The main aim of this project is to develop an online enterprise planning resource (ERP) website that will deal with the sales catalogue and products data for Ben Foods (S) Pty Limited. Throughout this write up, we shall be referring to this firm as Ben Foods Ltd. The purpose of this ERP website was to improve internet-oriented procedures to maximize system efficiency and support Ben Food Ltd increasing client base. With the online ERP website in place, it is anticipated that users can get their orders quickly processed online to result in expedient service delivery. Ultimately, this is expected to make Ben Foods Ltd more competitive in the market place. To effectively develop the proposed online ERP website, I initially conducted a thorough study of the organization’s setup. This was aimed at understanding and being able to analyze user needs and concerns. After a thorough analysis of the findings, I was able to infer and appreciate that the users need an online ERP system to handle their processing. The online ERP website should be able to closely meet these user requirements. The findings also formed the basis on which I was able to establish a suitable implementation plan for the website deployment.
I have further carried out an analysis on the likely costs to be incurred due to the proposed system. I also identified some likely risks that may occur during the project and affect its overall success. These risks have been effectively addressed and prioritized in the contingency plan that I have developed.
Lastly, I have discussed the benefits and shortcomings resulting from this project while identifying the areas that need further improvement for the proposed online ERP website should such a chance arise in the future.
Ben Foods Ltd is a major food distribution company in Singapore majoring in animal and poultry products as well as wines and beverages. With a business history of over half a century, the company has grown and expanded with a wide supply chain and shop outlets across the globe. The company has a number of leading brands, which it delivers to supermarkets, retail outlets, wholesalers and distributors in Asia Europe and some parts of America. The company’s Trade-vine Division is a leading supplier of wines and beverages in Pacific Asia, Australia, California, France, Italy, and Spain. Ben Foods also provides shipment services to clients whose delivery involves overseas transportation.
In order to sustain its competitive advantage, Ben Foods Ltd values innovation and development in all its divisions. The company was awarded the super brand status on its products, which highlights its high quality goods. The mission of Ben Foods Ltd is to meet the customers’ culinary needs and champion employee welfare.
Ben Foods Ltd understands the important role of Information Technology in meeting its business objectives as well as streamlining its operations. Owing to the fact that the company makes sales across the globe, an online enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a necessary tool for management information system in the company. An online ERP integration sales catalogue as the products data website will therefore be instrumental in enhancing efficiency in the company’s sales and products records. Implementation of this solution by generating web pages with MSXML and MySQL will help keep track of sales and stock delivery in the company.
The data and information at Ben Foods Ltd is currently fragmented and separated within the various departments. As such, data redundancy has reduced the current system’s efficiency. Data accuracy has also been compromised because the current staff is unable to fully capture customers’ details. Moreover, customer dissatisfaction due to delayed order processing or order rectification is currently a common occurrence. The management has not been able to gain useful information in a format that can enable them to make forecasts and improve the firm’s profitability.
The implementation of an online ERP website is likely to streamline the processes at Ben Foods Ltd. Each department is likely to benefit since all data will now be shared, accessed, and managed from a central point. In addition, customers will be able to accurately fill in their order details online. This will ensure an efficient order processing system. The management will be able to apply available tools to interpret the information and data eventually making the vital managerial decisions.
The importance of critically analyzing and assessing a business cannot be overlooked especially so when businesses are digging deeper and deeper into their pockets to be able to strategically and competitively position themselves. That critical assessment is presently possible by employing a number of methods and theories available in the public domain. Among these methods, include the SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunity and Threat) analysis, benchmarking analysis, Competitive positioning, porter’s five forces, and sphere model among others. Most commonly, SWOT analysis continues to elicit a lot of business interest and therefore it becomes one of the most used methods of business analysis.
The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to a corporate entity or company will provide a good framework by which a review on strategy, direction, and position of that company can be made. SWOT analysis may typically be used to address such issues as the company’s position, potential partnership, and product, or brand, investment opportunity among other issues.
The strengths would touch on issues such as competitive advantages, innovative aspects, process systems, Information technology, and communication, experience, unique selling points among others. Weaknesses would point to issues such as lack of competitive strength, financials, start up cash drain, own known vulnerabilities among others. Opportunities on the other hand would point to issues such as market developments, new unique selling points, business and product developments, seasonal, global influences among others. Threats would have such issues as politics, market demand, environmental effects, and loss of key staff among others.
