Learning Outcome 1 – Understand negotiation in a business environment
In this report I have outlined the standard process of negotiation and the different approaches that could be taken, along with some skills needed to negotiate. I have also described several different tactics that could be used, as well as stating how advantageous they are in business.
1.1 Explain the importance of negotiation in a business environment
Negotiation is the process which two individuals or businesses go through to reach an outcome that is mutually beneficial, and this is done through either compromise or agreement. In business, negotiating could be concerned with buying/selling products or services, staffing, finance options or contracts. In an idealised situation, individuals will try to get the best outcome for their business; however, it is important to be able to compromise as this will help create close working relationships with other organisations; this is called a win-win situation.
In all business environments, there will be times where negotiation is needed, without it dissatisfaction or conflict may be created, and the main reason negotiation is used is to avoid this, and to reach agreements without causing communication barriers in future.
Negotiation is important as it enables individuals to build and maintain internal workplace relationships, as well as relationships between other businesses. It also makes a business more efficient, for example instead of spending long periods of time trying to force a person to do what you want, you can learn to reach agreements and find solutions that are beneficial for both. This means workflow can continue as normal and progress isn’t slowed; negotiation helps businesses operate more effectively and achieve organisational goals.
The standard negotiating process involves; preparing the meeting for the negotiation to take place and taking time to research the business, and how it can benefit your own organisation, as well as planning your approach/strategy. Each approach will depend on the opposite party and the deal you want to make with them. Next each party will discuss and clarify what they require and would like from the negotiation, as well as stating what they are willing to offer. During this stage, it is important to listen rather than challenge points as this will be advantageous to you when compromising. However, do ask questions concerning the clarity of what they are saying to avoid misunderstanding later. After this, each party (depending on their approach) will try to negotiate towards their intended outcome, most commonly this is the win-win outcome. This will often be done by compromising, and solving any issues encountered during the discussion. After whichever outcome has been agreed by both parties, each will have some sort of action to implement to complete the negotiation.
In my workplace, there are a few situations in which negotiation is used. As the administrator working on front desk, I am responsible for booking viewings for staff. However sometimes viewings are double-booked and therefore I must negotiate on behalf of a staff member in order to allow everyone to have a chance to go out to their viewings. To do this, I look at each staff member’s timetable and when they will be available for a viewing. I email them a range of alternative dates and times, and ask them if this would be suitable. In most cases, one viewing can be moved, and therefore both viewings are able to go ahead. When I email staff members about viewings, I aim to be as clear as possible in my emails to ensure there is no confusion, I do this by stating the date and time that was requested, and explaining why it cannot be booked; as well as identifying alternative dates. Clarity in my emails means booking the viewings won’t be delayed, and everyone involved is satisfied with the outcome. When an alternative date has been confirmed, I will email everyone involved confirming the final arrangements.
With this type of negotiation, I am taking an integrative approach which means both parties wanting to book the viewing (as well as me) will benefit from the negotiation; this is also known as a win-win situation. This is the best type of approach as everyone leaves the negotiation pleased with the outcome.
Another example of negotiation in my workplace uses the distributive approach as it focuses on sales. This occurs when the Agent’s wants to purchase stationery/office materials from an external supplier. This is a distributive approach as both parties are aiming to get the best for their respective businesses; also known as the win-lose situation.
The Agents will want the lowest prices as this will benefit them the most, to do this it is important to research and ask for quotes from several different companies for the product in question; the best offer will be the company offering the most products for the lowest price. Getting quotes is not only important for the lowest costs, but also for reaching out to businesses and making commercial relationships. In future this may lead to companies lowering their prices to keep trade.
On the other hand, the companies selling the product will try to get the most amount of money they can from their customer. This also involves carrying out research as it is important to know what their competitors’ prices are; as being over-priced or under-priced may lead to a loss in profits and a decrease in their customers. There are several ways sales companies negotiate, these include; bluffing about their baseline (how far they are willing to drop their prices) and using persuasive language such as flattery and statistics.
