Prepare a continuous training program for the employees
Colorado Technical University
ABC Abacus Inc is an Information Technology Company which operates under a Business to Business (b2b) model with its primary objective being to design and sell software to academic institutions. In its initial days, the firm was the industry leader in terms of innovation and customer satisfaction. In the recent past, however, the firm has recorded a slowdown of profits, a problem which is partly attributed to its outdated software architecture. This paper explores the firm’s current systems to identify the shortfalls that are leading to this slowdown. Based on the identified shortfalls, the paper recommends several courses of action that could be implemented to help the company maximize its competitive advantage against the backdrop of the stiffening competition in the industry. To achieve the mentioned objectives, the author of the report quantitatively gathered data regarding the firm’s current systems. The quantitative approach of data collection involved use of observations and online surveys. After carefully analyzing the data, it became evident that the company’s business model was outdated and ineffective and needed to be redesigned. In that regard, the report has outlined the courses of action that the executives of the firm need to initiate to restore the company to its initial position.
Table of Contents Abstract 2 Introduction 4 Background about the Organisation 4 Methodology 5 Data Collection Procedures 5 Observations……………………………………………………………………………….6 Online Surveys……………………………………………………………………………7 Data Analysis 11 Checking Data Normality 11 RESULTS 12 As is Model……………………………………………………………12 Issues with the Process………………………………………………..13 Recommendations for Improvement……………………………………………………..14 Recommendations Explained…………………………………………………….14 Evidence to support the Recommendations………………………………….…..16 Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)……………………………………16 Business Process Reengineering…………………………………..…17 Benefits accruing from the Recommendations……………………….………….19 Implementation Challenges………………………………………………………20 Conclusion………………………………………………………………….…………….21 References 24
ABC Abacus Project
Abacus Inc is one of the leading educational software vendors in the US. During its initial days in the industry, the company was highly profitable and recorded high number of returning customers. As time went by, however, the firm relaxed on its innovation endeavors and it is currently struggling with diminishing profits. The decline in profits comes in the backdrop of the changing customer needs and the growing demand for educational software (Dumas et al. 2013). The decline in profits has largely been attributed by lack of innovation and the reluctance by the firm to redesign its current business model. In the recent past, customers have complained about poor services by the firm which may negatively affect its overall profitability in the long run. This underscores the need for the firm to redesign its business model to retain its competitive advantage. This report was prepared to inform the company’s executives about the possible courses of action that they can take to restore the firm to its initial position. The report was prepared based on the challenges identified by the author using quantitative approaches- observation and online surveys.
Background about the Organization
Abacus Inc. is a private limited company which was incorporated in 1983 with its primary objective being to design and sell educational software. The company’s headquarters are located in San Diego, California but has several other branches within the country (Abacus Technology Corporation, 2017). Initially, the company’s operations were limited to San Diego, but today, the firm operates in several other cities across the US. The company’s rapid growth has been largely facilitated by mergers and acquisition whereby the company keeps on partnering with other technology firms to expand its reach and to reduce competition (Abacus Technology Corporation, 2017). In addition to mergers and acquisition, the company was initially innovative and kept on improving customer experience. However, today the company seems to have relaxed its innovation strategies and it now faces several challenges emanating from the changing needs of customers as well as the rising demand for educational software. As it currently stands, the company’s current business model does not support the changing customer needs neither does it support the rise in demand for software. This underscores the need to redesign the firm’s business model to ensure that it does not lose its market share to the rivals.
The purpose of this project was to uncover the possible ways in which firms in the software industry could maximize their market shares by increasing their efficiency. This objective was achieved by analyzing the challenges facing ABC Abacus Inc which is a firm operating in the software industry. The analysis was achieved by quantitatively collecting data pertaining to the challenges currently facing the firm through observations and online surveys. Based on the identified challenges, a set of recommendations were developed to remedy the problems.
