Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Roadmaster Roading Contractors Case Study

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Roadmaster Roading Contractors Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

This case is used in a third year undergraduate degree course on systems development, analysis and design. It is based on the author's experience as a consultant with the firm. Names have been changed to preserve confidentiality. The case illustrates the situations many software consultants face when working with small firms. They need to assess an organization's requirements in order to determine what assistance, if any, the software consultants can offer the organization. The organization's situation is often more complex than appears on the surface and even in small firms, personalities and politics can impact the initial analysis and ultimately the success of any implementation. The consultant's initial assessment generally cannot be charged to the client so there is a tension between the consultant's need to gather the necessary information as quickly as possible while at the same time ensuring that the assessment goes into enough depth to make an informed decision.

The case is conducted as a role-play with students acting as new employees of the software consulting and development firm, Software Unlimited. The instructor and teaching colleagues play the roles of three key interviewees from the client, a road construction-contracting firm, Roadmaster Ltd. The students' task is to use limited consultation time efficiently to analyze their client's situation. The problem situation is briefly outlined to them in a memo from their boss and a letter from the client. From this realistically vague introduction, they must inform themselves about the business they are investigating and plan the interviews they will conduct. Having carried out the interviews, the students must assess the situation, identify the problem areas and make recommendations about what can be done. Although there is a need for better information systems at Roadmaster, solving the problems with the current system will not immediately result in improved performance. Students need to identify that other factors, such as job scheduling, control of raw materials usage and inter-personal conflicts between the key players, also need to be addressed if a satisfactory outcome is to be achieved.

Roadmaster Roading Contractors Case

The following material are provided to students:

Memo to the student "Software Unlimited consultants" from their boss (1)

A couple of weekends ago, I spent some time with Monty Hedley, an old friend of mine, who's the Managing Director of Roadmaster Roading Contractors. I've now received the attached letter from him. He's looking for help in analyzing some problems that have arisen in his firm. I think this might be a good problem for you to work on as junior analysts--it's small enough for you to handle, but has sufficient complexity to extend you. I'd like you to meet with some of Monty's staff to explore their situation.

From what Monty has told me, there's not likely to be an easy solution. In fact, I'm not sure how clear Roadmaster is about what its problems really are. I don't know how much you can find out from one interview with the staff, so I don't expect you to come up with a complete solution straight away. But I do hope you can develop an initial assessment of the situation, and see if there's an opportunity for us to do business with Roadmaster.

When you meet with Monty's staff, try to find out what kind of help they'd like from us, and what we can offer them. This will be a 'free' session, part of developing potential business for us with this firm. After you have met, prepare a recommendation for me on what, if anything, we can do. I'd also like you to prepare a presentation for the Roadmaster staff on the results of your investigation.

Monty has been in business thirty years or more, and he's a pretty astute person, so you'll have to develop a clear proposal and figure out what key points are necessary to sell our services. …

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