Hands-on Guide: How to Analyze a Case Study
A case study helps students learn by immersing them in a real-world business scenario where they can act as problem-solvers and decision-makers. The case presents facts about a particular organization. Students are asked to analyze the case by focusing on the most important facts and using this information to determine the opportunities and problems facing that organization. Students are then asked to identify alternative courses of action to deal with the problems they identify.
A case study analysis must not merely summarize the case. It should identify key issues and problems, outline and assess alternative courses of action, and draw appropriate conclusions. The case study analysis can be broken down into the following steps:
Let’s look at what each step involves.
Use the facts provided by the case to identify the key issue or issues facing the company you are studying. Many cases present multiple issues or problems. Identify the most important and separate them from more trivial issues. State the major problem or challenge facing the company. You should be able to describe the problem or challenge in one or two sentences. You should be able to explain how this problem affects the strategy or performance of the organization.
You will need to explain why the problem occurred. Does the problem or challenge
facing the company come from a changing environment, new opportunities, a declining market share, or inefficient internal or external business processes? In the case of information systems-related problems, you need to pay special attention to the role of technology as well as the behavior of the organization and its management.
Information system problems in the business world typically present a combination of management, technology, and organizational issues. When identifying the key issue or problem, ask what kind of problem it is: Is it a management problem, a technology problem, an organizational problem, or a combination of these? What management, organizational and technology factors contributed to the problem?
· To determine if a problem stems from management factors, consider whether managers are exerting appropriate leadership over the organization and monitoring organizational performance. Consider also the nature of management decision-making: Do managers have sufficient information for performing this role, or do they fail to take advantage of the information that is available?
· To determine if a problem stems from technology factors, examine any issues arising from the organization’s information technology infrastructure: its hardware, software, networks and telecommunications infrastructure, and the management of data in databases or traditional files. Consider also the whether the appropriate management and organizational assets are in place to use this technology effectively.
· To determine the role of organizational factors, examine any issues arising from the organization’s structure, culture, business processes, work groups, divisions among interest groups, relationships with other organizations, as well as the impact of changes in the organization’s external environment-changes in government regulations, economic conditions, or the actions of competitors, customers, and suppliers.
You will have to decide which of these factors-or a combination of factors-- is most important in explaining why the problem occurred.
Remember, there is a difference between what an organization “should do” and what that organization actually “can do.” Some solutions are too expensive or operationally difficult to implement, and you should avoid solutions that are beyond the organization’s resources. Identify the constraints that will limit the solutions available. Is each alternative executable given these constraints?
Identify the costs and benefits of each alternative. Ask yourself “What would be the likely outcome of this course of action? State the risks as well as the rewards associated with each course of action. Is your recommendation feasible from a technical, operational, and financial standpoint? Be sure to state any assumptions on which you have based your decision.
5. Recommend the best course of action. State your choice for the best course of action and provide a detailed explanation of why you made this selection. You may also want to provide an explanation of why other alternatives were not selected. Your final recommendation should flow logically from the rest of your case analysis and should clearly specify what assumptions were used to shape your conclusion. There is often no single “right” answer, and each option is likely to have risks as well as rewards.