1.2 Explain the features and uses of different approaches to negotiation
Being a good negotiator is an important skill to have as it benefits both the individual and the business. However, the ability to negotiate involves many separate skills, these include; preparation, being analytical, being an active listener and being a good verbal communicator. Before a negotiation meeting, individuals must be prepared for any situation the opposite party may present and be able to counter opinions in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. It is important to be able to analyse issues that are to be discussed, as well as identifying ways in which both businesses can agree. Actively listening means being involved in the conversation with both verbal communication and body language; it is important to be attentive during conversation as this will help you find and identify possible areas of compromise. It is obvious good communication is needed during negotiation; however, it is important to remember to be clear and effective whilst speaking, and making sure your body language matches your verbal speech, for example individuals should look professional and interested in the conversation as unclear communication could lead to a misunderstanding within the negotiation and may mean it takes longer for an outcome to be made.
There a few different approaches to negotiation, and depending on the approach taken, the outcome will differ every time, some approaches include; distributive, compromise and integrative.
A distributive approach is when two parties try to claim the maximum amount for themselves; this is also known as a win-lose approach, as the intention is to “win” as much as possible. Distributive negotiation means there is a fixed amount of goods/resources which are divided between the two parties unequally. For example, from a sales point of view, the salesperson would try to bargain with the customer to get the highest value, whereas the customer will try to negotiate with them for the lowest price. This approach is competitive and is usually taken when there is unlikely to be another deal between the two parties; this means there is less concern about reputation and creating a relationship.
A compromise approach is where the two parties are more interested in creating a partnership and will settle for less than they asked for to avoid conflict. This is also called taking a soft approach or soft bargaining, where each party will agree to disagree and treat each other as friends to seek agreement as much as possible. Due to this, soft negotiators are often very open and easily trusting, especially when discussing their bottom line (the lowest offer they will take). The opposite of this approach is aptly called the hard approach where the two parties will not compromise and make threats during the negotiation, often using phrases such as “this is my final offer”. Hard negotiators will see each other as adversaries and are only interested in doing the best for themselves; this is like the distributive approach but is instead intentionally malicious. They will also use very aggressive negotiating tactics such as misleading the opposite party about their bottom line and pressuring them into giving unnecessary discounts as part of the deal. Despite the hostility created with taking a hard approach, it usually takes less time for a deal to be completed and can sometimes lead to an automatic win if one party has more power than the other. For obvious reasons, this negotiation approach is the most unappealing in business.
An integrative approach is also known as the win-win situation as it aims to find the best possible outcome which benefits both organisations equally; this is the most desirable approach to negotiating. This approach requires both sides to put more effort into understanding what each other expects from the negotiation, as well as being honest, sharing information and cooperating; doing so will help both organisations achieve what they want from the deal. Whilst preparing for the negotiation, it is important to try and orient yourself towards an integrative approach as this will provide the best progress for your business. Even though creating an integrative strategy for negotiating is important, it is also helpful to plan an alternative strategy in case the opposite party changes their mind during the negotiating and takes a different approach.
1.3 Identify the components of negotiation tactics
Taking different approaches to negotiation means there are also different tactics that can be used. It is important to learn tactics as it will be easier to recognise when they are being used and which counter tactics to use against the opposite party.
Depending on the approach taken, negotiation tactics can be fair or deceitful. Bribery is a very common tactic that is used not only in business, but in everyday life as well, for example parents may offer their children a small amount of money if they do a household chore. This tactic is useful in an integrative approach as it enables both parties to get what they want (the parent gets a clean house, and the child receives money). From a business point of view, the incentives could include bigger shares, information about a product or more advertising. Financial incentives within an organisation e.g. bonuses/promotions, can also lead to improved work performance as employees are more willing to do well knowing they will be rewarded for doing so; this is a simple tactic to implement and will yield good results. However, despite how unassuming bribery may seem, within an organisation or corporation, it can often lead to corruption and dishonesty especially within government bodies.
If making a deal forces you to compromise, one tactic that can be used is allowing the opposite party to think about potential possibilities by using questions such as “what if…” and “consider this…” Doing so gives them the opportunity to explore further options they possibly hadn’t thought of. This tactic could give both businesses a better deal, however it should be used carefully as many people go into negotiation confident about what they want and will be very narrow-minded about what they could have; meaning their consideration of possibilities is limited.
