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From the new vehicle arrival notification letters to the customer, until after the delivery follow up procedure, all were produced and controlled inside the system. The delivery follow up procedure is one of the most important points of customer satisfaction.
A different module inside the system was the intelligence reporting analysis tool. The reporting tool concentrates data from different resources within the company and with a data mining procedure prepares a final new database cube which gives the opportunity to show reports in different dimensions. Before this tool was available, about two working days were needed to prepare the monthly reports for Daimler A.G, but after the implementation of the Intelligence Reporting Analysis Tool it is possible to complete all the reports in 30 seconds.
It was an automation solution consolidating all relevant quality programmes into a single comprehensive system. This allows validation and support efforts to be shared organisation-wide. It provided maximum flexibility without the need for vendor intervention, external consultants, or additional programming. The intuitive nature of the solution reduced training time, which resulted in a rapid return on investment at a remarkably low total cost of running of the quality system. The 'paperless' solution included predefined workflows and core business processes that users can either modify or use to create completely new workflows. The system also incorporates full electronic activity recording and distribution features, including response receipt and tracking.
DPS 4561: Planning a Practitioner Research Programme
This module has given me a solid literature background in the area of business performance, and connected my professional experience with the deep academic knowledge and understanding of the current theories and practices. I have, in addition, expanded my research capability with new research approaches and techniques, which I had not used in the past. I have developed a clearer understanding as to which ones I will use for my research project.
Furthermore, it helped me develop a significant and carefully planned research proposal for my research project. The final research proposal fulfils my aim to provide information about the theoretical and practical ways in which, in my opinion, this research should be conducted.
1.1 Environmental Context
Cyprus is a Eurasian Island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is located at the East Mediterranean basin, 75 km south of Turkey, 105 km west of Syria, 380 km north of Egypt, 380 km east of Rhodes (Greece). The maximum length of the island is 224 km from east to west and the maximum width is 96 km from north to south. The total area of Cyprus is 9,251 km2, of which approximately 18% is covered by forests. The Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960. Since 1974 the northern part of Cyprus is occupied by Turkish troops, following a coup on the island backed by the military junta then in power in Greece. As the island remains divided approximately 36% of its territory is not under the control of the Government. The northern part of the island refers to itself as "The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (TRNC). It is not recognized by the UK, EU or the UN or any other country except Turkey. The Administrative Districts are Lefkosia (partly occupied), Ammochostos (mainly occupied), Lemesos, Pafos, Larnaca and Kyreneia (occupied) (Cyprus Government portal, 2010). The Republic of Cyprus is a member of the European Union since May 1st 2004 and has adopted the Euro as its national currency since January 2008 (Trade & Investment UKTI, 2010).
As shown Figure 1:1 the population residing within the geographical boundaries controlled by the Republic of Cyprus is estimated at 8.03 hundred of thousands at the end of 2009, with 6.51 hundred of thousands vehicles reaching one private saloon car for less than 2 people (Statistical Service of Cyprus, 2010).
Figure 1:1. Analysis of population, numbers of vehicles, persons per private saloon car in Republic of Cyprus. (from Statistical Service of Cyprus, 2010)
The demand for buying a vehicle has risen significantly over the last seven years according the figure 1:1 above. Taking into account passenger cars, there are different reasons that influence people to buy a car. It is not only need for transportation, but others have gained significant relevance. Cars have become an element of style through which their owners can express their individuality and their economic status. The important reductions on 2003 and 2006 of import duty on vehicles based to the vehicle's age, cubic capacity of the engine and reduction or increase of excise duties according to the mass of their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (Department of Customs and Excise, 2006).
