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Introduction and Background Briefing

Grow Your Business produces organically certified foods. It started with the humble beginnings of John’s backyard. It was a large backyard…that had also made use of neighbours’ unused land.

The business prospect has expanded substantially in recent years with Johns return to his family property that historically has been used as a dairy farm. Although it was a major commitment, John has turned much of that pasture land into a vegetable garden. He did not do this all by himself. He has employed farm hands to assist on the farm for several years.

The range and volume of produce and the number of customers is now making it difficult for John to keep track of things. An information System may provide a way to help manage the increasing complexities of the business.

The Early Days – Growing up on the Farm

John Jones believes that he had been born to be a farmer, following as he did, in his fathers’ and grandfathers’ love and passion for growing their own food. Of course there were also differences...especially as John was now passionately dedicated to growing vegetables rather than attending to dairy cattle.

John grew great vegetables, and he knew it. He did so without the use of any pesticides or artificial fertilizer. It was all organic.

John still had some cows and had acquired chickens to provide manure, as well as a source of milk and eggs.

He practiced companion planting to help protect crops from insect attack, and he cycled different crops from year to year to aid soil health.

John carried in his memory an immense body of information about soil types, weather, seasons, crops, crop rotations, soil preparation, and composting. 

John had given up his occupation as a mechanic when he returned to the farm that he grew up on to dedicate time to his farming activities. He was now committed to growing and selling vegetables. People happily payed top dollar because of the high quality of the food, and the “organically grown” status that it held.

John did not sell his produce through the local vegetable market. He did not have to, as his customers came to him!

Customers would phone through an order the day before they wanted to come and pick them up and John would work through the long list of vegetables in his mind’s eye that he knew he had on offer, ready for harvest.

This could take a lot longer than most people wanted to spend on the task, because John would always work through the list from start to finish, even though there were some products that various customers never, ever bought, never wanted, and were never going to buy.

John would patiently chat to each customer because this was his nature. It was time consuming, taking him away from attending to his fields, although he usually enjoyed the conversation.

In reality, while all of the customers liked John, and loved his produce, many really wished to have a quicker and easier way of placing their orders without the need to always be asked directly by John about products that they were never, ever going to purchase. Many customers were frustrated that John would always take a long time to write down the vegetables being ordered, especially those clients who purchased the ”same order” every week as a regular, weekly, customer. Surely, they thought to themselves, there must be a better way.

Top Dollar

Customers would drop by to pick up their weekly box of produce. This had been fine in the early days while his farm was quite small, but things had escalated dramatically in the last few years.

John had a growing body of farm hands to assist him. His farm and produce was very well regarded but popularity and demand was now causing congestion at the pick-up area. John was considering the practicalities of beginning a home delivery service direct to customers.

In principle, John would be able to manage the growing customer base because he had almost unlimited access to land and water and sun, but he was now experiencing difficulties organising all of the food boxes for his customers.

The personal details for his customers including their names, phone numbers and addresses where all kept in the “Customer Book” in the barn, but he had generally made little use of this as customers would typically ring him to place an order…and increasingly such calls were coming in at inconvenient times while he was attending to the garden.

Jane is married to John and is fully supportive of his philosophy and approach to growing vegetables. She knew in her heart that it was scalable and that a similar approach could be used for farms in other locations to serve different geographical areas.

She knew, however, that some of John’s business practices in dealing with customers would need to be documented to enable standardisation, and altered to be made more efficient… for both the farm, and the customers.

John and Jane agreed that they should each focus on a different aspect of the business.

John would attend to all aspects of production and harvesting, while Jane would oversee all aspects of dealing with customers, their orders, their payments and their order pick-ups.

Both were happy by this because John was skilled and enjoyed the farming aspects and Jane was skilled in customer relations and service due to her previous work in accountancy and finance. Jane was keen to acquire an Information System to handle the customer base, their orders, and their bills. She knew that it had other potentials to ease their business dealings and that new and emerging technologies could also be beneficial. John, however, remained unconvinced of the benefits of computers.

On the customer side of things Chris, Christina, Cathy and Charlie were each now sometimes taking orders from customers by phone, and reporting the orders directly to Jane. These four people also assisted at times with gardening activities along with some other staff who were dedicated to gardening activities.

A collection of lists had been written up for some of the customers who would always simply order “their usual” (subject to availability and season)…and this collection of lists had been stuck to the wall in the barn next to the phone book to aid quicker processing. The people who were on these lists came to be referred to as “The Regulars”. To acknowledge such regular support, each was given an automatic 20% discount off the cost of their purchase.

The Produce Pick Up

As the produce available each week was subject to change due to weather and harvest readiness, there was sometimes confusion about what was actually available (or not) and so increasingly there were instances of customers being disappointed when they picked up their produce because it was not always what they had expected to receive.

