Designing an Open-Source IT Framework

by L. Hall, M. Hu, T. Ilieva, Y. Kuzhamuratov, E. Peters, and D. Zimmerman (Team-A)

Edited by Dave Zimmerman

Posted on December 14, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Virtual Zen Garden

The task was to generate an open source IT framework for Pro Bike Service (PBS), a non-profit organisation founded in 2013 to empower, strengthen and support local communities. As a bicycle training and servicing enterprise, PBS operates within a solar-powered and fully transportable workshop. The workshop can be placed on development sites or underutilised areas to encourage and support safe cycling. The organisation seeks a paperless business solution for daily management and to change the methods of operation to an environmentally-friendly model. PBS strives for zero pollution by recycling, up-cycling and using solar power. The organisation’s values are Open Source, Gift Economy, Zero Waste - Zero Pollution and the Transformative Power of Cycling.

PBS has many activities and services which require management of events, courses, gifts, inventory, repair order processing, and staff communication. The existing paper-based systems are bulky, time consuming, and difficult to maintain. In response, Team-A has created an IT system, including bike health checks and repair service forms that submit data to online databases. The data would be accessed through an app which would also provide ICT solutions for the organisation’s activities and services. The aim of the solution is to improve accountability and control while also reducing waste.
Team-A believes that this solution will satisfy many operational needs for PBS and is appropriate for the next phase of the organisation’s development. In anticipation of the app’s launch, a digital marketing campaign is being developed, which uses social media branding to raise awareness of PBS events, courses and services. To generate public interest in PRU bike courses, marketing materials have been designed which highlight the benefits of PRU bike courses on the individual, the community, and their future.

Project Initialisation

Pro Bike Service trades through bespoke bicycles, repairs, training, and goodwill events. The most distinctive feature of PBS is the Gift Economy and its “pay what you can” approach to payment for goods and services. Gift Economy is a special mode of value transformation that is different from trading in money. A gift can be an exchange of different types of resources includes intangible and tangible between different social relationships. The unquantifiable nature of a gift has made the development of a Gift Economy IT solution the most challenging problem Team-A had addressed. This will be expanded upon in the “discussion” part of the report.

There are still many practical tasks that can be readily approached through Team-A’s current skills and abilities. As a newly formed team, an initial discussion helped the team members to find areas of the project that they could contribute to. The collaborative project challenged them as individuals to work with a team and with a client as an individual.

The team adopted an Agile approach to project organization and management as a general philosophy. Specifically, the Scrum framework was used to start the project. As a result, the team was able to effectively utilize select aspects of the framework to optimize team meetings, decision making and general team work. Following one of the main principles of Scrum it was agreed that there would be no designated leaders, all team members would be equal and self-organizing. Due to good diversity of skills and expertise among the team members there were no difficulties with distributing tasks and responsibilities. The table below shows that the team members were able to self-organise to contribute in a range of development areas.

Team member 


D. Zimmerman

App Design and Development 

E. Peters

Market Research, Ad Campaign 

L. Hall

IT Solution 

M. Hu

App Design, Market Research, Ad Campaign 

T. Ilieva

Research Analysis, Ad Campaign 

Y. Kuzhamuratov

IT Solution, Project Management, Product Design 

With areas of development identified and responsibilities taken, the team members began the process of initialising the project. To do this, the team used online communication systems including WhatsApp, Slack and Trello.  WhatsApp was used for general discussions and coordination, while Slack had specific channels for various aspects of the project, such as Marketing, Design, PRU Training and others.


Slack - Team Collaboration Tools and Services
Fig. 1. Slack - Team Collaboration Tools and Services


Another external tool utilised by the team was Trello, an online project management application. It was used for managing all the team’s tasks, tracking their status, progress and responsible people, sharing and discussing new findings and ideas.


Slack - Team Collaboration Tools and Services
Fig. 2. Trello - Project Management Platform


Once team management tools had been implemented, the research into the problems that PBS was facing could be explored. The Founder, CEO and Head Mechanic of PBS, Lawrence Mohammed wants to move from paper-based systems to eliminate double handling of data and minimise the risk of human error. This in turn, would lower costs, improve efficiency and allow true utilisation of key data.