1.2 Financial crisis of 2007
The financial crisis which started in 2007 has caused a global economic downturn. This has resulted in at first falling economic growth rates followed by a real economic decline in many countries. The automotive industry is one of the sectors that have been most hit by the economic crisis. According to the latest Statistical Service of Cyprus the negative impact of the economic crisis on the Cyprus economy was evident in 2009, with most sectors of the economy being adversely affected. This was especially the case for tourism, construction and trade. This is reflected in the 1, 7% contraction of GDP in 2009, compared with an increase of 3, 6% in 2008. These negative developments also carried through to the first quarter of 2010, with GDP contracting by 2, 4% compared with the first quarter of 2009. (Statistical Service of Cyprus, 2010). During this period, first priority was to examine the feasibility of reducing expenses and to find solutions to increase the cash flow with daily reporting about a realistic picture of organisation's financial situation. Priorities have been changed during the face of the global financial crisis. As a result from this situation, the financial crisis changes the thinking about organisational goals and strategies in light of the current situations. With the experiences of this financial downturn, it must to take into consideration a variety of factors to effectively deal with the situation that it has not taken into consideration before. It is indicative to mention that during an interview on 15th December 2008, Christensen (2008) states about financial crisis that 'in an environment where you've got to push innovations out the door fast and keep the cost of innovation low, the probability that you'll be successful is actually much higher'. Eventually, the financial crisis will end, and our organisation will recover. The situation of the financial crisis makes this research project absolutely necessary for the host organisation, as it is needed to be more effective and flexible in broadcasting its strategy and goals. The organisation has placed in high priority the development of efficient, yet cost-effective management processes. Within this orientation, efficient and cost-effective monitoring and measurement of performance in marketing and sales has also received increased attention.
1.3 Host Organisation
The CYPRUS IMPORT CORPORATION LTD (name in short CIC Ltd or plain CIC), was established in 1951 and commenced operations as a general trading company. In 1955 was appointed as the Sole General Distributor in Cyprus for all Mercedes-Benz vehicles at a time when this prestigious brand had no presence whatsoever on the Island. Figure 1:2 shown the contract which had been signed in 11th of March, 1955 by the first owner of the organisation Mr Economides.
Figure 1:2. Contract between the Mercedes-Benz and Cyprus Import Corpotation. (from archive of CIC Ltd)
Figure 1:3. The first building of the organisation in Nicosia.
It's right marketing approach and best possible after sales service on behalf of CIC took only a few years to establish Mercedes-Benz as the peoples' choice in Cyprus. Mercedes-Benz is among the top-selling luxury brands in Cyprus.
In 1964 was a landmark year for the future expansion of the company as all operations moved to the newly built 3.300 m2 own premises in Nicosia. Having undergone modernization and extension to 7.350 m2, this building still houses the Head Office and Central Warehouse, as well as a workshop.
Despite the severe consequences of the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation CIC expanded to Limassol, the second largest town, then to Larnaca and Paphos thus by 1992 establishing its presence in all major towns of the free part of Cyprus.
In early 2004 Daimler A.G entrusted the distributorship of the Smart to CIC, the functions of which were incorporated in the Automotive Division, which still remains the main activity of the CIC Group. At the same time CIC is acquired in management buyout from original founders. The management buy-in had been led by the General Manager, Mr Kyriakides with the cooperation of the managers of the different departments of the organisation. It ensures the smooth continuation of the business, because the transfer of management is to people who have a good understanding of the company.
In the midst of the global financial crisis which is affecting the international market and especially the automotive, the Cyprus Import Corporation remained unchanged to its goal, which is non other than its commitment to add value to the products and services it provides, create opportunities to its employees and to contribute to the growth of the Cypriot society to which it belongs. The completion of the new Mercedes-Benz and Smart showroom in Nicosia as shown figure 1:4 in 2010 once again proves the focus and dedication towards of the Vision of the organisation which is to be the number one provider of quality products and services in the business areas we are working in. The facility is showroom with a total area of 1.300 m2, office space of 270 m2, a workshop for simultaneous repair of 7 vehicles and with provision for expanding to 15, a spare parts warehouse and an underground parking for 30 vehicles with a total area of 1.300 m2.
