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					MIS 385 Group Consulting Project Guidelines – Draft 2 (2/16/05) Professor Merhout Spring 2005
Objectives
This group project is multifaceted and has many learning opportunities. You will truly get as much out of this project as you put into it. The primary objectives of this project are for you to:
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analyze a simulated business scenario; apply course concepts to the development of an integrated EC business strategy; apply course concepts to the design and prototyping of an EC system; enhance or create your Web site building skills; experience working in a small group setting to solve real world "business problems;" have an opportunity to enhance both your oral and written communication skills.

Setting
Each group is a team of consultants responding to a request from a client who seeks the development of an overall EC strategy for his/her company. The group has been formed for the sole purpose of responding to the request and “winning” the business for their consulting firm. The request for proposal has actually been given to two groups so you will be competing against another group for the business. I will be the Owner/CIO/CEO of the company making the request. I know very little about EC

technology, but I do know that many companies are saving or making a lot of money by employing these new technologies and I think I should better assess what I am doing. In addition to missed opportunities, I am also very worried about falling behind my competition. I want to set my strategy and award a contract to the most capable company. My time is VERY limited. I am thus giving each consulting company 20 minutes to present their proposal on either April 25th, 27th or 29th. At this meeting, I also expect to see both a well-supported strategy recommendation and a prototype that demonstrates the most important aspects of the solution. This is both to convince me that the strategy is sound and that you are competent EC solutions consultants. Requirements for the proposal are outlined below. From the presentations, I expect to understand:   the goals of the strategy, and the details of proposed strategy itself; why it is the recommended strategy over possible alternatives;

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 

how the strategy will help us to meet the stated goals; what must be accomplished to attain these goals and a reasonable plan (time and budget) to get there.

I would also like an idea of how it will work. I know that a fully functioning transactional prototype is too much to expect on such short notice. However, I ask you to outline proposed business and business process changes and show a prototype of the most important aspects of the solution. In addition to the presentation, I can also give each group up to 30 minutes to discuss the projects and answer any questions you as consultants might have. This will be your opportunity to understand and clarify my situation and most pressing needs as well as help set my expectations properly. Thirty minutes will go by quickly, so be organized and control the meeting. I am willing to hold these initial meetings (by appointment only) anytime on or before April 8. I will also respond to email communications from groups along the way. Your Detailed Outline is due Friday March 11 by 4 pm.

Organization Description
Each group will be assigned a scenario (on G drive) under which the project is being carried out. This scenario will describe the context and the issues that a potential EC strategy might solve. The scenario will include:

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Organization name The Organization's Industry/Environment Size (sales, number of employees, number of physical locations) How it is organized and does business

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Existing difficulties facing the company, its business units, and/or functional areas Existing technology infrastructure and applications Other miscellaneous information

Project Requirements
There are not many specific requirements for the projects. I expect that proposals will vary widely from group to group. Be creative, but justify what you do. Remember that you are marketing this proposal. There are many ways to apply EC. Selling over the Web is not always the answer and seldom the entire solution. All proposals should include at a minimum, the following:

1. The Strategy - A detailed overview of the recommended strategy. This overview should answer all of the following questions (and any others you think are important to selling your solution): A. What is the proposed strategy? (think back to the strategy questions presented in class) 1) Where are we now?

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2) Where do we want to be? 3) How can we get there? How much will it cost (e.g., budget)? 4) How will we know we've arrived? B. What are the goals of the strategy or what are we trying to accomplish? C. What value is added or costs are removed by it? D. What alternatives were evaluated, and why is this the recommended strategy? E. How will it help us reach the goals? F. How do current business processes have to change? G. What is an appropriate path (i.e., project plan with a timeline) to get there?

2. Prototype - The prototype should be thought of as a way to demonstrate the concept(s) of what you are proposing. Include as much as you can and will have time to properly demonstrate. I suggest that you choose one area of the EC strategy and demonstrate its functionality in detail instead of glossing over all areas. It makes sense that this be a vertical prototype of the most important aspect of the solution. However, it might still be useful to additionally show overall organization and functionality of the proposed solution to help “ink the deal.” See Appendix C in D&B text. 3. Implementation Plan – To help demonstrate your true understanding of what you are proposing include a proposal for how to implement the strategy. These strategies will be multi-faceted and more than likely too much to attempt at one time for these companies. Suggest a logical implementation path to get the company to where you are proposing it go. Justify your proposed plan.

4. A discussion of some of the key Strategic, Managerial, Organizational, Technological, Social and Security issues of the EC strategy proposal.

5. A discussion of emerging technologies that might be a factor for this company in the future.

6. A suggested (rough draft) high-level plan from each team member to use as a starting point for your overall team plan. Hopefully the final group plan will incorporate and synthesize the best ideas from each of these individual initial draft plans.

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Deliverables
There are two distinct requirements for the project. The first is the presentation of your proposed strategy with a prototype demo, and second is a written description of the proposed strategy.

