Guidelines for Case Analysis
Break the analysis into the following major headings:
Introduction& Strategic Issue
Ratios, Industry Analysis, Five Forces Analysis, SWOT,
In addition, use the subheadings described in this document to break up long sections.
2. Style& Late Case Assignments
Use APA style which means double space throughout—do not add any additional space between
paragraphs. Be sure to indent the first word of each new paragraph. Do not have long paragraphs
containing a variety of related but different topics—break into smaller paragraphs for organization and ease
of reading. Use a topic sentence to clarify the purpose of each paragraph. Number the pages starting with
the Introduction , e.g., do not include the title page.
Proof! Check your work and correct the spelling and grammar errors. Write clearly with correctly structured
complete sentences. The ability to present an effective case analysis depends on your critical thinking
skills AND your ability to express your ideas in writing. Students who turn in a “first draft” may not earn a
grade that is desired. When sections are returned to you, note all comments from the instructor and take
notes in the class discussion to incorporate into your next case analysis.
Start each of the major sections with an introduction that briefly characterizes and sets the stage
for the section. Also at the end of each significant section, summarize with a paragraph capturing
the key strategic findings of your analysis for that section.Do not make comments like “The case did
not provide information on . . .” You do not need to site the textbook or case. Eliminate personal pronouns
such as I, we, etc.
Put your name and student id on the first page of the case.
3. Show Impact
Your job is not to “spill back” the facts from the case. Assume that the person who reads your write up will
have read the case carefully. Support your statements of analysis with brief examples from the case
information. Your focus should be on the impact, effect, and strategic implications of your analysis. Do not
overlook exhibits in the case with additional data.
4. Apply Tools and Vocabulary
Demonstrate that you understand and can effectively apply the tools of strategic analysis: macro
environment, driving forces, key success factors, industry analysis, financial analysis, SWOT, strategic
group map and the nine cell industry attractiveness, competitive strength matrix. An effective case analysis
effectively incorporates the language of strategic analysis throughout. YOU WILL INCREASE YOUR
GRADE A FULL LETTER BY PARAPHRASING THE APPROPRIATE SECTIONS OF THE TEXTBOOK
AND CASE. Unless specifically requested, do not go to the internet to get information to write the case.
Provide a brief overview of 1). the mission2). business,3). markets, 4).products and 5). scope of operations the company is
in. The past/current strategic direction of the firm can be briefly summarized but the focus should be on the
most recent events that will impact the decisions and future direction of the firm. Identify past strategic
actions bythe generic strategy or strategies.
It shows how capable you are of describing the company’s business and current strategy using
Focusing on history rather than the current situation.
Not using strategic vocabulary for strategies.
Giving too much detail about the case—assume I’ve read the case.
In one or two paragraphs, summarize the company and strategic situation. This should characterize the
fundamental state of affairs that exists in the focus company and industry with enough background
information to understand it.See page 83 in the textbook for a definition of strategic issue and review page
8-9 for the tests of a winning strategy.
This section MUST summarize the strategic situation the company faces. “Situation” means “state of
affairs.” Summarize and connect to the key findings of each section. Weave these findings into a summary
story leading to a clear and specific statement about the future prospects for strategic success for the
company. Make a specific statement about whether the company’s prospects are good, indefinite, or poor.
The strategic issue must be a single, well-crafted sentence that captures the fundamental problems and
concerns that came out of the analysis. This single sentence must be formed as a question and will end
with a question mark. Write this in very specific terms addressing both the company’s short-term situation
and the broader strategic situation. Incorporate the need to provide shareholder value, sales growth,
profitability and sustained competitive advantage but incorporate the specific challenges with which the
focus company must deal. Everything prior to this question is headed toward this one culminating
formulation of the problem. This question forms the basis for the recommendations.
Do not make recommendations in this section. For example, a strategic issue for ZU could be “What
degree programs should be offered to meet the labor needs of the UAE government? This can be followed
up with more specific questions such as:
Should ZU offer degrees in engineering or medicine?
How can ZU differentiate their brand from other universities?
What degrees are desired by prospective students?
What degree programs are needed that are not offered by other universities?