Data Collection Procedures
To accurately paint a picture of the current situation in the company and to develop appropriate recommendations, the author of this paper gathered quantitative data pertaining to the problem. The research was based on the following research questions:
a) What are the immediate problems facing ABC Abacus Inc?
b) What can Abacus Inc do to mitigate the problem to retain its competitive advantage?
c) What are the benefits that will accrue to the company as a result of implementing the recommended changers?
The quantitative approaches used to collect the data were observation and online surveys. The approaches were in line with the quantitative method which entails collecting data and analyzing it statistically (Brannen, 2017).
One of the methods that were used to collect data regarding the company was observation in which the author of this work visited the company’s premises during the usual working hours. The author resolved to use this tool after obtaining written consent from one of the executives. The consent document is shown in figure 1 below. The choice of this tool for this study was informed by the fact that it would allow the researcher to obtain first-hand information regarding the current situation. Additionally, the tool would facilitate collection of additional data that could not otherwise be collected using interviews and online surveys due to possible reluctance by the participants to disclose certain information.
The observation went on for 14 days. During the first two days of the study, the author was oriented into the company. The orientation process involved detailed introductions to the overall organization culture as well as its missions and visions. Additionally, the author was introduced to the departmental heads who were friendly and ready to facilitate the research. Still on the orientation, the author was also introduced to the firm’s business model and the software it designs.
During the subsequent days, the author visited each of the 6 departments and observed as the employees performed their tasks. The author’s main focus was on the engineering department where they spent about 6 days observing as the customers orders were being executed. Another department that got the author’s attention is the sales department in which he spent 5 days. The other 2 days were spent on other departments, such as, the accounting and the procuring departments. During the observations, the author could interact with the staffs to ascertain whether the observations were right. Each material observation was recorded on a note book and formed the basis for designing the online surveys that would later be used alongside the observations.
Figure 1: Consent Document from Abacus to Conduct Research
In addition to observations, the author also utilized online surveys to collect additional data regarding the topic under consideration. Two types of surveys were used to collect data from the participants based on the target group. Survey 1 was meant to collect data from employees while survey 2 was used to collect data from experts in the software industry. The survey documents that were used to solicit data from the employees were prepared based on the findings from the observations. As noted previously in this paper observations preceded the online surveys which imply that the author had gained substantial knowledge regarding the challenges facing the firm. Therefore, the author deemed it appropriate to base the questions on the challenges observed. The survey document used to collect data from the experts was designed in such a way that it contained questions which targeted at collecting expert opinion about the possible ways to fix the problems observed in the company.
To ensure that the participants gave correct information, the author created survey guides and distributed them to the participants a week prior to the actual study. The guides contained information regarding the objectives of the study as well as clear guidelines on how to answer the questions. The guides were distributed to the participants through their respective email addresses. After the elapse of the 1 week, the survey documents were then sent to the participants via mail. Each employee survey document contained 10 closed-ended questions and 10 open-ended questions which targeted on collecting data regarding the topic of the study (Figure 2, 3, 4 below). Those for the experts, on the other hand, contained 10 open ended questions (Figure 5 below). The participants were allowed 3 days in which they had to answer all the questions and send back the survey documents to the researcher.
Figure 2: Part 1 of Employee Survey
Figure 3: Part 1 of the Employee Survey
Figure 4: Part 2 of the Employee Survey
Figure 5: Expert Survey Document
Given that this was a quantitative study, the data obtained was analyzed using regression analysis tool. The tool was used to investigate the relationships between the poor performance of the firm and its outdated business model. Additionally, the tool enabled the author to measure the relationship between the poor performance of the firm and its failure to offer post installation support and maintenance services. In addition to the regression analysis tool, the author used the SPSS software to analyze data regarding the problems facing the firm and the possible approaches to remedy the shortfalls as proposed by the experts. To facilitate this analysis, all similar responses were identified and grouped. The next step involved assigning each group a special code which would then be input to the computer for analysis.