Businesses have taken account of the SWOT issues and effectively translated them into actions to cover the processes, products, customers, distribution, finance, and administration.
By so doing these companies have capitalized on their strengths by maintaining, building and using these strengths as leverage in business. The companies have effectively prioritized and optimized their opportunities thus effecting mechanisms to counter the threats and established remedies for their weaknesses (Fink 1995). Ben Foods Ltd applies SWOT analysis because their main operating priority guidelines actually portray their strengths. Their strengths are generally seen by taking into account factors such as quality, which they have considered as priority and which is interwoven into their management strategy, promoting customer service excellence through professional product and services provision.
A typical analysis of the business process at Ben Foods Ltd reveals that they have strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats, which can be clearly identified. Successful implementation of this project depends on how well the project management team carries out the business analysis process using such tools as the SWOT analysis.
Ben Foods Ltd currently has the following SWOT analysis report
|Management goodwill towards the project||Lack of in-house experience|
|Sufficient resources to support the project||Lack of a defined IT department|
|Establishment of an IT department to manage all IT support procedures as well as service level||Some of the stakeholders may resist the implementation of the proposed system for their own fears|
|Proposed system opens initially untapped market using technology’s innovations.||The cost of a tailor made application may be prohibitive, while the off shelf option may be unsuitable.|
This was another analysis method employed for this project. Benchmarking uses evaluation of company metrics against the industry’s best (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007). Typically the dimensions considered here focus on quality, cost and time. This process involved the management at Ben Foods Ltd identifying the best firms in their industry category and carrying out a comparison involving the processes and results of these studied to the company in question.
The analysis process here typically included identifying the problem area within the organization. This was aimed at ensuring that a baseline is established against which improvement effort can be measured. The second step was to identify leader organizations in this area. Thirdly, there was a need to take a general survey of the various companies for measures and practices. A physical visit to these companies was considered to make a physical identification of the leading edge practices. After all these steps, the implementation of the new and improved practices of business led to the final stage.
Financial benchmarking involves carrying out a financial analysis and comparison to identify competencies and productivity. Ben Foods Ltd has made use of benchmarking in a number of ways to ensure that they maintain the very highest standards in the animal and poultry feeds as well as culinary and wine industry both locally and internationally. They have looked at the processes carried out by leaders in the business and compared this processes to make their own efficient. Other benchmarking procedures like performance benchmarking involve an assessment relating to a company’s competitive position. On the other hand strategic benchmarking involves measurement against a variety of industries while operational benchmarking will touch on staffing and productivity with the best in class benchmarking involving the study of leading competitors especially in certain functions.
Running a competitive business globally calls for ingenuity and professionalism, which should give an organization a competitive positioning. This process involves product differentiation to create product value. A good strategy therefore touches on positioning which is all about how a company positions itself to identify opportunities in the market.
This will go hand in hand with value proposition, which defines the type of value that a company delivers to the market. Value proposition builds on the customer’s confidence. Ben Foods Ltd excellence in operations and their product leadership defines their value proposition.
Typical of competitive positioning therefore are four steps that include making a profile of the market and determining the life cycle stage. This determines the company’s overall market strategy. Next is the segmentation of the market and an attempt at understanding and satisfying these segments. The third step involves the evaluation of the competition and rating the company against them in terms of customer intimacy, product leadership, and operational efficiency. The fourth step entails value proposition identification to promote customer intimacy.
The Porter’s five forces model can also be used to effectively illustrate how Ben Foods Ltd is managing competition from competitors. The Porters five forces model is a framework that analyses the economical impact of the nature of competition in a business set-up. The five forces implicated in this model illustrate the intensity of the competition in the market. These forces revolve around the profitability of the business investment and the fact that the competition intensity is not a chance aspect. This implies that the magnitude of competition in any business is not related to luck. The influence of these forces on an industry such as Ben Foods Ltd is very instrumental.
The figure below depicts an illustration of the five forces.
