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[The data in this form is either fictitious or has been adapted with a firm's permission.

Company: Comfort Apparel Contact Person: Sam Talbott Title: Marketing Manager Telephone: 336.555.1234 Fax: 336.555.1234 Fax: (336) 745-7025 Address: 1234 Comfort Blvd., Winston-Salem, NC 27123

Background

Comfort Apparel manufactures and markets high-quality, high-value apparel using screen printing and embroidery. Comfort holds exclusive contracts with several boards of education in the Southeast to provide shirts, hats and sweatshirts with school logos for state championships in all major sports. Other boards are being pursued for contracts. A significant volume of business is obtained through shortterm contracts with colleges, universities and sports associations to provide logo apparel for ceremonies and sporting events. Comfort provides consumer value by offering a high-quality embroidery look at prices comparable to regular screenprinted products with quick turnaround on short notice.

The Project To Be Studied

At Comfort, ordering, scheduling, invoicing, inventory control and shipping are done manually. Management decided to switch to an electronic system because of frequent and often unanticipated surges in volume, as well as recent overall growth. Several of Comforts accounts have requested EDI systems and other electronic media, including use of the Internet, to process orders and shipping. The study group will be responsible for determining what system could capitalize on emerging technology and be most appropriate for the company and how best to implement the system. The study will look at three main operating areas:

Information systems between Comfort and our manufacturing operations Information systems between Comfort and our customers Information systems between Comfort and our suppliers

The team must propose whether members will focus on one, two or all of the above applications.

Outputs Desired

Provide Comfort with a list of information systems that capitalize on the latest technology and that could be installed and implemented, along with pros and cons of each Propose a schematic design and determine the costs and benefits of each alternative Recommend the best alternative and provide a plan for implementation

SEPTEMBER 2006 Creating an intranet concept

Written by James Robertson, published September 11th, 2006

Categorised under: articles, intranets

Intranet teams need to be clear on where they are heading, and what they will deliver. Typically, this involves writing either a bullet-point list of goals or a 20-page intranet strategy.

In practice, the list of goals is too short (and too abstract), while the intranet strategy documents are often wordy but unclear. Neither form works well.

What is needed is a single sheet of paper that captures where the intranet is at, where it is going, and what this means in the short-term in terms of actual deliverables.

This is the basis for the intranet concept, a succinct yet effective description of the intranet direction, written in a narrative format.

This article talks through how to create an intranet concept, and provides examples of two different formats that have been used. A lack of clear direction

All too often, intranets have little clear direction, with day-to-day maintenance overcoming any attempts to define a clear roadmap for the future.

This leads to communications with the business (and executive sponsors) focusing on the how (the behind-the-scenes work) rather than the what (business benefits being delivered).

This is one the contributing factors for the lack of resourcing and support that many intranets receive. It also makes it hard to build enthusiasm with the business when

there is no clear future plans (and therefore benefits) for the site.

The intranet needs a clear direction, strategy or roadmap

Defining a direction

What is needed is a clear direction for the intranet, a strategy or roadmap. Whatever it is called, the intranet must have a plan for the future that outlines what activities will be conducted, and what will be delivered to the business.

This direction then forms the basis for:

internal project planning within the intranet team business case or budget requests communications message to the organisation briefings to senior management and other senior stakeholders

A good strategy for the intranet should provide a solid basis for quickly pulling together any one (or all) of these documents. It should also provide words and paragraphs that can be stolen for use in many different contexts and situations.

Typically, the overall strategy for an intranet is captured in one of two ways:

Listing of 5-6 bullet points capturing the intranet goals 20 page document containing the intranet strategy

Intranet goals: too short

There are good goals and bad (useless) goals for an intranet. The worst goals are those that dont really say anything, such as the goal of creating a one-stop shop for corporate information. These goals provide little or no direction for the site, and do not define what will actually be delivered.

(This was discussed in the earlier article titled Beyond efficient dissemination of timely information.)

While these types of goals are obviously very poor, even good goals have limits. This was a set of goals recently determined for an educational organisation:

Support and enhance the delivery of education Provide a single, coordinated communications channel to all staff Deliver staff productivity benefits Improve the consistency of operations across the organisation Support the creation of a single corporate culture Provide a platform for business tools and systems

While these are not perfect, they are pretty sound. Each one of these has a solid basis, and overall, the goals appear to capture the overall purpose for the intranet.

The problem is that time after time, these sorts of goals do not have any clear impact on the management or direction of the intranet.

Looking at the experiences gained across many organisations, a number of significant issues and limitations become apparent with the use of goals in this form. These include:

Too abstract. When distilled down to a small list of goals, the purpose of the intranet is inevitably made into something very high-level and abstract.

Doesnt resonate. These types of goals just dont seem to connect (or resonate) with staff, whether stakeholders or end-users. Doesnt create change. Fundamentally, defining goals in this form seems to have little or no impact on the actual intranet activities being conducted. Difficult to measure. Defining metrics or success criteria for these goals is often hard, if not impossible. No activities. Intranet goals often do not make it clear exactly what should be done (or needs to be done).

