Introduction & Contextual Information
Cut-throat competition, technological advances, geopolitical realignments and other related pressures are combining with concerns for security, shifting customer demands, expansion urges and organizational governance to generate momentous pressure for organizational change (Howard, 1994). Current literature as demonstrated by Kotter (2007) reveals that organizations need to continually change and reinvent their strategies, structures, processes and culture to remain relevant as well as maintain competitive advantage.
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But as observed by McGahan (2004), the change process itself need to be planned beforehand and aligned to the business strategy and objectives if it is to achieve success. The capacity of an organization to plan and implement the change process is therefore fundamental for success. By presenting a case of the current challenges facing FastLink Logistics Company, this paper will focus on providing an outline through which the underlying challenges can be adequately addressed by initiating a change process.
Headquartered in Boston, MA, FastLink Logistics has been in operation for the last 20 years, and has consistently maintained a leadership position in the industry judging from its financial returns and competitiveness. An interview with the company’s operations manager revealed that the company operates a fleet of 3000 trucks and 10 cargo airplanes for purposes of transporting goods to various destinations across the U.S. and internationally.
From the beginning of the current financial year, however, the company’s management has been receiving sustained customer complaints regarding delayed deliveries of their orders, especially from truck drivers. Indeed, some of FastLink’s traditional customers have opted to look for other logistics companies who keep their word on deliveries, implying that profits for FastLink Logistics have been on a downward trend.
The management, having studied all the facts, identified massive paperwork in cargo clearing departments and irresponsible behaviour on the part of truck drivers, who engage in personal business while performing official duties. Upon holding several consultative meetings, the management decided to undertake a change process that will automate the clearing departments and install remote sensors on their trucks to monitor their movements and timeliness.
The intended change process, however, is likely to experience some challenges, especially from employees who may oppose the intended automation of duties for fear of being rendered redundant. Still, truck drivers may feel that the intended introduction of remote sensors on their trucks may impinge on their privacy, hence perceive the new system negatively. Overall, the change process may be resisted by employees since it requires dramatic shifts in business processes and employee roles (Suntano et al., 2008).
The management, therefore, must come up with strategies that ensure employee participation, commitment and identification to the change process so as to achieve success. In line with the above, FastLink’s management decides to enrol the services of a consultant to prepare a project feasibility study that could be effectively used to manage the change process.
Project Feasibility Study for FastLink Logistics Company
The Project Scope
Greer & Conradi (2009) observes that “…the feasibility study usually refers to an assessment of the product/project against technical, operational, financial and social/political criteria” (p. 357). Academics and practitioners are in agreement that recognizing the challenges facing an organization and justifying the need for change must form the initial step of a system change effort (Suntano et al., 2008).
Section A of this report demonstrates that FastLink is currently being faced with challenges arising from slower business processes and inability of some employees, particularly truck drivers, to identify with the values of the company. These challenges have caused the company to lose its traditional customers to competitors due to late delivery of orders, implying that the company’s profitability and competitive advantage in the market have been negatively affected.
This particular feasibility study, hereafter identified as PFS, will therefore aim to come up with ways to balance business processes and technology constraints facing the firm so as to select a cost-effective solution. More importantly, the PFS will also involve matching the new system to organizational objectives in terms of deliverables, ability to meet customers’ requirements, efficient utilization of resources, budgetary allocations and time-frames. The PFS will be presented in the form of a short report.
The Current Analysis
FastLink logistics has for a very long time employed a manual process in its operations across all the offices located in the U.S. and abroad. This implies that the work environment has been largely paper-based and personnel-intensive. It is also imperative to note that FastLink’s working environment has been largely distributed over expansive geographical areas due to the nature of the transportation business.
The advantages derived from the above working methodology may in fact be minimal as opposed to the disadvantages. In terms of advantages of the ‘status-quo’, it is important to note that manual processes of doing business in a way motivates employees to offer more, not mentioning that they are beneficial in aligning members of staff to organizational objectives and strategies (McGahan, 2004).
A paper-based working environment also implies that information can be retrieved from the cabinets anytime without undue regard to other externalities such as the availability of power to run the machines, computer viruses, and end-user capabilities.
In terms of the disadvantages arising from the current business processes, it is evident that FastLink has been losing, productively, due to delay occasioned by the tedious paper-based working environment and centralized information architecture.
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Preliminary observations reveals that the distributed information architecture coupled with lax rules are to blame for the truck drivers’ unbecoming behaviour by virtue of the fact that critical information aimed at necessitating effective order deliveries to customers is either delayed due to the manual operational processes, or the information does not get to the intended recipients at all due to lax operational rules.
Another problematic area for the company is the fact that it has to employ a large number of employees to do the paperwork needed to necessitate order deliveries, implying that the company’s wage bill may exceed profitable limits.
