Case Study Guidelines
Below, you will find the required format and the recommended approach you should take in analyzing the case study in this course. The process you should use for analyzing a case study is:
- Read all assigned readings for the modules • Read the case study using the Short-Cycle approach to familiarize yourself with the case • Read the case study using the Long-Cycle approach to analyze the case • Draft your analysis of the case (steps are on the following pages). The deliverables for the case are as follows: o Problem Statement o Problem and Data Analysis o Alternatives o Key Decision Criteria o Alternatives analysis and evaluation o Recommendation o Action and implementation plan Executive Summary
Details on the Short-Cycle, Long-Cycle, and analysis steps are on the following pages. Your written analysis should follow APA guidelines and be free from spelling and grammatical errors. Required Format:
Your written analysis must have the following sections. Create a document with these headers and fill it in as you complete the deliverables. At the end of your analysis, you will have a complete analysis of your case when you submit your last deliverable, the Executive Summary.
- Title page (in accordance with APA format) 2. Table of contents 3. Executive summary 4. Problem statement 5. Problem and data analysis 6. Alternatives 7. Key decision criteria 8. Alternatives analysis and evaluation 9. Recommendation 10. Action and implementation plan 11. Reference List (if any) 12. Appendices (if any)
Note: Sections 3-12 should be level one headings in your paper. These headings should be used to automatically generate the table of contents for your paper.
Case Study Analysis
Analysis of the case should take the following steps (these are not the headings for your paper; these steps are the process you should follow to create the sections in your paper):
- Draft the problem statement 2. Analyze the case 3. Generate alternatives 4. Develop key decision criteria 5. Analyze and evaluate alternatives 6. Recommend and justify the preferred alternative 7. Developing an action/implementation plan 8. Write the executive summary
Problem Statement (Learning with Cases, pg. 41) The problem statement should be a clear, concise statement of exactly what needs to be addressed. The problem statement should be one sentence, and needs to be indicative of the underlying business problem, NOT the technical problem. You need to state why this problem is important to a business.
Getting the problem statement correct is very important. The problem statement will serve as the basis for each of the following sections. Many students also indicate that the problem is that the CIO or other manager needs to make a decision about some issue. If that were the case, the solution is fairly simple—replace the manager with someone who will make a decision. Focus on what’s important to the business. You might want to think about a sentence that is structured like this:
(business problem) because of (technical problem) The business problem is:
What will happen to the business if the technical problem occurred? What will the business no longer be able to do?
The technology problem is usually the technology issues present in the case As an example, you could state that a server has failed. From a business perspective, that isn’t much of a problem. However, if you reworded the problem to state that the business would not be able to process any customer payments because of a server failure, that would be a problem that would grab the business’ attention a lot faster.
It is also important not to include a solution in your problem statement. If you wrote a problem statement like this: Customer payments cannot be processed because a server failed and needs to be replaced. By stating that the server needs to be replaced, you are providing a solution that may not be the best. What if the customer payment application could be moved to a virtual machine? What if the
customer payment application needs to be replaced, regardless of the state of the server? What if the customer payment application could be collocated on another server? By stating that the solution is to replace the server, you have precluded any investigation into other possible solutions.
Problem and Data Analysis
(Learning with Cases, pg. 43) When analyzing the case, you should determine how the issues in the case came about, who in the organization is most affected by the issues, any constraints, and any opportunities for improvement. You should NOT be generating or discussing any alternatives.
This analysis should further develop and substantiate your problem statement. This section should be used to summarize the basics of your case analysis. It should not be used to simply retell the case scenario. A decent analysis of a case this size cannot happen in a paragraph or two. There are quite a few things that need to be brought up and discussed. The business will be spending millions of dollars because of the problem. A one or two paragraph description of the problem is not sufficient. As you are conducting an analysis of you problem, you should be highlighting the major parts of the problem.
Each of these parts needs to be fully developed and explained in detail. Continuing on with the example of the server failure, there may be several underlying issues. What if the server is very old? If so, parts not be readily available. Additionally, the application could have been written for an old operating system and may require significant rewriting for it to work on a modern operating system. Each of these issues should be a level 2 heading and will need significant development.