Figure 1:4. New Mercedes-Benz and Smart showroom in Nicosia
Always having man as the main core and showing its faith in the Cyprus Economy and to its recovery, company did not freeze their business activities. Within this anthropocentric culture which describes the Cyprus Import Corporation and despite the dramatic drop in sales with the global financial crisis, it did not proceed with any layoffs but on the contrary it continued to hire more people reaching to a total of 270 employees by December 2009 compared to 256 of the same month the previous year.
At the same time, ignoring all ominous predictions of the consequences and the length of the financial crisis, it prudently proceeded to the growth of the Group with the buyout of Demades Bros Ltd., thus acquiring the dealership for Fiat, Alfa Romeo and soon to come Fiat Abarth and Lancia. A move which in this time period could have been seen as high risk, but they dealt with it as the natural development and continuing growth of our Group. With this buyout it welcomed with pleasure in the family all 55 employees who work there, thus increasing the total of employees in the Group to 325. As the president of the organisation stated on his speech at the opening of the new showroom in Nicosia 'the Cyprus Import Corporation is evolving and expanding, providing the consumer of this country the kind of service which lives up to its standards and reputation, something we should all be proud of'.
The organisation, as shown in Figure 1:5, has a showroom and after-sale facility in convenient locations in all of Cyprus.
Figure 1:5 Cyprus Import Corporation network.
The following flowchart presents the structure of the Sales & Marketing department of the organisation and the position which has been held by the author.
Figure 1:6. Flowchart of the organisation
1.4 Format of the Project
The proposed research will define a conceptual framework to identify, define, associate and track performance indicators for effective monitoring of strategy to process linkage. To accomplish the research aim, the following objectives have been identified. A literature review will be conducted. Based on literature review, models, frameworks and approaches that can be used to manage and measure business performance in Mercedes Benz -Cyprus will be identified. Factors for measuring and managing business performance in Mercedes - Benz Cyprus will be outlined. Stakeholders, who will be involved in the procedure of measuring and managing the business performance in Mercedes - Benz Cyprus, will be selected. The proposed performance measurement approach will be evaluated within the specific organisation. The scope and format of the outcome of this research will be used as a roadmap for implementing the suggested performance monitoring and measuring framework. The proposed process of deriving the proposed performance monitoring and management system will be investigated whether it may be used by other organisations. As O'Leary (2004) states that 'defying well-articulated research questions is an important part of the process because it defines the project, sets boundaries, and provides directions. It is essential to be asked the following research questions:
Which are the theories, models, frameworks, and approaches of measuring and managing business performance?
Which models, frameworks and approaches can be used to manage and measure business performance in Mercedes Benz -Cyprus?
What are the factors we need to investigate measuring and managing business performance in Mercedes - Benz Cyprus?
Who will be involved in the procedure of measuring and managing the business performance in Mercedes - Benz Cyprus?
How effective are the possible solutions within the specific organisation?
What will be the scope and format of the outcome of this research so that it will be used as a roadmap for implementing the suggested performance monitoring and measuring system?
How the process of deriving the proposed performance monitoring and management system may be used by other organisations apart from Mercedes Benz Cyprus?
Based on these research questions the following the following research steps will be followed as shown in Figure 1:7.
Figure 1:7. Research steps.
The author within the post as Assistant Sales and Marketing Director and having the responsibility for Quality & Business Analysis for the Mercedes - Benz Cyprus gained the authority for the necessary resources. As this project is part of the main tasks of the organisation, the impact on the work of stakeholders must be examined. It is essential to ensure that the involved people have the necessary tools, materials, and work space to support their tasks. In addition, specialist, statisticians or computer programmers will not be used because as the author had presented in his review of Learning, he has been leading the design and development of a combination of business and information technology projects for Mercedes - Benz Cyprus.
This chapter presents and evaluates the research methodology for this project. Crotty (1998) illustrates four elements about the relations between method, methodology, theoretical perspective and epistemology which inform one another as depicted in figure 2:1.
Figure 2:1. Four elements (from Crotty, 1998)
Furthermore, Crotty (2003) states that 'assumptions about human knowledge can be traced through the choices we make in our respective responses to each of the four questions:
What methods do we propose to use?
What methodology governs our choice and use of methods?