If you decide to take a hard approach to negotiate, there are several underhand tactics that could be used to pressure the other business into giving you what you want, although usually immoral, they are surprisingly successful. One way is intimidating the opposite party, this could be done by stating how qualified you are, comparing your credentials to theirs and taking a much more vociferous role in the negotiation. Although not deliberately aggressive, this tactic works as individuals are more likely to give in and agree with you if they believe you are better qualified. Another tactic is refusing to continue the negotiation until a concession has been given, for example businesses will ask for bigger discounts before continuing the discussion on their side of the deal. This tactic is mainly used when one side has given more than the other, and is therefore asking for an equal amount before continuing. As a last stand, businesses can also attack each other with violent threats, such as threats to sue; this demonstrates individuals will go to great lengths to get what they want. This tactic is generally too unpredictable to know whether it will be successful every time; for example, fear and intimidation may make a business relent and cooperate, or it could do the exact opposite and make them close the deal down completely.
Other negotiation tactics include flattery, making deals with strict deadlines, distracting with unnecessary information, bluffing and making ultimatums.
Learning Outcome 2 – Understand how to develop and deliver presentations
2.1 Explain the different types of presentation and their requirements
2.3 Explain different methods of giving presentations
There are many different types of presentation and each has a different effect on the audience depending on the purpose. Presentations can be displayed in several ways; electronically, paper based using audience hand-outs, via video link e.g. international conferences, via a face-to-face discussion etc. Usually, presentations fit into one of four categories; informative, instructional, educational or persuasive. Each of these will have similar content and some themes may overlap, however all types of presentation will have slight differences in the techniques used to achieve the specific aim.
Informative presentations are delivered with the purpose of giving information to an audience. Ideally, they should be brief and concise, whilst keeping the audience engaged; however sometimes further detail needs to be given to fully explain a point. Instructional presentations should be less fun and more serious to quickly get information to people. The aim of these presentations is to ensure the audience fully understand the required action at the end. The purpose of persuasive presentations is to convince the audience to accept the presenter’s point of view by using logic and sufficient evidence. For a persuasive presentation to be successful, the presenter needs to implement certain techniques; these could include using persuasive language, facts and figures, emotional bias etc. These will all help in getting the audience’s support.
With all presentations, a good introduction is needed to capture the audience’s attention. A strong introduction will ensure the audience members are engaged throughout. The introduction should describe the aim of the presentation and give a brief overview of the main points before starting the content. Describing the aim is important as it makes the audience aware of what they need to do/what they will learn over the course of the presentation. A memorable ending is also important as you need the audience to remember what has happened after they have left.
- Explain how different resources can be used to develop a presentation
To ensure a presentation is as effective as possible, presenters should implement a range of different resources. Providing hand-outs is a very easy way to allow the audience to take notes if they need to, as well as explaining key points/technical terms from within the presentation. Producing hand-outs allows the presenter to give more detailed information whilst saving time to present the important parts, as well as giving the audience a copy of any diagrams or graphs that may be needed in future. Hand-outs should be produced on good quality paper to leave a good impression with the audience. Studies have shown audience members only remember 10% of the information given to them in a presentation, however this is significantly improved when given informative hand-outs. Hand-outs should be given out either before or after the presentation, as they may distract the audience if given out during. If I were creating a presentation for my organisation, I would give hand-outs before the presentation of the slides, as well as any additional information they may need e.g. contact details. This would allow me to refer the audience to a slide/image without having to display it on the screen.
Resources also include any equipment used to present e.g. laptop, projector, speakers, a white screen etc. It is always important to have a contingency plan when presenting electronically in case any of the equipment is faulty. Some presenters also bring with them a flipchart/portable whiteboard to support their presentation. It may also be useful to email the presentation to the venue prior in case there are any faults; this means the presenter has a back-up copy.
