Management Case Analysis

The case write-up should be no more than ten pages (double-spaced, 12-point Arial font) in length, with a maximum of seven exhibits.

Two case reports on Qatar Telecom and ABB’s Hydropower Sustainability Dilemma

The student should write the case assignment from the perspective of the main character in the case whose business issue requires a solution or the perspective of a consultant advising on the next steps for the company.

The case assignment should include the following:

· Identify the main character in the case and their strategic business issue(s) or how to compete internationally

· Summarize the key case “question(s)” from the perspective of the main character, asking the question “what needs to be done now, soon, this year, in 3 years, in 10 years to successfully grow in a new market(s)”?

· Major institutional and resource-based opportunities & constraints in the home and new country markets as they affect strategic competitiveness

· Using the text, course tools, and supplementary tools and information, conduct an analysis of the firm, its current and future geographic scope, competitors, market, products, finances, people, operations, innovativeness, culture, and other business areas, to determine the root causes of the case issue(s) and/or identify potential globalizing factors and their firm impacts

· Go beyond the case facts in theorizing what the industry might look like once the geographic “footprint” has expanded, where the internationalization will/may occur, what the firm will be like in 2030 and 2050, and what the organization can do to stay relevant in diverse markets, grow through new global initiative and customers; ask what this company is doing/can do to become sustainable, how create uncontested market space, develop wealth for stakeholders, and enhance profitability/other objective measurements, and how such strategic goals are homogeneous or not across the firm’s global operations

Propose a solution(s) to the business problem(s) and/or assessment of the firm international competitiveness, as the case circumstances require. Create a detailed plan of action for the character/company to execute in order to solve their problem, enhance their competitiveness, and “win in the globalized/globalizing marketplace”, including the 5 W’s of how to execute on the plan

Suggested questions to analyze:

Case: Qatar Telecom (concepts covered in Chapter 16 on Textbook)

Describe the Financial Services industry in Qatar?

In the Qtel-Wataniya transaction, how were minority shareholders treated?

What changes are necessary to KSE’s corporate governance standards? To those at Wataniya? To the Kuwaiti institutions?
Review the OECD’s corporate governance standards (in an attachment here) and analyze the key corporate governance standards, as well as barriers to effective implementations.

Case: ABB’s Hydropower Sustainability Dilemma (concepts covered in Chapter 17 on Textbook)

How did ABB’s sustainability strategy evolve?

What are the sustainability-related trade-offs in a dam project?
What are the potential reputational risks associated with the NT2 project and the International Rivers letter?
Has Roscoe what would you do as of April 2010?
Do you suggest changing ABB sustainability criteria and/or objectives if so, how and why?

How to Analyze a Case

Outline for Case Reports:

 

Please follow this outline for all written case reports. Please note that this follows the discussion below.

 

  1. Situation Analysis
  2. Assumptions and Missing Information
  3. Problem Definition
  4. Development of Alternatives
  5. Evaluation of Alternatives and Recommendation to Management
  6. Appendix – Used for exhibits such as pro-forma income statements and other detailed analyses.

 

The Case Analysis Framework

 

The case analysis framework presented here is a synthesis of the frameworks used by your professor and other marketing professors who use case analysis in their courses. It will provide a solid structure to organize the diverse information presented in a case.

 

As you work your way through this framework, or a similar approach to case analysis, we offer the following hints to increase your probability of success:

 

  1. No one can analyze a case after reading it only one time, or even worse, doing the analysis during the first reading of the case. You should read through the case once just to get an understanding of the nature of the case. During the second reading, you can begin to structure and classify the issues as they appear. A truly comprehensive case analysis will probably require at least three readings.

 

  1. Don’t get trapped into thinking the “answer” to the case is hidden somewhere in the case text. There is never a single answer to a case just as there is never a single marketing strategy that is appropriate for all situations. Each case is unique. Looking for tricks or shortcuts is not appropriate.

 

  1. Make an effort to put yourself in the shoes of the decision maker in the case. The use of role-playing as part of the analysis can be very useful. It helps you gain some feeling for the perspective of the key parties at the time the case took place. After you have done several analyses, you will likely come up with your own additional procedures or guidelines that assist you with this process.

Step 1:

Situation Analysis

The material presented in a case is much like the communications we have in our daily lives. Usually our conversations involve the selection of a topic and then the discussion of that topic, and so it is with cases. The problem is that we end up with bits and pieces of information that by themselves are not very useful, but once organized, can be quite valuable in our assessment of the situation. The first step in the framework helps you organize the pieces of information into more useful topic blocks.

