Introduction - A Summary of case study

Torrens We Help Inc. (TWHI) is a non-profit private education organization. They provide online education in farming. Most of their students belong to Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. The objective of TWHI is to work in partnership with various communities, industries and businesses. TWHI wants to provide multiple learning opportunities to its students. They also provide the opportunities to under-privileged people whose fees is paid by their respective governments either partially or fully. 

Currently, TWHI is maintaining and monitoring the information of their employees through spreadsheet software. With spreadsheet, HR department is facing problem in updating the information as it contains lot of redundant data. Also, they have to maintain physical file for their CVs. Since TWHI is planning to expand its business, they planned to go for database system; otherwise, it would be very difficult to manage such a large amount of data using spreadsheets. 

Their ongoing projects is “HR DATABASE” in which HR will be maintaining the information of the academic staff and administrative staff. The development of the entire database has been divided into three stages. In stage 1, they are developing database system for the academic staff. In stage 2, they will be developing database system for administrative staff. In stage 3, they will be developing a prototype data mart for the HR system to develop data warehouse for data of the entire university. 

This document presents the initial stage of this project which is confined to the development of database system for academic staff only. 

Justification of the use of database

Database management system provides an interface between the database and the end user. It enables to create, retrieve, update and manage data in a systematic manner. It provides a centralized way to access the data by multiple users from multiple locations. It ensures to maintain consistency integrity and durability of data. It provides a centralized system that can be maintained and managed efficiently. It enables the stakeholders to access the information easily providing concurrency, security and data integrity. Database systems also support change management, data backup and recovery. They also support automated rollbacks, logging and auditing of activities (Starkey, 2012). 

TWHI has decided to move towards database system from spreadsheets for the following reasons: 

  1. Finding information through looking up CVs is very time consuming. For example, to call an employee, searching his/her CV and scanning the entire CV for contact number or area of interest consumes lot of time. So, maintaining a record of the basic details of employees in a database is easy. The HR manager can just enter the employee ID or employee name and retrieve their contact number. 

  2. When expanding its education services, the data will be increasing. So, maintaining such a huge data in spreadsheets will not be much feasible as it will consume a lot of time in searching for any information. Whereas with the help of database, it can be achieved within second with a few clicks. 

  3. In spreadsheets, there is lot of redundant data which results into inconsistency of data. For example, contact details and location of the employee are in the employee_info spreadsheet as well as in the TeachingStaff_info. If an employee wants to update his number, it may be possible that the information is updated at one place only. So, while accessing other sheet, incorrect value will appear creating inconsistency in the information. 

  4. The existing spreadsheet contains attribute that must be appeared in other spreadsheets. For example, type funding must be presented in the table where hourly rate, etc. is present. In the table containing record about professional development activities, it seems irrelevant. 

  5. Using database manage system, information can be entered into the database in a very simple manner. It can be provided using forms. 

  6. Database management system also supports to generate the report using the available data.  

Database Design: ER-Diagram

In a good database, the information is divided into subject-based tables in order to remove redundant data. Before creating a data model, the data must be standardized to make working easier. To standardize the data, the data undergo normalization. In practice, the data is normalized up to three normal forms. According to first normal form, each cell must hold only one value in each record. For second normal form, data must be in first normal form and every non-prime attribute must be retrievable through primary key. For third normal form, data must be in second normal form and every non-prime attribute must be directly dependent on the prime attribute (Coronel and Morris, 2016). 

An ER-diagram depicts the relationship among various entities in the information system. In the HR Database, the main entity is employee. To maintain the complete information, the information is further categorized into various tables such as academic staff, teaching record, leave management and professional development activities. Various attributes describing each employee include employee ID, name, address, contact number, date of joining, date of termination, TFN as well as CV. The information about attributes specific to an academic staff include department, location, status, type of work, hourly rate and type of fund. The attributes specific to the teaching record of academic staff are class, subject and hours worked per week. The attribute for the leave management of an employee are position, leaves allowed, sick leaves allowed, leaves balance, sick leaves balance, date of leave, type of leave, status of leave and approval status of the leave. The information regarding professional development activities is maintained as date of activity, type of activity, description of activity and report submission. 

In the entire database, employee ID has been used as the primary key in the Employee table and it is used as the foreign in rest of the tables. 

Figure 1 shows the ER Diagram of HR database. 


IT Controls Needed

IT controls are the specific activities performed to ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability of data. These are characterized as general controls and application controls. IT general controls are concerned with risk management, change management, security and disaster recovery of data. IT application controls ensure that the database is working as intended and is properly maintained by the users. The entire database must be enforced with system privileges and object privileges. The system privileges include the authorized access for creating or updating database. The object privileges include the authority to access, view or manipulate specific objects from the database. For databases, there are mainly three concerns: unauthorized access, back up of data and data integrity (Alles, Brennan, Kogan and Vasarhelyi, 2018). 

In HR database, IT controls can be enforced in the following manner:

  1. The entire database must be password-protected. 

  1. Only the authorized users should have the privilege to update or manipulate the data. 

  2. Periodic back up must be taken to ensure the availability of data.

  3. Various integrity constraints must be enforced to ensure the completeness, accuracy and consistency of the data. 

  4. Various access controls can be enforced. 


Currently, TWHI is using spreadsheet software for maintain the record of the employees. While using spreadsheet software, HR department has to face a lot of issues such as it contains a lot of redundant data, CVs of employees are maintained in a physical file, information is not well-managed, and so on. Now since TWHI is looking forward to expand their business, they have decided to maintain the information of their employees using database system over spreadsheet software. A database management system enables to store and manage all the information in an efficient manner providing easy accessibility. Furthermore, it enables to maintain data in a centralized manner. It provides an easy-to-use interface for storing the information such as forms. It also enables to generate reports. To design a good database, the entire data is standardized through normalization. The HR database is in adherence with third normal form. For the HR department, it is utmost important to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, consistency and availability of the entire data which can be achieved using IT controls. IT controls are mainly concerned with unauthorized accesses, back up of data and data integrity. It can be enforced through password-protection, system privileges, object privileges, periodic back up, integrity constraints, access controls and so forth.  


Alles, M., Brennan, G., Kogan, A., & Vasarhelyi, M. A. (2018). Continuous monitoring of business process controls: A pilot implementation of a continuous auditing system at Siemens. In Continuous Auditing: Theory and Application (pp. 219-246). Emerald Publishing Limited.

Coronel, C., & Morris, S. (2016). Database systems: design, implementation, & management. Cengage Learning.

Starkey, J. A. (2012). U.S. Patent No. 8,224,860. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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