Bookwin5 - The Database & Booking Software Package
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General Description of Bookwin5
Bookwin5 User Manual
Bookwin5 Price List
Here is a brief description of Bookwin5 and how we came to write the program. You will find the same text in the 'General Description' above.
Software used to reside inside memory chips which had physically to be changed and our clients from this period were very dependant on us to creat the necessary modifications when walls and smoke detectors in a shopping centre were moved, for example. When the PC first appeared on the scene it was basically a text-only device (graphics and, of course, Windows came along later) so although by this time we were able to place software in a PC, we still had to provide graphics on a separate and very expensive colour terminal the contents of which were difficult to change.
Now, the same clients who have used our equipment for 25 years can make changes to their building setting under Windows. It was a great joy to them when they realised they no longer had to phone or fax us for every small change to the physical layout of the building. Shopping centres (and sports centres) go through many changes in their lifetime and they are now able to edit their database of sensors around the building. This is normal practice now, of course.
No site visits for software upgrades and no compulsory training days!
The same freedom is available to our clients in the 90's. Site visits are not required for upgrading software and changes to the working parameters of the system are totally under the control of you, the client. We never insist on training days if changes are made. We very rarely charge for software upgrades. If a client comes to us and asks for something which is not currently provided then we are often in their debt as we will normally add it on to the next version and make the package even more attractive! Sometimes, of course, a client may ask for something which is specific to thier site and which would not be of benefit to other users.
Many of our clients now have email addresses on the Internet and software is delivered as attachements to email - much easier than posting floppy disks!
The skill in writing software is to make it common to a large number of clients and let them shape it to their own site. That way we write one program instead of a new one for each new client.
You will find our prices very attractive, not we hasten to say because the facilities are limited but because we use and re-use modules from our extensive library of software which has been built up over many years. We usually assume the client will provide their own hardware as this can then be covered by a maintenenace contract from the supplier but we will always be happy to discuss requirements - most of our software requires a minimum of Windows 95 which is more or less the common standard. The software runs very happily across a bog-standard Windows network.
Many years ago, the client was totally dependant on the software provider to make changes for them and provide the relevant disks or chips. There is no reason why this should be the case now but some suppliers still maintain a mistique about software and insist on sites visits, training days and such like. We hope you will like our open and simple approach - remember your PC is your slave, not your master!
Let us consider a typical sports centre and see how the Bookwin5 software package handles the various elements of the centre.
The Membership Database
All members are stored on the system in a very simple format: Surname, First Name, Membership Number, Address, all the usual things! The program enables member search by surname, membership number or by type. Families normally comprise separate members but they are linked in that they all appear at the same time as a reminder. Ie, there is a box which shows either 'same surname' or 'same surname, same address'.
All payments are recorded in a separate Table and are matched to members in a special analysis toolbox which carries out searches for overdue payments, membership due for renewal, court fees unpaid etc. A History of all transactions is kept for a set length of time (eg 2-3 weeks depending on how much hard disk you want to use up!). After this period the user has the choice to remove records older than a specified date. A frequent practice is to dump the history to a printer in order to free up the disk but this can be changed by the user.
Non-members may be given a temporary membership number and stored on the database so that, if they return, the record is still there.
The Booking Software
Let's move on to the interesting bit - most of the membership Table is fairly standard across many different applications, for example clubs which have membership and payment details but which don't take bookings. But, since we're currently advertising in Leisure Management we'll use a sports centre which requires a bookings 'module' as our example.
We've chosen a typical centre with a main sports hall, of course, two squash courts, fitness room with a maximum capacity of 15 sweating bodies, outside courts which can double up for a number of sports and a second smaller sports hall which is used either for badminton or aerobics. It also has a pool and bar both of which are available for private functions.
The till in the bar must be linked to the system to enable cost analysis for the whole centre but we don't recommend using a PC as a till - there are many standard tills with the necessary serial interface for a far more economical price than using a PC.