When preparing an electronic presentation, it is important to keep in mind the target audience and to produce content suitable for the situation. The content must be understandable and include technical terms to the appropriate degree. The slides must look professional and use a consistent format/theme throughout; any transitions or animations that are used should also remain consistent and must not distract or undermine the message of the presentation. For example, if presenting to an established company, the presentation should be almost faultless and well-rehearsed to give a good impression. If I were required to present to an important organisation, I would prepare the presentation myself, and then ask a professional speaker to present it. The presentation should not use too many colours, and should be legible when printed in black and white. The fonts should be readable, and images/diagrams should only be used to aid the presenter/audience. Presentations to a younger audience, e.g. business students etc, should be as audience-friendly as possible, fully explaining all technical terms and graphs/diagrams should be used to aid understanding. For slides with a lot of information, I would use bullet points, making sure I fully explain them when presenting.
2.4 Explain best practice in delivering presentations
It is important that all presentations are rehearsed, even if you are going to improvise. This is so the speaker is aware of the timings of the presentation, so they can give a rough idea to the audience and allow for any questions at the end. It may always be useful to create cue cards that contain key points; this means the speaker can refer to the cards without reading from any slides.
When producing electronic slides with programmes such as Microsoft PowerPoint, a master slide should be created which includes the title of the presentation, the name and logo of the organisation; this ensures the presentation is as professional as possible. The first slide should also include the date, the event, and the name and job title of the presenter. If hand-outs are given out, the audience will easily be able to remind themselves of these details after the presentation. Although not essential, it is important for a presenter to establish credibility with the audience, as they are more likely to listen to someone who is knowledgeable about the subject area, especially younger audiences. This is also important if audience members ask spontaneous questions; presenters may look unprofessional if they are struggling to answer.
The penultimate slide should briefly recap the main points of the presentation as this will allow a final opportunity for the audience to ask any questions. Finally, the last slide of the presentation should state contact details for the speaker and any other relevant organisations, this slide should be left up as the speaker is answering any final questions.
All information needs to be accurate, and proof-read. Spelling and grammar are also extremely important when preparing a presentation; even if it is only for a small group of people. Any inaccuracies in spelling and grammar will give a bad impression and make the presenter seem unprofessional.
- Explain how to collect and use feedback on a presentation
To collect feedback, presenters could produce a short questionnaire/evaluation on how informative/engaging etc the presentation was, including questions such as “what did you like/dislike most about the presentation?” and “how aware/informed are you now of the topics discussed?”, as well as incorporating questions regarding next steps e.g. “what action are you going to take based on the presentation?”. For educational presentations, I would produce a short quiz which focuses on the main points and quickly assesses the audience’s knowledge. It is helpful if audience feedback is quantitative (can be measured) eg asking “how much did you enjoyed the presentation?” on a scale, and then following up with “what did you like the most?” Similarly, a hand-out could be given to the audience members where they rate certain aspects of the presentation on how far they agree/disagree, such as good ending, appropriate language, use of visual aids and good preparation.
Another method of collecting feedback is to self-evaluate, the easiest way to do this is to film the presentation so it can be watched later. Watching performances back will enable you to assess areas that could be improved e.g. speak more clearly/slowly. All feedback gathered will contribute towards improved presentations in future.
Learning Outcome 3 – Understand how to create bespoke documents
- Explain the characteristics of bespoke documents
- Explain how to gain approval of bespoke documents
Bespoke business documents are documents designed for a specific organisation or department. They are personalised to suit each business and can include letterheads, compliment slips, invoices, business cards, leaflets, brochures and catalogues.
It is important to remember when creating bespoke documents that the aim is to give a good impression to other businesses or customers; to do this, documents need to be professional and well thought out. An untidy, poorly-designed document can severely affect an organisation’s reputation with its stakeholders. Documents need to be consistent throughout, this means the organisation’s logo needs to be the same on all documents produced, as well as the general theme e.g. use the same font and style (bold/italic/underlined etc) and colour scheme. Ideally, business documents should use no more than 2 different fonts, as it may look messy with more than this. Fonts need to be readable, as well as in the correct size; headings need to be larger than the main body of the text to differentiate, and there should also be plenty of white space in between paragraphs to make it easier to read.
Some documents need to be planned and researched before creating, for example when designing a poster or flyer for an event, a deadline needs to be set for when the poster is to be produce, printed and distributed to advertise the event in plenty of time.
In most organisations, there is usually a senior manager responsible for approving business documents and checking they follow the agreed house style before they go out to the public.
