Product, Customer, Sale, & Location Records


This article discusses record types supporting the concepts product, customer, sale, and location. The names given to these records varies depending on the line(s) of business an organization is in and, in particular, the organization’s sales processes.

Product, Customer, Sale, & Location Records

NOTE: This article is Part 4 of Information System Data Fundamentals For Business Analysts. See Part 1 – Series Introduction for links to other articles in the series, plus definitions of the terms Information System, Record, and Field within the context of this series.

Product-Related Records

The concept of product within the context of this series was defined in Part 3 as covering both goods and services, where goods are things a customer can take ownership of and services are resources a customer uses for a period of time. Goods have inventory levels (i.e. one or more instances available for purchase). Services have resource availability, at designated times (i.e. trained or qualified individuals to perform the service, and/or equipment appropriate to fulfil the service).

A record representing an organization’s products will do so as a type, a batch, or as an instance.

Product Type – The products offered for sale by many organizations are not unique. For example, things available in retail stores such as clothes, furniture, electronics, and food items. A product type record is defined with fields such as Name, Size, and Price, where values for these fields in a record instance apply to each real-world (non-unique) instance the product.

Product Batch – Products that are mass-produced can have one or more things vary within their production process (e.g. involve batches of components or ingredients from different suppliers). When it’s critical to an organization to track these variations, a product batch record is needed. Its purpose is to identify the specific product type it’s a batch of, plus have specific fields for recording batch-specific values.

NOTE: As part of producing a batch of physical products, that process should have the capability to label each (non-unique) instance with the applicable batch identifier.

Product Instance – Some goods products are, by their nature, unique. Examples include real estate properties and works of art. Other goods start life as identical, mass-produced instances, but can take on individual characteristics over time as the result of normal use, instance-specific modifications, or damage.

When an organization sells used, modified, or damaged goods, a record type representing each product instance is needed. That record should make reference to the instance’s [mass-produced] record, if available, to give access to fields applicable to all instances (e.g. Name, Size, Color). The instance record should have fields for recording values that represent the current state/condition of the specific real-world instance.

In the case of service products, a product instance record type is not for the purpose of representing changes over time. Its objective is to represent individual ‘offerings’ of the service. Examples include appointment time-slots, rental availability periods, a specific scheduled flight, the designated time and venue for the screening of a film, a live performance, or sporting event.

Understanding an organization’s line of business-specific products involves recognizing which of the above product information levels are needed. Appropriately named records should be defined along with applicable fields for maintaining values and links to related record instances.

Customer-Related Records

An organization supports processes to maintain details about its customers within an information system for one or both of the following reasons:

  1. The organization has an ongoing relationship with, or obligation to, its customers in relation to the sale of one or more of its products (e.g. supply of electricity, a loan, an insurance policy).
  2. The organization wants to be able to communicate with its customers to sell them additional products (e.g. the newest generation of a consumer product, a service that a customer can benefit from periodically).

There are many organizations, such as those involved in retail sales, that sell their products to unknown customers. One mechanism commonly used by organizations to know who such customers are is a customer loyalty scheme. The customer provides their name and contact details in exchange for potential product discounts or other forms of rewards. Another mechanism is product warranty registration, where the manufacturer of the product records the end-consumer of its product subsequent to its purchase through a sales channel (e.g. retail store).

Some organizations deal in products that require knowing the customer involved in a given sale. Part of the sales process includes identifying the customer and capturing some form of contact details. For some products, details related to qualifying for the product may be involved (e.g. credit worthiness-related). Where a customer has established themselves with an organization, there needs to be information that allows them to be identified within the context of that organization.

Depending on the products an organization offers, and its sales processes, the types of customers it maintains in an information system may be one or more of the following:

An Individual — a person able to provide enough information that they can be distinguished from other individuals within the system. E.g. name, address, phone number, government-issued ID number.

Multiple Individuals — two or more people who are jointly involved in the sale of a product. E.g. a joint bank account, a family mobile phone plan.

Association – a named group of individuals associated through a common factor (e.g. a profession, sport, or hobby). The association itself may be the customer, or individual members of the association.

Registered Business — an individual or organization that has officially registered to operate as a legally entity. E.g. sole trader, corporation.

Reseller – an individual or organization involved in the sale of an organization’s products, either with the intent of reselling the products to their own customers, distributing the products further down a supply chain, or acting on behalf of individuals or organizations (e.g. a travel agent). A reseller may be franchised to use the product organization’s branding.

Governmental Branch or Department — an organization unit within a governing body with authority to procure goods or services from external sources. E.g. The Army, The Department of Education, an SOE (State-Owned Enterprise).