Checking of Data Normality
Data normality refers to the extent to which the data collected from the sample population is representative of the real situation on the ground. Research indicates that about 50% of the published research findings have at least one error hence the need to conduct normality checks on the collected data (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). The connection between the data and erroneous findings may be explained from the point of view that the parametric tests (correlation, regression, t tests, and analysis of variance) are based on the presumption that all the tested data is taken from a sample population that is normally distributed. However, this is not always the case, and hence, researchers need to check data normality using the available techniques. There are different methods for checking data normality that are available for researchers. However, for the purposes of this research, the data normality tests were conducted using the SPSS software. The use of the software to conduct data normality tests was informed by the view that it provides reliable results regarding the checks and saves much time compared to manual checks (Cohen et al. 2015). Based on the results from the software, the data was deemed normal because the black line formed a bell-shaped curve as illustrated in the figure below:
Figure 6: Data Normality Graph
As is Model
Based on the data obtained from observations and online surveys, the organization faces several issues that limit its productivity and profitability. As the author observed, the company has 6 departments which are sales, procurement, accounting, engineering, marketing, and human resource. The departments are headed by qualified departmental heads that are recruited by the HR department. Although the firm has an established IT infrastructure, interdepartmental communication is rarely present. Communication is mostly manual with each department communicating with the other departments manually. The organization has several computers in its head office with each department having almost equal number of computers. However, the firm lacks a well established network which hinders computerized inter-departmental communication. Typically, the order execution process starts when a customer places an order with the sales department. This department records the order details and passes the same to the engineering department for execution. After execution, the order is sent back to the accounting department for billing. After the payment, the customer receives his or her order from the marketing department. The customers never participate in the engineering process and they are never allowed to customize the software.
Issues with the Process
As it currently stands the software that the company sells to its customers is uniform which implies that it provides no room for the procuring institutions to customize their software based on their specific needs. It is important to note that institutions vary by size and they have unique needs (Harrison, 2015). Therefore, it is important for the firm to allow its customers to customize the software to align with their personal needs. Therefore, one of the major setbacks facing the firm is lack of a customer-centered model which would facilitate customization of its software.
The other shortfall that the company faces is lack of a proper after sales service strategy to provide IT support after the sale of the software. Generally, the institutions that buy the software may not have the right skills on the appropriate usage of the software. The customers may require professional assistance to appropriately use the software. Additionally, the buying institutions may need continuous support and maintenance. This underscores the need for the company to employ enough competent staffs to train the customers on the appropriate use of the software.
The other issue that was noted through observations and the online surveys was that the company’s software could not be installed on a mobile phone. The software only operated on computers apparently due to its large size and features. This is a major limitation because most people prefer using their mobile phones to access internet services as opposed to personal computers. The company would benefit greatly by designing a version of the same software that is mobile phone –supported to increase its accessibility and ease of use.
Recommendations for Improvement
Based on the results described above, the author developed several recommendations which could be used to enhance the company’s performance in the long run. The recommendations are listed hereafter:
· Business Process Re-engineering
· Introduction of Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD)
· Create a sound communication system within the firm
· Allow Software Customisation
· Recruit a special group of engineers to provide continuous support and maintenance for customers
· Create a continuous training program for the employees
One of the recommendations for organization improvement is overhaul process re-engineering. As indicated previously in this paper, the software which the company sells to its customers is never customized which implies that customers buy software with similar features irrespective of their sizes. This is problematic because each institution has its own individual needs which underscore the need for the company to allow the customers to dictate the features that they need in the customized software. By adopting the idea of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), the firm may easily resolve this issue which may lead to high customer satisfaction. By definition, BPR refers to “an approach to change management in which the related tasks required to obtain a specific business outcome are radically redesigned” (Harrison, 2015; p. 23). In the contemporary business environment, Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) has revolutionized the software industry. Currently, many software companies focus on redesigning and rethinking the ways work should be done better to ensure that the mission of the organization is achieved as well as to reduce the costs of operation and minimize process redundancies. The process of redesigning how work is done by the organization basically form what is referred to as business process reengineering (BPR), business transformation, business process change management or business process redesign. BPR starts with an intensive assessment of the strategic goals, mission, and customer needs of the organization. BPR in ABC abacus should specifically target changing the way the software are engineered as well as allow customers to participate in the engineering process.