The sphere model was also considered suitable as one of the several business analysis tools for this project to highlight its suitability. The sphere model enables an analysis to be conducted along three spheres of influence namely technology, organization, and business.
The diagram here below illustrates this model
Among the issues, that the sphere model assesses included:
- If the proposed system will be able to enhance productivity among the employees
- If the company has sufficient funds to implement the system and the overall cost of setting up the system
The points above particularly address the business sphere of the model.
From the organizational perspective, a number of considerations come to mind and will include:
- How employees are expected to react to the change that will result from the implementation of the online ERP website facility
- How far the organization’s staff will accept the idea of implementing the proposed system and
- Availability of the people responsible for user training after the implementation.
A third aspect of the sphere model that was used for this project was the technology sphere, which addressed issues such as where the proposed system will be hoisted. The main head office at Port of Singapore was considered a suitable location for a start. The controlled environment would be easy to monitor and accessibility to the support team in case of any need can be achieved. The hardware specifications for the proposed system and the availability of technically capable staff to manage and operate the proposed system were also considered.
In summary, it was envisaged that having an online ERP website facility would enable Ben Foods Ltd stakeholders to have a systematic method of addressing product and service provision processes.
Ben Foods Ltd has established a source of funds to finance this project. The costs of setting up the proposed system will be estimated and calculated using various cost analysis methods covered in another section of this documentation. An initial cost analysis is likely to prepare enough resources for Ben Foods Ltd to ensure that the implementation of this project is a success.
The current technological platform cannot sustain an online ERP website. Therefore, a total upgrade is necessary to establish a powerful hoisting platform that can be scalable and supports concurrent processing from different parts of the world. A fully dedicated IT staff department will eventually be employed at Ben Foods Ltd head office to deal with any support to the system and the clients as the system grows. This department will continue to establish and support an effective user training policy for Ben Foods Ltd employees across the globe. This will ensure standardization across the organization’s different global outlets.
It has been known for sometime now that most people are consciously or unconsciously resistant to change. It therefore is expected that not all the stakeholders of this project will totally agree or accept to its implementation. The team in charge of the project should therefore be prepared to handle this resistance tactfully in order to ensure successful implementation.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
An enterprise resource planning application attempts to consolidate all the functions of an organization across the departments onto one centralized and computerized system. This application is expected to effectively serve the production, finance, sales and marketing as well as inventory departments. Each of these departments may have their own computer systems optimized for efficient production. However, the ERP application will combine each of these sub systems to enable them share information and communicate amongst themselves. Successfully implemented ERPs have been known to offer tremendous payback for companies that have implemented them. AT and T is one such company that has realized these benefits. According to Chan and Lau (2008), “what lies behind ATandT’s glamorous success and what forged its road to Rome is believed to be the use of enterprise resource planning” (p.2).
Umble, Haft and Umble (2003) concur that “ATandT commenced their ERP implementation through a difficult process in 1995” (p.245).
The inventory department as one of the main areas in an organization is one of the beneficiaries of the implementation of an ERP (Robinson 2010).
According to leading ERP integration providers, clients have a high demand for real time integration to other sub systems such as point of sale, shipping and payment and stock control. One known method of integration would be the database integration approach using SQL (eCorner 2009).
Initial investment costs remain a bottleneck when companies anticipate a full ERP implementation. As a result, most of them opt for a phased approach to implementation based on their departments or functions. Most ERP systems are typically back end operating in the background to the operational, tactical, and strategic operations of the organization. Since ERP touches the core processes of any organization, there is likely to be varying degrees of resistance when firms attempt to implement this kind of system (Wailgum 2011).
This particular project attempts to merge concepts in eCommerce to ERP implementation. It is important to understand how ERP align itself to eCommerce. The ERP system tips the balance in that where the organization’s employees initially handled particular processes; these will now be handled by the customers who access the system over a website facility. The biggest hurdle becomes how to link the website to the ERP system at the backend. It is therefore preferable that online ERP website facility being implemented at Ben Foods Ltd fully support eCommerce processing.
The linking of ERPs through the internet remains a challenge due to the dynamic nature of the internet. Therefore, it is desirable that the online ERP website implementation in this project remain flexible and loosely coupled so that it can be scalable and easily maintained. Developing and implementing ERPs should be considered seriously and thoroughly. “These systems reflect an innovative business strategy” (Hunton, Lippincott and Reck 2003, p.165).
