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Assignment: Written report of 3000 words on a Business Technology project excluding tables of contents, appendices etc.

Rationale: To assess students’ understanding of theoretical concepts and ability to apply them to a real-life business situation

Deadline: Monday 14th Dec 2015 – 9am

Assessment Weighting: 100% of the Module

Assessment Criteria: See attached grading sheet.

‘Sunpower’ Solar Panel Installations Ltd.

“Ever-rising energy costs have significant impact on businesses. As this is unlikely to change, the pressures on the commercial sector to contribute to our climate change goals will grow. A roof-mounted solar system will help future-proof your business against these threats. This simple, reliable and easy to install renewable energy solution will also reduce your CO2 emissions and make a visual statement of your corporate social responsibility.”

Thus reads the promotional statement of ‘SunPower Solar Installations Ltd.’ an 8-year old business with headquarters in Chelmsford, Essex and warehousing space to store solar panels and supporting equipment to install solar power systems for approximately 10 SMEs (de-pending on size of installation.). The company specialises in installing solar panels for Commercial and Industrial premises, using the latest technology to derive the maximum amount of electricity from the available sunlight. In order to match the installation to the size and requirements of the customer, they have a limited range of customisable installations in-cluding different grades of panels, different capabilities of capacitors (to store electricity short-term), different capabilities of re-chargeable batteries and different tariffs for any sur-plus electricity that is supplied back to the National Grid in the UK.

The business employs 6 full-time staff at headquarters to carry out booking, finance and ad-ministration/tracking, 12 full-time installation engineers (at least 2 per job), 3 IT technicians who share a 12 hours per day/6 days per week coverage rota and a sales-force of 6 sales-people whose job is to travel round and establish more contracts with local/ regional compa-nies. The sales force and engineers have small DELL laptop computers which they use to connect with their central database via the World Wide Web.
In addition they have contracts with 19 existing firms for routine maintenance of their in-stalled solar-powered systems. A challenge they face is accurately monitoring the settings of each of these systems and configuring them for optimum performance. At the moment this requires a “service visit” from 2 installation engineers every 4 weeks or so to check and fine tune the settings. This could be done remotely, but the initial costs of installing the necessary server capacity at their headquarters in Chelmsford (not to mention lack of space) makes this too expensive and cost-inefficient at the moment.

At headquarters they use a simple networked office configuration of 10 PCs and two printers running Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Office Professional and all operating on Micro-soft Server 2007 installed on two servers for back-up/recovery purposes (which they got in-stalled at a special rate way back in 2008). This configuration has been handling their data-base of contracts, system settings, accounts, personnel records, e-mails, customer details and limited market research activity without ‘too many’ glitches up until now. They have a web-site which has been outsourced and is hosted and maintained by an external company who are sent updates by the Marketing & Sales person at headquarters. This hosting company also provide a secure link from the website to internal company data for the engineers and sales force.

However, the system is rapidly approaching its capacity in terms of traffic handling, speed of response, system maintenance and processing as it is taking noticeably longer for staff to access files on the system, for the IT team to carry out regular system maintenance and to complete software and security updates. For their field engineers and sales people to access the company database for information and technical help while “on-the-road” it has recently become a bit of a joke to say that a carrier pigeon would be faster!

As the UK economy slowly picks up, the company are noticing that there is a steadily in-creasing demand for alternatives to fossil fuel and for their solar panels and supporting sys-tems. One outcome of this steadily rising demand for renewable energy sources is their re-cent merger with a similar company based in Exeter in Devon (see map) which installs solar panels for the domestic market.
(Exeter — Chelmsford = approx. 400 kilometres)

As a result, the sales-force will need to be increased to allow the company to ‘grab their share’ of the increasing business in the region. Their existing sales-force and installation en-gineers have been increasingly demanding that they can use their own mobile tablet/laptop devices to directly link into the company database and their own system files via a VPN con-nection rather than use the website and its somewhat clunky log-in routines and often slow download speeds.

Added to these demands, there are several requests from their suppliers to have a direct link to their reservation/booking data to enable them to plan their own supply schedules more ef-fectively and efficiently and also increasing requests from their customers for more “real-time” data on billing!

Furthermore, the UK and EU regulations on cutting carbon emissions and the threat of carbon taxes is a cause for concern.

At a recent Directors meeting, the 4 main challenges facing the business were seen as follows;

1. In order to remain competitive, the business must update their systems to keep up with the latest software and hardware developments expected by clients;
2. It must also try to save costs. Simply installing a brand new, “bigger” server and serv-er-software and increasing their IT team is not a cost-effective solution given the slow rate of increasing demand.
3. It wishes to have improved communication with its partner company in Exeter and to combine data to realise the potential value to the business of IT-based marketing, CRM, SCM, Big-Data etc.
4. It wishes to take steps to reduce its Carbon Footprint – (both to avoid EU taxes and to enhance its reputation 😉
Your IT consultancy company has been asked to write a report investigating these issues facing “SunPower Ltd.” and to recommend steps the business could take to overcome any identified challenges.

In your report you will need to include descriptions and assessments of four clear areas:

1. Different types/levels of information systems. 20%
2. Interrelationships between technical and managerial issues in the change to develop-ment of any new information systems / information architectures 35%
3. Evaluate business-value impacts of information systems. 25%
4. How advances in technology can help reduce businesses’ carbon footprints. 20%

See http://www.dulas.org.uk/pns/solar-pv
http://www.dulas.org.uk/index.cfm

Indicative content

This section identifies the specific subjects that must be studied to ensure that the learning outcomes are achieved.

Systems, technologies & management: a unified framework.
Systems, transactions and development strategies
Managing data
The business value of I.T
Decision and knowledge systems
Business communications and knowledge (communication technologies, expert systems, knowledge management process, data warehouse, data mining and online analytical processing – OLAP)
Topical information systems (enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management)
Corporate Social Responsibility and the ‘Green agenda’

Teaching/ Learning Strategy

The delivery will take the form of lectures, seminars and case studies that will be discussed in class. In groups, students will be required to read and prepare solutions prior to the session.

Essential Reading
Haag S., Cummings M., & McCubbrey D. J. (2004) Management Information Systems for the Information Age ( McGraw Hill/Irwin)
Laudon & Laudon, (2001). Essentials of Management Information Systems: Organizations and Technology in the Networked Enterprise (Pearson/Prentice Hall)

Indicative Reading
Ansoff I. (1999), Corporate Strategy (Penguin)
Claussen E., and Hoffman A., (2007) Carbon Strategies: How Leading Companies are Reducing their Climate Change Footprint (University of Michigan Press)
Handy C. (1999), Understanding Organisations (Penguin)
Johnson G., Scholes, K. and Whittington R., (2007), Exploring Corporate Strategy (Financial Times/ Prentice Hall)
Luftman Bullen, Liao, Nash and Neumann (2003), Managing the Information Technology Resource: Leadership in the Information Age (Prentice Hall)

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