The other proposed course of action is the implementation of the concept of Bring Your Own Devise (BYOD) within the organization to enhance communication amongst the employees and also to retain the best talents. BYOD involves allowing employees to access an organization’s network using their own portable devices (Hayes & Kotwica, 2013). According to Burroughs (2014), one of the reasons why firms should embrace BYOD is that it leads to increased productivity for the concerned organization. This gain comes as a result of the motivation that employees exhibit when using their favorite mobile devices as opposed to specific firm-imposed devices. Additionally, the mobile devices allow the employees to use devices which they are usually conversant with which leads to faster processing of data and requests (Disterer & Kleiner, 2013). Based on the evidence analyzed above, it would be important for ABC to adopt this important concept to ensure that communication within the firm is enhanced. BYOD will also make information more accessible to the employees as and when it is needed. Under the proposed arrangement, the firm will be required to recruit qualified personnel who will be required to oversee the process of providing support to the customers. These employees need to have access to information to successfully execute their mandate with ease.
Next, the company needs to recruit a team of experts who would be charged with the responsibility of offering support and maintenance of the software on behalf of the customers. Hoch et al. (2000) argues that companies in the software industry that give post installation support and maintenance services tend to outsmart the rivals because customers tend to achieve high levels of satisfaction. As it currently stands, ABC Abacus does not offer such services which make the software unattractive to the clients. Given that the company’s major clients are educational institutions, there needs to be 24/7 support because the clients may not have the technical knowhow to fix problems when they arise. Additionally, the clients may not possess the right skills to independently manage the software without proper training. The company should take the responsibility of training the customers about the operations of the software to ensure that they leap maximum benefits.
Evidence to support the Recommendations
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
In the recent past, the topic of BYOD has attracted numerous researchers who seek to unravel the benefits accruing from the concept. Consequently, a wide body of literature has developed regarding the subject. Afreen (2014) argues that the concept of BYOD has in the recent past gained much applicability in the contemporary organizations. One of the reasons why BYOB has attracted the attention of most organizations is that it facilitates flexibility of workers and also leads to longer working hours (Hayes & Kotwica, 2013). This argument is grounded on the fact that employees carry home with them their portable devices which ensures that they communicate with other employees from their homes. Such communication leads to data sharing at the employees’ convenience.
French, Guo & Shim (2014) found that organizations that had embraced BYOD attracted and retained the best talents. In the recent past, organizations all over the globe have recorded an increase in the number of youthful employees who are very attracted to new technology. Allowing them to use their favorite devices inside and outside the workplace increases their job satisfaction leading to low staff turnover (Hayes& Kotwica, 2013). An example of an organization that has successfully used BYOD to attract and retain young employees is Sap. Through its SAP’s BYOD program, the firm has reported an increase in the number of youthful employees especially in its Australian and New Zealand branches which has resulted in enhanced productivity (French et al. 2014). However, in as much as organizations need to embrace BYOB, they need to formulate appropriate security policies to ensure that the infrastructure remains safe (Keyes, 2013). This view is informed by the fact that allowing employees to access the organization’s network using their own devices may predispose the firm to various security risk which include loss of company data in case a device is lost or stolen, inappropriate use of the network, and external attacks among others (Hayes& Kotwica, 2013).