Our sample sports centre has an office and separate reception area, so 2 PCs are required. Let's clear up this mystical beast, the Server! Large offices comprising, for example, 10-30 PCs require a central point where all company files are stored - the PCs on each desk are 'slaves' to the central system. For a small network of 2 or 3 computers there is no need for a server, the back office computer provides this service. You should just ensure that it has plenty of storage and, these days, that is not a problem.
So the office has a standard PC and the reception area has one of these new flat panel PCs with touch screen. The PC in reception should replicate as closely as possible the paper booking forms that everyone understood before this newfangled computer system came along. It is a source of great sadness to see people cursing computers when all that has happened is that the programmer has simply not given enough thought to who is using the system and has created a complex maze of function keys and mouse clicks.
Another requirment of the system in our sports centre is that, at the same time as the receptionist is checking in a couple of squash players, a second person should be able to take a booking phone call and share the same PC screen. Windows provides this facility for the £60 or so that you paid for Windows, so why not use it. In the same way that you can have Painbrush AND your wordprocessor open in overlapping windows, so you can have a number of overlapping windows in your sports booking system.
The reception PC should also have a card-swipe reader so that visiting players can check in quickly. Another more advanced solution would be smart cards with built-in credit for paying for courts. The reception PC would also be linked to a till cash box.
The reception PC does not require a great deal of disk storage; the database of members and bookings resides in the office PC and is backed up regularly onto a 100Mbyte Zip disk.
We have mentioned in A Simple Way to Buy software that the client should have as much control as possible over the working of the system. The client will discover whether this is the case fairly quickly as, since all sports centres are different and of course change their layout at times, their first job will be to customise the system to their own location. They will not want to phone the software supplier every time there is a subsequent change to be made but we do provide extensive support in the first installation, of course, and this is included in the price.
Using Offline in Bookwin5
Physical areas of the centre are first entered into the system together with the number of 'sections' in each area. For example, the main sports hall is marked out for 6 badminton courts but it is often used for 5-a-side or fitness training. Therefore you should divide the sports hall into 6 vertical columns just in the same way as you did on paper. The vertical axis comprises the time intervals in which bookings are taken. Although, in the case of badminton, these will be probably the same across all 6 courts, the system does allow different time intervals for each column. It is not unknown for squash courts to run 'out of sync' in this way. The offline toolbox simply prompts for the first booking time and the interval for each column and the software does the rest.
The toolbox also allows you to creat a list of all possible sports for each area so that, when someone phones to book a badminton court in the main hall the receptionist doesn't have to plough through sports which are irrelevant for that area.. These may also be time and date sensitive, for example, the sports hall may only be used for trampoline on Saturday mornings or for children only at specific times.
The online software enables the folllowing features:
Entry and cancellation of single and block bookings.
Special days to be entered up to 5 years in advance (eg bank holidays).
An automatic record of who usually plays in which sports area. If the receptionist is taking a squash booking the system will just show the regular squash players but the net may widen if the person phoning does not appear in this quick-list. This normally enables a booking to be taken entirely by touch on the touch screen with the one free hand! The system should be easier to use than the old paper system not more difficult!
When checking someone in, the system checks their account to see if there is any money owing. Similarly when someone phones in to book a court it does the same check but this will not prevent the operator over riding it as in most cases there is no need for draconian mesures - 'Roger, next time you're here.....'. Of course, if Roger complains that he did pay for the court in question, the office can go back through the Payment History which automatically records all payments taken.
The Financial Package
Bookwin5 also includes a financial package which enables analysis of payments with breakdown by type and date - also including or excluding VAT. The VAT rate can be changed retrospectively if necessary and all records are avaialble as an export file in Access or Excel for transporting to an external finance system - for example, the local authority under which the centre operates.
The system has a number of access levels each of which is password-protected. The highest level of security applies to those functions which would normally be used in the office, eg offline and financial work. The reception system may be opened by a specific operator and from then on it is freely open for use. If a second operator shares the work then they should log in but individual bookings are not normally logged by operator as this would require a separate key press but, if a client requires this then it can be added at no extra cost. We are obviously very receptive to any special requests.
For an explanation of terms see the index of terms page.