 

The process of assessing a situation is widely accomplished through the use of SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Looking at an organization’s strengths and weaknesses is the first half of Step 1. This involves looking at the organization’s internal environment. Strengths are those aspects of the internal environment that can help the firm address a present problem, issue, or opportunity, while weaknesses are negative factors or deficiencies that do not allow the firm to reach its full potential.

One topic that should be addressed is the content and appropriateness of the current marketing or sales plan. Is the plan current? Do the key parties understand and utilize it? Was it developed with input from all levels of the organization? The organization’s financial condition may also present strengths and weaknesses.

Is it in a solid position, and does it have, or can it acquire, needed funds at a reasonable cost of capital? Other possible strengths and weaknesses might include managerial expertise, human resources, product reputation and customer loyalty, patents and trademarks, age and capacity of production facilities, channel relationships, and promotional programs (sales force, advertising program, publicity, and sales promotion efforts). These are all issues that we want to consider in terms of both the present state of the firm and identifiable trends.

Students assessing a case situation see the importance of considering the organization’s internal environment fairly naturally. The aspect of SWOT analysis that gives students the most difficulty is the external environment where all opportunities and threats reside. These are issues that exist outside the boundaries of the firm. All opportunities and threats will exist at their present levels even if the organization in question does not exist. Technology, competition, the macroeconomic environment, regulation, and social and cultural trends are all issues that affect the success of an organization’s strategies, but the organization has only limited influence on them.

Because the power to affect the external environment significantly is usually absent, management must view the factors and forces present in the external environment as issues to be considered, but not usually controlled. Managers should take steps to minimize the exposure to threats and to take full advantage of the opportunities. You might think of opportunities and threats as currents in a river. It is much easier to find a river whose currents will help take you where you are going than to try to make headway going against the force of the river.

 

You may get hung up on several points when conducting a SWOT analysis. First, while a factor will usually fall into only one of the four categories, this is not always the case. A factor can be both a strength and a weakness, or an opportunity and a threat. For example, excess capacity in a factory would be a weakness from a production efficiency standpoint. But, it could be a strength if the firm is looking to introduce a new product because it will not have to build a new factory.

 

The second and more serious issue is the difficulty in identifying opportunities. There is a tendency to confuse opportunities with possibilities. Something the company might do, such as franchise its operations in an effort to expand, is not an opportunity. The mention of the organization’s name in the opportunity is a clear indication that it is not an issue from the external environment. Both threats and opportunities would be present even if the organization did not exist.

 

Finally, you are accustomed to the material in a textbook containing accurate information that should be believed and remembered. However, in some cases, you will find statements of opinion that are often biased by a person’s motives and position in a firm. The organization’s CEO who has just recently given approval to the firm’s strategic plan might say, “This is an excellent mission statement that will effectively direct our firm’s efforts for the next decade.” Is this really true? It might be, but it will be up to you to determine what is fact as opposed to someone’s opinion. Opinions will need to be assessed in your case analysis to determine their accuracy.

 

Step 2:

Assumptions and Missing Information

 

As with life, it is neither possible nor realistic for cases to contain all the information a decision maker might wish to have available. Usually a decision maker has only bits and pieces of information. He or she must either fill in the gaps, or make the decision that the information is not critical, fairly predictable, or simply too costly and time-consuming to justify collecting for the decision at hand. A marketing manager might want to know the history of competitive reactions to price cuts by his firm. This information may be present in company files. It also might be available from trade sources or other noncompetitive channel members.

 

In step two you will list important information not contained in the case, why that information might be useful, and how you might go about acquiring it. This is more than just a wish list. The items included here should considered thoroughly. The list should contain pieces of information that would help shore up or fill gaps in your SWOT analysis.

 

Some of the information that is not available can be addressed through assumptions. One might assume that if information about the firm’s advertising budget is not available, it would be equal to industry averages. The same assumptions might be made for other costs and revenues. It is critical that these assumptions be realistic and clearly identified before and during the case analysis. This list should contain only those items that will be truly useful in enhancing the quality of the decisions made. It should not be a list of things that would be interesting to know. The quality of your analysis will depend on your coverage of the framework, the depth of your analysis, and the degree to which you can defend your recommendations.

 

Step 3:

Problem Definition

 

The identification and clear presentation of the problem(s) or issue(s) facing the company is the most critical part of the analysis framework. Only a problem properly defined can be addressed. Define the problem too narrowly, or miss the key problem all together, and all subsequent framework steps will be off the mark. Getting a clear picture of the problem is one major benefit derived from SWOT analysis.