Sometimes there was also confusion about who had payed, or not payed, or partially payed. Sam and Samantha both attended to the accounts side of things, and again, answered directly to Jane on this account. As the business had increased in size there were apparent inconsistencies emerging in how payments were made, sometimes in cash and sometimes by credit.

There had also been some unpleasant scenes at the pick-up point due to too many customers arriving at the same time, only to create a traffic jam. Arguments had erupted over confusion of who was to take away which box of vegetable produce.

Jane hired Mark and Marsha to take over the pick-up. They made the firm decision that customers would no longer be able to come and pick up their box of produce, unless specifically pre-arranged…but would have it delivered to their home. An imposed home-delivery service. Dirk was also hired as an assistant for both Mark and Marsha to do some of the heavy lifting and sorting of the customer produce boxes.

There was no risk of spoilage due to a delivery needing to be left at a customer’s door because John had acquired individual customer eskies good enough to keep all things cool for 48 hours.

Deliveries could thus be made to a client on any day of the week, but there was a need to minimise the number of trips to make the deliveries. Customers either lived North, South, East, West, or “close” to the Grow Your Business Farm. There will be more to say about delivery timetables later in the case study.

John was saddened by how some aspects of the business had evolved. He was still committed to producing the best possible products for his client base, but there was a need to find some ways of better managing it all. In particular, there was a need to release himself from the client side of the business to attend to the production aspects, which he had always taken pleasure in.

To assist on the production side of things John had hired Noel, Noeletta, Nick and Netta.  Each answered to John directly. Their specific tasks were to assist in all manner of the gardening such as weeding, planting, watering, fertilizers, picking and pruning.

Terry and Tina are both skilled at operating all manner of vehicles and machinery used on the farm. They may be directed by John to perform any of the tasks performed using such machines but for practical purposes they both answer to Tim who is the manager of the tractors and all other farm machinery which he both operates and maintains. Tim answers directly to John on all production aspects, but to Jane on aspects of customers, orders and delivery issues. (THIS PARAGRAHP IS GREEN TO INDICATE THAT IT HAS BEEN MODIFIED at 19 July 2018 … SINCE FIRST RELEASE)

John, having worked previously as a mechanic, can assist Tim if need be for maintenance tasks, but he is really seeking to dedicate himself to the production of vegetables.

  1. Use the background information to create a short summary (one short paragraph) about the “Grow Your Business”.
  2. Create an organisation chart for the business.
  3. Use the information above to describe the area of the organisation under study (i.e. the business functions that will be handled by the new information system).
  4. Add the background information, organisation chart, and business functions to your Report document in Part A: Initial Investigation.

At your initial meeting, you and Jane discussed some initial steps in planning an information system for the farm. The next morning, you worked together on a business profile, and talked together about various types of information systems that could provide the best support for handling their customers’ needs, and mindful that there was a need to also track certification documentation to demonstrate the fully ‘organically produced’ nature of the farm produce. You also discussed the longer term plan to expand the operations of the farm to include farms that supplied fruit, which would also have to be demonstrated to be fully ‘organically produced’.

You start by creating a System Vision Document for Grow Your Business, so that Jane can use this to define a vision for the new system and present this to John.

  1. Either by yourself or with another class member, brainstorm all the functions that the Grow Your Business Information System might fulfil. Keep it at a very high level.
  2. Prepare a draft System Vision Document for the Farm Information System. This System Vision Document will be revised when you find out more about the requirements for the system. An example System Vision Document can be seen in Figure 1.8 of your textbook (Figure 1.5 in the 6thed).
  3. Add your System Vision Document to your Report document in Part A: Initial Investigation.

Introduction and Background Briefing

Background Information

Grow Your Business is a company that produces foods that are organically certified. John is the owner of the business. At its infancy, it made use of John’s backyard and unused land of the neighbours. The vegetables produced are of high quality because organic fertilizer is used over artificial fertilizer or pesticides to boost its growth.  The organic fertilizer is acquired from John’s cows and chicken. Companion planting is practiced to prevent crops from being attacked by insects. Besides, different crops are cycled from year to year to sustain soil health. The produce is not sold in the local vegetable market, rather, customers come to buy them in the farm. In the recent years, the business outlook has grown considerably after John returned to the property of his family that was originally utilized as a dairy farm. He has transformed the pasture land into a garden of vegetables.

Grow Your Business has several workers. John who is the owner of the business attend to all harvesting and production aspects. His wife Jane is in charge of all aspects of handling clients, their payments, their orders and their order pick-ups. The number of individuals working in the company has increased significantly.  Christina, Charlie, Chris and Cathy deal with customers. They take orders from clients by phone and report orders directly to Jane. They also help with gardening activities. Marsha and Mark handle the pick-up services.