In my organisation, all letters are approved by the sales manager before they are posted. They are checked for spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as making sure they read correctly (proofread). In all documents, it is important to check dates, times, amounts etc as these will not be detected when carrying out a spell-check on the document; this is especially important for documents such as promotional posters/flyers as prices and dates need to be accurate and up to date.
- Explain the factors to be taken into account in creating and presenting bespoke documents
- Explain the legal requirements and procedures for gathering information for bespoke documents
When designing different types of bespoke documents, different factors need to be taken into consideration, however there should be a consistent style throughout, this is called a “house style” where there is a preferred format and layout of documents produced.
In the UK, there are certain legal requirements organisations must adhere to when producing business documents, for example letterheads should include the full registered name of the organisation, the VAT registration number (if applicable) and the full address including the postcode. Usually, documents also include contact details such as telephone numbers and an email address, as well as a website and the director/senior manager of the organisation. Legally, documents also need to be commercially sensitive and comply with copyright law; this means making sure information included is not confidential and conforms to the Data Protection Act, as well as making sure all information used is with consent. Organisations also need to consider plagiarism when creating bespoke documents. Plagiarism is using someone else’s work without their permission. There are some software packages that can detect plagiarism within text which would be useful for organisations.
Letterheads are one of the most important pieces of stationery within an office, as they set the standard for all correspondence received by customers and stakeholders. Letterheads need to be clear and should just include the organisation’s logo and contact details (address, telephone/fax numbers, company number etc). The letterhead needs to be positioned appropriately so a long letter can fit on an A4 page if necessary.
Compliment slips are like letterheads in terms of their content and often include the words “With compliments”. They are usually sized to fit into a standard envelope, as this is to avoid folding. Compliment slips are a very useful piece of stationery as they allow employees to send informal messages but in a professional way. Usually the logo and contact details are positioned to one side of the slip and a large blank space is left to handwrite a message if necessary. Compliment slips do not have any legal requirements; however, they should follow the same style and fonts as the letterhead in order to maintain “brand identity”. Compliment slips allow for connectivity between an organisation and its customers as they provide a personal touch with correspondence.
Business cards are like compliment slips personal to each employee. They are particularly important as they are usually the first business document a potential customer/partner sees; therefore it is vital they are of a high standard and printed on high quality material. When designing a business card, the most important thing to consider is their size. Business cards need to be small enough to carry, but large enough to contain all of the information found on the letterhead, as well as the employee’s name and position, and possibly their own direct telephone number and email address.
Learning Outcome 4 – Understand information systems in a business environment
- Explain the typical stages of information system development
An information system is any system used to collect, organise and store data. Types of information systems include: electronic databases (e.g. I use SIMS), paper based system e.g. an archive of files, stock control systems etc. Information systems are developed many ways, and various methodologies have been developed, these include; the waterfall model and the fountain model.
The waterfall model is a sequential process used to develop information systems. The process resembles a waterfall as progress steadily flows downwards through each stage of development.
The fountain model also offers more interactions between design and deployment allowing for the software to be more refined before deployment. This however, may be a disadvantage as more time and resources may be used before releasing the system.
Sometimes, different types of system are combined to create a hybrid methodology. Typically, the main stages involve; analysing and evaluating the existing system and identifying any problems, outlining requirements for the new system whilst fully addressing problems, designing the system; this includes both software and hardware e.g. the physical construction, installing operating system/specific programming, security etc., and testing the system on its users; this is useful as it may help identify early problems before deploying the system. After this, the system can be phased into regular use, gradually replacing the old system. It is important to remember that the development process continues after deployment, as the system still needs to be maintained and kept up and running; users also need to be kept up to date with the latest modifications in terms of training, as well as any changes in procedures/policies when using the system. In my organisation, all staff are trained to use SIMS, and all have access to the training manuals. Any updates are always given by the IT manager, who will inform staff of new features etc.