Slack - Team Collaboration Tools and Services
Fig. 3. Value Proposition Canvas: PBS


PBS wishes to take on several challenges within prevailing business and economic models and lifestyles. It offers a disruptive model of business focussing on health, wellbeing, community cohesion and truly sustainable and scalable circularity as rallying points. Being focussed on the local community, this means that any impact will be directly visible and measurable. To do this, solutions were proposed for the following organisational tasks…




Repair Order Form Processing

IT System – Database

Bike Parts Inventory

IT System – Database

Gift Economy Management

IT System – Database

Event Planning
(Bike Health Checks, Training Courses)

In-App Calendar

Training Course Management

In-App Learning Platform

Communication and Staff Management

In-App Messenger

Web Presence Maintenance

Marketing Campaign - Social Media Branding

PRU Course Enrolment

Marketing Campaign - PRU Resources


With solutions proposed, the team set out meet the challenges associated with the tasks at hand. The main challenge is to design an appropriate IT system for information management. The next challenge is to design an app prototype to show how the IT system would be accessed by the user. The final challenge is to promote the organisation, improve public perception towards cycling and generate feedback for further development. To prepare for these challenges, various forms of research had been conducted to learn more about the nature of the organisation’s problems.



To further understand the organization, market research was conducted to gain insight into its nature and that of the customer, competition and environment that it works in. Information systems employ flowcharts as a design methodology to build applications that support databases. A range of tools for ideation and iterative design were used for app development.


PEST analysis: Key Points

As part of the macro environment of the organisation, the PEST analysis shows a fall in the currency value has impacted the UK bicycle market value by rising the average prices and expenses on bike products have increased. Regarding the socio-cultural aspect, it has been witnessed an upward trend in healthy lifestyle mainly among the aging population. Do-It-Yourself skills are in demand among young people who are also interested in innovations and are active online. 


SWOT analysis: Key Points

PBS’ strengths and weaknesses have been examined after reviews of the website, social media and the organisation’s internal materials. One of the strengths of PBS is that it strives for zero pollution, by creating and selling up-cycled goods. The diverse client base has been seen as strength because the organisation is able to provide services suitable for all. However, the organisation might want to focus in a certain niche market due to competition, including the following organisations…


  • Bike Share: operate mainly in the US; membership availability and blogging are good examples PBS can follow. Can be considered as an indirect competitor. 

  • Cycle Confident: based in London; offer a variety of training by neighbourhood; free riding a bike training; active on social media; collaborate with other organisations. More direct competitor. 

  • Hackney Try a Bike: local cycle loan scheme; low cost and long-term rent; 2-hour free cycle skills session; organise competitions between cyclist members.  


SWOT analysis (PRU): Key Points

PBS has shown a keen interest in working with Pupil Referral Units (PRU). The idea was to work with Pupil Referral Unit offering their students a yearlong training programme. This Programme teaches students Bike repair and Maintenance skills and on completion of this programme they would be awarded a certified bike related qualification. Through secondary research we found that the need for PRU is on the rise. After we gathered and examined our secondary data, our next step was Primary research. The PRU provides a balanced but not complete national curriculum. Due to behaviour being an issue at PRU outside of academics, practical training programmes were seen to suit the needs of PRU students. Insights were sought out from PRU students’ thoughts on bike related training.

Quantitative research was conducted in the form of two questionnaires targeted at teachers and PRU students. This was made using Google forms consisting of a combination of multiple choice and open-ended questions. Our plan was to visit the PRU’s within the Borough of Newham. The reason for this location was that Lawrence of PBS claims that PRU in Newham was to be the location he would like to begin offering the Sustainable Cycle training Program. Due to the borough’s issues with youth crime, violence and gang related issues. He wanted to engage the community and offer PRU students the opportunity to gain new skills, certified qualification and think about their future goals.  


Primary Research: Key Points

50 out of 50 analysed feedbacks from customers rated the service with the highest given mark – 5. In addition, they all responded that they are positively satisfied with the service provided, 3 of them say they would rate the service even higher, given additional explanation related to the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff. 

From the forms analysed it is also clear that most of the customers want bike servicing and bike service training with 12 and 15 people mentioned that respectively. Just 3 people mentioned they are interested in refurbished bikes and other 2 would like upcycling workshops. On 2 of the forms can be seen that all the offerings provided by the organisation are of interest. Other interests include more awareness, tips on road safety and pop ups.

