I Want System: The System

The user interacts with an opening menu that lists the different things that the sales rep may want from the account, such as more shelf space, carry a new item, or more promotional support. In the prototype system, only the latter was implemented. Once the user selects the "More Promotion Support" menu item by double clicking the mouse, the system responds by displaying screen 1.

Screen 1 is the only window through which the user interacts with the system. The window consists of three panes. The user sets the context of the report by entering the information needed to run the system, by typing in the appropriate market and account, in the left pane of the window. Besides context information the prototype needs to know how the user wants the system to run. If the user wants to save the graph generated by Lotus 1-2-3, then s/he must provide a name for the PIC file. To see the graph displayed on the screen, the user types "true" or "false." The third parameter involves the Metaphor system. The prototype was designed to run in two modes. One mode actually dials up the remote Metaphor system, runs the capsule, downloads the data and converts it to a Lotus WK1 file. The other mode runs without Metaphor; it makes use of WK1 files that had been previously downloaded from the Metaphor system and stored locally on disk. Either mode is feasible for the Gamma Company.

Screen 1

Once the context information and run parameters are set, the user can, by clicking in the top left pane with the mouse, bring up the popup menu shown in Screen 1. The popup menu contains four possible actions: "Inspect" is a function allowing the inspection of the values of variables used by the system; "Run" runs the analyzer; "Print results" writes the text written by the analyzer to a file for latter incorporation into the word processor; "Word processor" places the user in the word processor. Screen 1 shows the user selecting "Run."

The other two panes in the window are output panes. The top right pane displays messages from the communications software and the Metaphor system on the status of the Lotus 1-2-3 analysis sheet. The larger bottom pane displays the output of the Lotus 1-2-3 analyzer, i.e. the text created by the analyzer describing the situation between the Gamma brand and its major competitor. The bottom pane allows the user to edit the text displayed, making any desired or needed changes to it.

If the system is to access the Metaphor system, it starts to run by invoking the PC Open communications software, invoking the capsule on the Metaphor system and passing the context information to the capsule. The Metaphor system will respond by running the capsule and downloading the appropriate data into a PC file in a standard format: the Data Interchange Format (DIF). Then, the system uses the Lotus Translate facility to translate the DIF file into a WK1 file. (If the system is not to access Metaphor then it starts running as if it had already run Metaphor.) At this point in the processing, control returns to the APEC manager which then invokes Lotus 1-2-3. Invoked by the "Auto123" facility in Lotus, the Lotus 1-2-3 analyzer reads the context information and immediately starts analyzing the data. Various Lotus screens flash by indicating how far the analysis has proceeded. If the user has turned on the run parameter indicating that the graph created by the analyzer should be shown, then the user sees Screen 2, a Lotus graph.

Screen 2

Once the analyzer is finished, control returns to the APEC manager. The manager picks up the output of the analyzer and displays the results in the bottom pane of the window, as shown in Screen 3. Notice the messages in the top right screen, indicating that a local WK1 file was used and Metaphor was not run. The body of text in the lower pane can be browsed and changed according to the editing facilities built into the APEC Manager.

Screen 3

Once the user is satisfied with text, s/he can return to the top left pane of the "Account Promotion Support Analysis" window, bring the popup menu back up and choose the "Word Processor" menu item. The system will write the contents of the lower pane to a file and invoke Lotus Manuscript. From there, the user can bring in the text file and graph, make any final edits and preview the entire page. The results can then be printed on a laser printer. This process results in a page which looks like Figure 2.

Once the user finishes using the word processor component, the user returns to the "Account Promotion Support Analysis" window and can either run the system for another account or leave the system entirely. Screen 4 shows the text pane after another run, this time using Account 3. Notice the more negative tone of the text; it points out how the account is missing an opportunity by under-supporting Grinders Choice.

Screen 4

The single page output of the system shown in Figure 2 consists of the graph and body of text generated by the analyzer. The page takes the form described in the section above about paper output. The body of text comments upon the situation represented by the graph. The page is intended to be given to a retail buyer to encourage the retailer to change its behavior toward the Grinders Choice brand. The graph and text will be described in another section.

Figure 2

The bar graph in the top half of the page shows the situation of the account with respect to the two brands in question, Grinders Choice and its competitor Magic Bean. Each bar represents a share percentage, with the percentage number displayed at the top of each bar. The group of five bars on the left is information about Grinders Choice and the group of five bars on the right is information about Magic Bean. Within each group of bars, three different display numbers are displayed: market share as a single bar, display share as a pair of bars and advertising share as a pair of bars, in that order from the left. The pairs of bars compare the account level and the market level value for each share number. Market or sales share values were not available at the account level, therefore only the single market level value is shown.

The graph in Figure 2 shows that the market share of Grinders Choice in all of the Gotham City market is 30.4%. This is to be compared to the market share of Magic Bean in the Gotham City market, at 10.7% The pair of display bars for Grinders Choice shows that over all in the Gotham City market it receives some 41% of all displays, while at Account 1, it receives 71.1% of all displays. This value is well over the market one, indicating that in terms of displays, Grinders Choice is not being under-supported (the fact that it is in fact over-supported is another story and another prototype, an extension to the Gamma system). The advertising bars indicate that Grinders Choice receives 33.6% of all ads in the market and a much larger portion, 51.8%, of all ads at the account, again indicating that the retailer is fully supporting Grinders Choice. In contrast to this, the account can be seen to be not over-supporting Magic Bean in terms of displays, 20.3 % vs 10.9% or in terms of ads, 13.0% compared to 9.5%.

The body of text reflects the situation shown in the graph. It is congratulatory in tone and thanks the account for its support. The first paragraph sets the tone and purpose of the rest of the text. In this case, the report recounts the facts and compliments the retailer rather than asking anything of the account. The middle paragraphs give the information shown in the graphs and provide a bit more, such as noting that Grinders Choice's volume is about 2.8 times that of Magic Bean in the Gotham City market, thus inferring that Grinders Choice should be a more important customer to the account than Magic Bean. Finally, there is a closing remark, and the source and time period of the data used in the analysis are noted at the bottom.