I. Oral Presentation:
All groups should be ready to present on 4/22. A printout of all pages in the prototype and the proposal presentation as well as and a diskette or the URL of the site are due the day you present. The order of presentations will be established before 4/22. In your presentations you must discuss the elements outlined in the requirement section above. The presentation will be limited to around 20 minutes with some time following for questions for a total of 25 minutes maximum. All group members are required to speak. It is up to the group to find an effective way to present their proposal. Summarize the setting for this whole project when presenting it. You will accumulate oral points by:  

Thoroughly and clearly presenting and justifying your proposed strategy over alternatives (be sure to answer the questions above);

Demonstrating strong presentation skills (professional presence; eye contact, pace, excitement; etc.);

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Handling the equipment effectively; Using professional language and dressing appropriately (business casual);

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Effectively demonstrating a prototype of the  important aspects of the strategy; Handling questions effectively; 

Staying within time limits.

Be prepared in the event of equipment problems!!!!!

II. Proposal Executive Summary:
(Due the day presentation is given) Again, because I am a busy executive, I would like you to create an executive summary of the proposed strategy. I plan to use this as a cheat sheet when I meet with my colleagues. The summary must be no longer than 3-4 pages (1.5 lines spacing) with your pages numbered. I would like this summary to discuss, at a rather condensed level, the proposed strategy in terms of its added value to our organization, changes to current or new business processes, how these help attain the added value, and finally, a path to get us there. Use appendices for details (such as a Gantt Chart and/or Excel spreadsheets), the initial suggested high-level plans from each team member and your team log. The organization and all group member names (alphabetized) and group # should appear somewhere on the title page.

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Keep in mind the setting and create a professional looking document that you would give to the owner or CEO of a company that you are doing consulting for. He has very little time, so net it out, organize it and make it easy to read. That's why he may pay you a large hourly rate for your services. The effectiveness of the documents will weigh heavily in the grade.

Remember your goal is to develop the best strategy, present/market it effectively, and win the consulting business for your organization.

Tentative Grading of the Projects
The project is worth 150 points (15% of the final course grade). The point breakout is:
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50 points for the oral presentation including the prototype demo. 70 points for the executive summary. 15 points for peer evaluation (if applicable). 15 points for your group-member participation evaluation.

Bottom Line
I am not putting too many requirements on what you do or how you do it (other than to be professional and to meet the deliverables above). This is often how it is in the real world. You are being thrown into a group of your peers with the goal of accomplishing something in a short amount of time. In this case it is proposing an EC strategy for a company and prototyping the proposed solution. The requestor of this project is not real sure of what she wants, and is looking to you for suggestions. You must convince her why your decisions are sound. Saving money and impressing her peers drives her. This is how it should be sold. However, you must address potential organizational ramifications of possible alternative strategies (including the one you choose) as part of your justification. In other words, what other functional areas might possibly be affected (positively or negatively) by a given potential solution? Have fun with the project, but demonstrate to me that you have learned some the key skills and concepts about electronic commerce and possible EC strategies in this course. You will likely have some difficulties. Come and see me when you do. You must find a way to work together productively toward a common goal. You will be doing quite a bit of this if you choose a career path in an MIS profession (or any profession or functional area, for that matter, that relies on IT to help facilitate its business processes).

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Sample Scenario: BEACH REALTY
Beach Realty, a second-generation family owned real estate sales company, has handled Florida Keys’ properties since 1983. We are a premier waterfront vacation & holiday rentals and real estate sales firm offering a quality of service envied by many. Our secret: "A friendly yet professional service"! We are located in the middle of the Florida Keys, nestled within the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. We currently employ 9 agents and 4 support staff. The agents are responsible for finding, representing, and closing for both buyers and sellers. The agents are given much independence, encouraged to spend as much time with customers instead of spending the day behind their desks. Beach Realty sold more than $30 million in houses and brokered more than $5,000,000 in rentals in the past three years. The challenge is to constantly find new ways to find, market, and interact with real estate customers. Many competing agencies are using the Internet to market, communicate and find new business. We currently do very little online. A potential new opportunity is to plan, build and market newly constructed homes and developments (i.e., assume the role of developer). To be effective, we must partner with construction designers and contractors to ensure that the quality of the new home meets our customers’ expectations. We have already begun to select and partner with outstanding companies. However, communication has been slow and difficult. In order for this service to succeed, Beach Realty cannot tolerate delays, especially for reasons in our control. Our customers are important. Deadlines must be met. Beach Realty’s office is connected using a LAN. The workstations are primarily used to create and print documents, although there is also a database of past customers. Most internal communication is done the old fashioned way and schedules are posted on the wall for all employees to view. Our office network is also used to run various searches: real estate currently on the market, comparative home values and neighborhood reports. Beach Realty believes that e-commerce can help us expand our business beyond its current niche. However, the firm has very little expertise with new technology and has no idea how to start an e-commerce strategy. We need your help.

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