As you develop these issues, always be sure to keep the business impact in mind. Be accurate in your description of the problem. Be sure that you fully understand what the case is discussing. You may need to read material outside of the case if you don’t understand the business environment at the time of the case or if you don’t understand any of the technologies mentioned in the case. You may also need to ask your instructor for clarification. The bottom line is that you need to write factual statements.
Do not use hyperbole. It’s doubtful that the problem is endless, the risk is uncalculatable, or the desired state is unattainable. If any of those were the case, we wouldn’t have a case to analyze. State facts without embellishing. As you complete the problem analysis and learn more about the case, you may find that you need to rewrite your problem statement. Alternatives (Learning with Cases, pg. 46) Each alternative you develop should offer a different way in which the problem could be resolved. Typically, there are many alternatives that could solve the problem in the case. Some alternatives may even be discussed in the case. You should also develop your own alternative(s)
as well. It is very likely that the alternatives presented in the case are not sufficient to solve the entire problem. Each alternative should have a level two heading. Fully describe each alternative. There should be no description of any alternative in future sections; it all should be described here. As you continue with your analysis, you may find yourself adding to these descriptions as you continue to refine your alternatives. In the alternative descriptions, you should address all issues that you identified in the problem analysis. For each of those issues, create a level three heading, and discuss how the alternative does or does not address each issue. You should also discuss cost for each alternative.
As you discuss cost of the alternative, you should indicate what will be capitalized. Additionally, you should take total cost of ownership into account for any new systems that you may be recommending. You should also be taking the time value of money into account if any of your alternatives will take more than a year to implement. You should also discuss schedule for each alternative. How long will it take to implement each alternative?
Anything that takes more than three years needs to have a very good justification. If a project takes fewer than six months, you should reevaluate your estimation. Very few projects of any size will be completed that fast. Each alternative should fully address all parts of a problem. For example, let’s say a problem has two major issues. Don’t have an alternative that addresses the first issue, another alternative that addresses a second issue, and a third alternative that is simply a combination of the first two alternatives and fully addresses the problem. In this case, the first two alternatives are not viable as they do not fully address the entire problem.
Each alternative should be realistic and have a reasonable expectation that it could be successfully implemented. If you have an alternative that will take ten years to implement, cost more than the market value of the company, or is beyond the ability of the company to implement, then the alternative is not realistic. If you present an alternative that recommends making a decision pending further investigation, it is not an acceptable alternative for any case study that you will analyze.
All the investigation that is going to take place is presented in the case. No more investigation is possible, and a decision needs to be made. If you recommend doing nothing as your strategy, you must provide clear reasons why this is an acceptable alternative. This may be an acceptable alternative. In fact, many cases present this as an alternative. However, you need to justify the alternative, and you will need to describe how it does or doesn’t address the issues you identified in the problem analysis. You will also need to analyze the alternative with the key decision criteria that you create.
Avoid providing one desirable alternative and two other clearly undesirable alternatives. This is gaming the system and might not be the best for the company. Do the work necessary to provide at least three viable alternatives. Do not compare alternatives here; that will be done in a future section. Do not state things like this will be the favorite alternative amongst the employees or this is the cheapest alternative. Those type of statements imply that you have already done a comparison.
This section is for fully describing alternatives, not for comparing alternatives. Key Decision Criteria (Learning with Cases, pg. 47) Once the alternatives have been identified, a method of evaluating them and selecting the most appropriate one needs to be used to arrive at a decision. The key decision criteria you develop now will be used later to evaluate all alternatives and will form the basis for your recommendation. These criteria should take into account the issues you have previously identified. Additionally, the key decision criteria should include cost and schedule. Each criterion should be a level two heading.
