Post: Hullabaloo Party Supplies Order System: The SDLC Process

retail online ordering system plan

October 10, 2021

Hullabaloo Party Supplies (HPS) provides and distributes party supplies, operating out of 13 nationwide locations. After considering the advantages of shifting markets from business-to-business to business-to-consumer, management has decided to design an online ordering system to accommodate the new need.  The software development lifecycle (SDLC) consists of five main elements crucial to the successful planning and development of a new information system (Valacich & George, 2020).  This document includes a review of system requirements, economic feasibility analysis, recommendations for a project development methodology, an implementation plan, and a testing and training plan.

The Requirements

Management has determined their initial set of requirements for the HPS online ordering system. Gathering requirements is the first part of the SDLC analysis phase and involves acquiring information from various sources like interviews, observation, and documentation analysis (Valacich & George, 2020).  There are also conventional and radical ways of obtaining information, including Joint Application Development (JAD) and prototyping (Valacich & George, 2020). For Hullabaloo’s online ordering system, more traditional requirements gathering methods should be used to determine what the old system did right and wrong, how users will interact with the system, and its integration with other critical information systems such as the shipping and accounting software.

Website analytics and market research data about competitors, users, and trends will answer many questions about the market and its consumers. Data will provide insight into what consumers expect from an online ordering system. Discussion with management revealed their list of initial requirements for the online ordering system as follows (McCracken, n.d.):

  • Must be able to order multiple items at varying quantities
  • Must collect complete customer information
  • Allow the customer to create an account
  • Calculate order cost including tax
  • Offer payment via credit card or PayPal
  • Debit the ordered items from inventory
  • Offer multiple choices for shipping

While those requirements are straightforward and valuable, additional questions should be asked to managers, the security team, and any staff interacting with the online ordering system for a more thorough understanding of requirements. These questions include the following:

  1. Can the users check out as guests, or will each require an account? The development team will need to consider how the organization will store and handle guest information.
  2. What is the refund process for online orders? Understanding how customers will return items and be refunded will help development in this new online ordering system.
  3. The shopping cart will hold and transact using sensitive information; how will this information be secured? 
  4. Will the online store be strictly e-commerce, or will it be part of the website with pages supporting other parts of the business?  This will influence security, privacy measures, and the design and development of the new system (Callahan, n.d.).
  5. Will the system need to calculate different tax rates for other states and countries? Depending on where the distribution warehouse(s) are located, there may be a need for custom coding or a plugin to support multiple tax rates. 
  6. Is there a current customer relationship management (CRM) platform and email marketing host? Integrations will be a critical part of planning, so building customer relationships is essential to development.
  7. How many product categories are there, and how many products are under each category? Hundreds of products versus dozens will affect development time, and understanding the breadth and depth of the database needs will help determine server requirements.

Some required items can be labeled as “must-have,” and others could be marked as “nice-to-have” for HPS’s new business-to-consumer (B2C) online ordering system.  Using information provided by management and the above additional questions, Table 1 lists an initial set of requirements for the new system, categorized as either “Need” or “Request.” The “Need” items are weighted as most essential because they protect both the consumer and the organization, and those under “Request” are weighted as important in version 1 but not vital to operations (Valacich & George, 2020). Regardless, all items on the list in Table 1 are recommended for version 1 of the online ordering system launch:

Table 1

List of “Must-Have” and “Nice-to-Have” Requirements

List of Requirements for HPS Online Ordering System
NeedsRequests
Privacy and security from search to transactionMembership area for customer profiles and shopping history
Dynamic ordering capabilities (multiple items and quantities)Multiple shipping options
Multi-state and international tax calculationsCRM and email integration
Payment gateways for credit card and PayPal processingMulti-page or multi-site setup
Debit sold items from inventory 
Offer returns and refunds – credit to inventory when received 
Integration with shipping and accounting system 
Fast hosting and server speed for high traffic expectations 

Note: Information in this table was gathered and summarized from the following references: Callahan, M. (n.d.). The 21 questions all agencies should ask e-commerce clients [PDF Slides]. WP Engine and Saucal. https://wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/WP-EBK-21Questions-v04a.pdf and Valacich, J. S., & George, J. F. (2020). Modern systems analysis and design (9th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.

