What features or skills or resources or strategies are necessary for competing successfully in the industry?

CASE ANALYSIS REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES

Prepared for BUSI1703 | ACADIA UNIVERSITY, last updated 6 Sep 2017 Page 1 of 6

Case analysis is a method used in business to assist managers, executives and clients in making important decisions about their departments and/or companies. Case analysis involves familiarizing yourself with your client’s case, conveying your understanding their situation and key issues by critically analyzing and interpreting their “data,” pinpointing their dilemma or problem, suggesting and evaluating options for solving it, and offering them sound, well thought through advice on how to proceed. All of this is captured and delivered in a professionally prepared written report (also known as a Case Analysis Report). Other times, this information is delivered by way of a professional oral presentation (also known as a Case Analysis Presentation). Both case reports and case presentations include the following elements:

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM A very short paragraph (3-5 sentences) identifying (i) the decision-maker(s) and the decision he/she/they must make on behalf of the business firm (this may or may not be explicitly stated in the case), and (ii) any constraints, competing priorities, key issues and/or challenges faced by the firm and the decision maker that make the decision difficult (this frames their dilemma). Constraints and competing priorities are rarely explicitly identified in the case, and the student must use his/her own judgment, analysis, and reasoning to figure out what they are. This is more difficult for the student to do, but identifying them is crucial to solving the case because your final recommendation to the decision-maker (see related Section below) must address them. Sometimes, your statement of the problem comes from drawing conclusions during situation analysis (see next section), so it is not unusual to re-work a problem statement after completing the situation analysis. Here is an example of a reasonable problem statement:

The senior executive team of Whole Foods Market Inc (WFM) wants to see rapid growth for the company over the next 10 years. The bold objectives of the natural and organic foods retailer include expanding the footprint of the company from 340 to 1000 stores across all markets from 2012 to 2022. WFM currently operates most of their stores in the United States, but has shown interest in international growth by opening 8 stores in Canada (with 4 in development) and 7 in the U.K. over the past 10 years. The company has seen rapid growth in its 32 years of business primarily through mergers and acquisitions of existing smaller retail food chains, but it is not clear whether such a strategy will promote growth on the international market. As competition in the natural and organic foods market becomes fiercer every year, the senior executives of WFM must carefully settle on a strategy will meet their corporate growth objectives.

SITUATION ANALYSIS Analyzing the client’s situation (and their firm’s situation) requires identifying and defining the key pieces of information at play in the case. It also involves doing some external research to interpret facts and data, and draw conclusions about the pieces at play and/or relevant facts presented in the case. A situation analysis will include many of the “Analysis” sections presented below, depending on the case. It is up to the consultant to determine which sections are most relevant to the case in question. Analysis of the Ownership & Management, for example, might include a paragraph discussing the facts, research and conclusions related to the following questions:

• Are their many owners and managers?

• How complicated is decision making in this firm? Where is (are) the decision maker(s) in the firm’s organization structure? Who needs to be consulted to make or approve a decision?

• What are the objectives, goals or preferences of the owners (or directors on the board or senior managers)?

• Do some of these people have conflicting or inconsistent objectives, goals or preferences?

• Other statements, conclusions, or interpretations of case information related to ownership and management.

CASE ANALYSIS REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES

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Analysis of Current Strategy might include a paragraph discussing the facts, research and conclusions related to the following questions:

• What exactly is the firm’s current strategy for achieving its goals, objectives, etc? These could be financial goals, or other targets.

• How is it trying to compete against other firms in its industry?

• Is it working?

• Other statements, conclusions, or interpretations of case information related to the firm’s current strategy.

• Resist getting to specific here. Focus on what makes the firm unique in the industry. Also see analysis of industry, markets, and key success factors.

Analysis of Mission might include a paragraph discussing the facts, research and conclusions related to the following questions:

• Does the firm have a mission statement? If yes, state it.

• If so, is it consistent with what they are actually doing/how they run their business?

• If not, can you figure out what their mission is from the decisions they have made before now?

• Other statements, conclusions, or interpretations of case information related to the firm’s mission. Analysis of Current Markets might include a paragraph discussing the facts, research and conclusions related to the following questions:

• Who are their current customers? Are their customers the consumers and end users of their product or are they “middlemen”? What do their customers want from the product or service? What do the consumers or end users want?

• Do they have different types of customers?

• Are some types of customers more profitable (or more troublesome) compared to other types?

• How do they communicate with their customers?

• What is the firm’s pricing like compared to the competition?

• How much market share does the firm have?

• Other statements, conclusions, or interpretations of case information related to their customers and markets.

Analysis of Financial Position, and other quantitative analysis might include a paragraph discussing the facts, research and conclusions related to the following questions:

• Revenue & cost structure? What are their primary sources of revenue? Primary expenses? Recent changes?

• Profit structure/profitability. How do they make a profit?

• Financing; How do they finance their operations? Self? Other?

• Other statements, conclusions, or interpretations of case information related to the firm’s current and recent finances.

Tips for completing analysis of financial position:

• Work with numbers in the case to draw conclusions about what is going on the firm.

