Information Systems Applications
Carnegie Mellon University
Fall Semester, 2013

Information Systems Application (ISA) is the senior level team-based capstone course in Information Systems at Carnegie Mellon University. This course is an in-depth opportunity to demonstrate accomplishment and competence in key core objectives of the Information Systems curriculum and professional practice. Through engagement with a 'live' project sponsor, you and your team will apply what you have learned. By semester end, your team must provide a sustainable solution that fits the client's objectives, organization constraints and capabilities.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successful completion of the course, each student should be able show to tangible evidence of growth and maturity in the following areas consistent with the levels expected of graduates from top-tier Information Systems programs.

1.Identify, research, evaluate and recommend appropriate 'right sized' solutions to meet sponsor's articulated requirements.

2.Demonstrate ability to design an appropriate solution and to adapt tools, techniques, technologies and methods to achieve realistic project goals.

3.Demonstrate ability to work effectively as a team member on a small software development project.

4.Apply practical project management techniques to a real project of significant importance.

These points will be evaluated through completion of People, Process and Technology rubrics; peer evaluations; client evaluation; and faculty review of the project.

Information Systems Faculty:

Raja Sooriamurthi: raja@cmu.edu
Larry Heimann: profh@cmu.edu
Jeria Quesenberry: jquesenberry@cmu.edu
Joseph Merta: joemertz@cmu.edu
Randy Weinberg: rweinberg@cmu.edu

Course Meetings:

Minimum of one 45-60 minute team meeting per week with your team's faculty advisor. Additional meetings with project advisors and clients will happen as needed and project reviews will be scheduled with other teams during the semester.

Course Overview

At term's end, your team must deliver a working solution, to your client's satisfaction, and all accompanying documentation, training and support materials to your client. Because of our short time frame and absolute deadline, you must employ careful and skillful project management throughout. You must deliver your solution on time; extensions are not possible.

In this course, teams act as consultants working 'with' and not 'for' their project clients. Successful teams never assume ownership of a client's project. Rather, they work hard to build sustainable, maintainable solutions and partner capacity.

The partnerships teams form with their clients are the ultimate foundation for success. Your client's needs should be the main driver of your team's activity in this course. Listening carefully to partner needs, requirements and expectations is essential. Going beyond the stated problem, all the relevant social, organizational, and technical aspects must be considered. If lasting benefits are to be realized, any solution must be ultimately useful and useable by the client organization. Your first major task, therefore, will be to understand and articulate the client's requirements and develop a realistic proposal and draft agreement with your client.

At the end of the semester, your project client will evaluate the team's performance and deliverables. Your team's grade will be substantially influenced by the client's evaluation. Any team that fails to deliver a solution of real value to the client by the deadline noted below will not earn higher than a 'B' in this course. Subject to factors under the team's control, solutions that are basically incomplete, not deployed in the organization, not properly tested or documented or miss the client's basic intentions or organizational capabilities will be evaluated appropriately.

Milestones and Key Dates

Completing high quality IS projects during one semester is a real challenge, and generally cannot be successfully done without careful and skillful project management and great teamwork. Miscommunication, slippage and misunderstandings between clients and team members and within teams are major risks.

To provide a base level of documentation and accountability, four short milestone reports are required during the term. These reports (specific content to be negotiated with your team's advisor) should accurately reflect the team's progress, details and status of project plan, open problems, any project risk factors and other details or relevant documentation.

The milestone reports will be weighted as noted, and will be used primarily for feedback to the team, and will count toward the team's final grade. They may also be used as corroborative evidence in the overall assessment of People, Process and Technology, as described further below.

A separate client agreement should be drafted early and a signed copy included with Milestone 3.

Since each project is different, certain items may need to be modified to meet your milestones. Arrange all such modifications well in advance with your faculty advisor.

Milestone 1. Contains: Project vision, scope of work, project design documents as required by advisor, draft of client agreement. Due: Thursday, September 12, 2013, at 11:30am

Milestone 2. Contains: Project status report, project risks and open problems, project design documents as required by advisor. Due: Thursday, October 10, 2013, at 11:30am

Milestone 3. Contains: Project status report, project risks and open problems, project design documents as required by advisor, draft of user / technical / administrative documentation as required by advisor, abstract for IS program book / website. (Turn in signed client agreement). Due: Thursday, November 7, 2013, at 11:30am

Milestone 4. Contains: Final project status report, final version of user / technical / administrative documentation, and/or other project documents as required by advisor. Due: Friday, December 6, 2013, at 11:30am

Due date for all deliverables to project clients: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2013

In addition to the scheduled milestones, the IS faculty may require additional deliverables, project management documentation, project management surveys, presentations or proof of performance from any team or any individual.

Peer team project reviews will be held on Fridays during the semester. Details to be announced.

During the term, each team should consult the People, Process and Technology rubrics to assess performance to date.


A graded faculty evaluation of your working term project will be conducted during the last week of classes (December 2 through 5). Details to be announced. On Friday, December 6, 2013, we will have a public event with team project demonstrations - time and place to be announced.

The IS faculty and project clients expect top quality work from all teams and all individuals consistently throughout the term.  Do not disappoint your client, your teammates or your faculty advisor with low quality material and substandard effort.

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Working in a team brings with it a high level of responsibility. Each of you needs to depend on the skills, talents, and contributions of the other team members.

All members of the team are expected to contribute in meaningful and significant ways to the project's technical work throughout the semester. No one or two individuals should be expected to, shoulder the bulk of the technical responsibilities for the project. (This is a serious risk factor, and simply unfair to those individuals.) Individuals should expect that their course grade will be lowered for failure to perform a fair share of the team's technical work.