Economic Feasibility Analysis

Before initiating the online ordering system development project, it is important to assess its economic feasibility; that is, determining the costs and benefits of the system.  According to Valacich & George (2020), techniques used to evaluate economic feasibility usually include the time value of money (TVM), which states that money today is worth more than it will be tomorrow (p. 118). The net present value (NPV) calculates the time value of money.  Costs and benefits are analyzed based on their current value. The following has been provided by management:

  • Expected revenue/cash flow = $185,000 per year
  • One-time cost = $275,000
  • Recurring costs = $85,000 per year
  • Discount rate = 12%
  • Timeline = 5-year time horizon

The formula to calculate the net present value (NPV) includes adding each year’s present value (PV) in the time horizon.  A standard NPV formula is cash flow /(1+i)t – initial investment (Jagerson, 2021). The i element is the discount rate, and t represents the time.  Table 2 calculates these values for HPS on the Economic Feasibility Spreadsheet. 

Figure 1

Economic Feasibility Spreadsheet for Hullabaloo Party Supplies Online Ordering

Note: This is a screenshot of the spreadsheet. Format adapted from figure on page 119 in Valacich & George’s (2020) Modern systems analysis and design.

The Return on Investment

Determining the economic feasibility of a project means looking at the costs and benefits from several angles.  The return on investment (ROI) is a popular metric used to determine if the project’s cost is financially worth the investment (Valacich & George, 2020).  There are two forms of ROI—anticipated and actual, and this project focuses on calculating the anticipated measurement (Stobierski, 2020). The most common ROI formula is (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100, but the project management formula breaks it down further to [(Financial Value – Project Cost) / Project Cost] x 100 (Stobierski, 2020). As noted in Table 2 above, the positive ROI for the HPS online ordering system is 15%, which means the project is a sound financial decision. 

The Break-Even Point

The break-even point is used to determine when (if ever) the investment and costs equal the benefits received (Valacich & George, 2020).  In the spreadsheet above, this point was calculated by subtracting the PV of recurrent costs from the PV of the benefits for each year.  Then, the overall NPV cash flow was calculated by subtracting the NPV of all benefits from the NPV of all costs. The break-even point was measured by the first positive overall NPV cash flow, occurring between years three and four.  Using the first year of positive cash flow, the exact break-even point was calculated at 3.548 years. 

Development Methodology: Agile-Focused Hybrid

The list of requirements can be broken down into smaller tasks and completed in two- or four-week sprints.  A primarily agile approach to project management is recommended, given the development team’s familiarity with the methodology.  Some tasks will need to be completed before others; therefore, some aspects of the traditional waterfall method, like focusing on milestone deliverables, make this another valuable development method to consider for this project (Valacich & George, 2020). Given the growth of e-commerce technologies, this is not likely to be a long project that requires too much custom code; therefore, this is another reason agile methodologies would be most beneficial for this project’s development. 

Specifically, the most practical elements of an agile approach are its focus on collaboration, user experience, and adaptability to changes through the implementation and testing phases (Valacich & George, 2020).  A hybrid solution for project development will be the most effective and efficient way to move forward with the online ordering system. Now that the project’s requirements, economic feasibility, and development methodology have been established, it is time to consider the implementation, testing and training plans.

Implementation Plan

The implementation or development phase is the next step in the systems development process.  It is the fourth phase of the SDLC cycle and includes six major activities, including (1) coding, (2) testing, (3) installation, (4) documentation, (5) training, and (6) support (Valacich & George, 2020, pg. 440). The purpose of this phase is to take the requirements gathered, analyzed, and designed in the previous three phases and make it into a working, functional, and reliable ordering system (Valacich & George, 2020). Using an agile-waterfall hybrid methodology, the development team will start with an implementation plan that outlines significant development milestones for the online ordering system. 

The implementation plan’s milestones will start with installing the proper software to begin design on the ordering system.  For Hullaballoo Party Supplies, the organization will be using WooCommerce for its customization factors, modular system, consumer familiarity, search engine quality, and robust features (Why WooCommerce, 2019). Once WooCommerce is installed, implementation will focus on the core design and setup. Integration with the payment processor and the CRM, accounting, and inventory systems is critical in these early development stages to test for major bugs in transactions. 

Following integrations, products will be entered, taxes set up, accessibility activated, shipping options created and integrated with the new shipping system, and refund policies defined.  Any custom coding will be performed in short sprints with walk-through and regular testing to ensure optimal efficiency in development (Valacich & George, 2020). A heavy emphasis is placed on high-quality documentation throughout this process to assist in project management, future development, training, and maintenance (Valacich & George, 2020).  

