What I did this week

This week I aimed to work harder than the previous week, as Chris said that we had fallen off track a bit.

I spent around 1 hour on the Thursday looking at existing companies involved in renting bikes. I tried to get an idea of how many customers they get in their area by seeing if they gave any indication on stock levels or how many customers they have. I also took a look at their booking systems, many existing companies only have contact forms and no way of booking online, therefore the IT solution that we will provide will already be a step forward over many existing companies.

On Friday we had a meeting to discuss the previous lecture and to see how we could proceed with the business plan, while continuing our work with the technology plan. We went through the business plan looking at each section, discussing what should go in it – while looking at the lecture slide on Blackboard to help us with the ideas. It was decided that we should look at the business plan over the weekend, make notes on it and meet on Monday to set aims for the technology items such as finishing the rich picture and use cases, while starting other areas that we hadn’t yet, such as data flow diagrams.

Over the weekend I spent around 2 hours reading through the business plan, while looking for other business plans like the one available on the Prince’s Trust website, as they had a guide for completion along with a template:

http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/need_help/enterprise_programme/help_with_your_business_plan.aspx.

Tom created the following spider diagram / mind map of the website during the week, to help us visualize the business.

On Monday we met up to discuss the business plan and to hand out tasks to complete some technical plan tasks. During the meeting we looked at a couple of existing bike hire websites, one of them was “City Cycle Hire” that Tom had seen over the weekend – this contained some good information such as a price list and some other content that we should feature on our website. We saw the website and agreed it was a good base, but could be vastly improved – for example they had no automated booking system and there was little information about what to do in the local area.

We decided we really liked the booking form on the Forest Leisiure Cycling website, at present it is very similar to what we would like to implement on our website. We like the simplicity of the booking form and how it deals with configuring the bike spec and multiple quantities  What we would like to add is automated discount calculation for larger groups and the ability to go through the order process, then at the end new users would fill in their details and choose to create an account, or complete the order without creating an account. This is a good idea as a big barrier for attracting customers is the dreaded login page, where you hit a brick wall unless you have an account or want to create an account. If this barrier is removed then the customer may want to complete the sale and unwittingly complete all of the necessary account creation steps (name, address), without seeing it as so much of a chore. It is giving the customer a choice, not an order.

We looked at Ian’s rough rich picture, this was actually very detailed bar one or two other possible interactions and a description of those interactions. It was decided that Tom would take it away and make a final draft of the rich picture. After the discussion of the good and bad points, he can draw it up neatly with more of a description, we can then make any final changes and that will be done!

We looked at the use-cases, there was a small number of them describing some of the functions of the website. We added further details to these use cases and clarified some of the steps. The use cases task worked as expected, we all now have a much better understanding of how the customer will interact with the pages. During the meeting we mocked up two more use cases, such as one for group ordering where there is a discount applied. Sam agreed to take the use cases away to make a final draft of them neatly. Once again, we can then pass it around the team asking for any suggestions, then the use cases will be done! This is unless we run into any problems with any other of the technical plan and have to alter a process.

Seb had found some information online about how to put together some prototype websites and story boards. Seb is going to make a storyboard for a couple of the main user functions, which may be used on the basis of early user evaluation. He will also create some screenshots of other important pages if there is time to do so by Wednesday.

I was tasked with researching the pricing of some existing companies and constructing a pricing table, we agreed to slowly apply discount as the lengths of hire increase. Therefore this week I have created a price list for the site. As we see students as a key market for our business to keep us ticking over, we will set up 4 rental periods to cater exclusively for students. I looked at the AU calendar to set the periods as – Michaelmas Term, Lent Term,  Easter Term and Academic Year. These four rental periods will offer good value for money to students as they can choose to hire a bike during the time they actually need it. This will appeal to students as there is no logistical hassle of bringing a bike from home, which may be far away or in a different country and there will be no financial hassle of spending money on a bike up front. If we can accept money from them in installments to co-inside with their student loans, then this will be even better for them. Students aside there is a price list for everyone and a price list for renting a helment. The helmet rental idea has been a hot topic, I believe that it should be an optional extra as it is an extra cost for us and not a legal requirement, other members of the group may believe that we should give them away with the bikes as standard equipment. I think that a lock and lights should be the only standard equipment considered – ready for use on the road and ready to be parked up safely (a benefit for them and us).

This week I also identified some operational risks with the company – considering safety with our systems online, backup systems procedure and company liability. The final thing I was tasked with is starting some data flow diagrams. I reminded myself how to do them by looking at examples online and finding out the correct syntax, I have tried to construct two, however I will need to have some feedback off the team to make sure that they make sense. I spoke to a friend of mine, they believe that data flow diagrams will be discussed in a later lecture, this information may help us.

Ian was tasked with:

  • Create a draft questionnaire for market research – this is an important step as we need to have some feedback on pricing, an idea of interest (quantity of stock needed) and other questions can be asked, such as should a helmet be supplied (NO!)
  • A list of possible operational risks
  • Type up a list of expectations that groups will have of us. For example a student will want cheap as chips, a tourist will went helpful information about local routes.
  • A rough business forecast in excel – run some numbers on stock bought and numbers of bikes rented out for different time periods. Taking into consideration staff and premises costs.

Thursday work – 1 hour

Friday meeting – 1 hour

Weekend work – 2 hours

Monday meeting – 3 hours

Monday work – 1.5 hours

Tuesday work – 2 hours

Blogging and slide review – 1 hour

Total: 11.5 hours

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