technologically advanced world it seems as if everyone owns a cell phone, tablet or other hand-held computing device that allows them to interact socially and with various systems that provide them advantages in managing their daily tasks. Such computing capabilities in the hands of every-day citizens means that employers also have the luxury of communicating with their employees through these electronic devices. Not every small business takes advantage of these opportunities, but that does not make them any less viable or advantageous.
As one recent article espouses "the scheduling problem is an optimization problem with fundamental principles applicable in several fields" (Kritikakou, Catthor, Kelefouras, Goutis, 2013, p. 14) and that may ring especially true for small businesses, who oftentimes do not have the funds, time, or expertise necessary to search out and implement information technology solutions that could greatly assist them in their scheduling difficulties. UMUC Haircuts is a prime example of one of the small businesses that could greatly benefit from implementation of a software program that could track its customer appointments and the availability of UMUC's employees to cover those appointments.
Since it has already been previously determined that access to an easy-to-use scheduling software program would be very beneficial to UMUC, it is now only left to determine what steps are necessary to ensure the successful implementation of that program. One very specific consideration that must be taken into account is whether UMUC should use an online or a dedicated system.
There are a myriad of programs available in both categories that would assist UMUC in reaching its goals and objectives. One such program is called Cloud Too. Cloud Too allows UMUC access to a scheduling system that is both easy to use and less expensive (in the long run) than many of its competitors.
At first glance, using an online scheduling system might make a lot of sense for UMUC. The problem is that UMUC has no computer savvy at all, and in fact there is no internet access to be found anywhere on site. It makes more sense, therefore, to install an entire system that would offer UMUC not only the capability of providing employee scheduling, but could also be expanded in the future to include customer appointments, track inventory, manage financials, track customer preferences, send out marketing emails and even track customer's birthdates. Cloud Too is one such system. There are a number of different systems including Epic, Numara, and BMC, but Cloud Too is the easiest to implement and geared specifically towards the needs of small businesses. Cloud is not only easy to install it is also easy to use. The hardware needed is relatively inexpensive as well, which is an bonus.
The strategy is to ensure that costs are kept at a minimal level, and that the system used will provide UMUC with a competitive advantage over its competition. UMUC is looking to expand its business and tracking the customer appointments while at the same time matching those appointments with the available stylist or manicurist is essential. This is especially true since there are other far more competitors now than at any previous time in UMUC's history.
The business process to be improved is the tracking of scheduling, and with such capabilities, UMUC should be able to offer its customers the same high level of services provided by many of the chain haircutting salons seeking to encroach upon the UMUC customers and business.
The key to Cloud Too is that it does not require a large amount of hardware to ensure its viability. Instead much of the storage and computing takes place off-site. A relatively small server and a personal computer is all the necessary hardware needed. Cloud servers are also available for use and may make more sense for UMUC if that is the way the company wishes to go. Cloud servers provides RAID 10 storage and no moving parts. Cloud also has ECC memory and it provides networking and above average power supply. As one recent study states "RaaS cloud providers sell fixed bundles of CPU, memory and I/O resources packaged as server equivalent virtual machines" (Ben-Yehuda, Ben-Yehuda, Schuster, Tsafrir, 2014, p. 76) and if that is a more efficient and cost friendly product, then UMUC should choose to go with the virtual rather than pay the cost for an ongoing in-house server. Additional hardware is a high grade personal computer that will cost UMUC approximately $1,000.
Software requirements are the "Cloud Too" and its cost can range from $500 on the low end, to $5,000 on the high end. The software is relatively easy to install, and it can be continuously upgraded from a remote location during hours when the system would not normally be very busy. Installation usually takes less than 6 hours.
Facility requirements are also minimal; the system can be housed in the current structure in the manager's office. No major changes or improvements would be necessary.
There are a number of telecommunication companies that can handle UMUC needs. Verizon is a national company that provides local services such as voice, high-speed broadband internet access, email and data. Monthly cost for a bundled service can run as low as $99. Verizon can also ensure that UMUC is a Wifi location, which is an important marketing tool as well as a viable business tool.
Since none of UMUC's employees or management have the necessary IT expertise needed to implement and then maintain even a simple system such as the one suggested herein, it is recommended that the company hire an IT consultant. The consultant can assist the company in not only getting started with Cloud Too, but it can also help the UMUC in the long-run by being available for trouble-shooting. IT professionals often offer their customers a package deal, or a deal that allows the company to keep them on a retainer. It is recommended that UMUC hire a consultant for a six-month period and then evaluate whether the service is still needed at that time.
It is recommended that UMUC's owner provide the necessary time needed to train herself, her staff and any other employees that will be using the system.
Other management resources that will be needed, include the funds to cover the expenses of purchasing, installing and implementing the system. Additionally, the owner will find it necessary to pay for the consultant, the monthly internet fees, the monthly system fees, and to purchase any of the needed equipment or hardware.
The project will be managed by the IT consultant. His duties will be to ensure that the system is installed in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner. He will also be charged with determining which telecommunications company is the most cost-effective and addressing any bugs in the system. The scope of the project is that it is not a large project, nor is it complex. In fact, it is a relatively simple project to undertake. However, some handholding by the consultant may be necessary due to the relative ineptitude of the owner and her employees.
Since the project is not a major one, the timeline can be fairly short in duration. The entire project should take less than one-week total to implement. Once the system is installed and running, it will be analyzed by the consultant to ensure that the needs and services of UMUC are being met. This can be an ongoing process, and one that the consultant will be held responsible for.
System Development Lifecycle
A. The Cloud Too system was investigated and compared against similar systems and found to be very efficient and effective. It is geared towards small businesses such as UMUC, by providing not only the solutions for today's problems that adaptability for solving future problems as well.
B. The system was analyzed and will continue to be monitored by the consultant to ensure compatibility with the needs of UMUC
C. System design was relatively simple in that it was an off -- the shelf product complemented by Cloud resources such as the server and other hardware.
D. No programming was really necessary for this product.
E. Testing will be accomplished by the consultant in a consistent and ongoing fashion
F. Implementation is relatively simple and will take place over a two-week timeframe, which also includes testing the system to ensure that it is up to snuff.
Changes will be necessary in that all employees will now have the capability to log into the system and update their availability (within limits). No longer will the owner have to commit her time and resources to changing the schedule on a regular basis. The system will update on an immediate basis so that at any time the owner will be able to see and track who is working and when.
The training of the employees will take place once both the hardware and software has been installed,…