This is one of the intangible benefits that are likely to result from the implementation of an ERP system. It is without doubt that ERP systems provide support to business processes and thus enhance information quality (O’Leary 2000).
ERP realization is not without risk. According to Grabski, Leech and Lu (2001) states “the risk associated with the overall project success includes application complexity, lack of user experience among others” (p.49).
Mandal and Gunasekaran (2003) indicates that one of the pertinent questions asked during ERP implementation is “how will the proposed ERP system integrate with existing information systems?” (p.275).
Conclusively, it is true to assert that the core competency to ERP implementation success is a change management process. It remains true that ERP implementation is time consuming and a typical process can take up to one year (Madan 2001).
Considering that the implementation of this online ERP website is cost intensive and a full project in its own right, some of the critical factors to consider include a proper vendor identification and selection process (Burns 2010).
Once an identification and selection process has been duly completed, Ben Foods Ltd can decide how they want to implement the ERP system. Based on the fact that full implementation estimates can be manageable by Ben Foods Ltd, the full fledged implementation of the ERP system will be carried out and this can be done to cover the entire organizational units (erpWire.com 2010).
Risk Priority Management and Contingency Plan
No project is devoid of risks. These risks can then be analyzed to come up with a contingency plan. We will identify the likely risks and threats typical to this project. These threats can be prioritized and ranked to come up with an effective contingency plan. There are a number of risks that have been defined for this online ERP website project.
One of the typical risks is resistance to change. The introduction of a new system in an organization is likely to elicit resistance. When the user or stakeholders resist change this is likely to slow down or fail the project. This may also affect the reputation of the company. Resistance is one of the potential risks for this project. The project management team should be aware and able to handle this resistance. The project manager must be a good communicator and tactfully able to bring as many stakeholders on board. It is likely that not all stakeholders will tow the line one hundred percent, however, it is expected that if a substantial number give consent, the project can proceed with anticipated success.
The interruption of the business processes is another risk. It is likely that the progressive implementation of this online ERP website will affect the normal processing at Ben Foods Ltd. However, a phased approach to implementation is likely to reduce the impact to minimum. The system will be integrated by department, starting with the administration, then sale and marketing departments.
Unmet user requirements are another potential risk. At some point, the ERP website may fail to meet the user requirements though on extremely rare occasion. This would mean that the user would not be able to draw maximum benefit from the implementation and this further heightens their discontent.
Failure to complete the project on time is a likely risk as well. This may result in an overstretched budget or abandonment of the project altogether.
The sponsors may also commit insufficient financial resources to support the project and this can be a threat to the project.
ERP implementation is a complex process, this means that insufficient technical skills may also affect the success of such a project and hence foreseen as a threat (Wagner and Monk 2008).
Off the shelf substitutes always, come in as an option at sometime during project development. As a result project sponsor may sometimes abandon an in-house project such as this online ERP website opting for an off the shelf solution. This is likely to put the development process at risk.
After the risk identification process, the process of risk prioritization can then follow. In this light, we will perform a ranking and estimation exercise on the risks already identified. The table (Table 1) below shows the occurrence levels for different risks.
|Business process disruption||Low||3|
|Failure to meet the project deadline||Medium||2|
|Insufficient resources committed by the sponsors||Low||3|
|Insufficient technical skills||Low||3|
|Off the shelf substitute||Medium||2|
Table 1: Risk occurrence levels for the ERP website project and their associated weights.
According to the table above, resistance to change is ranked as the highest risk. Considering that the ERP is likely to run through different departments, chances are that some departments will readily accept this implementation while other may not. By appending weights to each of the risks, we obtain the total risk score from which we can be able to determine which of the risks has the greatest impact on the project’s success and therefore needs more attention.
Management and Contingency Plan
A contingency plan was formulated to address the risks based on the total risk score. The plan pointed out what ought to be done in the event that the identified risk occurs. The contingency plan for the resistance to change risk is to get as much stakeholder involvement in the initial stages of project as possible especially the top-level management. Continuous communication and practical successful examples of similar projects undertaken in the past for other firms is likely to reduce the anticipated resistance. This project must be technically and financially feasible and this must be proved to the management at Ben Foods Ltd that will give them the confidence and draw more support for the project.
