of technology that helps them be as efficient as possible in their operations. Bar codes have been used for many years to help identify different products for sale, as well as checking on stock levels. Pricing can also be changed on the system which is then reflected when a bar code is scanned through the check-out. It should be noted that bar codes can only identify product types, not individual items. Some supermarkets in the United States have trialled using RFID tags instead of bar codes so that they may identify individual items to provide more information about products and customer buying details. RFID is also used in warehouses to improve supply chain issues. All boxes of products can automatically be logged in a warehouse. There are issues with RFID in terms of adoption; Not all suppliers are happy, as if all goods are not pre-tagged from the factory they cannot be managed by the system and need to be tagged manually, which is time consuming. Point of Sale (POS) systems are used almost everywhere. Products are scanned at the checkout, they connect to banking system to validate the transaction, and then the stock level for the store is updated based on the transaction. Self-checkouts have been created in most supermarkets to eliminate the need for as many staff by allowing customers to scan the items and handle the payment themselves. Security still needs to be monitored here so thefts can be avoided. A concept called the smart trolley has been created in which users put items that have RFID tags on them into their shopping trolleys. They are logged into their shopping trolley with their store ID, which is connected to their bank details. When they leave the store, RFID readers check the contents of the trolley, and charge the amount of the contents to the user's store account! No need for any workers to operate the checkout, just to replenish the stock on the shelves!

     

    e-Commerce
    Electronic Commerce refers to transactions that are made using the Internet, online. A number of physical retailers have taken to having a website to supplement their sales from the store by offering their products and services to people in different geographic locations, even overseas. Furthermore, some retailers have appeared as entirely online, with no physical store. (Amazon are a good example, even though the video above shows they are trying to reinvent the physical store). Online stores allow users to see images or videos of the products as well as reviews of the product before they purchase. They can purchase by adding to their electronic shopping cart, before using their preferred method of payment to checkout and provide details of where the products should be delivered and by what method (users can pay extra for faster or tracked delivery). Many stores now have dedicated applications for mobile phones that allow users to shop at their convenience and be sent push notifications about new products or the status of their current order.
    Web Design
    The design of a website is absolutely critical to the success of an E-Commerce business. If users cannot find what it is they are looking for quickly, they are likely to leave the website without purchasing anything, often not returning.
    Design, accessibility and usable are the factors that should be considered when creating an E-commerce site.
    Basic web pages are made using HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). The structure and content of a page is created using the HTML, and the look and feel of the website can be defined using CSS. Once a CSS file has been created with definitions for how a page should look (E.g. font style, colours, table styles etc...), it can be applied to however many pages that a user likes to create a consistent web site.
    The tutorial at W3 Schools is a great introduction to HTML.
    CMS
    Content Management Systems allow people with very little knowledge of HTML or CSS to add content to websites! They are provided with a content editing system through a browser that looks a lot like a Word Processor. This makes editing, adding and removing content much easier. It does however, restrict the user to limited formatting options. Some good examples of CMS systems are blogger.com or VLEs such as Moodle and Blackboard (see the Education page)

    E-Marketing

    E-Marketing are marketing techniques to promote a business that use technology. E-marketing can be used by both digital and traditional businesses to help generate awareness and revenues for their company.
    Email
    Email is a very simple way to send adverts to a lot of people at one time. The bad news is that many email providers now have anti-spam filters working by default so most unsolicited mail will go straight to a spam folder and not actually reach its intended target.
    Many companies have tried to get around this by sending regular newsletters rather than random emails sent out sporadically. This way, users are expecting to receive email and then add the sender to a 'safe' senders list so that it does not go to the spam folder.
    SEO
    Search Engine Optimisation techniques are a set of techniques adopted to help send a website as high up the search engine results page (rankings) as possible. Some search engines do accept paid advertising to place adverts high up the result or on the side, but these are often ignored by users due to formatting of the page listing appearing different and often saying [AD] next to the page link.
    Meta Tags with keywords can be inserted into the header of a HTML web page that allows a search engine to read and include them in search results. Google has started to ignore meta tags due to some website owners including unrelated tags in order to try and boost their appearance in the rankings on the search engine.
    meta name="keywords" content="ITGS, IB, Diploma, ITGSKIT" /

    Keyword density (how often keywords appear) and keyword prominence (where keywords appear, e.g. titles would have more prominence) are also things a search engine looks for in a page when deciding its relevance and ranking.

    How do Search Engines work?
    Web spiders or web crawlers are constantly scanning the World Wide Web to index it and look for key information including keywords, media content etc... and then give it a page ranking, using their page ranking algorithm. After the spider has finished one page, it moves to the next and constantly indexes. Once it has done all, it goes back and re-indexes after a period of time. When a user types in keywords into a search engine, it checks it's index against those keywords and displays the possible pages according to the ranking list with the highest, most relevant first.

    Search Engines and Privacy

    Search engines generate a lot of revenue
    The timeline shows Google's quarterly revenues as of the second quarter of 2018. In the most recently reported period, Google's revenue amounted to 32.5 billion U.S. dollars, up from 31 billion U.S. dollars in the preceding quarter. Google's main revenue source is advertising through Google sites and its network. (Statista, 2018)
    They generate their revenues by placing advertising that is relevant to the user currently logged in to the site. Search engines store vast amounts of information about what searches you have made over time, as well as accessing your browser cookies to see which sites you have most frequently visited. This information allows them to target adverts that would be most relevant to you.
    Some have suggested this vast amount of data storage on individuals habits is a violation of privacy as they could know a lot about you as a person just based on your browsing habits.

    Transport Business

    One area that relies heavily on technology in business now is transportation.
  • Travel Sites
  • From flight reservations to hotel bookings, the travel industry can reserve tickets and seats on flights in advance at a usually cheaper price, even issuing the tickets via email for convenience. Coupled with loyalty card schemes, this has been very successful over the years. It has also allowed smaller hotels to benefit from more business and the invention of AirBnb allows users to even rent their home out to holiday goers!
  • Body Scanners
  • Used as part of security systems to ensure people are not smuggling or carrying dangerous/illegal items on to a journey. They are quite revealing, showing quite detailed images of people underneath their clothes. Health factors are in question over the technology's rays as to whether they are as dangerous as X-rays, as well as privacy issues for revealing a lot more than an X-ray would.
  • Vehicle Tracking
  • RFID installed in vehicles has allowed them to be tracked by roadside sensors to develop smart road networks. Automatic barriers that rise or not based upon the vehicle in front of them have been used to manage traffic flow as well as car parking schemes. The ERP system in Singapore is an excellent example of this.
  • Package Tracking
  • With e-Commerce being very popular now, many are ordering their goods online and having them delivered to their door. The package tracking systems using ID numbers and tracking websites allow users to see exactly what the status of their delivery is, and even allow them to update the destination along the way.

    Other Resources

    Paper 1

    Slightly different examinations for SL and HL, based on answering 20 mark questions on a selection of the course topics.

    Paper 3

    For HL students only, answering questions on the pre-seen case study. This year is 'A Doll Called Alicia'.

    Extended Essay

    Details and recommendations for students considering writing their Extended Essay in ITGS.

    Command Terms

    How to approach examination questions that use each of the prescribed command terms for ITGS.