• Draw conclusions just from comparing numbers in the case. For example, if you have the firm’s financial statements for 2 or 3 years, you can see whether profits on the income statement are increasing or decreasing and draw conclusions about whether the firm is doing better or worse recently. For example, if the case gives a figure about average profitability for all the firms in the industry that you can compare to the profitability of the firm in the case, you may be able to draw a conclusion about how successfully the firm is competing against its rivals in the industry.

• Do simple calculations with the numbers that might give results that allow you to draw conclusions. For example, if you have final statements with the firm’s revenues and costs for 2 years showing that both its revenues and its costs are rising from year 1 to year 2, but that your calculations show that its costs are rising faster than its revenues, you might conclude that the firm is operating inefficiently.

CASE ANALYSIS REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES

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• It’s okay to make assumptions, as long as they are stated in the report.

• Show calculations that are your own work. It is okay to refer to charts and graphs that are already in the case, but do not insert them into a report or presentation as your own unless you are going to discuss what is in them.

Analysis of Industry & Competition might include a paragraph discussing the facts, research and conclusions related to the following questions:

• What is (are) the industry(ies) in which the firm competes? Note that a single firm may be operating several lines of business (several different products and/or services).

• What’s the latest (or then current) news/trends in this industry?

• Other statements, conclusions, or interpretations of case information related to the client’s industry.

• Who are the other firms in its industry? Which firms dominate the industry in terms of size, resources, and market share?

• How do firms in the industry compete for customers? — (a) low price, (b) leading edge product technology, (c) customized service to each customer, (d) efficient service, (e)high quality products, (f) heavy promotion & advertising? How does the firm in the case measure up to the way most firms in the industry compete?

• Other statements, conclusions, or interpretations of case information related to the competition. Analysis of Key Success Factors in the Industry might include a paragraph discussing the facts, research and conclusions related to the following questions:

• What are the most successful firms in the industry are doing well that less successful firms are not?

• What features or skills or resources or strategies are necessary for competing successfully in the industry?

• How does the firm in the case compare to its competitors with regard to these features, resources, skills or strategies?

• Firm’s competitive advantage, if any?

• Tip: Use this information to identify your decision criteria. SWOT Analysis – A thoughtful, well-organized summary of the firm’s and/or decision-maker’s…

• Strengths (internal factors that currently contribute to their success)

• Weaknesses (internal factors that currently hold them back from their potential)

• Opportunities (external trends, events, evidence on which they could capitalize)

• Threats (external trends, events, evident that could pose challenges) NOTE: It may not be possible to complete all of the above sections for every single case. Details and information vary by case and by situation. Therefore, a student is responsible for determining which sections are relevant to the analysis at hand. A Student may also add other sections to a situation analysis. Just because it’s not mentioned here, doesn’t mean you can’t include it in a situation analysis. Some examples that have been included in the past: Analysis of Current Capacity, Analysis of the Supply Chain, Analysis of the Carbon Footprint.

PRESENTATION OF OPTIONS/ALTERNATIVES for solving the problem This is an itemized (i.e. bulleted or numbered) section identifying the options/alternatives management /owners are considering, as well as any others that the student comes up with. Each option is stated and briefly described with details that allow the audience to create a picture of what the option entails. Adding a “for example” scenario may help capture the necessary details. The section may be numbered or bulleted, but complete sentences are used. It is important that this section remain objective. No judgment, opinion, evaluation or recommendation should be referenced in this section. There will be time for all of that in later Sections.

CASE ANALYSIS REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES

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EVALUATION OF OPTIONS/ALTERNATIVES Each option is then evaluated two ways:

1. Each option is evaluated with a comprehensive (i.e. all you can think of) list of pros and cons. You should include quantitative pros & cons (e.g., how will this option affect profitability, costs, revenues, etc) as well as qualitative (i.e., strategic) pros & cons. Pros and cons must be specific to the case, the situation and the problem. Because pros and cons are also specific to an individual option, and are therefore considered a “stand-alone” way to evaluate an option. Since pros and cons will (and should) vary from one option to another, they do not allow you to compare one option to another (apples v oranges). To compare options, we use decision criteria. Proper labeling is important to clearly identify the option and its pros and cons.

2. Each option is also evaluated with the application of 3-5 decision criteria. Decision criteria are the most important factors that the decision makers should/want to consider to evaluate and compare their options. Start by presenting all of the decision criteria. Each decision criterion is presented in “vocabulary” format, meaning the word or phrased is stated, then followed by three complete sentences that indicate (i) why it is important and being used in this case (look to the decision-maker’s values, goals and key issues in the case for ideas), (ii) how it will be measured or how each option will be assessed on the criterion, and (iii) what it would take for an option to be recommended based on this criterion, ie the minimum standard, ideal value or score. Consider this scenario: Bob lives in Wolfville as an unemployed student completing his BBA. He lives on a tight budget and has to be smart with his finances in order to make it to graduation. Bob has class in 30 minutes, but he is hungry and wants pizza. His favorite restaurants are Joe’s Restaurant, Picasso’s Pizza and Pronto’s Pizza. Pizza quality, delivery time, price and availability of toppings are all very important to him. These four factors are his decision criteria, but they are not fully defined yet. All four parts (the phrase and the three-part definition) are essential to defining a decision criterion. Here are two of his decision criteria, fully defined:

Price – Bob is unemployed and on a tight budget. Each option will be assessed on the cost per slice. In order for a restaurant to be recommended, its price per slice must not exceed $2. Delivery Time – Bob has class soon and is hungry right now. Therefore, each option will be assessed on its estimated delivery time in minutes. In order for an option to be recommended, it must be able to deliver the pizza in under 20 minutes.

