October 23, 2009
A Business Case Study for Business 200, Northern Virginia Community College
The Business Case Study Method permits the student or researcher to conduct a critical analysis to solve a problem or to exploit an opportunity. Or to answer a hypothetical “what if?” scenario. (In contrast to politics where hypothetical questions should never be addressed.)
There are a number of outstanding formats and templates (see below or at the jump) for organizing.
Your Business Blogger(R) as Your Business Professor prefers a simpler, story telling formula: Problem, Solution, Result. (The use of such PSRs as narrative outline are also most helpful in job interviews.)
A Problem defined is half solved. It is useful to state the problem as an inquiry (think the game show Jeopardy or Larry King or Dr. Laura, “What’s your question?”).
The subject for the content on Business Case Studies is one of my former companies. The Alert Student will also select a company where s/he worked, is working or wishes to work. Students who have first-hand knowledge or a compelling interest deliver the best case studies. Let’s start with the backgrounder.
Menlo Care, Inc. was a medical device start-up manufacturer and direct seller with an outside sales team of 35 experienced, senior, account managers in the 1980′s and 90′s. The company had a proprietary process to manufacture a new intravenous catheter. The venture was funded with $500k in seed money from Raychem Corporation where the technology was developed and spun off. The product is based on a material science of a polymer that was as rigid as Teflon when dry but became as soft and flexible as silicone when wet.
The polymer-plastic was extruded or formed into an intravenous catheter for insertion into the venous blood system.
The new technology improved patient care in a cost-effective manner. However, the new IV catheters had two major marketing concerns:
1) They were 100 times the price of the existing, nearest competitive substitute.
2) The Menlo Care products required advanced one-on-one inservice training to insert or to pass” the I.V. catheters.
At the time, Menlo Care was still operating on venture capital investment and had significant negative cash flow typical of early stage start-ups entering the marketplace.
The high “burn rate” of capital would not allow the hiring of the estimated 35 full-time instructional nurses; one teacher for each sales territory.
Nurses prefer to be taught by their peers – other nurses, not necessarily company sales representatives. Sales teams have the time intensive responsibility to peddle the product and to manage the territory logistics.
The question: How can a manufacturer teach and sell new medicine across the USA within 90 days?
The issue is an extension of the classic challenge of marketing with no money or no budget and the need for an intensive face-to-face sales process.
A Solution was developed from a number of options and recommendations. The final sales-education idea was an innovative combination of well-known teaching-marketing strategies reconfigured into a unique delivery process.
The answer to the problem would involve having per diem or part-time nurse clinicians conduct training classes. Each of the 35 sales representatives would identify, recruit, train, motivate and manage the advance practice nurses who were the thought and opinion leaders in the medical community (e.g., presidents of local chapters of oncology nurses, certified I.V. nurses’ associations and leaders in the home health care business). These nurses would come from the small cadre of existing users of the Menlo Care catheters. The solution was simply to hire the customers to teach.
Key nurses from a local area would be invited in for a day-long training program. The area account manager/sales representative would host the event and act as the “master of ceremonies” where the class of nurses would be taught about the new medical devices.
The hook for attendance would be the concern and the warning that local hospitals might start to see the new Menlo Care I.V. catheters on those patients who might be admitted into emergency rooms. Clinicians need to know what products are being used on patients using IV therapy in case the patient has an emergency. Especially of concern were those being treated as out-patients in the home health care market.
The attending nurses who received training and inserted a catheter on a patient became credentialed as a “Landmark Nurse” and were awarded a framed certificate and lapel pin to recognize their expertise and achievement.
(A credential can be done by private associations in contrast to a certification which is awarded by a state licensing authority. Common certifications are MD, LPN and RN.)
The Results were immediate and measurable. Sales increased from near zero to over $12 million on a yearly run rate. The product line and technology commanded such attention that a number of major medical device manufactures expressed interest.
Also see marketing with no budget in 10 steps.
Refer to the syllabus for length and style.
See One, Do One, Teach One
Medical School Cliche
Your Business Blogger(R) has taught thousands of clinicians new medicine in classrooms, at hospital bedsides and in operating rooms. For nearly two decades I trained advance-practice nurses and physicians on state-of-the-art medical devices including flow control devices, temperature monitoring equipment and all manner of medical disposable products.
The medical teaching profession has it right: the best method to learn is to observe, to preform and then to teach. Business management, like medicine is called a “practice.”
One of the most effective teaching tools is the Business Case Study. The student will understand in detail a narrow business-management problem and can use the experience to understand broader business challenges.