Regarding what the customers are ready to exchange in return of a bike service, 13 say they’d give money, 7 can give bike parts and 5 are ready to donate unwanted bikes. Other 7 would be happy to help with the promotion of the service and to share with their friends about it. 4 have mentioned the Web Design as something they can exchange. Other services such as logo design, engineering services and social media consulting also can be found. Just 2 out of all 50 are ready to become volunteers in exchange of having their bikes repaired. Only 1 person has brought up the issue with the cloud service.


IT System development methods 

The methodology that was applied to the creation and development of an IT system firstly involved an analysis of the current paper-based systems and how said paper-based systems could be implemented in a digital solution. Once the analysis had been completed research was done to find current, available solutions which could be used to either develop an integrated system of current solutions or to devise a new system.

In designing the IT System part of the solution, the first stage was to conduct market research on products that performed similar, if not the same, tasks. A requirement of the project was that the resultant solution be open-source therefore systems that fulfil this requirement were a focus of the research. Once similar, existing systems were found, the next step was to tailor a solution to the business. In this case there were two options that were worked through. The first involved the specification of an IT system that provided the company with the exacting requirements but would need to be built from the ground. The second option utilised a collection of free tools and services that, when combined, provided the functions required by the project brief. 


Slack - Team Collaboration Tools and Services
Fig. 4. System Diagram


App Development Strategy

In developing the app, three specifications needed clarification; content, design and navigation. Content was provided by the company website, and supporting materials provided by the PBS through the university. This included copy on products and services, and the company logo. For visual design choices to be made, graphical elements such as fonts and colours needed to be identified by creating a style guide.


Slack - Team Collaboration Tools and Services
Fig. 5. Style Guide


In order to define the information architecture of the app, mind mapping software was used, to produce a navigation diagram. With these specifications defined, an app development platform was needed to utilise them and build a prototype.


Slack - Team Collaboration Tools and Services
Fig. 6. Navigation Diagram


Results and Findings

From the research conducted, solutions were proposed, designed, developed, tested, and evaluated. The following relates to the execution of our methodologies and their outcomes.



Once the app development specifications were clarified, an account was made on an app development platform known as Marvel. This online service allowed Team-A to rapidly develop app screens for PBS based upon the navigation diagram. Template layout graphics were used which employed UX conventions that most app users would be familiar with, though the colours used would reflect those identified within the style guide. Marvel also provides high quality images from, which, when used with the PBS logo and copy provided by the supporting materials, can make visually pleasing screens.


App Screens 1

Fig. 7. App Screen Designs



The Marvel App platform allows for screens to be easily rearranged and classified into sections based upon the content and navigation specifications. Interactive functionality could then be applied to the screens and previewed for testing. The resulting prototype can be previewed at Each slide can be commented upon, which allowed PBS to provide feedback and inquiries.


IT System 

The pre-made systems that were found during the research all provided the same basic functionality. That being, all provide a method for tracking the state of a repair and various details regarding it (such as repairer, date, brand, etc...). While this would aid the objective of reducing paper usage, due to the nature of pre-made solutions, most of the options found would not apply directly to Pro Bike Service. This would mean that, either the chosen tool would need to be modified (which it could as these tools are open-source), or the company would need to modify the operating methodology to fit around the software.

For the curated specification, the problems presented by the brief and conversations with the business owner were analysed and systems were added to the specification in order to solve the problems required. One of the problems presented, was amount of paper that was collected during everyday operation. The solution for this was to implement a server based in the cloud that could be used a database for all the necessary parts of the business (tracking repairs and gifts).

Also specified within this specification was a mobile application that would link to the server and contain the two forms used in the repair process. This would give the mobility required for when the company performs pop-up repair centres. The third and final component of the curated solution was a custom desktop application (running on the computer on the main site) that would act as a stationary version of the app, implementing the server connection and act as another form input station. With this tailored solution, the business could move away from its current paper-based systems and run fully paperless whilst also being able to access any and all required information on previous repairs and previous gifts if any of this information is required.


