Case analysis plays an important role in understanding the real life problems that businesses face. What is important is not the right answer, but how you got to that answer and whether you have used evidence to support it. This can seem hard, but it’s extremely important to go through every detail of a case and try to look at it from more than one viewpoint. Therefore, case preparation is key.
In my experience on having gone through nearly 75 – 80 cases on a variety of topics, I’ve worked out a system that is largely applicable to a whole host of cases. This method is subjective but it does highlight the important aspects of a case.
When I start with a case the first thing I do is separate the appendices from the main body and briefly go through the pictures, tables and charts as these help provide me with context for the case. While reading the body of the case, I try and summarize the important facts from each paragraph in the margins, and make a separate note of any interesting or revealing numbers, or any specific trends (this is used later to tie in with the numbers). I also try to read each case three times. I read the case thoroughly the first time and once more, quickly, to pick up points I missed. I give the case one last pass to go through my notes in the margin.
Once I’m done with the body, I make it a point to go through all the numbers in the appendices. I try to see if those numbers clarify, add to or confirm any or all the points made in the case. Paying attention to the quantitative details is paramount to understanding the case.
You will need these numbers to support your arguments. I use a PDF to Excel converter which usually transfers the numbers accurately to an excel sheet. It’s important to try and identify trends and combine variables to create a holistic idea, such as market share. For example, if 55% of Canadians use cellphones and 18% of them use smart phones, your total smart phone market would be the population of Canada from a census multiplied by the number of Canadians who use cellphones multiplied by the number of smart phones used.
Once the quantitative details have been looked at, it’s useful to analyze the other facts in the case. The facts may be inaccurate, intentionally poorly stated or contradictory. This is on purpose and is meant to sway your thinking. It helps to go back to your notes or summaries to clarify certain facts. You will need to examine common themes in the case and different combinations and permutations of the facts, along with your assumptions, which will inevitably help with your recommendations.
Lastly, every case asks a few specific questions or talks about a certain problem the company or industry is facing. This is often stated at the beginning and reiterated at the end of a case. It’s important to use the facts to either answer the specific questions or create different ideas or strategies as solutions to the case. Once again, it’s not necessarily important whether the solution is correct (unless your solution is extremely off base). It is more important that you are able to analyze the facts and draw a well-justified conclusion or solution.
Cases are a great way to learn about different industries and companies and can provide a great context to real world problems. At the end of the class, it helps to ask your instructor for the solution of the case or what the company eventually ended up doing to learn from the success or failure of a particular set of actions.
Rustom is a fulltime MBA student with a background in Banking and Finance. Outside of school, Rustom loves to travel and try out new restaurants and foods. He also has an interest in history and languages. You can connect with Rustom on Linkedin.