Business Process Reengineering
Traditionally, when creating information systems of companies, developers based their endeavors on data (Harrison, 2015). As a result, the approaches they used to model systems were oriented towards describing data on the realities of the real world and their interrelations, but not on the behavior of these entities. Because reengineering is process-oriented, not data-driven, traditional approaches have proven inadequate (Harmon & Trends, 2010). The object-oriented approach is the only approach so far that allows to describe both data about entities and their behavior. In addition, it provides the creation of transparent, easily modifiable business models and information systems that allow the reuse of individual components. CASE-technologies were used in reengineering practically from the moment of its appearance. However, their orientation toward the developers of information systems has led to the fact that now they are beginning to be combined with other modern technologies – first of all, with object-oriented technologies (Harmon, 2003).Simulation modeling provides not only the most profound representation of models for non-programmers, but also the most complete means of analyzing such models. Models are created in the form of flow diagrams, which represent the main working procedures used in the company, describes their behavior, as well as information and material flows between them. However, the construction of real simulation models is a laborious process, and their detailed analysis, which goes beyond simple collection of statistics by time and cost, often requires special training from the user. To describe the working procedures, additional programming may be necessary (Harmon & Trends, 2010).To overcome these difficulties, today they begin to use the methods of knowledge engineering. Although reengineering is applicable in virtually all industries, software industry reap the most benefits from process reengineering concepts.
The experience of reengineering shows that a truly successful and innovative introduction of information technology is a unique creative process: managers and IT professionals, when they get acquainted with IT methods, make discoveries about the possibilities of using them in their particular business (Harmon, 2003). At the same time, the creation of high-quality information systems requires the participation of IT professionals. There is a problem of finding a common language that stands in the way of integration of modern modeling technologies and the development of complex systems: object-oriented methods, CASE-technologies, knowledge engineering, simulation processes and rapid application development methods RAD (Rapid Application Development) (Snider, da Silveira & Balakrishnan, 2009).
Software vendors can improve their services by adopting an integrated approach to support reengineering of their services (Mao & Zhang, 2008). An integrated approach to support of reengineering can be found on the example of one of the promising tools BPR – the system ReThink (Harmon & Trends, 2010), developed by Gensym (USA). This system combines the capabilities of key modern information technologies: a graphical object-oriented language for describing models and projects, animation and simulation tools for reconstructed processes, methods of artificial intelligence for the full and adequate presentation of expert knowledge about processes. All this has opened access to direct modeling and reconstruction of business processes to a new group of users – managers.
Benefits accruing from the Recommendations
One of the benefits that may accrue to the firm as a result of implementing the above strategies is increased customer satisfaction and enhanced competitive advantage. According to Sageer, Rafat & Agarwal (2012), customer satisfaction refers to the measure of how well a product or service meets the customers’ needs. Competitive advantage, on the other hand, refers to a measure of how well a company’s goods or services perform in the market. Both customer satisfaction and competitive advantage are achieved by offering high quality goods and services at an affordable price. A firm must, therefore, strive to make its products valuable, rare, non substitutable, and expensive to imitate (Dahlgaard, Khanji & Kristensen, 2008). In regard, to ABC Abacus, the company will achieve customer satisfaction by allowing the customers to customize the software to align with their individual needs. Additionally, the availability of support and maintenance services will ensure that the customers do not experience difficulties when using the software for their educational endeavors. This will ultimately result in high customer satisfaction and high competitive advantage. Additionally, it will result in better reviews by the customers which will in turn lead to the flow of new customers and increased customer loyalty.
The other benefit accruing to the firm as a result of implementing the recommendations is possible attraction and retention of the best talents. This view is premised on the fact that once the company implements the BYOD concept, the employees will be in position to bring in their own devises into the firm. Additionally, the firm is set to introduce a continuous training program for the entire workforce. According to Goetsch & Davis (2014), employees are more concerned about job security which underscores the need for firms to guarantee them of their job security. By offering developmental programs, such as, the proposed continuous training, the firm will have achieved employees’ job satisfaction in part. This assertion is grounded on the view that the employees will feel more secure having undertaken additional job based training. In addition to the job satisfaction achieved through the developmental programs, the BYOD concept will ensure that younger employees feel comfortable working in the firm. Evidence suggests that young employees may be more productive compared to the older ones (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). The introduction of BYOD will attract younger employees which will, in turn, lead to increased productivity of the firm.