A description of the criterion and how it will be used should follow each heading. As you develop your criteria, do not mention any alternatives. You should only be describing the criteria. The criteria will be used to evaluate each alternative in the next section. Each criterion you develop should be atomic. In other words, don’t combine several things into one criterion. For example, some students use Time and Money as a single criterion. These are two different criteria and are usually opposing. If you find yourself using a conjunction in the name of a criterion, you could most likely split that into two separate criteria.
For cost, you should explain what expenses will be included in the cost evaluation, e.g. salaries, equipment costs, maintenance fees. You should explain how you will account for the time value of money. Additionally, you should indicate what type of depreciation schedule you will use for any capitalizable expenses.
Each criterion needs to be measureable, and you need to state exactly how you will use each criterion to evaluate the alternatives. Here is an example of a criterion that is explained, but not measureable:
The most important decision criterion is if the proposed alternative offers a secure solution. The best solution will be the one which helps keep the company’s data and intellectual property safe and secure. Alternatives will be measured by analyzing whether the proposed solution is more secure than the current environment. The security analyzation will consider hardware, software, and the human user aspect.
There are several things wrong with this description. First, what hardware, software, and human user aspects will one look at to determine if it’s the best solution to keep Intel’s data and intellectual property safe and secure? If we could determine that, what measurement scale would we use to rate the alternatives? Here’s an example of a criterion that is measureable:
Having the capability to remotely wipe a device increases the security of the device in the case of it being lost or stolen. This criterion will be scored as follows: • If Intel can enforce remote wipe on all devices, 2 points will be given for this
criterion. • If remote wipe is possible, but not enforceable, 1 point will be given. • If remote wipe is not possible at all, then 0 points will be given.
Compared to the first description, this description is significantly better. Any reasonable person could read an alternative’s description, apply the remote wipe criterion, and come up with the same score. The same can’t be said for the first criterion. As you are developing these criteria, you may find yourself adding to you alternative descriptions. You might need to do this to ensure the criteria can be used to evaluate each of your alternatives. Alternatives Analysis and Evaluation (Learning with Cases, pg. 49) Measure each alternative against the key decision criteria.
Describe how each of the alternatives do not meet, meet, or exceed all of the key decision criteria. You should explicitly state the score each alternative achieves for all of the key decision criteria. Each alternative should also be a level two heading. Underneath each level two heading, provide an analysis of the alternative.
Under this analysis, have a level three heading for each of the key decision criteria. Under these level three headings, state the score the alternative achieved and explain why it achieved that score. Do not compare alternatives in this section. You should be only measuring the alternatives against the key decision criteria. Do not describe or explain any part of an alternative here. The descriptions should have been written earlier.
Do not evaluate an alternative against any criteria that are not part of the key decision criteria. For example, if you wrote a statement that indicated that employee satisfaction would be highest for an alternative, employee satisfaction should be a key decision criteria and all alternatives should be evaluated against it. At the end of this section, include a summary table that lists each alternative, the key decision criteria, and how the alternatives scored against the criteria. The table should look something like this: KDC KDC KDC Total Score Alternative Alternative Alternative
Replace Alternative and KDC with the titles of the alternatives and the names of the criteria, respectively. If you have more than three alternatives, add a row. If you have more than three KDC, add a column. Recommendation (Learning with Cases, pg. 52) Clearly recommend one, and only one, of your alternatives. This should be the first statement in this section, and it should read something like this: The XYZ alternative is recommended for implementation. Don’t beat around the bush or try to put in a lot of “flowery” words. Make it clear which alternative you recommend. After that, you need to justify your recommendation.
You need to explain why the alternative was chosen. Use the key decision criteria as the basis for the explanation. You should also state why the other alternatives were not chosen. You should also compare each of these unchosen alternatives to the chosen alternative. Again, use the key decision criteria as the basis for the explanation.
Do NOT include in your explanation any criterion that wasn’t listed as one of the key decision criteria. If you think a criterion is important enough to mention here, it should be one of the key decision criteria and all alternatives should have been evaluated against it. Action and implementation plan. (Learning with Cases, pg. 53) Discuss how the recommended course of action will be implemented. Include costs, schedule, and scope in this plan. Include any stakeholders and their responsibilities.
