Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Junk-Van Preparation

Problem/Issue Statement: Junk-Van is losing business due to pervasive errors with administration tasks. Junk-Van needs an affordable IT system that meets operational requirements and allows growth. Customers are not satisfied with the services being provided, and growth has slowed down. There are errors with customer contact information, forgotten/lost emails, manual calculations and billing mistakes and issues concerning the data clerk.

Situation Assessment: Junk-Van needs an IT system to meet the following needs:
  • Centralized Database - where information can be accessed remotely and internal information can be accessed without the need to email everything
  • Automated e-mails to customers to avoid mistakes with appointments and such.
  • Because employees are not very tech savvy, the new IT system must be user friendly and easy to implement
  • The system must be flexible for growth, and robust enough to handle significant changes in the industry or business
  • Vendor support. It is essential for Junk-Van to have someone to help support their company with their questions, concerns and comments about the system
  • Affordability. The system had to be within budget. 
Alternative Courses of Action

1. Upgrading from MS Works, to Access
    • Pros: Upgrading from Works to Access could be done on a budget and in a short time frame.  Access could be installed on individual machines or remotely through the internet and accessed through a secure virtual private network. Licenses were $179 each and Kingo felt that he could use his personal time on nights and weekends to install the needed software on individual machines.   
    • Cons: While Microsoft Access would seem easy to implement, has vendor support and could be implemented in 2 weeks, in order for the system to be a central database on a remote server would require Kingo to most likely hire some additional IT support which could be costly and time consuming.  MS Access also does not e-mail directly through the system.
2. Customized Application
    • Pros: Kingo could have someone completely customize an application for his business.  It could be web-based, which would be a central database and provide remote access. The development could take approximately 4 weeks which may be longer than Kingo would like, but still a relatively short time period.
    • Cons: While this seems like a good alternative, this could be very costly.  King received an initial estimate of $2,000, however this did not include data migration which would be an added cost.  Maintenance would also be an additional $60 per hour per developer and there is no way to estimate how much maintenance would be required. Another risk with a custom application – there is no way to preview it.  You simply explain to the developer what you want and get an end result; there is no way of knowing if his needs are actually being met.  Also, “vendor support” is billed by the hour post-implementation.  This could easily add up, again with no way to estimate how much.
3. Google Docs
    • Pros:  Google Docs offered online applications to easily create text documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations and forms.  Forms would be particularly useful to Kingo as they could be easily created and shared with employees. Employees could work collaboratively on the same file and e-mail distribution was supported.  The cost was relatively low as well.  For Kingo it would be approximately $50 per user per year.  Google Docs could also be implemented in a matter of a few weeks.
    • Cons:  Kingo knew of some friends who were afraid of using cloud computing, storing sensitive company data on tools and resources that were not completely in Kingo’s control.  Also, data would have to be in one large spreadsheet, forcing everyone to see every field.  Google Docs did not support the idea of a relational database where tables can reference certain information or fields in different tables.
4. Platform as a Service (Paas)
    • Pros:  PaaS was defined as the provision for computational resources, namely storage, hardware, network capacity and some basic software functionality.   With PaaS, users could use common applications, as well as build their own unique applications using a shared computing platform.  After a trial by a PaaS provider, Kingo felt he would be able to build forms and connect tables himself.  The system was fairly robust and easy to use. Also, implementation, including data migration would take only 3 days. This could be a system that could grow with the Company, and there was no long term contract required, Kingo could increase or decrease his service as needed, even having the ability to cancel with one month’s notice. 
    • Cons:  Similar to Google Docs, PaaS is on a cloud computing infrastructure bringing about the same concern of sensitive client information being stored in the “cloud”.  Service packages for PaaS ranged anywhere from $300 to $600 per month, depending on how much storage space, the number of user licenses and the number of applications needed.  Also, if customization was required, there would be an additional charge billed at the rate of $180 per hour. 
5. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System
    • Pros:  ERP systems were built around a central database, they are designed to be accessible remotely and claimed to integrate business processes by covering all aspects of a business.
    •  Cons:  An ERP system would be something for a larger organization; even small business quotes were for 20 to 25 users and were typically $2,500 per user per year with additional upfront costs close to the same amount.  Kingo read online that a starting package for a business with 4 user licenses was actually $12,000.  While it was nice to have a system that would encompass a whole business, ERP systems seemed mainly focused on production and finance modules which were not top priorities for Kingo.

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