What theoretical perspective lies behind the methodology in question?
What epistemology informs this theoretical perspective?'
Crotty (1998) defines that 'methods are the techniques or procedures used to gather and analyse data related to some research questions or hypothesis. Methodology is the strategy, plan of action, process or design lying behind the choice and the use of particular methods and linking the choice and use of methods to the desired outcomes. Theoretical perspective is the philosophical stance informing the methodology and thus providing a context. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge embedded in the theoretical perspective and thereby in the methodology'.
More specifically, the remaining of this chapter is structured as follows. Section 2.2 provides an analysis of the elements of the research methodology; section and the rationale for choice of the specific research design for this project; section 2:3 analysing the implementation research process step by step.
2.2 Elements of the research methodology
Epistemology can be understood as the science of analysing the way human beings comprehend knowledge about what is perceived to exist (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). Epistemology described from several authors as the possible ways of gaining knowledge of social reality, whatever it is understood to be expand this by asking how is knowledge generated, what criteria discriminate good knowledge from bad knowledge, and how should reality be represented or described (Blaikie, 2000; Chia, 2002; Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006)
Crotty (1998) suggests that we have three epistemological positions:
'Objectivism where knowledge exists whether we are conscious of it or not. It is foundationalist and absolute. Researchers with this position try to find causes, effects, and explanations. They try to predict events and test theories and hypotheses. And this stands in opposition to the other two positions which seek to understand and describe rather than explain.
Subjectivism may be defined as the view that comprehending human behavior consists solely in reconstructing the self-understandings of those engaged in performing them. To comprehend others is to understand their meaning of what they do and to understand this meaning is to understand them in their own terms.
Constructivism believes that social phenomena develop in particular social contexts. The concepts or practices in a particular context may seem obvious and natural but are actually artifacts of that context. Individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived social reality and this reality is ever evolving as social interactions occur.'
Given the nature of this research project the epistemology belongs to that of constructionism, not objectivism nor subjectivism. It focuses to construct how human beings they engage with the world they are interpreting. Constructionism claims that all meaningful realities that research subjects make sense of, will be contingent upon human practices; will be constructed from interaction between human beings and their world; and will be developed and transmitted within an essentially social context (Crotty, 1998; Hammersley & Atkinson, 1995). The basic contention of the constructionism argument is that reality is socially constructed by and between the persons who experience it (Gergen, 1999). It is a consequence of the context in which the action occurs and is shaped by the cultural, historical, political, and social norms that operate within that context and time: And that reality can be different for each of us based on our unique understandings of the world and our experience of it (Berger & Luckman, 1966). All staff of the Sales & Marketing department need to be involved and encouraged to participate in this project. They must be aware of their responsibilities and the benefits of this project. The internal communication and the feedback from all the staff are vital to the evolution of the cultural change of the business performance in the organisation. There a positive relationship between employee and business performance as Welch (2001) states that 'building good people led to people building good products and services and, by implication, successful businesses'.
In contrast objectivism theoretical perspective is not suitable for this project as suggests that truth and meaning reside in their objects, independent of any human consciousness (Bourdieu, 1990). Additionally subjectivism is not fitted in this research that goes to the other extreme by believing only in human consciousness (Adorno, 1983).
2.2.2 Theoretical perspective
Theoretical perspectives can be separated with the following four different categories. Post-positivism states that absolute truth can never be found. The term 'Positivism' has applied to conventional approach to research which incorporates methods and principles of natural science for the study of human behaviour (Burns, 2000). It includes a fairly sharp distinction between theory and research and includes elements of both deduction and induction (Bryman & Teevan, 2005). Positivism is suitable for quantitative research and also had a particularly successful association with the physical and natural sciences.
Interpretivism is where humans make sense of the world based on their historical and social perspective. Participatory is dialectical and is focused on bringing about change in practices. Pragmatism is not committed to any one system of philosophy or reality. Researchers have freedom of choice to select procedures that best meet their needs. The research aims included different elements which were influenced by human beings in this research project.
