internet and e business

Scenario
Office Outfitters Ltd. is a company specializing in the sale of a wide range of office furniture and supplies, stationary, paper products, school supplies, copiers, computer accessories and storage media etc.  (Please review the first Assignment Brief for more background information on Office Outfitters.) After hiring an e-Business specialist team four months ago many initiatives were taken by management which has resulted in improved security and information sharing throughout the organization.

The company has upgraded its networking infrastructure. In addition to the small networks that existed at each branch, the company now utilizes leased lines from the local telephone company to connect each branch to its Port of Spain headquarters thus facilitating the use of a sophisticated stock management system which allows the amount and location of every product sold by the organization to be easily tracked. Sales and other operational data can now be quickly and securely transferred to the main office. All other intra-company communications and file transfers have been accommodated through the functionality of Office Outfitters’ new Intranet. Using secured connections via the Internet branches can upload and download files from a centralized file server and employees from different branches can now collaborate remotely about sales, product launches etc. Sales staff can now login to the intranet from the field to access up-to-date product catalogues, price lists, and customer account data. Outlet managers can view sales and other performance reports, strategy documents and other material to aid their decision making and each employee has been issued a company email account for business use. Security has also been improved. Sensitive business data is now encrypted whilst stored on servers or in transit across the network. Firewalls have been installed, antivirus kept up-to-date, secure protocols utilized to authenticate remote users and policies created and enforced with respect to passwords, information handling, laptop use  and computer and network resource usage.
The aforementioned changes have dramatically improved the efficiency of Office Outfitters internal business process. The organization has seen marked improvement in employee productivity, creativity and overall morale, and very importantly, the speed and quality of decision making by managers.

Office Outfitters’ external stakeholders have also benefitted from the work done by the E-business specialist unit. The company has implemented an extranet and now maintains electronic links with several of its larger suppliers and allows conditional access to specific aspects of its stock management system. These suppliers are sent purchase orders that are automatically generated when specified items of stock fall below predetermined reorder levels. The suppliers can access various reports about how fast or slow their products are selling and when and where they are selling, all of which can aid in making decisions about manufacturing.  The extranet has allowed Office Outfitters to benefit from supplier discounts for timely ordering, whilst the suppliers also benefit from faster payment.

Office Outfitters’ corporate customers have also benefitted from the implementation of the extranet and have been very vocal about their appreciation for the facility. These customers can now login and view their order history, account status, order status, products and price lists and special promotions. They can also get quotes and place orders. The ability to pay for purchases is not currently available, nevertheless, Office Outfitters has discerned that a thirty percent (30%) increase in purchases from business customers is directly attributable to the functionality provided by the extranet and the resulting increased customer satisfaction.

With regards to serving the needs of Office Outfitters’ regular customers, the company has decided to launch a Business to Consumer e-commerce website. Customers will be able to purchase products via the website and have the products shipped directly to them. Online payments will be facilitated via credit card, master card or PayPal. The website will also allow users to register for an account, and data regarding their viewing and buying patterns can be tracked and eventually analyzed to discover and eventually capitalize upon consumer trends.
A web development team has been hired by the company and will begin work shortly on the website.

One of Office Outfitters’ major competitors is Boss Trinidad, and management has serious concerns about this competitor as they have already made the move and ventured into the e-Commerce space. (Please see Appendix A of this assignment to view the full competitor listing with associated URLs) Understanding this reality, management believes that there is much to be learned from the competitor’s website.

As part of the e-Business specialist unit hired by Office Outfitters Ltd, you have been asked to produce a report covering the following areas relating to the understanding of how the internet works and functions within an e-Business environment, and principles of good website design. You are free to reference any material that aids in supporting your discussion, provided that the material is referenced in the Harvard Referencing Format. The components of the report have been broken down into a series of tasks by the unit lead, and each task will formulate a section of the report which is to be reviewed by top management before any further decisions are made. As work has already been produced by the unit, management has expressed its wishes that the high standards of quality be upheld by the unit in its deliverable.

Task 4 Section 4: Evaluation of Intranet and Extranet.
Conduct an evaluation that shows how the business communication within the organization is currently benefiting from the implementation of:
1.    The Intranet and
2.    The Extranet.
Note: Your discussion of each must be centred on the functionality provided and its impact on staff and the organisation’s suppliers and business customers.
Provide sufficient evidence to support evaluations where necessary.

[Successful completion of TASK 4 will allow the learner to accomplish L02.4]
Task 5 Section 5: The Importance of Effective Web Design
The major competitor outlined in the scenario is of major concern to management, in particular their online presence which has continued to eat away at profits. Through constant communication with the development team, management has come to understand the importance of good website design though they are not entirely sure of the impact this could have in terms of e-Business. You have been asked to evaluate the potential impact of good web design, using one competitor’s site as a point of reference. (Competitor listings in Appendix A of this brief)

You are required to:
1.    Identify three solid design features of effective web pages. Show and discuss how each design feature has or has not been incorporated in the competitor’s site and evaluate the impact of its presence / absence.
Include properly annotated (labeled) screenshots showing the incorporation or lack thereof of each design feature as an Appendix A item of the report. Remember to refer to the appendix and figure to view the snapshot.
[Successful completion of TASK 5 will allow the learner to accomplish L.O4.2]

Task 6 Section 6: Usability and Accessibility Considerations.
Report on the importance of considering the usability of an e-commerce site.
1.    Select three usability features and describe how each may contribute to the success of a website created for Office Outfitters.
2.    Suggest three accessibility features to be included in the design of Office Outfitters website that would help ensure the organization is catering to the needs of all its customers.
3.    Evaluate a competitor’s website (see list at Appendix A of brief) and rate the site from one to five stars (one the lowest and five the highest). You must provide justification for the rating you assign based on the inclusion (or lack thereof) of the features you identified in 6.1 and 6.2. Include properly annotated screenshots showing evidence of your findings as an Appendix B item of the report.
[Successful completion of TASK 6 will allow the learner to accomplish L.O4.3]

To achieve M1, a learner must:
Provide appropriate and sensible justification for the rating assigned to the competitor site. Discussion must be appropriately linked to competitor site and show depth of understanding of usability considerations in business. (Task 6)

To achieve D1, a learner must:
Write a conclusion for your report which includes:
•    A statement of each lesson that you have learned while accomplishing this assignment,
•    Any difficulties or limitations faced, and
Areas you could have improved upon
To achieve D3:
In an effort to further increase the understanding of management, the unit lead has asked you to create a simple web page of your choice (in relation to the context of the scenario) that includes the following:
1.    An appropriate title.
2.    Some headings of varying sizes.
3.    At least two short paragraphs of information.
4.    A simple list of products.
5.    At least one image.
6.    The proper use of line spaces to separate content.
7.    A link to Google.
A screenshot of this webpage is to be placed within your report with the elements of the webpage properly labeled indicating what tag was used to create it.
The HTML code written to develop the webpage must be placed in Appendix C.

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