The IDL Group

Topics: BusinessManagement

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Last updated: April 16, 2019

The IDL Group was established in 1993 to provide advisory, applied research, training and project management services to international development agencies and partner institutions throughout the world. IDL is a private sector international development consultancy and has considerable experience in the areas of policy and institutional reform, sector reform, decentralised service delivery, sustainable livelihoods, research management, organisational change management, programme and project cycle management, and the design and implementation of training.The group works for the major bilateral and multilateral aid agencies and their government partners, as well as NGOs, research institutes, universities and private sector clients. Their main competitors are Oxford Policy Management, HTS Development, ITDG, and academic institutions such as the Universities of Sussex and Bradford.Through consultation with the Programme Support Officer and the Design, Marketing and Communications Manager it has been established that serious benefits could be gained from the implementation of a B2E solution within the operation to secure project work from their clients.The ProblemThe IDL group regularly bid for work as advertised on the Department for International Development website. This requires submitting an expression of interest in a particular piece of work and then later submitting a tender.

When bidding for work the company is required to produce evidence of a particular skill or experience that they have in line with the project they are attempting to secure. The current system requires the support staff and other members of the team to search through over 300 project files that are stored either as hard copies in the office or as files on the company’s hard drives. The Managing Director and other members of the team have recognised that this is very costly in worker hours and is inefficient in a process which needs to be well-organized and accurate when trying to select and acquire the right project over their competitors. Previously, the IDL group did not regularly bid for work as they would often have heard of work by word of mouth or through friends and colleagues.

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However recent changes in the market now require the submission of more expressions of interests and tenders to bid for work. The IDL group needs to be able to respond to this change with greater efficiency in submitting bids and expressions of interest on a more regular basis.The Proposed SolutionIn order to improve this situation a database solution should be implemented that allows employees working on the bid for contracts to access all previous project work through a search facility. The search facility would permit personnel to type in, for example, ‘social development’ and then all projects conducted by the company in this area would be displayed providing immediate retrieval of evidence and examples to offer to the client in support of the bid.

The system in mind for this project is FileMaker Server 7; the database would be located on the group’s Intranet, accessible to all consultants and administration staff and would serve to dramatically reduce costs by diminishing the time required to ‘trawl’ through the hundreds of project files manually. Benefits would also be gained through a more professional, efficient approach to the bid process helping to secure the right type of project over the company’s competitors.This project will be aiming to introduce FileMaker Server 7 and highlight some of the alternative solutions for comparability, explore its implementation into theIDLgroup including hardware/software requirements, show how its use will reduce company costs, and to highlight any issues that could arise from its operation (security, privacy, usability, legal issues etc.).It is important when considering a business solution of any kind, ecommerce or otherwise, to understand the theory that drives the development of such solutions. With this knowledge an organisation may be empowered with the best approach to realising maximum benefit from, what is most often, a costly investment.Right back to when the first IT systems were developed as back office systems being used in an effort to improve productivity, up to today where the uses of IT are fundamental to business operation and the options are complex and wide-ranging, there have been studies conducted and theories developed – so much so that it can be hard to research information that is specific to one particular area but, somewhat ironically, with the use of the right IT system, it is possible to refine the search to yield some useful results.

Often some of the most useful finds come from within a report that does not necessarily appear, at first glance, to be concerned with the particular area of interest. A study by Elizabeth Daniel and Hugh Wilson (2002) entitled ‘Adoption intentions and benefits realised: a study of e-commerce in UK SMEs’ offered-up some very useful analysis particular to the area this report is seeking to cover – Business to Employee solutions. The study itself was not focused on this specific area but nonetheless uncovered some valuable data.1Figure 1. Plot of adoption intentions and benefits realisedFigure 1 (above) taken from the study illustrates how well a company performs within a particular area in an ecommerce context compared to how much importance they place upon that area. Activities above the linear trend line can be considered as “over-performing”, that is performing better than required for the perceived level of importance.Elizabeth Daniel and Hugh Wilson revealed through their research that the area where firms believed that they were realising greatest benefit from ecommerce was in improved knowledge sharing among staff; SMEs are Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, a category which theIDLgroup fits into, making the findings of the study all the more relevant.

It was shown that despite the smaller size of the firms within the study, these firms believed that they had realised significant benefits from such applications. Good news in the context of this report as the ecommerce solution proposed specifically seeks to address the issue of poor access to company information in the form of knowledge, skills and experience already gained from project work previously conducted.The findings of the study suggest “that this activity may be relatively simpler for firms to achieve benefits from than other ecommerce activities. It can therefore provide the opportunity for “a quick win”, a factor that has been positively associated with the adoption of IS in business (Wilson et al., 2002). Firms should therefore consider the development of such internal communication systems, such as e-mail and intranets, as starting point for their e-commerce developments.”The same study states: “It should be noted when considering the benefits arising from e-commerce that few companies, even large companies, have yet developed effective measures for their e-commerce developments .

.. It would therefore seem that firms at present are likely to be judging the benefits arising from their e-commerce developments highly subjectively”.

Figure 2Figure 2, above (taken from Business Information Systems, Dave Chaffey 2003) shows the relationship between Intranets, Extranets and the Internet; it is useful to help understand which parties have access to information that is held in the various systems of a business and also touches on a point that will be brought in as an area to consider for further development later on – Extranets.In opposition to earlier comments concerning the finding of useful information, it is also true that a study which one might believe, from its title, will offer a wealth of information specific to the desired field of research actually offers very little at all. A study produced by two professors and two doctoral students at the National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan (see bibliography and references) entitled ‘Measuring satisfaction with business-to-employee systems’ turned out to approach the subject from an angle that proved of little use in the context of this report; it did however highlight one or two useful points that can be easily transferred:InterfaceConsumers preferred fast, uncluttered, and easy-to-navigate sites (Eighmey ; McCord, 1998; Smith, 2001). These characteristics are similar to pleasurable shopping experiences which will enhance overall satisfaction. Information quality, response time and system accessibility are considered important variables for measuring information system success (Delone ; McLean, 1992; Lin ; Lu, 2000; Seddon, 1997).

Moreover, ease of use has been used as a criterion to evaluate Websites (Smith, 2001).AccuracyAccuracy is one of the five factors in Doll and Torkzadeh’s (1988) EUCS. Business- to-employee systems, like other information systems, must be accurate to satisfy users. Error-prone systems create dissatisfied users and turn them away.”So how can these points be transferred? Well, although they are looking specifically at consumer services available to staff on a company intranet, the rules apply just as well to any interface that a person might have to use.

Therefore it can be read that our users will want a fast, uncluttered and easy to navigate database that is accurate and not error-prone to make their experience efficient, pleasurable and to avoid deterring them from taking advantage of its benefits.An article taken from the Computer Weekly website (www.computerweekly.com) highlights the bottom-line for all businesses looking to stay ahead of the game: “To keep pace with e-business, organisations need to build intelligent integration into their IT infrastructure … the method of achieving this integration has changed.

The focus has switched from being application-centric to taking into account the wider needs of the business – a trend that Butler Group has described as “intelligent integration”. In practical terms, this new approach includes more flexible and automated links to legacy applications, and the creation of a broader integration framework that supports business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-employee (B2E) interactions”.

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