Testing and Training Plan

Regular testing of the system’s performance is done throughout the initial installation process described above.  Once all major functionality conditions have been met in the implementation phase, it is time to move into testing the system and training users before launching the store to the public on a large scale. There are seven types of tests for software, all of which fall under either a static or dynamic type (Valacich & George, 2020).  The ones used for Hullaballoo’s online ordering system include unit testing, integration testing, and systems testing.

Unit, integration, and system testing plans were chosen for practicality as the organization will use a software-as-a-service platform that requires very little custom code and development.  These tests will help developers experiment with the system’s independent and collective parts, such as placing an order, placing an order with multiple quantities, going back in the system, choosing a shipping option, issuing a refund, and completing a transaction (Valacich & George, 2020). These tests should be reviewed in individual, integrative, and system-wide use cases. Use cases will be planned in the early days of the implementation process.   

Once system testing is complete, acceptance testing with alpha and beta groups will be required to evaluate the system from an internal and external perspective (Valacich & George, 2021). Good documentation will assist the alpha group of internal users outside the testers, and emphasis on quality documentation through this testing process is encouraged for later training. Beta testing will include a system release to a small group of customers for testing and analysis (Alpha Testing, 2021). The data from these tests will alert developers to any problems with the system so that corrections can be made before the system’s final launch.

It will be important to keep management apprised of the system’s development.  This will be done through testing plans and documentation.  There are many elements included in a master test plan.  A few essential components of the plan documentation will consist of the following items (Test plan tutorial, 2021; Valacich & George, 2020):

  • An introduction with description, objectives, and testing methods, along with supporting documents to share core data on the testing environment.
  • Testing scope and expectations to document the purpose for the system and testing.
  • Case numbers and dates for tracking and historical reference.
  • Roles and responsibilities of the development and testing team for accountability and measurement.

Installing a versatile and dynamic ordering system is the easy part of Hullaballoo’s system implementation and testing phase.  The systems analyst will need to train users on the new ordering system (Valacich & George, 2020).  Training for customers can be delegated to the marketing department.  Training for internal users should include a combination of quality documentation, user reference guides, video tutorials, and online training for the more complicated tasks such as running and downloading reports and adding new products (Valacich & George, 2020). 

In closing, the requirements, economic feasibility, and project planning have been completed for the online ordering system at Hullabaloo Party Supplies.  Given the requirements and budgetary considerations, the company would greatly benefit from the use of WooCommerce—an open-source software-as-a-service—given its robust functionality and features (Why WooCommerce, 2019). With the positive net present value, return on investment, and fair break-even point, this system is a financially sound decision and can move forward into the project planning stages (Jagerson, 2021). 

The implementation plan includes six core tasks, but most of the production will be spent setting up the platform for the company’s specific needs. Testing will be done throughout the implementation process.  Acceptance testing with internal and external users will be done before the final launch to the public. Users will be trained with extensive documentation, a user reference guide, video tutorials, and online learning materials (Valacich & George, 2020).  As with most information systems projects, plan adaptability will play a role in the project’s successful launch. Some of these plan items may need to be updated after initiating the project.

References

Alpha Testing and Beta Testing. (2021, September 26). Software Testing Help. Retrieved on October 6, 2021, from https://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/what-is-alpha-testing-beta-testing/

Callahan, M. (n.d.). The 21 questions all agencies should ask ecommerce clients [PDF Slides]. WP Engine and Saucal. https://wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/WP-EBK-21Questions-v04a.pdf

Jagerson, J. (2021, January 16). What Is the Formula for Calculating Net Present Value (NPV)? Investopedia. Retrieved on September 10, 2021, from https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/032615/what-formula-calculating-net-present-value-npv.asp

McCracken, D. (n.d.). Portfolio Project: Option #1 Hullabaloo Party Supplies customer order system. [Assignment Notes].  Colorado StateUniversity-Global via Canvas LMS.  Accessed October 6, 2021.

Stobierski, T. (2020, May 20). How to calculate ROI to justify a project. Harvard Business School Online. Retrieved on September 9, 2021, from https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/how-to-calculate-roi-for-a-project

Test plan tutorial: A guide to write a software test plan document from scratch. (2021, September 26). Software Testing Help. Retrieved on October 6, 2021, from https://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/how-to-write-test-plan-document-software-testing-training-day3/

Valacich, J. S., & George, J. F. (2020). Modern systems analysis and design (9th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.

Why WooCommerce? (2019, June 27). WooCommerce. Retrieved on October 6, 2021, from https://woocommerce.com/features/

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