Customers are now not coming to pick up their orders, unless particularly pre-arranged, rather their orders are delivered to their homes. Dirk act as an assistant to Marsha and Mark to carry out sorting of the produce boxes of customers and do some of the heavy lifting. Tina and terry are both experienced at managing different machinery and vehicles used on the farm. They report to Tim who manages all farm machinery and tractors. Tim report to Jane on matters regarding to clients, delivery and order issues, and to John on all aspects of production. Samantha and Sam handle account aspects and also report directly to Jane. Noeletta, Netta, Noel and Nick offer assistance on the production aspects. They all report directly to John. Their particular work is to help in all manner of gardening such as planting, fertilizers, pruning, weeding, watering and picking.

Figure 1: Farm Organization Structure

The volume and range of produce and the increased number of clients has resulted to challenges of keeping track of things. As such, an information system may offer a way to assist in managing the growing complexities of business. The new information system will handle the following functions:

Keeping and tracking orders: customers order their produce by phone a day before collection and John works through a long vegetable list. It takes longer than expected since John goes through the list from the beginning to the end, although there are certain goods that different customers never purchase (Tripathi and Mishra, 2014. P. 213). John chats with every client and it is time consuming and sometimes depriving him from attending to his fields. Many clients wish to have an easier and quicker method of making orders.

Top Dollar

Facilitating correct packaging of orders for home delivery: customers drop to pick up their orders on a weekly basis. There were no challenges in the early days before expansion of the business. However, things have intensified in the past few years. The produce has gained demand and popularity causing crowdedness at the area of pick-up (Shah, 2011, p. 51). Quarrels have ruptured over confusion on which customer to take which box of vegetable produce. A customer home delivery services should therefore be considered.

Managing customer information: the customer’s personal information such as their phone numbers, names and address are recorded in a customer book. Some practices of business that deal with clients require documentation to allow standardization, and changed to be more effective for customers and the farm (Suraj Nandiganahalli, Kwon and Hwang, 2018). An Information system is needed to handle the client base, their bills and orders. It will assist in easing their business operations.

Inventory management: The produce available weekly depend on harvest readiness and weather. At times there are confusion about what available and what is not and as such, customers feel disappointed when they come for their orders because sometimes they receive the unexpected (Ainin et al., 2015, p. 9). Besides, there are confusion about which customers has partially payed, not payed or payed. As the business grew, there were some noticeable inconsistencies evolving in processes of payments, sometimes by credit and other times in cash.

Inventory management system will manage all the business stock items and inventory. It is a database for administering and storing all kinds of data needed for accurate and efficient warehouse inventory management (Thöle, Richter and Ehlert, 2013, 443).  It may include fields or modules for monitoring locations and all items, back orders, reorder points, inventory error tracking, requisitions, lead times, among others. Inventory management system may interface with other applications including ERP.

An inventory management system will assist Grow Your Business to be more organized. Without managing and tracking the inventory, it is challenging to determine what is needed, when it is needed and the quantity required (Wedderburn and Rickenbach, 2011). With an inventory management system, the business will have comprehensive records of each business asset. Besides, an inventory management system increases transparency and tracking. With all property consistently being monitored, one can examine the weaknesses and strengths of the business. In addition, it is easy to determine where the business inventory is and its worth.

An order tracking system will permit clients to monitor their orders, from the time an order is made to its delivery. The customer will be able to know whether his or her order has been filled, whether it is correct, whether there are items missing, or when it will be delivered (Ayanso and Lertwachara, 2015, p. 78). For customers to gain knowledge about their orders, they need visibility across systems and processes. Therefore, the order tracking system will need to offer knowledge about order status through the whole journey to the client, from making order to filling it in the warehouse and to logistics where the order will be acquired and taken to the carrier.

The Produce Pick Up

The order tracking system will be connected with other fulfilment and management systems such as warehouse management, carrier’s back-end tracking system, sales order management and inventory. Connecting these systems permit the order tracking system to offer the visibility into order location and status (Haji, Afzalabadi and Haji, 2018, p. 318). An order tracking system is essential since it is a major component of the overall experience of the customer.

CIS is an open system that handles the entire communication of a firm with its clients. The client system will be able to gather any details about clients, their functions toward the business and must efficiently communicate with clients using channels of communication such as email, SMS, web and voice services (Sanglee Cho, 2011). Customer information system includes several functions of customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

Figure 2: Customer Information System

(Sources: Janssens, 2011, p. 2310)

 Task of the customer system include:

  • Gathering identities of consumers
  • Additional sales management
  • Communication management
  • Profiling
  • Service operations management.