All of this is not to say that defining intranet goals is a wasted effort, just that they cannot stand alone and be expected to be useful. Instead, they should form part of a broader statement of the intranets direction (as part of the intranet concept discussed in this article). Intranet strategy: too long

There is something about the format of intranet strategy documents that automatically and unavoidably makes them boring.

Much of the 20+ pages ends up getting devoted to the overall governance and ownership of the project (and the intranet), with only a little space devoted to the actual activities.

In many cases, the intranet strategy documents becomes more of a business case, targeted solely at the steering committee or other group that has the responsibility for signing off the project (and providing the budget).

Intranet strategy documents are also generally built around a standard project template, with formalised sections and headings. This further reduces the impact and limits the use of the document beyond gaining executive sign-off.

Strategy documents are also often strong on theory, but light on the actual steps that will be taken to deliver an improved intranet. They commonly also fail to clearly articulate the benefits that will be delivered to the business.

This is not to say that all strategy documents suffer from these weaknesses, and there are certainly better examples (and worse).

At the end of the day, however it is written, 20 pages is simply too long. Business stakeholders and end-users are not sufficiently interested in the intranet to set aside the time to wade through (and understand) a document of this length.

As a result, many intranet strategies have been written that never see the light of the day, or are little used (even by the intranet team that created them). Creating an intranet concept

An intranet concept is a single piece of paper (A4 or US letter, depending on where you are located) that conveys a clear picture of the direction of the intranet.

On this piece of paper, the following details should be clearly communicated:

current state of the intranet (along with the organisation need) overall goals and direction specific deliverables in the short-term longer-term direction and activities

When combined together, this single-page intranet concept presents a complete picture for where the intranet is at, where it is going, and what this will mean in practice. Written in the right way, this is a compelling story as well as being a document that can be used in many different ways.

Two different examples will be used to show how this can work in practice. Intranet concept (narrative format)

The first example shows an intranet concept written in narrative format, that is, written like a story.

One of major benefits of the narrative structure is that it leads to a much more compelling style of writing that will have a stronger resonance with staff. It also provides a lot of useful material that can be reused in other documents and communications channels (see later for more on this).

While the appearance of the intranet concept written in this format is not exactly sexy, it is both effective and easy to read.

As per the list outlined earlier, the intranet concept consists of four main sections, each of which is discussed below. Creating a regional intranet

Eastern Health has been created with the goal of delivering improved services to the local community, through the development of a more integrated and effective health care system. As part of this, a new regional intranet will be created that will grow to provide a single point of access for all staff across the region. This will replace the current intranets serving the former organisations, all of which were fragmented and operating poorly.

The new regional intranet will start small, and will expand in step with the establishment of new structures and processes across the organisation. More than just a source of information, it will be a key business tool that will support the dayto-day activities of staff, with an equal focus on corporate and clinical needs.

The regional intranet will be developed in stages, to ensure that clear benefits are delivered to staff as quickly as possible. We have clearly defined goals for the regional intranet:

assisting in the delivery of consistent and effective health care

streamlining administrative and corporate processes reducing duplication and supporting the pooling of resources supporting and promoting the regional identity of Eastern Health recognising the efforts and achievements of Eastern Health staff

The first stage will involve the creation of a core regional intranet that will deliver a range of simple but effective tools that will provide immediate benefits to staff. For example, we would will be delivering:

A consistent set of clinical reference materials brought together, so that medical staff working across multiple locations have access to the same information. All the maps of Eastern Health facilities in a single location, including key supporting information for staff such as parking details and driving directions. A single point of access to the current intranets maintained by Eastern Health, Eastern Public Hospital, and others.

Over time, we will build on this starting point to deliver further tools and content. This will involve supporting strategic initiatives such as the Improving Care programme, and other improvements planned throughout the region.

The existing intranets will also progressively be merged into the new regional intranet, to create a single environment that meets both regional and local needs. When completed, this will have a consistent appearance and structure, making it much easier to find and use key information. It will also enable us to rework and restructure the intranet, to make it more relevant to day-to-day activities across Eastern Health.

Your input into this process is critical, and as the project proceeds, we will be spending time talking with staff throughout the organisation to identify key opportunities for improving practices and information.

While Eastern Health has been recognised as an innovative provider of health care services, our information resources provided for staff have been less than adequate. We will be fixing this, delivering step-by-step improvements that will support staff throughout the evolution of the new region.

Rome isnt built in a day, but today we start building a new intranet that will be of real assistance to all staff.

Figure 1. Sample intranet concept (in narrative format), derived from a real document created for a health care organisation. Current situation

The current state of the intranet should be described in a clear and powerful way, with the goal being to highlight the existing deficiencies and issues.

The broader organisational context should also be described, outlining where the intranet activities fit in.

Together, the objective is to outline the clear need for the intranet project, and to create a sense of urgency.

In the case of this example, there is less of a need to discuss the existing intranets, as there is a clear organisational imperative to deliver a new solution, derived from the merger of the existing health care providers to form Eastern Health. Overall goals

The overall goals of the intranet (and the intranet project) are then outlined. These spell out the high-level direction that the intranet will be taking, as well as clearly stating where the priorities lie.