- Analyse the benefits and limitations of different information systems
- Explain how to monitor the use and effectiveness of an information system
Different types of information are available at different hierarchical levels within an organisation. Strategic information is needed by senior management for decision making; this information will be found in the decision support system or “executive” system which provides managers with the information they need. Decision support systems are used to analyse existing information, solve problems with structure and allow managers to plan future decisions. They offer access to databases and analytical tools, as well as supporting the exchange of information within the organisation. In my organisation, all staff can see details regarding students on SIMS, however my line manager can also see details regarding staff e.g. addresses, contact numbers and details of their car.
Managerial information systems are used to make short-term decisions, such as sales from the past quarter etc; this information provides an input into managerial decisions. These systems are used by middle managers to help make sure the organisation runs smoothly in the short/medium term. Managerial systems are formed using the data provided by the transaction processing system.
Information relating to the daily running of the organisation and operational decisions is provided by the transaction processing system. These systems are usually operated directly by front line staff, and provide key data used to make higher managerial decisions and managements of operations. The information is usually gathered through automated tracking of low level activities and basic transactions made within the organisation. This information includes processing orders, payroll, attendance records etc.
There are many benefits to using information systems; an electronic information system allows users to access and understand information quickly and effectively, as well as providing the most accurate, up to date information. This is important as organisations need to be able to make quick, informed decisions within business. Information systems also allow users to present their information, as well as quickly perform different tasks within the system. These systems also offer decentralisation; this is the process of redistributing and allocating tasks within the department, in turn this allows monitoring of operation at low levels and frees up time of the managers. Overall, information systems enhance communication and collaboration within a team as they aggregate information efficiently and monitor general activity. It is possible to manage the effectiveness of an information system by how quickly tasks are being carried out, as well as the quality of the product. An effective information system will be able to provide the right information very quickly. To monitor effectiveness, sampling of the product needs to be carried out. The easiest method is random sampling; this is when all products/tasks have the same chance of being checked for quality and accuracy. Haphazard sampling is a similar method, but relies more on convenience, which makes it a very easy and cheap method for organisations to use. When creating correspondence for my organisations, there is no sampling method used as all documents are checked by my line manager, and she will outline any amendments that need making before posting the letter/sending minutes etc.
Limitations of electronic information systems may occur due a technical fault to the system meaning it won’t function properly due to a system breakdown or there are problems with the quality of output. For example, when creating a letter in SIMS, the merge fields may not be accurate. These problems can interrupt the running of the organisation and possibly consumer satisfaction, as well as delivering inaccurate information which is why it important information is kept up to date. Due to this, especially in the early stages of deployment, constant monitoring is needed to ensure integration issues are reduced. It is important to continually monitor an information system even after it has been integrated to ensure there are no issues with the storage and retrieval of data. An electronic database can be susceptible to human error in terms of the wrong data being inputted; therefore, it is important to double-check all information. An electronic database could also be vulnerable to computer hackers and internet fraud. Identity thieves may target sensitive data, which is why it is extremely important security measures are firmly put in place and updated regularly.
4.3 Explain legal, security and confidentiality requirements for information systems in a business environment
Information systems must comply with all legal procedures and legislation, including the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts. These acts apply to all organisations including; government departments, hospitals and health trusts, educational institutions, the police etc. The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public the right to ask public bodies to disclose all information on a subject. Unless there is a good reason to withhold the information e.g. a threat to national security, it must be provided within 20 days.
Organisations must also comply with the Computer Misuse Act, which was introduced primarily to deal with computer hacking. It covers offences including gaining unauthorised access to computer programmes and databases, as well as harmful intent to commit a hacking offence. The act also covers the intent to impair operation or prevent access to a computer or computer programme.
Organisational policies regarding security and confidentiality must also be considered. The Acceptable Use Policy for IT covers the storage and retrieval of information, and how to behave appropriately with online information, as well as who has rights to access; this ensures information is kept confidential. These policies reflect what is stated in the Data Protection Act whereby all data should be used tactfully and purposefully, and safeguarded against unlawful modifications. In my organisation, all staff log on to the system with their own individual password, and then must enter another password to get into the secure database, SIMS. These passwords must be changed every 90 days; this ensures the system is kept secure, and that only those who are authorised have access. For further protection, in the event of a system failure/breakdown, all data should be backed up to a secure offsite location so that it can be recovered; this is also why it is useful to have an archive of physical files for additional evidence.