With high growth and profit targets expected by financial backers, Greenfield Online was constantly under pressure to expand the business. Because the DCS accounted for a relatively small portion of revenues, it was not on the front-burner for allocation of limited resources. If Tricia wanted to streamline the DCS back office, she had to come up with something that was relatively easy to develop and implement.
Tricia felt that the most backward aspect of the DCS back office was the manually completed Project Authorization Form (as shown in the Appendix). Since customer and order information was being kept in a database, she thought that perhaps the PAF could be filled in on computer as a form tied directly to the database system. Because three other departments would be affected by such a change, she had to get their input to develop the concept more completely before proposing it to upper management. As part of her analysis, she thought it would be useful to develop a process map for the DCS that included both customer flow and back office operations, separated by a "line of visibility" [as described in Shostack (1984), and Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons (1997)]. Although all the processes are included in Figures 2 and 7, the integrated process map would enable a better view of the "big picture," which would help in her communications with upper management.
Sitting at her desk pondering DCS back office operations, Tricia was keenly aware that the DCS was just a small blip on upper management's radar screen. Nevertheless, she felt responsible for eliminating the apparent process inefficiencies. The $25,000 investment in full automation was definitely out of the question, but less expensive options appeared viable. In late February 2001, Tricia's open questions included the following:
Should she spend time developing a semi-automated back office solution?
What would be the nature of the solution? and,
How could she best present any proposed modifications for upper management's approval?