This assignment is intended to provide practice writing an internal proposal and formatting a report with sections, headlines and visual aids.
Great Slate, a medium-sized slate flooring and finishes company, is located in Castleton, VT. Great Slate maintains more than a thousand customers who order slate products as often as weekly or as infrequently as three or four times per year.
You are the new office manager at the company, and you have only been on the job for 3 months. However, during that period of time, you have already noticed a problem with the workflow involving the accounting department, and a related expense. Over the past 6 weeks, you have observed, researched and collected some statistical information (see “Background Statistics”).
Great Slate’s billing process is based on proprietary software and requires invoices to be physically printed (there is no digital option) in order to for orders to be considered fully “booked” in accounts receivable. Accounting has one employee responsible for printing and preparing the paper invoices to be mailed. Also, the company has only one printer dedicated to this purpose as well as all the other printing needs for the department. The printer is several years old, prints slowly and gets jammed rather easily. The situation has all of the accounting employees under a lot of stress, especially given that the department was recently downsized, with the work that used to be done by the eliminated employee still not completely integrated. The other accounting employees have fewer printing needs and often blame the employee dedicated to invoicing for all the printer’s problems. You have even witnessed heated arguments over whose turn it is to fix the jammed printer.
Meanwhile, for the small percentage of customers who demand electronic invoices, the company still uses a 20-year-old flatbed scanner for converting print documents into PDFs. Most invoices are more than one page long. The scanner can scan only one page at a time in a cumbersome process, meaning that the employee responsible for invoicing must create multi-page PDFs first by retrieving the single-page scans from a folder on the company server, then combining them using Adobe Acrobat at his workstation. And, this employee has told you that every month, several existing customers request to change their invoices to PDFs, adding to this “hassle.”
As it is, Great Slate is spending several thousands of dollars annually on postage and envelopes, mailing invoices. It has occurred to you that if your company were to offer to email PDFs of invoices to most customers, Great Slate would benefit significantly from the cost savings, as well as in other ways. (Note, however, that some companies will still require printed and mailed invoices.) The problem is the current, time-consuming manner of creating PDFs.
The most efficient solution you see is to convert the billing program to allow invoices to be output as PDFs and automatically emailed to the customer contacts in the system. However, you recognize that making this conversion is not something that can take place overnight, and would have to be planned out months in advance, run in parallel as a test for a period of time, and then finally implemented. Still, you see the value of starting to convert customers to electronic invoicing immediately. Each conversion saves $0.60 per invoice that is not mailed. You have also done some research on how many customers receiving paper invoices will accept PDF invoices, and how quickly.
For the short term during which the management will consider the conversion, and then, if agreeable to it, plan, test and implement it – you have a short term solution that would both alleviate the printing and scanning problems, and also start to build the list of customers favoring PDF invoices: leasing a new, top-of-the-line printer/copier/scanner/fax machine. You have researched and found the one machine that best fits the company’s needs, and you suspect that the cost for the monthly lease – a new expense for the company – can be financed in large part or even more by the savings from the postage during the lease period.
When you brought this up with your manager, the head of personnel, she asked you to research various solutions for both the operational and financial problems, and to write up a proposal to the upper management, which includes the president, vice president/CFO (the accounting department reports to him) and the vice president/COO (chief operations officer).
Following are some numbers relevant to your proposal.
Print rate (black and white only) for current printer: 6 pages/min.
Average number of significant printer jams per week: 12
Average amount of time to fix a printer problem: 15 min.
Average amount of time to scan a multi-page invoice: 8 min.
Average amount of time to compile a multi-page PDF: 2 min.
Average number of envelopes used (mailed) per month: 1,000
Average cost of envelopes per month: $50 (current rate at $0.05 each)
Average cost of postage per month: $550 (current rate at $0.55 each)
Average amount of time to prepare an invoice for mailing: 6 seconds
Estimated percentage of customers accepting PDF invoices (based on similar companies’ conversions):
after 1 month and contact: 20%
after 2 months and contacts: 40%
after 3 months and contacts: 80% (estimated maximum)
Extremely Important Details
Monthly lease/maintenance cost to lease the machine: $150 per month for a six-month lease.
You are to use this amount no matter what your own research finds, even if it’s less to buy a similar machine. Everyone in the class must use $150 per month for the lease expense. Also, a lease such as this would include a maintenance package, should any service be required.
Original Research Requirements
You are to do some Internet research to find an actual printer/copier/scanner/fax machine. One that fits the bill is sufficient; there is no need to offer a comparison in that section. Make note of the manufacturer and brand, and the specifications relevant to your research (printing colors and speed, scanning rate and scanned PDF delivery). Again, do not use the actual cost online to lease or even buy the machine. Everyone is to use $150 per month for a six-month lease, including maintenance package, with an option to renew.
Write a proposal to the upper management of Great Slate, suggesting that the company convert to electronic (PDF) invoicing. This would be a two-stage process. The first stage involves leasing the printer/copier/scanner/fax and beginning to convert customers to accept PDF invoices. The second stage involves converting the proprietary accounts receivable software to a new system, which can “print” invoices directly to PDF and automatically email them to customers.
Organize your proposal into the following sections, all of which (except for the introduction and conclusion) should have headings or headlines:
Introduction: In a short paragraph, get the readers’ attention by stating the main problem first, and then briefly offering the solution, stated generally. Consider using one detail to illustrate the problem.
Background/Problem Situation: In a number of paragraphs, detail the specific problems related to entire invoicing process. Use information from both the “Scenario” description and the “Background Statistics” to make the case for a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
Proposed Solution: In a couple of paragraphs, detail the two-stage solution, with most attention paid to the short-terms solution, leasing the machine to alleviate the printing and scanning issues. Here is where you name the machine from your research and report on its relevant statistics. For the second part of the solution, describe briefly your suggestion to change the accounting software.
Financial Benefits: Create a table that shows exactly what will happen financially if the company both commits to converting customers to PDF invoicing and also leases the machine. The table should compare the finances of doing nothing to the predicted finances of converting/leasing, which involves both the monthly lease cost and the postage savings. Thus, you are comparing an unchanging postage amount only (doing nothing) to the sum of the monthly lease plus the reducing cost of postage over time (along the 20-40-80% schedule). Carry out both totals over six months. Your aim is to demonstrate that it makes financial sense to go ahead with this plan (the conversion and lease, at least). There should also be a brief paragraph supporting the table. Savvy students will be able to think of one or two more additional financial benefits beyond the savings demonstrated in the table.
Operational and Other Benefits: Write a number of brief paragraphs that detail the other, non-financial benefits to implementing the plan, including, for example, improved morale within the accounting department. There are a number of others in addition to that, especially if and when the second stage of the plan is implemented. You need to think everything through to see them.
Timeline and Employees Involved: In a brief paragraph detail which employees will be directly involved (including you, as office manager) with implementing the first stage of the plan (converting customers to PDF invoicing and leasing the machine) as well as the relevant time frame. In a second brief paragraph, comment more broadly or generally on the second stage of the plan (converting the accounting software), as you will not be directly involved.
Evidence of Ability to Deliver: Briefly reiterate how all of your information is accurate and can be trusted, and also briefly vouch (again) for the machine to be leased as well as the lease/maintenance agreement.
Conclusion: Politely urge the readers to strongly consider taking immediate action for this plan, with a couple of sentences that recall your strongest evidence.
You are required to include the table mentioned above, and may also include one additional, well-chosen visual aid.
All together, this proposal should involve at least four single-spaced pages.
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