The second set of risks would include availability of off the shelf substitutes, unmet user requirements, and failure to complete the project on time. A disciplined approach to project management is likely to address unmet user requirements and project slip. This project management approach will utilize scheduling and other time management tools to address this risk. The project manager must remain tactful and be able to convince the management and other stakeholders that an in house system is of greater benefit than an off the shelf option. This is if Ben Foods Ltd wants to have a customizable system that will also give them a corporate identity.
The third set of risks includes the disruption of the business process, insufficient technical skills, and insufficient resources to support the project to its completion. For this, a technically able project team should be engaged and a post implementation-training contract signed to ensure ongoing training for the staff at Ben Foods Ltd. This will address the insufficient technical skills threat. A thorough cost and benefits analysis (CBA) will be carried out though Ben Foods Ltd are already committed to fully fund the project to the tune of $140,000.
The CBA is likely to address the insufficient resource allocation risk when all the stakeholders clearly understand the costs and benefits accruing from the online ERP website.
Risk management remains a pertinent part of any project’s success. A well laid out risk management and contingency plan has been used within this project to ensure its success (Pinckaers and Gardiner 2009).
Programming languages and tools
I have used cascading style sheets (CSS) coding and active server page(ASP) for the web file format and Visual Basic script to run the functionalities of the ERP backend query processing. The Microsoft Access 2007/2010 database will serve as the backbone database of the system development phase. This is where the users’ data is captured and the true functionality of the ERP website is tested. I have chosen to use Microsoft Access database as the initial database system for this system because it is available, easy to build, maintain and implement. However, the system will eventually be implemented on a high-end heavy-duty database management system such as MySQL/ Oracle or SQL. This is necessary because the operational ERP has enormous data and information requirements and will need a well-adapted database management system to ensure maximum utilization of the data and information captured and stored in the database (Hamilton 2002). I have used tools like Dream weaver, Microsoft Share point, Notepad, and Microsoft Visual Basic Web development tool to help me build the website system. These tools support dynamic web page creation that is one of the most recent trends in website design and development. It suffices for this project write up to mention a few facts about some of the main development tools that were used to design and develop the ERP website system (Magal and Word 2011).
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
This is a known webpage design style format that ensures application of various user designed themes that can be applied to the web page layout and design. Cascading style sheets (CSS) was created by World Wide Web Consortium (3WC).CCS is a web styling language that can be use to define styles on any webpage with hypertext markup language (HTML) the basic coding language for web pages. HTML can be coded using an editor such as notepad found with the Microsoft windows products. CSS is a simple visual formatting model for building web pages which is used to define eternal style sheets which can save us work from editing every individual webpage thus in this project I have used CSS to build the design of the web pages.
Microsoft Extreme Markup Language (MSXML)
The extreme markup language (XML) is a special programming language that can be used to separate data on web pages, stored, and retrieved conveniently during the website operation.
This is an object oriented programming approach to website development. The Microsoft web developer 2005 application will provide the MSXML environment during the coding of this project.
Active Server Page (ASP)
Active Server page (ASP) is a server side scripting that can support dynamically generated web pages. The online ERP website is majorly consisting of these dynamically generated web pages. Therefore, ASP will be a central component in the development of this project. ASP requires the internet information services (IIS) add on component to properly interpret and run on a computer. ASP consists of built in objects that will make easy client server processing. This handles issues such as error, response, request, and session. These are typical of any dynamic web application such as one used to post user details to a remote server and receive response from that particular server. The page loads in the client’s browser; the underlying programming establishes a session between the client and server. The client fills in the form displayed in their browser and posts the result by clicking at the send button on the form. The server send back an acknowledgement indicating a successful or failed post. The session may be terminated or continue as required by the client. For this project a more robust and secure version of ASP shipped with the Microsoft visual web developer tool; ASP.NET will be used
Database System: MySQL/ Oracle
MySQL is a server oriented relational database management system offering multi user access capability. It was general public license software that can work on different platforms including windows. MySQL has no graphical user interface tools to administer. Instead it supports third party proprietary that can integrate with it at the front end. Some well-known front-end applications include PHP. MySQL is now a product of Oracle Corporation.