What programs need to be in place so that students are prepared better for higher education?
Failure to introduce the key conditions or “givens” in a problem statement.
Addressing only the external or the internal situation rather than both.
Not addressing the major, strategic challenges that may significantly affect the company.
2. External Environment
Provide an introduction that characterizes the essence of the external environment and industry situation at
the time of the case and sets the stage for the analysis that follows.ALL the discussion in this section
relates to the INDUSTRY, not the focus company. You may use examples of the focus company or other
competitors to justify your analysis.
Writing about historical events rather than the current state of the industry.
Identifying the topics you are about to discuss without discussing the state of the industry.
Not using the vocabulary and discussion in the textbook supported with facts from the case.
Porter’s 5 Forces Analysis. Use the Porter model to evaluate the strength of the five forces that affect the
strategic choices of all firms in the industry. Discuss the balance of power in the industry. Relatively weak
forces (low threats) place power in the hands of the firms that comprise the industry, and, therefore,
broaden their freedom of choice of strategic actions. Relatively strong forces (high threats) reduce the
power of the industry firms and limit their strategic choices. An industry with strong forces tends to be less
attractive than an industry with weak forces.
Specifically state your assessment of the strength of each of the 5 forces—intense, strong, moderate or
weak. Justify and show why you reached your conclusion. For example, it is not enough to write,
“Competitive rivalry is strong because the number of competitors is high, barriers to entry are low and
product differentiation is low.” A better explanation is, “The many competitors in this industry must
aggressively battle for market share in this slow-growth market. They each have considerable investments
in the physical plant, which makes it difficult to leave the industry. The products are difficult to distinguish
from one another, so companies must focus on aggressive, marketing programs to win customers away
from their competitors. All these factors contribute to a strong rivalry and continued downward pressure on
Put the actual diagram of the model in the APPENDIX and discuss each force in the body of this section.
Include a closing paragraph on the implications of the analysis to the overall attractiveness of the industry
and the potential for companies to be profitable.
Not identifying the strength of a force or the conditions that lead you to your finding of a force
as being strong or weak.
Getting supplier, firm and buyer mixed up.
Overlooking key factors you previously identified in the external/industry analysis.
Not recognizing the strength of competitive rivalry.
Key Success Factors
Key success factors affect industry players’ ability to be competitive and successful. They are so important
that firms must consider them in developing their strategy or risk significant loss of sales, profits, market
standing, etc. Develop three key success factors for the focus industry and identify WHAT they are, WHY
they are key success factors, and HOW they affect the industry. Finish each key success factor by
discussing the strategic implication.
For example, it is not enough to say, “Distribution capabilities are essential for success in the online order
fulfillment industry.” Go on to say why and present a convincing argument for your position. To illustrate,
“A web site that is appealing and easy to navigate, coupled with fast order delivery is essential to customer
satisfaction in internet selling. Today’s consumer, especially the younger consumer, istechnically savvy
and has a myriad of ways to access internet sales, e.g., ipads, computers, iphones. Brick and mortar retail
stores provide buyers with a quick solution for their shopping needs but are not as convenient. In order to
be competitive, companies must develop the ability to respond with fast delivery times or potentially lose
sales to competitors who are able to provide high levels of customer service.”
Being too general.
Not specifically identifying why the factor force is important.
Failure to convince why the factor is important.
Industry Profile and Attractiveness. Summarize the characteristics of the industry. Draw together all of
the key findings from each area of the external analysis. What conclusions can you draw about the nature
of the industry? How attractive is it to its current incumbents? What are the future prospects for the
industry? Why? What challenges does the industry face? Provide a summary statement about whether it
is highly attractive, moderately attractive, etc., to current players re profits, sales and competitive intensity.
3. Company Situation
Provide an introduction that characterizes the essence of the company situation and sets the stage for the
analysis that follows. Calculate the past sales growth rate for the company if there is historical data. If the
case has data on historical industry sales, calculate the sales growth rate and determine whether the
industry is in the introduction, growth, maturity or decline phase of their life cycle. If there is information
such as the revenue of the top 3 competitors for the last few years, combine their sales and calculate the
change in sales growth to infer where the industry is in their life cycle. Then discuss this analysis in any of
the sections where it is appropriate. Based on the conclusions from the preceding section and the case
analysis, determine the stage of the industry life cycle (introduction, growth, maturity or decline). Identify the
key company-specific issues with which the company is dealing.