These disadvantages, according to preliminary observations, are to blame for the company’s continued dip in profitability and competitive advantage within the logistics industry. According to Davies (1994), these challenges are functional in nature owing to the fact that they hinder effective work-flow processes for the company, thus they demand functional solutions.
Benefits & Pitfalls of the Proposed System
The next stage of designing a project feasibility study, according to Greer & Conradi (2009), is to develop specific objectives and limits of the proposed system. Here, it is proposed that the company redesign and automate its database management system for the obvious advantages of faster and better customer service as well as ensuring the distributed use and processing of order information.
Automated work systems, according to Howard (1994), not only simplify and streamline work processes, but they also enhance efficiency by curtailing excessive use of an organization’s scarce resources. The proposed remote sensors to be installed on trucks will go a long way to ensure that truck drivers follow their routes in the process of delivering orders to customers, and the orders are delivered on a timely basis.
However, financial resources must be channelled to purchase the needed automation hardware and software as well as the remote sensors. The decisions to automate the offices and install remote sensors on trucks will most probably be met with resistance from members of staff who may fear loosing their jobs or who may argue that their privacy is being impinged on.
Here, Suntano et al (2008) advises that the company should take an all-inclusive approach to enable employees participate in the change process; hence offer their views, fears and expectations as concerns the intended change. In addition, the management should exercise an open-door policy, whereby employees should be encouraged to raise any underlying issues and seek clarifications to better understand the proposed change.
According to Davies (1994), involving employees and effectively answering their concerns in any change process is advantageous since it minimizes resistance during the implementation process, not mentioning that it facilitates employees to identify more with the change process once it is operationalized.
Companies in the 21st century are increasingly faced with the dilemma of whether to automate their operations or to continue with paper-based working environment (Alkuwaiti, 2010). In the present case, one of the viable alternatives would be to recruit more human resources to clear the backlog, hence necessitate timely delivery of orders to customers.
Another alternative would be to enlist the services of security firms to escort trucks so that drivers do not engage in personal business during official working hours. The company may also consider investing in telecommunications to facilitate a more distributed information infrastructure.
The assessment of any viable change process or alternatives must be evaluated against a backdrop of risk management controls, ability to meet fundamental objectives of the project’s attention, program needs and costs, intensity of effort, time-scale, security features, and flexibility for future modification and expansion, among others (Kotter, 2007; Bryce, 2011).
It is indeed true that the proposed automated process may in the short-term be costly for the company in terms of purchasing the needed hardware and software as well as training staff members to operate the automated systems. In the long-term, however, the company will largely benefit from enhanced customer satisfaction, improved sales and reduced overhead costs.
The alternative of employing more members of staff to clear the backlog may not be tenable in these circumstances, especially when the company is working on new modalities that will enable it to return to profitability and maintain competitive advantage.
The time-scale needed for implementing automated systems and installing the remote sensors may indeed be minimal when it is compared to the time-scale and resources needed to advertise for positions, recruit, orient and train new members of staff.
According to Howard (1994), companies must always be on the lookout for proposals that enhance value creation as well as offer viable solutions to the problems that triggered the change process. In this perspective, the proposed system change should be recommended over the other stated alternatives. Automation of business process and introduction of remote sensors for trucks seem the only way to go for FastLink Logistics Company if it has to overcome its present challenges.
Lastly, it is indeed true that automated systems can be expanded or modified to meet future needs and expectations (Suntano et al., 2008). The same cannot be said of other alternatives such as utilizing security firms to make the company drivers toe the line.
List of References
Alkuwaiti, A. J. (2010). The Project Book: A Simple and Direct Approach to Project Management. New York, NY: Create Space.
Bryce, T. (2011). The Elements of a Good Feasibility Study. Web.
Davis, S. M. (1994). Attempting Major Change? 10 Pitfalls to Avoid – And How. Human Resource Planning, Vol. 7, Issue 4, pp 175-188.
Greer, D., & Conradi, R. (2009) Software Project Initiation and Planning – An Empirical Study. IET Software, Vol. 3, Issue 5, pp 356-368.
Howard, A. (1994). Diagnosis for Organizational Change: Methods and Models. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Kotter, J. P. (2007). Leading Change. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 85, Issue 1, pp 96-103.
McGahan, A. M. (2004). How Industries Change. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 82, Issue 10, pp 86-94.
Suntano, J., Kankanhalli, A., Tay, J., Raman, K. S., & Tan, B. C. Y. (2008). Change Management in Interorganizational Systems for the Public. Journal of Management Information Systems, Vol. 25, Issue 3, pp 133-175.
Wischnevsky, J. D. (2007). Change as the Winds Change: The Impact of Organizational Transformation on Firm Survival in a Shifting Environment. Organizational Analysis, Vol. 12, Issue. 4 pp 361-377.