Case studies are used in many professional education programs, primarily in business school, to present real-world situations to students and to assess their ability to parse out the important aspects of a given dilemma. In general, a case study should include, in order: background on the business environment, description of the given business, identification of a key problem or issue, steps taken to address the issue, your assessment of that response, and suggestions for better business strategy. The steps below will guide you through the process of analyzing a business case study in this way.
- Examine and describe the business environment relevant to the case study.
Describe the nature of the organization under consideration and its competitors. Provide general information about the market and customer base. Indicate any significant changes in the business environment or any new endeavours upon which the business is embarking.
- Describe the structure and size of the main business under consideration.
Analyze its management structure, employee base, and financial history. Describe annual revenues and profit. Provide figures on employment. Include details about private ownership, public ownership, and investment holdings. Provide a brief overview of the business’s leaders and command chain.
- Identify the key issue or problem in the case study.
In all likelihood, there will be several different factors at play. Decide which is the main concern of the case study by examining what most of the data talks about, the main problems facing the business, and the conclusions at the end of the study. Examples might include expansion into a new market, response to a competitor’s marketing campaign, or a changing customer base.
- Describe how the business responds to these issues or problems.
Draw on the information you gathered and trace a chronological progression of steps taken (or not taken). Cite data included in the case study, such as increased marketing spending, purchasing of new property, changed revenue streams, etc.
- Identify the successful aspects of this response as well as its failures.
Indicate whether or not each aspect of the response met its goal and whether the response overall was well-crafted. Use numerical benchmarks, like a desired customer share, to show whether goals were met; analyze broader issues, like employee management policies, to talk about the response as a whole.
- Point to successes, failures, unforeseen results, and inadequate measures.
Suggest alternative or improved measures that could have been taken by the business, using specific examples and backing up your suggestions with data and calculations.
- Describe what changes you would make in the business to arrive at the measures you proposed, including changes to organization, strategy, and management.
- Conclude your analysis by reviewing your findings and emphasizing what you would do differently in the case.Showcase both your understanding of the case study and your business strategy.
- Always read a case study several times. At first, you should read just for the basic details. On each subsequent reading, look for details about a specific topic: competitors, business strategy, management structure, financial loss. Highlight phrases and sections relating to these topics and take notes.
- In the preliminary stages of analyzing a case study, no detail is insignificant. The biggest numbers can often be misleading, and the point of an analysis is often to dig deeper and find otherwise unnoticed variables that drive a situation.
- If you are analyzing a case study for a consulting company interview, be sure to direct your comments towards the matters handled by the company. For example, if the company deals with marketing strategy, focus on the business’s successes and failures in marketing; if you are interviewing for a financial consulting job, analyze how well the business keeps their books and their investment strategy.
- Business school professors, potential employers, and other evaluators are looking to see that you understand the business aspects of the case, not to assess your skills as a close reader. Always remember that what’s important is the content of the case study, not the way in which the information is presented or peculiarities of its style.