Financial Analysis. Be sure to distinctly address each of the four areas of financial analysis—profitability,
liquidity, leverage and activity—identify each in the topical sentence for that paragraph. The financial
analysis must be thorough and accurate. Look at trends and compare the company’s performance to
industry targets, if available. Evaluate the primary financial indicators, provide supporting data and interpret
them to show how they affect the company regarding its present and future strategic performance.
Put the calculations of the ratios in a table in the APPENDIX.
Close this analysis by writing a paragraph that draws conclusion about the company’s overall financial
situation, prospects and the impact of its financial condition on its potential strategic plans. The
fundamental question you are trying to answer is, “What is the overall financial status of the company now,
and what does its current financial status mean for its future strategic success or ability to grow sales?”
Incorrect computation of the ratio.
Incomplete computations of the ratios (trends, etc.).
Focusing on the definition rather than the strategic impact that the ratio implies.
SWOT Analysis. Discuss each of the four legs of the SWOT fully—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats in this section. Be clear that events are not the same as attributes. SWOT is about attributes,
not events. An attribute describes the characteristics of the company. For example, you might say, “The
company isn’t profitable.” True, but what is its weakness attribute? What characteristics of the company
drives its lack of profitability? A better way to express it is, “The company has not managed costs in its
value chain. This is supported by the sustained increase in cost of goods sold accompanied by flat sales
reflecting a weakness that must be overcome to improve profitability.”
Summarize the SWOT analysis in a one-page table and place in the APPENDIX. Discuss the table in the
body of the paper.
SWOT is the “integrator” of the analysis. SWOT draws from the findings resulting from the
Macroenvironment, Industry Analysis, and Financial Analysis. No new information is provided. Use the
terminology in the previous sections. For example, “An opportunity identified in the discussion of the
competitive analysis . . .” Another example, “The dumping of foreign products into this industry, identified
earlier as a driving force, is a significant threat to incumbents.”
Not linking the findings to the previous analysis through the use of common terminology.
Omitting important findings discussed previously.
Focusing on historical events rather than inherent strengths and weaknesses.
Not recognizing obvious strengths and weaknesses in the business functions: financial
analysis, marketing (product, price, place and promotion), human resource management,
Strategic Issue. This is the same question that is presented at the end of Section 2.
Strategy Recommendations. Identify the GENERIC and functional strategy recommendations. These will
tie closely to the SWOT analysis. The recommendations should play into the company’s strengths and
opportunities. They should minimize the company weaknesses and overcome its threats. Discuss each
strategic initiative in detail including the actions required in the functional areas to support the strategic
recommendations: marketing, operations, human resource management, finance, etc.
Objectives.Specify the performance objectives that should be monitored and result from the strategic
recommendations and earlier analysis. What key performance indicators should be reported and what are
the appropriate targets? For example, what are the sales and profitability goals? What goals should be
established for nonfinancial indicators?
Strategic Justification. Justify why your recommendations are the best option and why other options are
not. This is a comparative analysis. Develop this fully, tying it back to the various factors in your strategic
analysis. Evaluate the pros and cons of the recommended direction. Demonstrate that you understand the
implications of your recommendations.
A justification analysis weights the strength of the pros and cons for a given alternative in comparison to the
other alternatives. It presents a rationale for why the pros of the recommended alternatives are better than
the pros of the other alternatives. It also addressed why the cons of the recommended alternatives are less
significant the those of the rejected alternatives.
Not naming and discussing a generic and several supporting functional strategies
Developing recommendations that don’t tie clearly to the previous analysis.
Not describing distinguishing characteristics of the strategies.
Not clearly describing each strategy.
Not aligning strategy recommendations with objectives.
Writing in generalities rather than company and situation specific.
Not describing strategies for all the relevant functions, e.g., human resource management,
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