Here is an approach to developing your plan:
– Develop a Gantt chart with the high-level tasks needed to implement your recommendation.
– Determine if there are any dependencies between the tasks
– Estimate which type of people or roles (manager, systems admin, programmer, etc.) and how many of each type would be needed to perform the task
– Estimate the duration and effort would be needed by those individuals to complete their work
Duration is how long it will take to complete a task. Not everyone is available 24 hours per day to work on a task. Also, some tasks may have external dependencies that might delay completion.
Effort is how many hours of actual work it will take to complete the task
– Use that estimate to determine the length of the project
The duration of the tasks along with the dependencies between tasks will determine how long it will take to implement the project
– Use the effort estimation to determine the cost of the employees working on the project
. The rate was an average of salaries, plus a percentage cost for our parking garage, cafeteria, rest rooms, hallways, etc. As employees used those facilities when they worked on a project, our Accounting department wanted us to include those costs in the internal labor rate.Lo At the financial services company I worked for, we used an internal labor rate of $65/hour on our internal employee costs. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get paid at this rate
For your estimate, pick a reasonable internal labor rate
– Estimate the costs of any hardware/software
As we don’t know what the contract rate that the company has with equipment and software suppliers, just pick reasonable costs.
– Combine the labor, hardware, and software costs to come up with an overall cost
Once you have the Gantt chart created, you will need to explain, in detail, each task. I would recommend that you have a paragraph for each task. Within each paragraph, include the following:
- State what will be accomplished by the task • List any dependencies the task has on other tasks • State the type and number of people needed to accomplish the task • State the effort needed to complete the task • State the duration of the task • State the overall cost of the task
Besides the above guidance, you may also want to review some of the material from ADMG 574 Global Project Management. Additionally, here are a few links below that might also help:
Executive summary (Learning with Cases, pg. 109) The executive summary should summarize the entire analysis and should be written last. NB, this summary should be directed towards a C-level executive in the organization that is being analyzed. This is NOT a summary of the case; it is a summary of your analysis The executive summary should stand on its own. This means that the summary should contain all the facts it needs to make its point without referring to the rest of the report.
At a minimum, you should provide a high-level description of the problem, the recommendation, and a summary of the implementation plan. You may include a brief summary of the other alternatives if you wish The executive summary should be on its own page, and it should NOT be longer than one page. The goal of an executive summary is for an executive to be able to read it and make a decision. If the executive wishes more detail, the executive will then read the more detailed analysis.
Table of Contents
Use Word to generate the table of contents. If you used the appropriate level for each of your headings, the table of contents can be created with the Table of Contents function on the References tab in Word.
Process for Analyzing a Case Study (Erskine, Leenders, & Mauffette-Leenders, 2007) The Short Cycle Process
- Quickly read the case. If it is a long case, at this stage you may want to read only the first few and last paragraphs. You should then be able to answer the following questions:
- Who is the decision maker in this case, and what is their position and responsibilities?
- What appears to be the issue (of concern, problem, challenge, or opportunity) and its significance for the organization?
- Why has the issue arisen and why is the decision maker involved now? 4. When does the decision maker have to decide, resolve, act, or dispose of the
issue? 5. What is the urgency to the situation?
- Take a look at any exhibits to see what numbers have been provided. 3. Review the case subtitles to see what areas are covered in more depth. 4. Review the case questions, if any have been provided.
The Long Cycle Process The Long Cycle Process consists of:
- A detailed reading of the case 2. An analysis of the case.
When you are doing the detailed reading of the case study, look for the following sections: 1. Opening paragraph: introduces the situation. 2. Background information: industry, organization, products, history, competition, financial
information, and anything else of significance. 3. Specific area of interest: marketing, finance, operations, human resources, IT, or
integrated 4. The specific problem or decision(s) to be made. 5. Alternatives open to the decision maker, which may or may not be stated in the case. 6. Conclusion: sets up the task, any constraints or limitations, and the urgency of the
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