We expect every team member to act respectfully and professionally to team members, clients and faculty members throughout the semester. Students who are consistently disrespectful, uncooperative or non-participating may be dismissed from their teams upon recommendation of the team and agreement by the faculty. Under such circumstances (which we expect to occur only rarely) a dismissed student must make up the units or complete an assigned project on his or her own.

Team Structure

Each team will have three assigned roles:

Other roles may be designed and assigned by the team. We suggest naming a backup for each of the defined roles and those you implement on your own team.

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In simple terms, quality can be defined as "doing the right thing; and doing it right." Given the specific project risks and time pressures during IS projects, it is important to begin planning and implementing QA efforts early in the project.

There are various essential elements in a sound QA program. Work with your advisor to make sure your team is using effective quality assurance methods. Some workable suggestions:

Defect-ridden, incomplete, hard-to-read or convoluted code and inadequate documentation have no place in senior IS projects!  Do not forget that the code and documentation you develop are written for your project client's benefit. Your client (or your client's support personnel) must be able to read, understand and modify all of this material. Your work can easily become useless if your client, the client's employees or contractors, or future IS teams cannot readily understand it or maintain it.

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Weekly Team Meetings

Your team meets with its IS faculty advisor for at least one 45 to 60 minute meeting per week during the term. We expect that every group member will attend each group meeting. Teams should prepare an agenda for each meeting and be prepared to discuss the past week's progress, goals for the coming week, and any problems encountered. 

We expect all team members to be prepared to actively participate in these weekly meetings. Everyone will be expected to DEMONSTRATE MATERIAL PROGRESS and his or her CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE TEAM'S EFFORTS. These can be substantiated through time logs, documentation, code or other work products. Each week, you should prepare to show what you have done, discuss your time commitment, describe problems encountered and plans for the coming week. Understand that vague, misleading or inconsequential statements of progress or intention will be interpreted as signs of low commitment, low productivity and ineffective teamwork. Project managers, or those who take on leadership positions within the team, are expected to showcase each team member's contributions each week and to resist the temptation to speak for the others.

You are expected to be on time for your weekly meeting with the faculty. Don't waste everyone's by being late, unprepared, having nothing to discuss, coming with computers that don't work or regularly counting on others to cover for you. As indicated below, penalties apply for absences, lateness, or being unprepared to participate.

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Course Grades

Each team will earn a final team grade for the overall project based on various factors. The People, Process, and Technology guidelines, plus peer evaluations will provide a framework for the team and faculty to monitor and assess team and individual progress during the semester.

Ultimately, to earn an 'A' for the overall project, the team must meet client expectations by delivering high quality, sustainable work products - on time and complete - to the client's satisfaction. Absent this, a grade of 'B' or lower will be submitted for the team.

Grading Weights:

Final project Grades will be adjusted for each individual, as needed, by the peer evaluations, attendance, time commitment, assessment of individual contributions and other factors, as below:

Peer Evaluation Adjustment

Peer evaluations of your team members are done periodically during the term and the end of the semester.  The faculty will use these peer evaluations to assess each individual's relative contributions to the project. Your individual grade may be adjusted upward or downward as a result of the peer evaluations. Peer evaluations are due from all class members on the same dates and times as the Milestone reports. Submit as instructed by advisor.

Summaries of peer evaluations will be returned to students during the semester; written comments will be held confidential. The final round of peer evaluations at term's end will be entirely confidential; they will not be returned or be made available for inspection by team members. Grade penalties will apply for those individuals who do not complete peer evaluations in a timely way when they are due.


Regular attendance at your weekly team meetings and class sessions is required. You may miss one weekly meeting, penalty-free, without an excuse. The IS faculty may lower your final course grade by 1/3 of a letter grade for each unexcused or undocumented absence beyond the first. Further, arriving at your meeting significantly late will count as an absence at the discretion of the instructor. Documentation of a personal emergency or other unavoidable contingency will be required to avoid attendance penalties. Further, be advised that a poor attendance record will not go unnoticed by your fellow team members, and will likely be reflected in your peer evaluations.

Don't be a deadbeat! Be on time, be well-prepared and be ready to work at team meetings. No-shows, late-shows and unprepared students waste everyone's time. If you have a legitimate excuse such as an interview trip, alert your advisor a day or more in advance. If you are feeling ill, then email your advisor well before the meeting time. After-the-fact excuses are not good professional communication and instead indicate a lack of commitment to your team, client, and project.

Attendance at weekly class sessions is also expected. A record of poor or irregular attendance or tardiness will be considered in figuring your final course grade.

Faculty Adjustment

While your project will be evaluated as a whole, your individual grade may be quite different. Every individual is responsible for doing his or her fair share of the team's work and consistently demonstrating such throughout the semester. The faculty will reward those who have been consistent contributors to all aspects of the People, Process, and Technology of the project, and will penalize those who do not contribute their fair share. If you cannot demonstrate, document or present your contributions, there will be little basis for justifying a high grade. Faculty advisors may require proof of performance or demonstration of work products from any student during the semester.

Time Commitment

67-475 is a 12 unit course. Students are expected to commit 12 hours, on average, to the project each week. There is no substitute for time on task during the term. We all know from experience that time lost is seldom made up in subsequent weeks. Scaling down the project during the last weeks of the semester because the team or individuals have not committed the expected time is poor practice and will affect the overall project evaluation.

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The senior project is a great learning opportunity for you. You will benefit in direct proportion to the effort and commitment you make to the course.

We wish you the very best of success this term! We think you will find this to be a very interesting and valuable experience.

Last Updated 08/22/2013