This research project is conducted within the interpretivist approach as the social world, and the study of it, is fundamentally different from the natural world. Furthermore, it is not consider there to be one single, objective truth that can be found and explained, thus both the positivist and realist approaches are not appropriate. Development and implementation issues for managing sales performance depends from the social world, type of business, consisting of humans within changing contexts and situations, can be examined through a variety of methods that seek to understand the structure of the social world and the institutions and human relationships within it. Crotty (2007) states that 'interpretivism was conceived in reaction to the effort to develop a natural science of the social'. Its foil was largely logical empiricist methodology and bid to apply that framework to human enquiry'. The study of phenomena in their natural environment is key to the interpretivist philosophy and is suitable for this research project as doing research within the host organization. The focus of the researcher is on understanding the meanings and interpretations of 'social actors' and to understand their world from their point of view, is highly contextual and hence is not widely generalisable (Saunders et. al, 2007). The close relationship of the researcher and the researched in this theoretical perspective, and the risk that any understanding is framed within the approach of the researcher means that actions must be introduced to avoid bias. The acknowledgement that scientists cannot avoid affecting those phenomena they study underlying personal bias, can render disadvantages to this type of research. It is essential to examine ways of critical thinking about the processes, relationships with the stakeholders, and the quality and richness of the data and analysis. It is normal to raise different reaction from the stakeholders as this project will increase their responsibilities. Using the training will give them opportunities to recognise the new concept of the measurement and management of sales performance in the organisation.
The methodologies most often used by interpretivist researchers include qualitative analysis, exploratory analysis, induction, field experiments, and idiographic experiments (Fitzgerald & Howcroft, 1998). It deals with actions, situations and consequences where aims to provide a strong and rich theoretical framework to the method of measure and manages business. By its nature, interpretivism promotes the value of qualitative data in pursuit of knowledge (Kaplan & Maxwell, 1994).
2.2.3 Research Strategy
The decision regarding research methodology used in work-based research was driven by the stated research questions. Six main research strategies which are outlined below set the frameworks of the different methodologies to answer the research questions. Action Research is suitable for improving our understanding in the study area, develop our learning and influence others' learning. As McNiff & Whitehead (2006) states Action Research 'has become increasingly popular around the world as a form of professional learning. Action research is suitable for improving our understanding in the study area, develop our learning and influence others' learning'. McNiff & Whitehead (2006) states about Action Research, 'it is not recommended if you want to draw comparisons to show statistical correlations, or demonstrate a cause and affect relationship'. It is difficult to generalise from action research.
The steps for the Research Action are described by Kumar (2005) with the figure 2:2.
Figure 2:2: Action research design (from Kumar, 2005)
In this approach the research cycle starts with an unmet need, analysing the data which are collected through a research process, suggesting potential changes, taking action to set up these changes.
Action Research is collaborative as Kumar (2005) states it 'is based upon a philosophy of community development that seeks the involvement of community members'. The action researcher is like a physician trying to help a patient (Cunningham, 2001). The rule of worker/ researcher as member of an organisation is to motivate the participants to their own change. Koshy (2005) states that 'Action research is a powerful and useful model for practitioner research because:
Research can be set within a specific context or situation;
Researchers can be participants - they don't have to be distant and detached from the situation;
Action research involves continuous evaluation and modifications can be made as the project progresses;
There are opportunities for theory to emerge from the research rather than always follow a previously formulated theory;
The study can lead to open-ended outcomes;
Through action research, the researcher can bring a story to life.'
On the other hand it is difficult to list many disadvantages:
It is time consuming and continuing, for example as collaborative method it is essential using interviews, which need time in the research.
It is not easy where there is not a set group of people.
It is based on the support of some participants
It is difficult to generalise from action research. It is focused on the research project and may not be safe to assume that other people or other systems can take action to set up the same changes.
Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is a way of analysing unstructured and poorly defined problems in real world (Lucey, 2004). It is developed by Checkland. As cited by Checkland & Scholes (1999) 'in the case of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) we have a cyclic methodology which is itself a systemic process, one which within its procedures happens to make use of models'. This method places its emphasis on the analysis of the problem before any action is taken. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is a way of analysing unstructured and poorly defined problems in real world (Lucey, 2004). This method places its emphasis on the analysis of the problem before any action is taken.
SSM is a comparison between the real life situation as it is, and as it might be. The stages for the SSM process are described by Checkland & Scholes (1999):
'Finding out and investigating the unstructured problem;
Expressing the problem situation;
Formulating root definitions, from what different perspectives we can look into this problem;
Building conceptual models;
Comparing models and perceived real world;
Debating defining changes;
SSM was developed to promote investigation of purposeful human activity (Flood & Carson, 1993). The SSM approach is efficient in cases where the problem situation does not have clear objectives. Because SSM deals with real-world situations, it needs to reflect real-world problems. Generally soft system analysis attempts to understand complexity, promote learning, identify weakness, and understand relationships.
Case Study as Dul & Hak (2007) state 'is a study which a case (single case study) or a small number of cases (comparative case study) - in their real life context are selected, and scores obtained from these cases are analysed in a qualitative manner.' For the work-based research, the case study comes from the organisation environment or other similar environment. Yin (1994) suggests that a case study 'investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are clearly evident'. Case studies have been criticised by some as lack of scientific rigour and reliability and that they do not address the issues of generalisability (Johnson, 1994). However, there are some strengths of case study. It enables the researcher to gain an holistic view of a certain phenomenon or series of events and can provide a round picture since many sources of evidence were used (Gummesson, 1991). Another advantage is that case study can be useful in capturing the emergent and immanent properties of life in organizations and the ebb and flow of organizational activity, especially where it is changing very fast (Hartley, 1994). Stake (1994) identifies three types of case study: 'intrinsic, when it is the case that is of particular interest; instrumental, when it is necessary to use the case to investigate or refine a theory, rather than just for the case itself; collective, when instrumental study is pursued in several cases, which may or may not have common characteristics'.
The experimental method is linked with the physical and social sciences. The major advantage of the experimental method is that it allows us to establish cause and effect (Dwyer, 2000). The Quasi-experiments are widely used in the work-based learning research project because when randomisation is impossible they are typically easier to set up than true experimental designs. Blaxter, et al., (2006) summarised the following advantages and disadvantages for the experimental method:
Through the random assignment of people to intervention and control groups (i.e. randomisation of extraneous variables) the risk of extraneous variables confounding the results is minimised.
The experiment is the only research design which can, in principle, yield causal relationships.
It is difficult to design experiments so as to represent a specified population.
It is often difficult to choose the 'control' variable so as to exclude all confounding variables.
Contriving the desired 'natural setting' in experiments is often not possible.'
Survey research is inherently interdisciplinary. Sampling and estimation procedures require knowledge of probability theory and statistics (Czaja & Blair, 2005). One of the most critical subjects in the Survey research is the Sampling Decisions. It must ensure that the sampling frame is not influenced by either or presenting different group of the population. Survey research is inherently interdisciplinary. Sampling and estimation procedures require knowledge of probability theory and statistics (Czaja & Blair, 2005). The five general stages of a survey as described by Czaja & Blair (2005) are:
'Survey design and preliminary planning;
Final survey design and planning;
Data coding, data-file construction, analysis, and final report'
As cited by Wimmer & Dominick (2005) surveys have several advantages and disadvantages.
They can be used to investigate problems in realistic settings.
The cost of surveys is reasonable when considers the amount of information gathered.
The internet is profoundly changing the way we communicate with one another. One of the most recent new uses of the World Wide Web is as a survey platform (Schonlaou et. al, 2001).
As all research methods have limitations the survey research method cannot provide direct evidence of causation.
Another disadvantage is that the respondents are inaccurate in the responds they provide.
Some survey research is becoming difficult to conduct.
The ethnographic approach involves the researcher participating, overtly or covertly, in people's daily lives for an extended period of time, watching what happens, listening to what is said, and/or asking questions through formal and informal interviews, collecting