Lastly, the firm will achieve efficiency and low lead times in the long run. Efficiency would be achieved from the fact that the employees would receive additional training about the business processes. Additionally, through the BYOD strategy, the employees would be in a position to access useful data as and when they need it. This will increase their overall performance which will reduce customer complaints in the long run.
However, in as much as there are benefits that will accrue to the firm as a result of executing the recommendations given above, there are issues that may limit their successful implementation. One of the challenges that the firm may face in the process of implementing the recommendations is lack of the right infrastructure. ABC Abacus Inc’s computers, for instance, are not as modern as it would be expected. The computers have moderate configurations and minimal access to the Internet. Given that one of the recommendations entail the introduction of the BYOD concept, it would be advisable for the company to procure modern computers and replace the existing ones. In addition to replacing the current computers, the company would face security challenges which could either be internal or external. This challenge would be compounded by the fact that the company would allow the employees to access the company’s network using their own devices. Giving the employees such freedom would predispose the firm to the risk of security breaches. In that regard, the firm might have to invest a substantial amount of money on securing its infrastructure. Additionally, it will have to train the employees about the best practices to ensure that the infrastructure is safe.
The other issue that may limit the successful implementation of the recommendations is employee resistance. According to Cartwright & Pappas (2008), employees are reluctant to accept changes in business processes for fear of losing their jobs and the assumption that the changes might complicate their work. In the past, several companies have faced resistance from employees as they tried to implement changes into their business processes. ABC Abacus may also find itself in the midst of similar problems because the employees may not easily accept the changes. As the author observed during the research, majority of the employees of the company are above 40 years and they may feel that the introduction of the BYOD concept is a threat to their jobs. Additionally, the employees may feel that the introduction of customisation and after sales maintenance will complicate their work. The mentioned misconceptions would ultimately result in resistance which would derail the process of implementing the recommendations. To avert such resistance, the company need to train the entire workforce about the benefits accruing to the firm as a result of the changes. The employees should be advised that the changes will benefit the entire firm and not a single individual. In addition, the company should establish a proper internal communication system within the firm to ensure that the employees’ concerns are communicated to the management as they arise.
ABC Abacus Inc is a software vending company which was established in 1983. The company’s primary objective is to create and market educational software with its main customers being the learning institutions located in the US. Since its establishment, the company remained innovative and acquired a considerable market share in the software industry. However, based on its recent financial statements, it is evident that the firm is losing its market share to its rivals. The loss in market share has been greatly attributed to its inability to seal the gaps in customer satisfaction. Its outdated business model has specifically led to the decline in the company’s profits. In an attempt to remedy the situation, this project was undertaken with a view to uncover the real causes of the declining profits.
To understand the challenges affecting the firm, the author of this report used a quantitative approach to gather the relevant data from the firm. This approach involved use of observations and online surveys to collect data regarding the problem at hand. The first tool, observation, entailed visiting the firm during the official working hours to directly observe the workers as they executed their duties. The other tool, online surveys, involved collecting data using surveys which were distributed to the participants through their respective email addresses. The surveys were prepared in two different forms. The first type of the surveys targeted the employees and the main objective was to collect data regarding the challenges facing the firm. The other type of survey, on the other hand, targeted gathering data concerning the possible courses of action that the firm can undertake to remedy the problems.
The result of the study revealed that the most pertinent cause of the declining profits was the firm’s outdated business model. Under the current model, the firm does not allow the customers to customize their software. Consequently, the buyer institutions end up acquiring software that does not meet their specific needs. The other cause of the diminished profits was the firm’s lack of a proper customer training program and lack of post installation support services. To remedy the identified problems, this report has recommended the following courses of action: business process re-engineering, introduction of Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD), creation of a sound communication system within the firm, allowing software customisation, recruitment of a special group of engineers to provide continuous support and maintenance for customers, and introduction of a continuous training program for the employees. The listed recommendations are described in details in the body of the paper.
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Sageer, A., Rafat, S., & Agarwal, P. (2012). Identification of variables affecting employee satisfaction and their impact on the organization. IOSR Journal of business and management, 5(1), 32-39.
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