IT System: Airtable Bike Health Check Form
Fig. 9. IT System: Airtable Bike Health Check Form


Bike Health Check Form
Fig. 10. IT System: JotForm Bike Health Check Form


Since the length of the project was not long enough to build a functioning prototype of the IT system mentioned a solution of pre-existing services was put together. These services alone did not complete the task listed by the brief, however, when these products are combined then they form a combined solution that completes the main objectives of this section of the project. These services provided a database for storing the data collected from the various repair forms that could be accessed through a web browser, whether on a desktop or mobile device.


IT System: JotForm – Report Options
Fig. 11. IT System: JotForm – Report Options



IT System: JotForm Results
Fig. 12. IT System: JotForm Results



The other part of this solution was creating online forms that would feed data into the databases. With the combination of these two parts, the system would allow the volunteers and employees of Pro Bike Service to work completely paperless using a free system.


IT System: Wufoo Form
Fig. 13. IT System: Wufoo Form



IT System: Wufoo Report
Fig. 14. IT System: Wufoo Report



IT System: Wufoo Results
Fig. 15. IT System: Wufoo Results



Ad Campaign 

For the campaign it is recommended the use of integrated marketing communications to achieve better results and some channels would be Social Media (Facebook); Outdoor ad (In the Olympic Park); Digital Ad (In the "Here East" Shuttle). Some sample materials that can help building a stronger brand and make the service more recognisable.


Social Media Branding
Fig. 16. Social Media Branding


PBS Sustainable Cycles course for Pupil Referral Unit students will benefit them by learning work-based skills and by obtaining a certified qualification in an area of their interest. This could result in improvements to their socialization skills, confidence, behaviour and lead to academic improvements. To promote PRU courses, develop affiliations and generate funding, a print media leaflet has been developed, which can also be used as an e-flyer in an email campaign.



PRU: Printed Marketing Material - 3 Panel Leaflet
Fig. 17. PRU: Printed Marketing Material - 3 Panel Leaflet




In producing an IT solution for PBS, some solutions were more elusive than others. Although a clear understanding of the following topics may not have been fully realised, the exploration of these subjects was thought provoking. Returning to these topics would be a worthwhile pursuit for the next development cycle.


Gift Economy

One of the unique aspects of Pro Bike Service which sets it apart from other bike repair shops or social businesses is the concept of gift economy, which is an integral part of its philosophy. From the initial research it was discovered that there are existing implementations of these ideas, such as the Economy of Hours service. But after some discussions with Lawrence it became clear that his vision is different and goes further than just a bartering system. He sees it as a way to instil a sense of goodwill and solidarity within the community, promote benevolence and positive social change. It should encourage people to help others first and foremost, not expect something in return. Because of this the Pro Bike Service’s gift exchange system could not be based on a simple bartering or credit system, a more sophisticated solution is needed.


Gift Exchange Platform: Using Credit System
Fig. 18. Gift Exchange Platform: Using Credit System



After additional thought and consideration, a new approach was designed. The system should not be based exclusively on credits and direct exchange, should allow users to give or receive gifts freely, but should still assess and assign a value to gifts and services exchanged to make the system fair and resistant to abuse. Thus, the idea is to make the value of gifts implicit and relative. It could still be represented in some indirect way, for example on a scale from 1 to 5 (from a small to great gift). This relative value would be estimated by a donor according to some guidance system integrated within the service but would also be reviewed by a human moderator. The system would calculate how the value of gifts accepted relate to the value of gifts given and provide this indication to each user. Claiming gifts would be restricted if this ratio falls below certain threshold.

The initial access to the system would be offered to the customers of Pro Bike Service, who will be able to use it via the app or the website. Each new user would need to provide a gift first before being verified and gaining full access. Basic function would include listing gifts, indicating gifts needed, browsing lists of offered and requested gifts and response to listings. Apart from the manual method of finding or offering gifts, the system would also use a smart algorithm to match users together based on their requested and offered gifts. The system would be able to match more than just two users, creating ’chains’ of gifting, satisfying requests of multiple people at once.


