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IMS5023 : Information Enterprise Management and Marketing



WEEK 4, SEMESTER 1, 2005

The Business Case and Business Plans

 

This week we look at business cases and business plans in the context of developing an information enterprise. Note that while much of this material is directly relevant to Assignment 1 it is also much broader in scope and contains more detail than is required for the completion of that assignment, especially when considering the level of financial infrmation required.

For our purposes, the terms 'business case' and 'business plan' are almost interchangable. Both aim to present a succinct description of the proposed activity is, why it is important and how it will be achieved. We will use the term 'business case' to represent a fairly general statement while a 'business plan' should be considered a much more formal document.

Business cases can be developed at a variety of levels: from that of the parent organisation to that of individual projects and developments. In the context of this unit, where we are considering the development of new information services, they are used to explain and justify new projects, and one should be developed for each new product or service.

Basically, a good business plan should establish a link between the proposed activity and the desired outcomes, by:

The following is a brief list of headings providing an outline that would be applicable in developing a business plan. It has been prepared with an online service in mind, but with fairly minor modifications would be applicable to other scenarios. While prepared at the level of an overall service, a subset of the headings would be suitable for describing an individual project within that service.

It is just as applicable for non-profit organisations as for commercial bodies.

As a broad overview, a business plan should contain the following sections:

Sections of the business plan

 

The introductory area should contain sections on:

  • executive summary
  • objectives
  • mission
  • keys to success

The company summary should contain sections on:

  • company ownership
  • start-up summary (if a new company)
  • company location and facilities

The website plan should contain sections on:

  • business model
  • site positioning
  • traffic forecast
  • details of front end design
  • details of back end systems and design
  • adherence to organisational standards
  • future development plans

The market analysis should contain sections on:

  • market segmentation
  • intended audience
  • website demographics
  • market needs
  • market trends
  • market growth
  • industry analysis
  • industry participants
  • Internet presence
  • competition and buying patterns
  • main competitors

The strategy and implementation section should contain sections on:

  • your value proposition
  • competitive edge
  • marketing strategy
    • site marketing
    • pricing strategy
    • commerce strategy
    • marketing programs
  • sales strategy
    • sales forecasts
  • strategic alliances
  • milestones
  • risk management

The management summary should containg sections on:

  • organisational structure
  • the management team
  • gaps in the management team
  • personnel plan

The financial plan should contain sections on:

  • important assumptions
  • key financial indicators
  • break-even analysis
  • projected profit and loss statements
  • projected cash flow
  • projected balance sheet

Note that a certain amount of repetition will occur in the development of a good business plan. Looking at the various issues from different perspectives can introduce cross-checks into the plan that should confirm its accuracy.

Useful Resources

The following references are provided as a starting point because they may be useful in providing background information or style guides for Assignment 2. With regard to Assignment 2, however, please note that you are NOT required to include costings.

Governments provide advice to their bureaucracies to improve the level of professionalism in making submissions. An example of this can be found at:

 

Office of Information Technology, NSW. Business Case Development Guideline.
http://www.oit.nsw.gov.au/content/2.3.4-Business.asp

There are a number of sites that provide useful case studies based on specific projects and that are useful in this context. Note that these are not formatted as business plans - they are useful because of the descriptions of the types of services and projects that they describe, not because of their format.

 

Monash University. Business Case Studies and Surveys. http://www.monash.edu.au/casestudies/
(See for example: Skinny Fish Music; Murrumbidgee Country Club, Inc.)

Government sites seeking to promote the take-up of information and communications technology advance the cause of e-commerce can also good sources for this type of information, for example:

 

Department of Communications, IT and the Arts. Information Economy Division.

http://www.dcita.gov.au/ie/ebusiness

http://www.dcita.gov.au/ie/community_connectivity

A presentation by Marianne Broadbent at the 2002 ALIA conference deals with the issues of business strategies and business plans at a broad level. It is well worth reading:

Marianne Broadbent, "Business, knowledge and information: Where's the value proposition?", in ALIA 2002: Powering our future, Sydney May 19-22, 2002.
http://conferences.alia.org.au/alia2002/wednesdayspapers.html#broadbent
 

Other Resources

Technology backgrounders

In preparing business cases, it is also important to demonstrate that you understand the business realities and the strengths and weaknesses of the services and technologies that you are promoting. There are numerous media services that provide just such a business perspective in their commentary, for example:

 

Asia.Internet.Com http://asia.internet.com/

Internet.Com http://www.internet.com/ (Look at the channels for those most appropriate).

For information on creating communities

 

Virtual Communities, Howard Rheingold (http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/)

 

As examples of communities

NineMSN (http://ninemsn.com.au/)

Our House (http://lifestyle.ninemsn.com.au/ourhouse/)

Triplej (http://triplej.abc.net.au/)

Urban Cinefile (http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/)

Vicnet (http://www.vicnet.com.au/)

Diving Obsession (http://www.divingobsession.com/index.tdf)

 

Examples of Web-based Functionality and Resources

Encouraging people to become involved in the site is an important part of the exercise and you should consider carefully ways in which it can best be done.

Examples of what is possible include

More ideas on functionality can be obtained by looking at other sites. What you will propose to use will depend on the site you are developing the specification for, but remember that just because a feature is successful on an existing Web site it does not automatically mean that it will be successful on yours - you have to justify your choice of feature in terms of how it can help to meet your organisation's objectives.

 



Preparation for Tutorial 4

Note: There is no discussion question for Tutorial 4. Tutorial 4 will concentrate on the requirements for Assignment 1.

 



 
Tom Denison