This is where the traditional set of intranet goals can be put to good use.

Specific deliverables

The key element of the intranet concept is the list of specific pieces of functionality (or content) that will be delivered as part of the project.

These deliverables are chosen very carefully, according to criteria such as:

delivers tangible and visible benefit demonstrates where the intranet is heading builds support for the intranet (and the intranet team) generates interest and increased intranet usage

If selected appropriately, these deliverables will not just be easy to do, but will also be worth doing. They also demonstrate that the intranet team can walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. Longer-term direction

Beyond the initial deliverables, the intranet concept should outline the longer-term directions for the intranet, and the broader priorities for the intranet team.

As much as anything, this should set reasonable expectations for the future, outlining that the path will be long (and ongoing).

This section should also communicate clearly that the intranet team has a plan beyond the initial (often small) pieces of work, and that the future priorities will deliver much greater capabilities to staff (and the organisation). Intranet concept (brochure format)

The second figure shows an example of an intranet concept, presented in a

brochure format. (Thanks to UrbisJHD for providing this real-life example.)

This format of document contains much of the same information as the earlier example, but focuses on creating a high-impact document, rather than on using a narrative structure.

Overall, this creates a much more sexy deliverable, and the high quality of the document itself helps to build trust in the intranet project (and the intranet).

The effort put into creating this type of deliverable sends the message that the intranet team is serious about the project, and equally serious about communicating effectively with the organisation as a whole.

While a description of the current state has been omitted from the brochure, much of the rest of the details are similar between the two examples.

Overall, this example uses clear language to paint a picture of what is being done (and why), and it shows that an intranet concept can be delivered in a wide variety of ways.

The only downside of this particular example is that some of the items focus more on the details of the intranet itself, rather than on the business-oriented capabilities to be delivered. There are still plenty of excellent items listed, and it serves as a useful reminder that is always easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the how rather than the what.

Overall the UrbisJHD team are to be commended for their efforts on this document, and it displays a clear commitment to clear and effective project planning, in the context of a broader intranet strategy.

[The data in this form is either fictitious or has been adapted with a firm's permission.]

Company: Bentonville Medical Clinic Contact Person: George Hendrichs Title: Business Manager/Administrator Telephone: (910) 273 - 8457 Fax: (910) 273 - 5419 Address: 413 Harmon Place, Greensboro, NC 27412

Background

Provide an overview of the company, the nature and size of the primary product(s)/service(s) and operations, and a brief description of the department/function/product that is the main focus of the study.

Bentonville Medical Clinic is a 12 year old medical firm specializing in the practice of obstetrics and gynecologic services. The main office, located in Greensboro, is where the primary administrative functions such as coordination, billing, insurance claims, etc. are carried out, but the firm is also comprised of two satellite offices located in Reidsville and Eden. The firm employs 1 administrator, 7 clinical personnel, 9 clerical workers, and 5 physicians, who rotate through each of the three offices on a regular basis.

Gross revenues for 1991 were roughly $3.1 million, as a result of 37,000 patient encounters. The bulk of the revenues are taken in by the Greensboro office, which accounted for 72% of all receipts. Revenues grew regularly through 1990, but have leveled off since then as a result of the efforts of the government and other agencies to control health care expenses.

Some primary points of emphasis for Bentonville Medical Clinic are: (1) maintenance of high quality of patient care, through the regular and efficient assimilation of new technologies, (2) continuous improvement of business efficiencies and cost reductions, and (3) provision of a reasonable return on investment for the firm's partners.

The Project To Be Studied

Describe the situation to be studied, and if possible, identify the specific issue(s)/problem(s) to focus on.

One of the basic problems with health care today is the government wishes to control health costs, yet demands the highest quality of service available. Often, the government wishes only to pay amounts for these services that barely exceed the cost a medical firm incurs in providing them.

The focus of the group will be to evaluate the costs of various types of patient visits versus the payment plans instituted by the government (the RBRVS system that calculates costs for medicare, for example), and determine how these plans affect Bentonville Medical Clinic's cash flows and revenues.

Outputs Desired

What specific results would be expected, e.g. reports, recommendations, etc.

Outputs desired from this study include:

(1) Determination of the amount of medicare volume that can be profitably handled;

(2) Identification of the various costs involved in particular types of patient encounters (which types of visits are most/least profitable for the firm)

(3) Determination of how cash flows being affected by programs such Medicare's RBRVS cost conversion factors

(4) Suggestions for some possible alternatives/strategies through which Bentonville Medical Clinic can maximize revenues in the current environment.

Required/Available Resources

- (List special or unique data, software, personnel, etc. required, or available):

Summary/Key Word Information:

Estimated team size: 2-3 person team How was project obtained?: Referred by John Adams, Alum Previous Project?: No

Project Focus - Primary: Accounting/Finance Other areas: Strategy, Health Administration Keywords: Costing, and cash flow analysis Brief Abstract: Contrast patient visits with reimbursement plans to assess the equity of payments received and determine their affect on overall cash flows and revenues.