Gift Exchange Platform: Smart Matching System
Fig. 19. Gift Exchange Platform: Smart Matching System



Customer Feedback Form Recommendations 

In analysing the data, it has been determined that there are flaws in the data collection method. The paper-based customer feedback forms had shown patterns of responses that lead to the assumption that the data may not be accurate. Team-A has explored many tools and techniques related to primary data collection and as part of the paperless solution, recommendations for the next cycle of research should include the following options: 

  • Multiple-choice/response options 

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) 

  • Customer Effort Score (CES) 


PRU student pathway to achievement

To further incentivise potential students to enrol and complete PRU bike courses, a pathway to achievement was explored. The added value of certification for completion of training courses through an awarding body like Cytech or City&Guilds could lead to volunteering as a trainer or mechanic. Giving high achieving students to prospect of a volunteer role could grant access to gifts and demonstrate virtuous cycle of giving. Not only would this make PRU courses more attractive by adding value to them, it would also provide Pro Bike Service with a pathway for expansion with internally trained volunteers.



Looking back on the cycle of development, Team-A has used a variety of tools and techniques to collaborate, innovate, and create solutions that span a wide range of client needs. A paperless business solution is closer to becoming a reality for PBS, and the team learn a lot about communication, teamwork, and personal responsibility through the challenges faced together. Some of the insights made during the process have been included along with recommendations that came forth through trying to serve the client.



SEO should be improved by adding bike servicing related keywords that are the most popular for search on the search engines. Improving that, would help PBS appear on Google Maps when a certain search has been typed. Some of the key words that PBS can add may include bike repair; bike training; bicycle workshop; corporate workshop; teambuilding; bike maintenance skills; social enterprise.

Developing a blog on the website that can be promoted on Facebook (this way, the Facebook page would be used to bring traffic to the website). The blog topics can include the cases that Pro Bike had helped to and had done good for the community; some basic principles and knowledge in bike maintenance; some upcoming events that can be attended and/or reflection after the events if Pro Bike has taken part of those. The blog would also help with the SEO and would increase the time visitors spend on the website. 


PRU Recommendations 

A recommendation for increasing interest and engagement with PRU providing institutions would be to use the Google forms that were created. These forms could be passed on to the staff at the schools to gauge student interest in the training program.


App Design

In this first cycle of development, the app went from being a collection of ideas to an interactive simulation that helps PBS to understand the potential solutions to their operational problems. Recommendations for the next development cycle would be based upon the robust feedback given in the comments sections of the Marvel app screens. This would include the following…

  • Re-evaluation of the information architecture

  • Revisions in layout design for the Messenger, Gifting & Repairs sections

  • Revisions in content for the training sections


These revisions would bring the prototype closer to the handoff stage, where a programming team could develop interactive functionality using the screens developed in the app design software.


IT System Development Recommendations

In the short term, it would be recommended that Pro Bike Service moves to a paperless system through the online tool Airtable. This tool provides the online form capability and links any inputted data into a database that can be managed and organised according to various fields. In the long term, a specialised ecosystem, as mentioned earlier, would be better for the business as it would provide all the required functionality. The following IT system specification proposes a number of services that could be utilised in the next cycle of development.


IT System Spec


  • Hosted Linux platform (minimal spec)

  • [OVH VPS (Cheapest)](

  • [goDaddy](

  • [Easy Space](

  • SQL Database(s) for skills/services/customer forms/gifts

  • Possible chat host


PBS Computer

  • Requires an internet connection to server

  • Customer form input application

  • Chat to apps (through server)



  • Requires an internet connection to server

  • Login function for customer/employee differentiation

  • Calendar/Scheduling

  • Chat Feature

  •  App-to-App

  •  App-to-PC/App (through server)



In the end, the client was very satisfied with our work. I learned a lot while working on this project. With 20 years of experience working in design and education, I brought a wide range of skills and experience to the group. With only five weeks to plan, design, develop, test, and evaluate our IT solution, time was in short supply. The pressurised timeframe of the project meant that we would need to apply a responsive and flexible iterative ideation process.

We were tasked with providing an open-source IT framework for probikeservice, a social enterprise that specialises in bicycle repair and training. For me, the most significant experience arose in the final week of the project when the pressure of the deadline was at its highest. In developing this project, I have significantly improved my ability to facilitate the needs of team members, making me a more effective team player in future projects. This is an essential design-thinking skill and will help me to be more mindful when managing projects. With this in mind, I look forward to the next project.