Case study analysis forms the core of any MBA class. This is where students are exposed to real business problems, analyze them and provide solutions – either hypothetically or otherwise.
In my Strategic Planning subject, I had the case of ebay.com as it struggles to compete with Amazon.com and other conventional publishing houses which were going online as well.
It was a group case study and ours was plainly a hypothetical plan on how the company should compete successfully in an ever increasing competitive environment.
I can’t even remember the part of the total report that I had to write.
Anyway, for those who are yet to write a case study analysis (and those who had but found it a real struggle), here are some tips to be able to do a better job:
1. Investigate and analyze the Company’s history and growth:
The present and future can only be charted based on the past historical data of the Company. Without that, you will be running on baseless assumptions.
Get to know the company’s origins, its critical incidents, structure and growth.
2. Identify the Company’s strengths and weaknesses:
From the information gathered in Step 1, examine and make a list of its strengths and weaknesses, its value-creation functions.
Is it strong in research but weak in marketing? Is the equipment old and aging or are they top of the line? Is their human resource department proactive or reactive? Do they benchmark with competing industries? What is its product line? Are they new or approaching their product life cycles? Is its pricing competitive, etc.?
Without these things, and many others, your assessment of the Company will be less than comprehensive to come up with a viable strategic plan.
3. Gather information on the Company’s external environment:
What are the threats and opportunities within the Company’s external environment?
This is going to take a wider data-gathering. Things like: Who are its competitors? What pricing do they have? Their marketing strategy? Who are their customers? Are they intruding into your? How much and how fast? Why? What are the latest trends in the market you are operating? What are the buying preferences of your target market and their income levels are some of the things you need to know.
4. Analyze the data gathered in Steps 2 and 3:
Go over your data and see how the Company’s strengths and weaknesses stack up against its outside threats and opportunities.
This is where you can glean what the course of action the Company must take. Shall it continue with its present course or come up with some changes to stay competitive and thrive in the business it is in?
5. Look into its corporate level strategy:
Go over and analyze its mission, goals and corporate strategy.
Are they in harmony with each other or are they dysfunctional? Are they sufficient to the current realities or do they need to be changed? Are they doable or something very ethereal?
Carefully analyze the Company’s line of business, its subsidiaries and acquisitions. Look for ways to “trim the fat,” where necessary or beef up some areas where reinforcement is needed.
6. Look at its business level strategy:
This presupposes that the “Company” is a multiple business affair. Otherwise, this is going to be the same as in Step 5.
For a Company with multiple businesses, carefully analyze each business level strategy to see if they complement that of the corporate strategy.
A business level strategy that differs greatly with the corporate strategy will definitely lead to chaos, to say the least.
7. Formulate recommendations:
Based on the data gathered in the previous steps, you can now formulate some recommendations for the company to take.
Your recommendations should include identifying the structure and control systems to track effectiveness of action steps, organizational changes to effect recommendations, levels of hierarchy, employee rewards, resolution of conflicts, and other important points necessary for the smooth implementation of recommendations.
To be able to do it easily you must:
- Know the case very thoroughly like the palm of your hand;
- Don’t rush. Take your time and play it in your mind over and over again;
- Be honest and objective in your assessment. Buttering things up is counterproductive;
- Be analytical and descriptive. Vagueness and ambiguity have no place in a case study analysis;
- Proofread to perfection.
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