CASE STUDY – Smith and Jones
Project Management Questions
1. Who are the major stakeholders impacted by the BIP project? Using the stakeholder quadrant given in lecture 2 place each of your major stakeholders into the most appropriate slot on the quadrant and explain your reasoning. For 3 of your selected stakeholders decide on a set of appropriate actions (2 per stakeholder group) that you can take to maximise the chances of those stakeholder groups actively participating in your project. For each action that you suggest ensure that you consider both the potential positive and negative sides of your approach.
2. Testing will be a major issue with the BIP project – who needs to be involved in this and why? (6marks)
3. List out 5 critical risks associated with the BIP project and recommend what actions that you should take to minimise their impact. These risks should relate to the case study – avoid generic risks that may apply to any project (e.g. software may not work as required). (10 marks)
4. You know that the timescale for the BIP project is short by 5 months (it needs to be a 15 month project rather than the 10 months allocated). What actions may you consider to rectify this situation? (6 marks)
5. Which jobs will Smith and Jones be able to eliminate – justify in full your answer. Will any new jobs be created? If so what are they? &nb
sp; (10 marks)
6. Communication is another very important aspect of project management. What steps would you take to ensure that all stakeholders received the right level of communication during the BIP project and what form should that communication take? (6 marks)
This coursework concerns the development of information systems for the branch offices of Smith and Jones, a rapidly expanding estate agency in the south of England. The attached information was gathered in an interview with Mrs Kate Smith, joint owner and managing director.
Smith and Jones are considering computerising and “internetting” the main part of their business: that carried out in the branch offices; the selling and marketing of houses. They called this the “Business Improvement Project” (BIP). It is hoped that this will enable Smith and Jones to become the premier estate agent in the south of England; further, it should allow costs to fall as there will be a need for fewer administrative staff and especially if they switch away from advertising in newspapers and move onto the web. Kate Smith also hopes that this will enable houses to be sold more quickly. Current use of IT is limited to use of a general ledger accounts package, a payroll package, spread sheets for financial planning, and some word processing. These are run on four stand-alone PCs based in the Head Office.
Smith and Jones have requested a thorough analysis of their business, reviewing their business strategy, and to identify opportunities for the use of IT in improving their profitability and market position.
Their current position has been achieved by the drive of a few dedicated branch managers, who usually ignore all the rules of the organisation, and by an effective and ruthless sales force. In expanding, they recognise the necessity of becoming less people and more process driven. There is a tendency for offices to ‘go their own way’. However Kate Smith does recognise there are two issues that she needs to be aware of – Sales staff attrition rates (which she hopes can be reduced by pushing up their commission rates and there is expectation that BIP will help here) and the need to operate according to the highest ethical standards; occasionally, customer surveys reveal that staff sometimes fall short of “good customer service”.
The register of properties for sale, the list of applicants (people who wish to buy property), the *calculation of sales commissions, the production of certain standard letters for vendors, applicants, solicitors were all considered to be activities which could be computerised.
*it is acknowledged that current manual process
es for calculating commissions are inconsistent between one branch and another.
There are currently 16 branch offices; each in a different area and each have between eight and ten sales persons, five administrative staff: a branch manager, property registrar, sales administrator, adverts clerk, and appointments secretary.
The central property register held in Head Office currently consists of about 3000 at any one time with about 600 additions per week. Roughly 500 properties are sold per week and 100 cancellations are made, either because the vendor sells by other means or decides not to sell. At any one time there are about 15000 applicants actively looking for properties – about 3000 new applicants are added per week and a similar number show no further interest and are removed.
Potential vendors phone up or come in to the office and make an appointment for a sales person to visit their property. This is entered in the sales person’s diary and the sales person informed verbally. After the visit three documents are typed: a full description of the property with photographs which is sent to applicants and is available in offices, a summary description which is used in newspaper advertisements and in property lists distributed to applicants, and the Vendor’s instructions e.g. price wanted. A list is compiled each week of all new properties registered, this is then sent to Head Office who use it for sales forecasting. Each property is given a unique reference number by the branch; interested applicants use this when enquiring on the property from newspapers or the property list. Full property details and instructions are held in a filing cabinet in the branch office. They are held by the reference number within the advertised price. The processing of new properties is performed by the Property Registrar.
For each applicant a card is made out showing the applicant’s details including desired price range and desired area. The Appointments Secretary also creates an Appointments Sheet which records the appointment details: the date, time, address, and sales person. If an offer is made then, the price offered and whether the offer is accepted or not is noted. Smith and Jones policy is that applicants visiting properties are always accompanied by a salesperson–they find this the most effective way of selling properties. On receipt of a request to see a property the Appointments Secretary contacts the vendor to agree a suitable time, checks the Salesperson’s Diary, and when a time has been agreed informs the applicant, vendor, and salesperson. When an appointment has been arranged this is recorded in the Salesperson’s Diary, on the Appointments sheet, and on a Property Interest form. After the visit the salesperson assesses the applicant’s interest (on a scale of 1-5) and notes this on the Property Interest form, if an offer is made this is noted on the Appointments Sheet, in addition to the P.I. form.
The adverts clerk is responsible for compiling the property list from the summary descriptions. Each branch clerk sends the current property list monthly to all applicants whose details they hold. Applicants who have had no appointments in the last month are sent the list with a letter asking them to contact the branch office if they are still interested in properties; if they don’t then at the end of the next month the applicant sheet is thrown away. Each property is advertised three times in local newspapers. The adverts clerk selects the properties to be advertised each week and sends copies of their summary descriptions to the local newspapers. The advert dates are recorded on the summary descriptions. The adverts clerk also responds to requests from applicants for further details on particular properties by sending them copies of the full descriptions.
When initial agreement to buy is reached standard letters are sent to the applicant and vendor, and the details of the sale are entered into the sales book. This is held in date order and shows the vendor name, address sold, price, vendor solicitor details, applicant name and address, applicant solicitor details, mortgage details, and the initials of the sales person involved in the sale. On exchange of contracts
the sales administrator prepares a three-part invoice requesting payment on completion of the sale. One copy goes to the vendor via his solicitor, one copy is filed in the branch office, and the other is sent to Head Office. Invoice details are added into an invoice book at Head Office, this records the name of the vendor, address, amount and amount of Value Added Tax. The invoice book is used for putting information into the accounting package.
Each branch manager makes up a report from the sales book once per month showing all the sales and the commission due on each sale to the sales person. The branch manager also receives a commission on all sales made by the branch. The report is sent to Head Office who enter the commission details into the payroll package.
Some new requirements were outlined by Kate Smith:
- Mix and
match reports which would ensure that applicants only received details of properties which would interest them or to hasten the sale of a property by sending details of it to all applicants who might be interested.
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Work in progress reports detailing all the sales proceeding and their current stage would give valuable information for budgeting