Grow Your Business need to develop good farming practice codes. As such, production system, diversifying market system and sustainable agricultural production standards systems need implementation of more detailed strategies of management. These strategies should be flexible and simple to adapt to the changing environmental or economic conditions and they require evidence of their compliance (Jiang, Zuo and Zhang, 2013). Besides, the need for data about the processes of production is increasing, both from aspect of traceability (value-added chains) and regional shareholders to accomplish multi-operational goals by farming. An essential requirement for Grow Your Business to adhere to these various needs is to easily have timely and sufficient data available for offering documentary proof or decision making. The quick evolution of technologies for communication and information, new sensors and massive potentials for offering geo-referenced information (online sensors, remote-sensing, public databases, among others) also allows Grow Your Business to access high quality and ne information and apply them as particular data in process documentation or decision making (Jongoh, 2010, p. 162). With automated information acquisition and managing a farm management information system, Grow Your Business can be seen to adhere to the rapidly increasing standards need in the production processes management.

Grow Your Business will practice precision farming (PF). PF utilizes emerging technologies in information management and handling, and in handling temporal and spatial variability found in all farms. Such use of accurate data minimizes environmental effect and boost economic returns. Comprehensive data is needed in precision farming and is historically connected to particular activities within different site on the field (Kang, Hahn and De, 2017). Site-specific farming does not precision farming. The application of methods and techniques that make precision farming can offer a wealth of tools and information to apply and manage information appropriately for Grow Your Business. The data-driven strategy can be applied to assist in improving strategies of crop management and evidence of compliance via documentation (Mohammadhossein et al., 2014, p. 24).

The initiation of new ICT (information and communication technology) technologies in Grow Your Business will be a substantial advancement in all undertakings for measurements oriented payments within the programs of agro-environment and associated efforts to administer environmentally effectual systems in land utilization (Khodakarami and Chan, 2014, p. 35). Besides, crop products of Grow Your Business entering the food chain must demonstrate certified source through accepted strategy of management. Therefore, there is need for an integration of information system to advise directors of recommended guidelines, formal recommendation and implications associated with various scenarios at decision making point during crop cycle.

It can be brought to a successful conclusion by incorporating real-time modelling (a development model and crop growth connected to sensors within the canopy of growth), with intelligent systems that have been set up with instructions from a recommended strategy of management such as organic, ICM (integrated crop management), factored risk, and legal instruction such as safety, health and environmental protection (May, Atkinson and Ferrer, 2017, p. 68). It will largely assist the farm manager to make sound decisions. Knowledge of the expert in expert systems and models form can be written down and posted in web services or a device readable form on the internet to be actively bound into the software of the consumer. As the required information of Grow Your Business is already in the suggested information system, certification of cross compliance and crop province of accepted standards can be created easily.

Besides, Grow Your Business crop products can remain in the farm. Apart from the use of animal feeds to boost growth, the company will use bio-energy or bio-fuels. It will assist in improving the likelihood of advancing to a highly energy-neutral and energy-efficient farm. It is supported by the substantial decrease of energy needed by small smart machines that operate independently focusing on inputs. The system vision document tried to concentrate on the balance of opportunities in technologies put together with socioeconomic and environmental needs with the major role of information management (Lin, 2010). Intensive application of knowledge and information will be a significant activity of Grow Your Business in future.

References

Abu-Samhadanh, N. (2015). Advance Articulated Entity Relationship (AAER) Diagram for Relational Database. International Journal of Database Theory and Application, 8(1), pp.227-234.

Ainin, S., Akma Mohd Salleh, N., Bahri, S. and Mohd Faziharudean, T. (2015). Organization’s Performance, Customer Value and the Functional Capabilities of Information Systems. Information Systems Management, 32(1), pp.2-14.

Al-Masree, H. (2015). Extracting Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) From Relational Database Schem. International Journal of Database Theory and Application, 8(3), pp.15-26.

Ayanso, A. and Lertwachara, K. (2015). Analyzing Customer Service Technologies for Online Retailing: A Customer Service Life Cycle Approach. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 55(4), pp.73-80.

Brearcliffe, D. (2012). Network Entity Relationship Diagrams. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Giraudeau, M. (2017). The farm as an accounting laboratory: an essay on the history of accounting and agriculture. Accounting History Review, 27(2), pp.201-215.

Gnip, P. and Charvát, K. (2012). Management of zones in precision farming. Agricultural Economics (Zem?d?lská ekonomika), 49(No. 9), pp.416-418.

Gnip, P. and Kafka, S. (2012). Using technology of data collection and data processing in precision farming. Agricultural Economics (Zem?d?lská ekonomika), 49(No. 9), pp.419-426.

Grace, R. and Bruderlein, C. (2012). Building Effective Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-Finding Mechanisms. SSRN Electronic Journal.

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