System Requirements and Implementation
The online ERP website requires efficient and capable hardware and software for its support.
While it is hoisted on the company’s network to support the users, the system peripherals should be stable and reliable to ensure that it will be online 24×7 with minimum down time.
The proposed system will be deployed onto three Dell’s range of Blade servers, which will be running Dual-Core Intel Xeon Processor with 4GB of RAM and RAID 5 hard disk configuration containing 3x 80GB of hard disk capacity for data redundancy.
Other than the hardware, the server that is hoisting the proposed system would install Microsoft Windows Server 2003 with IIS services. The database system which is required to capture and store the data would be the Microsoft Access 2007/2010.
For the client systems, they would just need to have an operating system like Microsoft
Windows XP installed and a browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox when the system is connected to the company’s network.
System implementation is an important stage in a project development. The implementation procedures for the proposed online ERP website system need to be planned properly so that the system deployment can be a success. According to the time plan, the implementation phase will take about six months. To ensure success, numerous factors need to be taken into consideration to ensure smooth deployment of the developed system into the organization environment. System testing must be performed in the project to test the functionalities and ensure that they perform the required tasks.
The basic objectives of this online ERP website system have been met. This system supports functionalities that optimize available IT support processes thereby increasing productivity at Ben Foods Ltd. It is likely that the normal business processes will be disrupted during this implementation. However, a phased approach will reduce this impact.
The complexity of implementing an online ERP remains the greatest challenge experienced during this project. Learning new development tools within the shortest time possible had its share of strain. Because the project was to be completed within a limited period, a number of related constraints such as fast-paced tutorials on the use of some of the development tools were encountered.
With the successful implementation of the online ERP website, Ben Foods Ltd will be able to optimize their IT system. The experience gained in developing this system will promote innovation and open career development opportunities.
Cost Benefit Analysis
Ben Foods Ltd has been in business for the last half a century. The business has withered the financial storms and remained resilient even in times of extreme global financial down turn times. This has been partly due to a faithful client base that has kept the business going and the management, which continue to practice professionally stringent financial discipline. In the same light, the management at Ben Foods Ltd has asked for a thorough cost benefit analysis of the proposed system. Performing a cost benefit analysis provides the stakeholders of the project with vital information. This information helps them to work out the cost of the investment for the proposed system. The benefits that can be gained from the project implementation are also considered during this analysis exercise. Once the costs and benefits of the project have been determined, the stakeholders who may include the sponsors of the project can then proceed on and set out a plan of implementing the project based on the available resources. While considering the costs, it is important to identify the tangible and intangible costs as well as the benefits. The tangible costs relate to definite sources or items of the project. These are costs resulting from salaries and wages paid out to employees, purchase costs for IT equipment, licenses and permits, legal fees, software site licenses, consultancy fees among others.
Coding, building, and deployment costs are also part of the tangible costs. It is estimated that the overall cost of implementing the online ERP website facility at Ben Foods Ltd is about $140,000.
The intangible costs include those costs incurred indirectly but related to the project. These indirect costs which result from indirect activities may include such costs as insurance against certain risks. The benefits for the project may similarly be divided into tangible and intangible parts. The latter cannot be quantified easily. These may include efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction. Another intangible benefit is employee motivation.
The estimated cost of $140,000 may be within or beyond the actual cost of the project but suffices to enable the project sponsors and stakeholders to determine whether they have the capacity to fully fund the project or acquire other external sources of funding. The online ERP website is going to be fully funded by the main stakeholders of Ben Foods Ltd who also are the owners of the firm. The estimated overall cost will cover a number of related costs that are broken down into hardware, software, manpower and training costs.
The online ERP website will be hoisted from one of Ben Foods Ltd premise[s] preferably their head office at the Port of Singapore. The premise will consist of a well built and connected server room housing three powerful Dell systems as the standard servers. These three will provide effective processing and backup requirements for the globally available ERP system through a mirroring process. This will ensure that the ERP system is always available even when one hardware equipment or server goes down. Attached to these servers are other powerful workstations each located at every departmental office. These four workstations will be at the production, sales and marketing, IT, and administration departments. These also will preferably be Dell workstation specifications with duo core processing capabilities and each having a local cache capacity of 320 gigabytes. One standby workstation will complete the five-workstation setup that will double up as a web and print server. This workstation will directly connect the local network to a medium duty laser printer that will be able to handle the network print requests.
