THE PROBLEM SCENARIO
Woolsmorth is a large retail company specialising in groceries and clothing. It was founded in 1995 and currently has more than 200 department stores in the UK. The company has been very successful over many years but is now facing new challenges because of the credit crunch.
Company Headquarters is located in central London. Many of the business functions are dispersed around the country as Divisions: Sales in Birmingham, Human Resources in London, Customer Relations in Northampton, etc. All the Divisions have their own internal Local Area Networks, connected to Headquarters by a variety of wide area platforms. The company does not manufacture goods in its own right: short-term contracts are made with a large number of suppliers for various clothing lines and for groceries. Consequently, some network links have been developed for communications with suppliers, and the larger suppliers are required to carry out all transactions with Woolsmorth using EDI. There is still, however, a significant reliance on Sales staff to make visits to suppliers in order to negotiate contracts, approve new product lines and generally to troubleshoot.
In order to support its retail activities, Woolsmorth has a significantly-sized, but somewhat fragmented internal networking and telecommunications infrastructure in place. This has been built up incrementally over the last 15 years, starting with a Data Processing Centre which was located in Walsall (West Midlands). The Data Processing Centre is still the centre of many of the company’s transaction processing activities. The various internal networks were put in place at different times; using components purchased from a variety of vendors, and comprise a miscellany of topologies and network operating systems. This situation has led to some problems of inter-networking, with consequent loss or corruption of data.
In 2002, in response to increased building and rental costs, the company decided to supplement its department store activities by initiating catalogue sales. Customers would be sent a catalogue by post and order forms would be returned to an Order Processing Centre in Sales Division in Birmingham. From there, orders would be forwarded to the Data Processing Centre in Walsall, by means of a leased line arrangement. The catalogue arm of the business is proving less profitable than in recent years, partly due to competition from rival companies which have moved into e-commerce and online sales, and partly due to delays and errors in fulfilling customer orders.
In 2005, the company decided to open some stores in selected European locations. This has been successful to the extent that extra revenues have been generated, but unexpected costs have also been incurred. The problems appear to relate to a number of factors, such as delays caused by the need for key staff to travel to these locations to train and otherwise to communicate with the local staff. The company currently has 10 European outlets, mainly in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
In the last two years, Woolsmorth has experienced falling sales, which has come as something as a shock to the company. Immediate responses to this problem included dramatic, if somewhat haphazard price reductions, but this had limited success. Costs also rose as a consequence of holding large quantities of unsold stock. The company has prided itself on its unique culture which has fostered staff welfare and hands-on management, rather than reliance on, for example, distributed Management Information Systems supporting management decision making.
A new Chief Executive was appointed in 2010 and put forward a new business strategy which attempted to “modernise” the management culture and which emphasised the following key points:
• There is a need to increase revenues by venturing into online sales
• The customer base must be expanded, whilst existing customers must be retained (one current initiative here is the introduction of a line of designer clothes: some senior management have worries that this might alienate the more traditional customer)
• There is a need to reduce costs
The Chief Executive has some sympathy with the notion that the new business strategy needs to be underpinned by high quality internal networks and systems, but not all senior management share this view.
Some of the requirements as provided by the company are as follows:
1. Fully integrated and fully interactive E-commerce solution which includes order processing (from receiving the order to issuing invoices and delivering goods to the customers).
2. Interactive “Blog” where users/customers write their comments/feedback about various products they buy.
You are invited, as an experienced consultant, to put together a strategic plan and a technical report (which is comprised into a final report), on the basis of the evidence supplied in this brief. The report should include the following deliverables (These should conform to sections of your report):
1. An identification and prioritisation of the problems facing the organisation A rationale needs to accompany your identification of problems
2. eMarketing Strategy:
You are required to analyse different eMarketing strategies and help adopt a suitable eMarketing strategy to promote the organisation.
a. In this section you may build upon their Situation Analysis which could evaluate the organisations’ ‘marketing mix’.
b. You may also suggest to the management balancing their online and offline promotion methods.
3. Recommended solutions to identified problems in terms of:
a. Highly secure interface which allows customers to browse and login to do the following:
i. Browse online catalogue
ii. Choose items in a basket
iii. proceed to checkout in a secure mode and choose different payment methods
iv. receive confirmation email, once the order has been submitted.
v. Interactive “Blog” where users/customers write their comments/feedback about various products they buy
b. An Enquiries System that deals with customer queries and problems.
c. Your report should also contain a realistic budget proposal which covers the following areas:
1. Set up and Development costs
2. Maintenance costs
4. The technologies (hardware and software) required to develop:
a. The front-end
b. The back-end infra structure
5. The design (including legal and accessibility issues) and development approach:
This should include some sample pages to demonstrate the design approach used and a sample database - YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO IMPLEMENT A FULLY FUNCTIONAL E-COMMERCE SITE. The sample pages can be in HTML. There is no need to include any connectivity to the database. All images and sample downloads must be free of copyright.
6. Legal and Ethical Issues: What legal and ethical issues does the institution need to consider with regard to the gathering, processing, distribution and use of information on the Internet and within their Intranets?
Note if Wizards or other Program Generators are used then they need to be clearly acknowledged.
All images and sample downloads must be free of copyright, if Wizards or other Program Generators are used then they need to be clearly acknowledged and referenced.
Note: Literature used needs to be properly referenced within your report. It is not acceptable to just submit a bibliography at the end of your report. You will lose marks.
Word Count: 3500-4000 words
Prioritisation of the problems and rationale
Recommended solutions to problems
Legal and Ethical issues