Registered Internet User — a person that has established a unique logon ID with an organization’s internet portal. The organization operating the portal may or may not have a business process that associates the user to an existing non internet-based customer. Where this association is able to be established, the internet user is not an additional customer, but an individual with access to one or more self-service capabilities on behalf of that customer.

The name of the record representing an organization’s concept of customer is affected by the line of business. Examples include CLIENT, PASSENGER, PATIENT, STUDENT. Fields associated with customer records typically support values for name, contact means, and ‘demographic’ details (e.g. age group, income level) used to target marketing campaigns.

Sale-Related Records

The concept of sale within the context of this series was defined in Part 3 as any type of event where a customer commits to consuming one or more of the organization’s products. Depending on the product(s) involved, and the organization’s end-to-end sales process, there may be certain pre or post-sale processes triggered. These can involve additional sale-related records.

Pre-Sale — A pre-sale process may be triggered by a customer or the organization. Where a customer is seeking a product offered by a particular organization, the customer triggers the process. Examples of pre-sale activities within the sales process include the customer filling out an APPLICATION or ORDER that identifies the desired product(s), or requesting an APPOINTMENT, QUOTE, or RESERVATION.

Where the organization proactively seeks a sale by contacting a customer, each contact event is supported by an activity that can result in an OFFER being made to the customer.

Having initiated a pre-sale process, there can be additional events and their associated processes that take place prior to formal commitment to the sale. Examples include the customer making a refundable DEPOSIT, the organization providing a QUOTE, submitting a BID, drafting a STATEMENT OF WORK, or the customer and organization negotiating a CONTRACT.

Sale Commitment — Within an organization’s sale process there will be at least one activity representing the customer and/or the organization formally committing to the sale. The customer can be said to place an ORDER, sign a CONTRACT, or pay for a BOOKING

Post-Sale Events — Lastly, there may be post-sale events related to the product sold, that trigger processes, and involving post sale-related records. From the customer side these may involve subsequent PURCHASEs or USAGE of the product within the terms of a contract, either incurring an additional CHARGE or utilizing pre-paid CREDIT. Or the return of a RENTED ITEM.

From the organization side, a post-sale event may involve charging a periodic SERVICE FEE. Or a product maybe delivered subsequent to the sale (e.g. the operation of a scheduled flight or an entertainment event taking place that was ticketed in advance). PAYMENT may be due, or overdue for a product that was sold on credit. A service may involve periodic reporting, such as the production of a STATEMENT of account.

Data about a sale includes all record types involved in the end-to-end sales process, naming them in accordance with the line of business and organizational terminology. Fields defined within these records can include the event-related dates, quantities of usage, and amounts charged to or paid by the customer.

Location-Related Records

The concept of location within the context of this series was defined in Part 3 as a place managed by the organization for the purpose of the selling or the consuming of its products. Examples include retail stores, hotels, library branches, and properties provisioned for usage of utility services such as water or electricity.

As with products, customers, and sales, the organization’s location types relate to a given line of business.  Locations have a positional aspect and an operational aspect.

The position of an organization’s locations can be:

  • Area-based — one or more named geopolitically-defined areas (e.g. suburbs, cities, states/provinces, countries), or map-drawn and named by the organization (e.g. sales districts, service coverage areas).
  • Line-based — Two or more named points defining start, end, and any intermediate stopping points. E.g. passenger air, rail or bus routes, goods transportation routes.
  • Point-based — A place identifiable by address and/or map-based reference. This includes locations the organization provisions with sales-related staff, such as a retail store, hotel, or bank branch. It also includes residential and commercial properties the organization has provisioned with network-based access to its product (e.g. water, gas, fibre).
  • Sub-Location — An identifiable point or area within a larger location. E.g. a designated floor within a building, section or seat within a sports/entertainment venue.

Where goods are involved, an organization cares about its locations from both an operational and inventory perspective. Operational in the sense of business hours and sales staff on hand during those hours. Inventory in the sense of product ‘availability’ at a given sales location.

Where services are involved, there is additional need for service-appropriate resources to support advanced or ‘walk-in’ sales. E.g. flight crew, medical staff, a rental vehicle, an aircraft or ship to provide seating or cargo space.

Data about locations involves line of business-specific record names. Fields within those records are needed to represent its position, operation, inventory, and other required resources.

NOTE: Depending on organizational context, a given location can be represented as an area or a point. E.g. from the perspective of a city authority, the city is a bounded area. The same city from the perspective of an airline need only be represented as point.

Next Article — Identification Fields

Dan TaskerAuthor: Dan Tasker

Dan is the author of over 30 requirements-related articles and other resources. His 45+ year career in Information Technology has involved organizations in a variety of industry sectors in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. His business analysis experience includes projects involving in-house software development, software vendor solution development, and COTS software acquisition and implementation. He continues to be passionate about quality requirements and helping business analysts produce them. He can be contacted at [email protected].



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