My students and clients review a typical business case study, research and write an original paper and then present their findings before peers — at the workplace or classroom.
A number of my medical device clients have published their studies.
From Best practices.
By Stephen Wayhart, at http://www.marketingprofs.com/ea/profile.asp?userID=235761
Also see http://www.brandmill.com/
The “Case Study” analysis/approach was first coined and implemented at Harvard Business School.
Here are the steps.
1. Define the Key/Central Problem in one sentence
Seems easy, but very tough to do. For example, a retail firm I worked with in the past had lots of problems. Was it poor advertising? Maybe? Was it close rates – actually close rates were actually high for the industry. Net, the central problem was that “We did not get enough foot traffic through our doors!!”
2. List Assumptions
Assumptions are statements of conditions that will stay in effect if you choose to do nothing. For example, “Our advertising is controlled by national marketing and we will have little influence over our message.”
3. List Alternatives
“We could spend more money and advertise a local message.” List more here.
4. Recommendation (choice of one Alternative)
5. Rationale (why you chose your recommendation)
Say way you chose your alternative and provide a convincing fact-based Point of View.
Title of your Project or Case Study
Example: Distributors Improves Customer Service Faster Respond
Make a Executive Summary
• EMCOR Incorporated
Employees and Customer
• 2000 employees
• 140 Store VisMin
• More or less 500,000 individual customers or households
Make a Recommendation or Solutions
• Consolidated all branches onto a single unified communications system
• Provided presence information, so that employees can see if their co-workers are available
• Gave employees one interface for all their communications tools
1. Cisco Unified Communication or (Voice over Internet Protocol)
1. Made it easier for customers and employees to reach the right person, the first time Enabled employees to work productively from any workspace, including home
“With information available from Presence, employees can see whether their co-workers are available before transferring a call, so customers can talk to a live person instead of having to leave a voicemail.”
Make a Brief Background of your Project
Emcor Inc. Company distributes and customizes hydraulic, pneumatic, instrumentation, and automation systems and components for customers in the Southern Mindanao. The company has 140 locations and 2000 employees. Emcor Inc. previously maintained separate private branch exchange (PBX) systems in each location, which only provided headquarters and one branch office. That meant that customers who called branch offices sometimes had to be transferred multiple times before finally reaching someone who was available.
Emcor Inc. decided to make a change when maintenance costs for the aging PBX systems began increasing. “Our corporate management team directed the ICT Solutions group to look at the company’s long-term needs for communication and collaboration rather than simply replacing the voice system,” says Manolo del Rosario and Jan Canonigo, information communications technology systems and solutions, Emcor Inc. Company. “We concluded that we needed a communications solution that would unify our 140 locations into a single site.”
The main goal for the new communications system was to help customers as well as employees reach each other on the right device, the first time. This solution would improve the customer experience and therefore strengthen loyalty. For example, customer service would improve if employees knew that a co-worker was available to pick up the phone before transferring a call.
Make a Cost-benefit Analysis
Below is a cost-benefit analysis on the proposed IP PBX Telephony or Voice over Internet Protocol. Based on the quantitative analysis, total one-time project cost of USD 153,932.67 plus monthly E1 Internet costs of USD 600.00 or USD 7,200.00 a year, will be recouped from estimated cost savings as a result of the automation. Of course, there are also several positive qualitative factors to consider. Details of cost-benefit analysis follow:
Make a Quantitative Analysis
See attached image
A. Case Abstract: One paragraph, identifying the company, the relevant Global Compact
Principles and research question addressed, and a brief statement of the company actions.
B. Company Profile: A brief description of the company, major products or services, age and location, sales and revenues, recent trends, brief background on key company decision makers featured in the case, and other relevant information.
C. Straightforward account of the case “story” and analysis. The account includes: a
statement of the problem and issue addressed; identification of the “drivers”, motivation and key internal and external players; description of the process, challenges, perceptions and responses; outcomes and impacts; and unanswered questions, usually underscored by quotes from people interviewed. The analytical framework for each type of case study – internalization versus case studies about partnership projects – is different (see below).
There should be special emphasis on “how” the company did what it did, what did not work as well as what did work and what the company would have done differently if it had the opportunity to go back in time. In other words, the lessons learned are particularly important and valuable.
D. Conclusion. The conclusion of the case study should sum up the main lessons from the experience described in the case study and include, where appropriate, implications for others contemplating undertaking similar actions.
E. Discussion questions. To encourage greater use of the case studies by a variety of
audiences, case authors are also asked to provide a list of five discussion questions to
accompany the case study and facilitate discussion relating to the case.