Below is a table (Table 2) which illustrates the estimates of the hardware costs for the proposed system.
|Dell range of blade servers |
Dell desktop / workstation.
Maxtor external USB hard disk for workstation offline backup
General workstation unit furniture
|Duo core Intel Xenon processor with 4GB RAM and RAID 5 hard disk, 3 x 80Gb capacity for data redundancy. |
Basic desktop storage capacity of 1.5 Tb
Cisco Catalyst 2960
HP Laser Jet Pro CP125
Hybrid (Fiber and CAT 6 )
Table 2: Hardware related costs
The online ERP website will also have software needed for development and deployment purposes. The system will have a versatile operating system able to offer data and equipment protection through enforcing the necessary authentication and protection policies within it. This is important because the data and information at Ben Foods Ltd will now be exposed to the outside world on the internet through the website interface. The Microsoft windows 2003 /2008 server professional edition can provide a secure operating system environment capable of achieving such a requirement. However, this operating system will work in conjunction with other utility software such as the antivirus, anti malware and anti spy ware software to ensure that internal data and information is secured against any external threats. Ben Foods Ltd has settled for the McFee antivirus corporate edition with firewall capabilities. The software costs will also cover the standard Microsoft office suite 2007/2010 that include Word, Access, Excel and the messaging applications. The supporting and development database will initially be Access 2007/2010 that will later be upgraded to SQL or MySQL /Oracle.
This upgrade is likely to take effect after the final implementation phase.
The table below (Table 3) indicates the software related costs for this project.
|Server operating system |
Office automation software application
|Windows 2003 / 2008 server, professional edition |
McFee 10 enterprise edition
Microsoft office 2007/2010
Dream weaver 11
Table 3: Software related costs
ERP applications involve the consolidation of various programming tools to achieve an integrated system with a standard interface and output in terms of reports. Visual basic scripting will be used for this project to code user triggers that are expected to handle online user enquiries and present the results from the database back to the user. The Microsoft share point software will be used to provide collaborative programming and development environment required by the developers of the project to jointly contribute to the development process while keeping track of each one’s personal effort. ERPs are complex systems. Therefore, the assembled IT department staff will continue to work closely with the project development team to be able to gain the needed experience for the eventual operations of the implemented system.
The manpower requirements for this project will include an analyst who will also take on the project manager’s responsibility and three developers who will translate the business requirements at Ben Foods Ltd into suitable code to implement the online ERP website. The developers must be experienced in web design and development employing both open source and proprietary products. They also must have knowledge on database management system implementation using both open source and proprietary related products. This team is likely to work for the next SIX MONTHS to ensure that the website is up and running as required by the management at Ben Foods Ltd.
The table below (Table 4) shows the summary of the manpower costs for the project
|ROLE||SALARY PER MONTH ($)||CUMULATIVE SALARY |
(6 MONTHS) IN $
|Analyst / project manager||4000||24,000|
|Developers x 3||2,500 (each)||22500|
Table 4: Summary of the manpower costs
It is envisaged that this team will pick a few other employees from Ben Foods Ltd who will work with them on the project as well as receive on job training experience. The training costs are considered as part of the ongoing costs for this project. Ben Foods Ltd will eventually set up a permanent internal IT department that will handle all the processing related to the online ERP website.
It is estimated that the cost of operations, maintenance, and support for the online ERP website will increase by 5% annually for the next three years. The hardware and software costs are a one-time expenditure. Manpower training and indirect costs are cumulative. It can be noted as well that salaries increase every year. Other costs related to the operations of the system including maintenance will increase by 5% each year.
It is vital to have a thorough benefit analysis. This process helps us to understand what benefits will be gained from the eventual implementation of the online ERP website. Tangible benefits reflect in the increased profits from efficient and productive processes because of the new system leading to increased customer and user satisfaction. One of the obvious benefits of implementing the online ERP website is increased efficiency of the staff leading to better service. The monitoring process is likely to improve as well resulting in improved productivity.
