BCIA – Improving Client Communications

This project will be a group project which consists of several reports focused on a research task you will perform for a specific client. The project will take place partly in a real-world setting and partly as a simulation in class.

Project Documents and Grades
The documents included in this project are the following:
  • Proposal (individual) 10%
  • Project Plan (group) 10%
  • Progress Report (group) 5%
  • Final report and Presentation (group) 25%

Grades will be assessed on an individual basis depending on the contribution of each student. The documents themselves, as well as your final assessment memo for the project will serve as the basis for determining both individual and group contributions.

In particular, individual grades will be based on the following:

  • the informational and argumentative quality of the report (e.g., relevance and usefulness of information provided, argument in support of document's recommendations)
  • the documentary quality of the report (e.g., its organization, clarity, readability, design, etc)
  • the quality of the research conducted (e.g., quality and relevance of information collected, sound methodology used, care taken with data analysis)
  • the quality of group work (e.g., coordination and cooperation within the team; fair and equal participation of all)
Your Company: BCIA
Your 313 class and your instructor will form a new company called BCIA, Business Communication Information Associates. This company exists to provide its clients (other companies and organizations) with information useful for improving their communication, especially with regard to new technologies.

Our specialty area is computer networking as an aid to business communication. We tend to focus on how uses of email and the world wide web can help companies improve internal communications and communication with their customers.

Your Role in BCIA
You are a Research Analyst in the Division of Information Services for BCIA. Your instructor is the Manager of Information Services. Your primary job function is to locate clients who can benefit from our services and to write research reports which provide our clients with useful and relevant information about how to make their organization more effective.
Your Client
Your first task is to locate a client. Find a company, business, or other organization (profit or not-for-profit) that might have a use for our information services. Any company or organization you work for currently or have worked for in the past would be good places to start.

Start by thinking of the problems or needs you see in this organization. You next task is to describe your client's needs or current communication problem. This will be written up in the form of a proposal to your manager in BCIA (your instructor) who will decide which projects the division can accept.

Getting Started
Your client's problem or need should drive this project, as it would in most real-world situations. However, you should also think about a project you'd like to work on too! The greater your interest and possibly, the greater you current expertise in the area, the easier this project will be. Try to pick a company or organization that you have access to (so that it will be easy to conduct first-hand research). Also, be sure to pick a problem that is significant, but one that is manageable to deal with in the short time we have.
Research Questions
As you define your client's need, try to develop "researchable" questions, that is questions that define a specific area of research of relevance to your client's need to problem. A few examples are listed below to get your mind thinking in the right direction.
  • How do companies comparable to my client use computer networks?
  • Do restaurants, travel agencies (add other companies here) use networked computers? For what purposes?
  • How frequently do employees in manufacturing use email? Why do they use it? How vital is it to their day-to-day work?
  • How many hotels use the web? Why do they use it? How integral is it to their day-to-day operations?
  • What forms of technology are not being used in my client's company that may benefit them? Should my client implement an email system or a web site?
The Proposal
Your individual proposal should include the following: description of the client organization (location, size, services/products provided); the client's specific need or problem; your qualification to conduct research on this project (either through client knowledge or technology knowledge); your rationale for the feasibility of this project (discuss why the division should accept this project, how it is manageable in the timeframe, why the project is worth pursuing). The proposals are usually 1-2 pages in length (single-spaced, typed).

Remember that each class member will write a proposal, but the projects will be group projects after proposals are accepted. This is a competitive process (about 6-8 of 25 will be accepted) and your proposal must establish that the project is worth doing, that it's manageable, and that your are qualified to work on the project.

The Project Plan
Each team will need to complete a project plan after work has begun in order to show the manager they have a plan for completing the project. This plan should include a plan for conducting research into the client's need or problem, a schedule for the project, and a task list for assigning project responsibilities to team members.

The plan usually identifies the client and the problem or need being investigated, the team members involved in the project, the main research questions the team will pursue, the research sources and strategies the team will use, any foreseeable problems the team may encounter, a Gantt or PERT chart outlining their schedule, and a request for approval of the project. The project plans are usually 2 pages of text with additional pages attached for the schedule and any other information needed.

The Progress Report
The progress reports will be completed individually. These should give an account of both group progress on the project and also individual contributions to the project thus far. It should contain a discussion of work completed and work remaining, in addition to any other problems encountered. A good progress report provides key findings to date and should give the manager an accurate picture of the project. The progress reports are usually one page in length.
The Final Report and Presentation
You will produce a final recommendation report that is ready to hand to your client. The type of recommendation report you write may depend on the client you work for, their problem or need, and the status of your research at the end of the term. You may choose a feasibility report, which discusses one possible solution in detail, or a comparison report, which examines several options for their relative advantages. The final reports average 3-5 pages in length, with additional pages for visuals, tables, graphs, bibliographies, etc.

You will also present your report and research findings to the entire Information Services Division during the last week of the term. This will be a group presentation and should last from 10-15 minutes. It should cover the highlights of the entire report and must include visuals.