Following an option’s list of pros and cons, the option should be discussed in terms of each of the decision criteria being applied. This application of decision criteria typically takes the form of a short paragraph, wherein an option is discussed in terms of its standing on each of the decision criteria. These paragraphs are required in full written reports. In presentations, this information is often be summarized in an evaluation matrix (see next section). After all of the options have been fully evaluated per the two methods above, an evaluation summary or comparison matrix is presented. The evaluation matrix is a table summarizing the evaluation and offers a way for the audience to visualize all of the options together; to be reminded of the options and how they stack up against one another. The evaluation matrix does not include pros and cons, but rather is a table of “options v decision criteria” interactions. Actual number figures must be included if that is how a decision criterion is used. For example, if “profitability” is the decision criterion, then the matrix should include the actual profit values for each of the options. An example of an evaluation matrix for Bob appears on the following page. Others will be created in class.

CASE ANALYSIS REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES

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Summary of Evaluation for Bob’s Pizza Dilemma:

Joes’ Restaurant Picasso’s Pizza Pronto’s Pizza

Price/Slice $2.45 $1.95 $2.05

Delivery Time 15 min 25 min 20 min

Pizza Quality 5/5 4/5 4/5

Available toppings 8 7 9

RECOMMENDATION & RATIONALE Based on a complete evaluation, one of the strategic options or alternatives must be recommended. This is likely the option that scores the highest on all decision criteria. However, sometimes options score the same on some criteria, in which case the consultant/student must determine which decision criteria take priority. This is called ranking the decision criteria in order of importance to the decision-maker. It is okay for the recommended option to be subpar on a decision criteria, but it shouldn’t be the most important one. Making a recommendation starts with restating the option you feel is the best choice for the decision-maker moving forward. Once a recommendation is made, the choice must be justified (i.e. rationale). Rationale must demonstrate that your recommendation addresses the issues and challenges you identified in earlier sections. Remember, no option will ever be absolutely perfect, but we must be able to draw lines from the recommended action back to its pros and cons, its performance under decision criteria, and show how it addresses key issues of the situation and SWOT analysis and especially the problem. Rationale takes the form of 1-2 paragraphs immediately following the recommendation statement.

IMPLEMENTATION PLAN This section outlines the concrete actions that must be taken to implement the recommendation. The implementation plan is a list of 6-10 concrete, tactical and well-defined steps that the decision-maker must take in order to put the recommended action into place. In addition to the action steps, the implementation plan should also include:

• the timing and scheduling of these actions (start dates, durations)

• who (individuals, business units, etc) will be responsible for each one

• the resources or skills necessary for accomplishing each one; This may include a plan for financing some/all actions

• any assumptions made in making the recommendation or any of the action steps

• any obstacles or challenges the decision-maker or the firm can expect to encounter during implementation

_____________________________________________________________________________________________ Case-related work in our course involves three types of assignments, Mini Case Analysis, Full Case Analysis Reports, and Case Presentations. Each of these is mentioned in the course syllabus. The table on the following page summarizes the required elements for each type of assignment.

CASE ANALYSIS REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES

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Mini Analysis

Full Case Report

Case Presentation

Statement of Problem

Situation Analysis

X Not included in mini analysis.

 But limit to critical highlights and design for slides; Use charts/graphs

Options

 May include pros/cons

Evaluation

Include Decision Criteria AND Evaluation Matrix; Pros/Cons not required.

 But may be abbreviated: Present decision criteria; May include pros/cons; Present evaluation summary/ comparison matrix

Rec & Rationale

Include a Preliminary Recommendation; Rationale not required.

 Bullet points acceptable

Implementation Plan

X Not included in mini analysis.

A mini analysis should be a staging or a set-up for a full case analysis report or presentation; Use outline above for section headers. Mini analysis is typically limited to THREE pages, unless otherwise noted by professor.

A full case report is a professional, technical business report (not an essay!); No photos; Financial statements included as Exhibits at end; Large charts, tables also as Exhibits; Use outline above for section headers; Focus on depth, command of content and key issues, tight rationale, client utility; Report typically limited to 2500 words (not including Exhibits)

A professional business presentation might use charts, graphs to enhance delivery, represent important details; Photos for visual appeal only; Use sections outlined above for slide titles; Focus on command of key issues, tight rationale, client utility; Delivery is as important as content; Severe time overage penalties; Anticipate tough client questions. 15 minutes, unless otherwise instructed.

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