 

The process of identifying problems is similar to the one people go through with their doctors. A nurse or assistant comes in to conduct a strength and weakness assessment on you. Your vital signs are taken and you are asked about any symptoms you may be experiencing. Symptoms are observable manifestations or indications that a problem may be present. Symptoms are not the problem themselves. If you have a temperature of 103 degrees, that is a symptom. If the medical staff were to pack you in ice for several minutes, that reading would probably approach 98.6 degrees. Would that make you well?

It might make your condition worse! The doctor uses the information collected from you, with knowledge of the viruses and diseases that are present in the external environment, to identify what has led to your high fever. The doctor will attempt to diagnose the real problem, then prescribe treatment from a set of feasible alternatives (make recommendations about what steps will help solve the problem) and provide you with a prognosis (an indication of the things you can expect to occur as you are recovering).

 

The case analysis process is similar to the doctor’s analysis and treatment of a patient in several basic ways. First, symptoms are the most observable indication that a problem exists. Many students are very quick to start treating the symptoms found in a case, as opposed to digging deeper to find the underlying problem(s). A symptom may be that sales are down from previous periods. If this is how you define the problem, your answer might be to cut the price. This might be an appropriate step, but not based on the analysis to this point. Sales might pick up, but will this reaction make the company healthier? This is a clear case of prescription without adequate diagnosis.

 

The most important question in the identification of any problem is “Why?” The Why question should always be asked after a potential problem has been proposed. To illustrate, pinpointing the problem associated with the sales decline in our previous example might progress like this:

 

The problem is that sales have declined.

Why have sales declined?

Sales have declined because there are too many sales territories that are not assigned to a salesperson.

Why are so many sales territories unassigned?

Sales territories are unassigned because sales force turnover has doubled in the past year.

Why has sales force turnover doubled?

Turnover began to increase over a year ago when the sales force compensation plan was altered in order to reduced variable expenses.

 

When you can no longer devise a meaningful response to the Why? question, you have probably found the problem. In this instance, the problem statement might read:

 

The current sales force compensation plan at XYZ Company is inadequate to retain an acceptable percentage of the firm’s salespeople, resulting in lost customers and decreased sales.

 

The problem statement should be brief—almost always one or two sentences. It should be to the point, and it should provide a clear indication as to what must be addressed to improve the performance of the organization.

 

Given this problem statement, our first reaction, to work on the symptom of reduced sales by cutting prices, would clearly not solve the problem. When we work on symptoms, the symptom may go away, but the problem will always manifest itself again with the same symptom, or a related one. Cutting prices would enhance sales, but would it be profitable? And, with an understaffed sales force, could the firm serve customers at a level that would keep them satisfied?

Step 4:

Development of Alternatives

Once we have the problem clearly and succinctly defined, we are in a position to develop a set of strategic alternatives that have a reasonable potential to solve the problem. A key problem students face in this step is that they generate a laundry list of a dozen fairly detail-oriented items. These items have a lot more to do with the tactics of implementing a strategy than with presenting alternative strategies from which we will make our selections. Going back to the sales force example above, the list may include ideas such as:

 

  • Take candidates through a more rigorous interview process
  • Lengthen the training program
  • Give every salesperson a company car
  • Offer both individual and regional bonuses
  • Increase company contribution to the retirement program for each year of employment
  • Conduct an employee-evaluation training program for the firm’s sales managers

 

While these may all be good ideas, they are not strategic alternatives. The term alternative suggests an either/or situation. From the list above, you might include several items in your recommendation section. Strategic alternatives should identify basic directions the firm might go with the sales force support of its product.

 

One alternative is always the status quo. You must understand that this is not a means of avoiding a decision. If recommended as the next step, it is a conscious decision, based on a careful evaluation, that the present strategy in use, perhaps with some tactical modifications, is the best course of action in the current situation.

 

Besides the status quo, you should use creative thinking to come up with several truly strategic alternatives. For our present example, one option might be to eliminate the external sales force and start using a manufacturer’s representative network to sell to the firm’s customers. Another alternative would be to use direct marketing, with an inside sales force to market the product. Another possible option is to reemphasize the sales force with a more effective sales management program, including better selection, compensation, evaluation, and recognition of the sales force.

 

Frequently, the underlying problem facing the organization is the failure to have a current, widely used, well-developed marketing plan. If the analysis indicates this to be the case, conducting a comprehensive strategic market planning process should be one of the alternatives listed. This is one of the few options that might be selected in combination with some other alternative.

