Students undertake 4 phases of development conducted throughout the term i.e. the executive summary, the business plan, the technical design and finally an implementation plan. Subsequently, they give presentations to the executives (AKA the faculty committee of the program) and turn in their final project plan.
Goal: To develop business case writing skills; to understand how to approach problem solving in a business environment rather than as a purely technical exercise. Finally, to improve presentation skills, and learn the importance of addressing business challenges in both for-profit and non-profit environments.
This capstone seminar in information systems requires students to create a fictional company, identify a problem and propose a solution. The end result are project/business plan documents (max 25 pages, written in business style rather than as academic papers) and PowerPoint or other presentation materials. The latter are also the accumulated artifacts derived from the various presentations given throughout the term.
The seminar holds an on-site weekend where student groups work together for 2.5 days on these projects. Instructors provide ad-hoc lectures on topics arising during this phase of the course, allow groups to give practice presentations and receive feedback, and generally encourage wide participation.
- Students are provided with a guiding document at the beginning of the term (see handout) outlining the steps required for producing their capstone presentation and document.
- Next, students produce initial individual ideas and publish them on the course's Canvas website. Afterward, they are responsible for self forming into groups of 3-5 people.
- Students are responsible for forming themselves into a business unit or independent company in order to complete the capstone activity.
- The students initially produce an executive summary outlining the problem and solution they intend to address, and are required to present this to the "C-level" executives from the client or parent company for whom they're developing the solution.
- Following this, they produce a business plan, technical design, and finally an implementation plan outlining the end result and stable state of the final project.
- At each stage students must deliver that section of the document to the C-level (the instructor and TAs) for review/grading, and also give an in-class presentation for that section of the document. All students are encouraged to provide feedback, assist them in developing their ideas, and otherwise participate in the process.
- The instructor advises educators to develop a separate "C-level" persona (for instance the image of Dilbert's boss, or "PHB") and tell the students that, as they're developing their project plan/business case, they should be thinking of what that C-level's requirements and needs are.
- The instructor also proposes that the teaching team creates a fictitious company and have the student teams "report" to that company.
- A key success factor, according to the instructor, is making the entire process as interactive and businesslike as possible in order to keep the students engaged. Also, making sure the teams are interacting and giving each other feedback.
Submitted by Richard Joltes, Information Systems