Technical and Operational Feasibility Analysis
During the technical feasibility exercise, we will assess if the project is technically feasible. This focuses on proving if or not there is sufficient manpower and technological resources to be able to support the development of the online ERP website. Ben Foods Ltd has only realized the importance of embracing ERP within the organization. This organization has an infant IT department now and has been using the available software and hardware to run the basic house keeping tasks. The present IT infrastructure is therefore not capable of supporting such a venture unless it is upgraded. This calls for a complete business process re-engineering in order to properly define and categorize the processes at Ben Foods Ltd.
There is currently limited manpower and no defined IT department that can support this project up to its successful completion. Ben Foods Ltd is therefore likely to outsource for a project management team that will be properly and competitively engaged to be able to provide the needed professional project management services in relation to this project.
Under operational feasibility, we will analyze whether the current management at Ben Foods Ltd is supportive and actively involved in the overall project development and implementation process. It will also be pertinent to study if the online ERP website meets the user requirements according to the management and other stakeholders (Bradford 2010). Operational feasibility here must also cover whether the user will utilize the system as and when it is implemented in the current environment. Currently, the management of the organization remains supportive of the proposed system pointing out that this will be able to enhance productivity and efficiency at Ben Foods Ltd. During the overall project development process, the users were involved by contributing the requirements and thoughts on the proposed system. This gave them a chance to develop a sense of ownership, which ensured that less resistance would result if the new system were to be implemented.
Among the strong points exploited towards this end were that the proposed system will be able to handle issues such as improving client requests through an improved order process system, statement enquiries, and status monitoring. It is foreseen that this will eventually improve employee productivity while promoting client satisfaction leading to the overall profitability at Ben Foods Ltd.
Conclusively, the proposed online ERP website brings many benefits to Ben Foods Ltd. With this advantage, the stakeholders of the system will gain more confidence in the use of the system to streamline their operations and management processes.
Currently, the online ERP website is completed and successful. There remain areas of improvement for this project. Based on the overall project time constraint, some of the enhancements cannot be incorporated into the system. I have therefore identified various areas for improvement should such a chance arise in future. Currently the developed system runs on Microsoft Access 2007/2010 as the database platform. This is considered a lightweight relational database management system unlike high-end database systems implemented using platforms such as Oracle 12i or MySQL.
It is likely that as Ben Foods Ltd eventually recoups from the investment of the online ERP website, they will be able to raise funds to migrate to a more powerful backend database platform implemented using Oracle / MySQL or any other heavy duty relational database management system because the workload for the organization is going to take an up turn.
Therefore, a future consideration for Ben Foods Ltd would be migration from Microsoft Access 2007/2010 as their database platform to MySQL /Oracle. The system may also in future develop a versatile user logon system that can authenticate and register user accounts making use of the available Microsoft Active Directory Server. The system will ensure that when a user logs on to the online ERP website, their account is authenticated using Active Directory server. This will help secure the system further while providing a centralized user account maintenance and management policy based on the Active Directory server operation. There is also no limit to device interconnectivity. As long as a proper security policy is in place, providing data security, this system can also be able to provide porting services for other devices such as mobile phones or portable digital assistants (PDAs). This is likely to expand system accessibility even to places where the desktop or laptop computers are unavailable.
The system should be able to support mobile phone linking and allow the mobile phone owner to interact with the system through short messages through the short message services (SMS). In this way, the user can activate response from the database by simply dialing a few digits. These digits can be interpreted as a query request by the server and processed and send back to the particular mobile phone as a response. Take for example price lists for different products that can have a trigger code that causes the database to respond by sending the complete list of product prices to the mobile phone user. The SMS could still be used to indicate to users their current order processing status enabling them to make adjustments if necessary. The online ERP website can also provide links to other related service providers especially in areas where Ben Foods Ltd cannot effectively cover, areas such as Africa, Middle East and parts of North America. This entirely means that the ERP website should be able to actively collect and store similar product and service outlets found around the globe (Wallace and Kremzar 2001). By establishing contact with such outlets, Ben Foods Ltd can enter a working partnership to effectively expand their coverage eventually increasing their profitability.
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