Step 5:

Evaluation of Alternatives & Recommendations

Once you have developed a set of realistic alternatives, it is time to do a thorough evaluation of each of the options. Three major criteria should be used in this evaluation process. First, how well does the alternative address the problem or issue as stated in Step 3? Closely related to the first criterion is the consistency of the alternative with the organization’s mission, as well as its ability to assist in achieving the plan’s stated goals and objectives. Clearly, for an organization whose mission includes providing the most innovative health care products to doctors, nurses, and patients, a low cost/price competitive organization model would be inappropriate.

 

This does not mean alternatives that are not consistent with the present plan should never be selected. It does indicate that part of the evaluation for such alternatives must address the complete modification of the organization’s strategic plan. Likewise, an objective of increasing profit margins from 15% to 25% is not consistent with the alternative of becoming a low‑price provider. The deletion, or at the very least modification, of this aspect of the plan must be considered in evaluating this alternative.

 

For each alternative, you should make an effort to estimate and evaluate the cost and revenue implications of the option. Probable income statements, under corresponding stated assumptions, should be included for each alternative. Exhibit 1 provides an example of just such an assessment. Costs are certainly easier to calculate than revenue projections, but an effort must be made to do both. To conclude simply that developing a new innovative product line for the organization, without any discussion of the costs and benefits involved, or in what year each is likely to occur, is an incomplete and unrealistic approach to case analysis. You should use what you have learned from your accounting and finance courses when you conduct case analyses. Look at any financial information you are given in the case, or that you can acquire, as a key resource in conducting your analysis.

 

<Insert Exhibit 1 Here (see end of file)>

 

The final criterion is an important one that relates to the feasibility and probable success of each alternative: How well do the alternatives coincide with the key findings from the SWOT Analysis you conducted in Step 1? In other words, how well does each alternative match up with the internal and external environments of the organization? Does the organization have, or can it realistically acquire, the human and financial resources required by each alternative? Building additional capacity to increase volume as the low-price provider is probably not a reasonable alternative for an organization in great financial difficulty. Conversely, for a firm with limited history and investment in research and development, becoming the innovative leader in the industry will not be possible in the near term.

 

The external environment, in terms of the economy, competition, regulation, and cultural trends, will have a major impact on the pro forma revenue projections you make in this step. Any alternative that adds pollution to the environment will not be well received today. Often, alternative analyses assume the competition is an inanimate object. Thinking that competitors will stand still while you steal their customers with a new marketing strategy is not at all realistic. Part of the evaluation of alternatives, and making projections about their potential success, is to use the assessment of the external environment to make assumptions about what key competitors will do. You must remember that as one company is setting a course for the future, most of its effective competitors are doing likewise.

 

The recommendation portion of this step is often included as a separate phase in the case analysis framework. We include evaluation with recommendation because, if the former is done well, the latter should be a natural continuation of the process. The alternative chosen is the one that stands up best in terms of all three criteria: consistency with mission, goals and objectives as stated or as modified, strongest probable financial performance, and harmony with the internal and external environments of the organization. With a thorough evaluation, the recommended alternative should be a natural move. This does not mean that two alternatives will never be close in terms of their attractiveness, but usually one will be a better match for the organization as a whole.

 

One more note: Become accustomed to making recommendations in the face of unknown economic or competitive conditions. While you will be able to know some things for certain (such as gross domestic product or consumer spending), no one can possibly predict all future events. As long as your evaluation is thorough, and your assumptions are clearly stated and reasonable, your recommendations will be justified.

Exhibit 1

Hypothetical Pro Forma Assessment

 

Unfavorable

Environment

Neutral

Environment

Favorable

Environment

Sales
Dollars $2,000,000 $3,500,000 $7,000,000
Units ($5 per unit) 400,000 750,000 1,400,000
Costs
Product development $250,000 $250,000 $250,000
Production costs $1,200,000

($3 per unit)

$2,062,500

($2.75 per unit)

$3,500,000

($2.50 per unit)

Advertising $300,000 $300,000 $300,000
Sales commission (10%) $200,000 $350,000 $700,000
Other selling expenses $100,000 $135,000 $200,000
Earnings before taxes $ -50,000 $402,500 $2,050,000

 

Conclusion

We conclude with one final piece of advice: Like anything else, the learning benefits of case analysis are dependent on the amount of effort you put into the analysis. Learning to think critically and see the big picture are important lessons to be learned in a case course. Likewise, learning how business activities (not just marketing activities) can be strategically integrated to achieve superior results is the ultimate goal.

Last Updated on June 22, 2021