Information Systems for Business Professionals
Global Education Services (GEC) is a student recruitment business operated by Mr Peter Ho in the city of Great Tong, southern China. The business specialises in offering services on international education. It provides information and services to students in Great Tong city regarding overseas education options. It acts as recruitment agents for universities from overseas countries, including Australia.
Two years ago, Peter obtained a Business Degree from an Australian University and began his small business from his home. After he operated the business part-time for one year, he decided to increase his capacity to a full-time business enterprise, and rent office space in the city CBD.
GEC began operating as a boutique student recruitment business with Peter and his assistant Vicky undertaking most of the work. Peter bought two personal computers, a multifunction device (Printer, Scanner, Fax & Copier) and hired a room in a business centre to set up the initial operation. The business operated five and a half days a week and engaged in minimal advertising. To differentiate GEC from its competitors, Peter decided to keep his operations very transparent to the students and disclose all commissions in writing to the potential students that he would recruit. Generally students do not need to pay for the services they received from GEC, if they enrol in a university through GEC. The university would pay commission to GEC for the referral.
GEC’s business processes were manual, including the creation of client contracts, accepting payments and issuing receipts, generating letters and documents to stakeholders. Client details were maintained using a spreadsheet, and appointments were maintained in Microsoft Outlook. Initially these processes were carried out effectively for the small client base.
All client files at this initial stage were paper based and staff would often need to spend time searching for a particular file. Once the client file was found, additional time was spent looking for documents within a particular file. Sometimes files would go missing and then reappear after a few days. The misplacement of files would create strain for the staff by causing embarrassment. Peter soon realised that valuable time was being wasted locating and managing files. Recently the legislations in some countries require that the file from a closed case had to be kept on the business’s records for up to seven years.
As GEC’s model gained popularity, its client base increased and as a result the business hired additional staff to assist at peak times. This improved the level of service GEC provided to customers and also increased their capacity to take on more cases.
As the market is changing, universities and students are requiring more information from GEC with a faster response time. There are more competitors emerged in this industry. Most of the competitors who handled a high volume of referrals, have an online web presence, engaged in heavy advertising on social media and were ranked highly on search engines results. Many competitors also provided online responses and the facility for students to place online application for admission.
Two years ago Peter was joined by a young executive Steve. Early this year he convinced Peter that GEC should take advantage of its brand and expertise by opening offices or offering franchise, in other big cities of China and other countries such as India, South America and Northern Europe.
Peter agreed with Steve’s proposal, recognising it as an opportunity for growth into rapidly expanding areas of high potential. However Peter is uncertain about how he will manage the increase in locations, particularly with regard to the existing manual processes and systems. For example, Peter manually manages staff leave, payroll and timesheets. It will be a challenge to duplicate these processes in other locations. Peter is also concerned about sharing client information across sites, and managing the movement of client files from one site to another. He is aware that he will need to have regular meetings with staff to ensure that a high level of customer service is maintained at GEC. All these issues need to be considered from a strategic point of view as Peter is already facing great difficulty in managing his current workforce of ten staff.
Steve convinced Peter to engage you as a consultant. Your job is to provide GEC with solutions that address the following sub-topics and issues. Please also provide recommendations on what GEC needs to implement.
Case Study Questions
1. In order to help GEC management, define what information systems are and briefly explain how information systems are important to future operations at GEC. While answering this question, explore different kinds of information systems that could be beneficial to any small business.
2. Identify and list the specific opportunities and problems related to GEC, from both business and systems perspectives. As a consultant, please consider the information from the case materials and your relevant experience in the international education market. List these opportunities and problems in order of priority.
3. With reference to your findings in item 2, what are the key information requirements of GEC? Discuss how the information would enhance GEC’s competitive position.
4. Which information systems can help GEC in fulfilling the information requirements, managing their business, developing on the possible opportunities, resolving the problems and making business decisions?
5. Explain how GEC could strategically utilise the internet, intranet and extranet to engage with key stakeholders, including its employees, clients and business partners, and fulfil communication and collaboration requirements.
6. “Change management” is an important concept to business organisations. How could GEC best manage the organisational changes that would occur with the implementation of the information systems you are proposing?
7. For various stakeholders at GEC, what are some of the possible security and ethical issues that may arise with the use of the proposed information systems? What could be done to resolve such issues?
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