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Handout - How to Analyze a Case.pdf

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York University
MKTG 2030
Ben Kelly

How to Download and Analyze a Case How to download the Harvard Business School Cases Enter the following link into your web browser: http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/relay.jhtml?name=cp&c=c24832 To get the Harvard Online Course materials you need to register as a new user (unless you already have registered). The Harvard Online Course may ask you for a "Reference ID" That number is “c24832”. Then just click "Add to my Courses" and you'll be able to purchase the class materials with your credit card. 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. 2. 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. 3. 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 rea
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