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A GUIDE TO CASE ANALYSIS

Madhukar G. Angur

This handout suggests an outline and a strategy for the analysis of cases. This outline is popular at
many major business schools and is relevant to a variety of types of cases in nearly any area of
business. Please note that even if you dont essentially follow this outline exactly the same way,
remember that most of the points discussed herein should be found somewhere in your analysis.
I. Statement of the Problem:
Most of the cases to which you will be exposed will contain a strategic problem, since cases
are a particularly good vehicle for developing these types of problem solving skills. Some
cases may have a very tactical perspective, for example determining the price of a new
product. Often, however, the apparent tactical problem disguises a more fundamental strategic
problem. For example, a firm that cant decide whether to charge a high or low price for a
product may not have very clearly defined idea of their relative position in the industry. A
firm that is having difficulty deciding whether to expand or contract their product line may
have very poor definition of their organizational mission. Likewise, symptoms, such as
declining sales or market share, increased customer complaints etc. may hide much more
fundamental strategic problems the firm is experiencing.
Although the strategic problem of the firm may not become apparent to you until after you
have spent considerable time analyzing the issues, I believe that a good case analysis
presentation should start out with a clear definition of the strategic problem as you perceive it.
II. Issue Analysis:
The issue analysis reflects your understanding of the strategic problem and presents
information that will ultimately bear upon problem solution. Sometimes students trap
themselves into reciting back all of the facts in the case. Consequently, they present a long
verbose issue analysis that says little beyond what anyone would find out if they read the case.
Thus, there is little in the way of analysis. You will find that a large amount of the information
in a case may be irrelevant to your analysis of the issues, alternative choice and plan of action.
It may have been put there either to round out the completeness of the case or even to distract
you away from more important pieces of information. In a written presentation, it is usually
unnecessary to parrot the historical background of the company, although slight attention to
this may be desirable in an oral presentation.
Dr. Madhukar Angur, Chancellor, Alliance University, Bangalore
Copyright 2012, Alliance University, Bangalore, India. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise without permission of Alliance University.

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Imagine that you were given the responsibility for chairing a meeting of company executives
in order to discuss the planning of the company strategy. You would probably want to prepare
a brief summary of the situation confronting the company. This summary would contain
information in several areas. A major aspect of the situation analysis in a strategic planning
case would involve external environmental analysis. You might be concerned with the
economic situation (present and future), the situation facing the changes, competition from
other industries, etc.), the competitive situation (sales, share, and marketing strategies of
competitors, the relationship between the company and other channel members such a agents,
wholesalers and retailers, changes in consumer demographics, consumption patterns, tastes
and preferences, and perhaps the regulatory climate, etc. Internal environmental analysis
might deal with your companys standing in the industry, sales and share trends, new product
developments, and existing marketing strategy.
An issue analysis might contain (in order of importance) facts (especially numerical types of
information) opinions (of the current management as well as your own), and assumptions
(which should be clearly stated since your alternatives and problem solution may depend upon
them).
At some point in your issue analysis, there should be some reflection of your understanding of
the importance of the various issues you have listed. In other words, why do you consider
these to be the key issues in the case and how do the issues relate to each other?
III. Presentation and Discussion of Alternatives:
For a problem to exist there must be two or more alternative courses of action. Usually, each
course of action will have advantages and disadvantages with respect to solving the problem.
The quality of your overall solution will almost always depend upon the quality of the
alternative solutions you have considered. I believe that the most creative aspects of case
analysis are in the areas of alternative generation. Many cases will state, either explicitly or
implicitly a set of obvious alternatives for managements consideration. Do not assume that
these are the only alternatives. I feel that it is useful for you to try and generate at least one
additional alternative of your own. You may later reject this based on your analysis.
In most cases that deal with strategic situations, your alternatives will be strategic alternatives.
For instance, there may be several ways of defining the business mission (e.g. a broad focus
on the entire market versus a narrow focus on a specific market segment; a high quality,
expensive product versus a budget, economical orientation; attacking regional market
segments versus rolling the product out nationally). You may also note that there are a number
of tactical alternatives (e.g. high versus low price, emphasis on advertising versus personal
selling, distribute directly or through wholesalers). It is probably best to leave this discussion
until the plan of action. This is because most of those tactical decisions flow from and
become obvious as a result of having chosen a broad strategic alternative.

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In an alternative discussion, I usually like to list each alternative as a major heading with the
advantages and disadvantages of each listed below them. If all alternatives are being
evaluated on the same criteria, a matrix presentation format might be used. In your analysis
and choice of alternatives, you should choose the one which, considering all the advantages
and disadvantages, appears to best solve the problem.
IV. Plan of Action:
The POA is the implementation of your alternative. In a complete case analysis, the POA is
often considered to be the most important aspect of the case. In fact, each of the preceding
steps is merely preparatory to the development of your plan of action. If you were only going
to have one part of the total case analysis, it would be the POA, since it represents your
solution to the problem.
The POA should be as clear and as detailed as time and space allow. It may be useful to begin
by stating strategic and tactical objectives in both descriptive and quantitative terms. It should
then spell out what is to be done to achieve these objectives. Most good POAs will have a
product and market focus, in other words, a clear definition of the product and its benefits to
specific market segments. When these two factors have been clearly resolved, the remainder
of the POA is usually logical extension of a consistent business strategy that comprises-marketing strategy that is product, price, place, and promotion supported by consumer
analysis, marketing research, and information systems; financial strategy; organizational
behavior and human resource management; and other overall general management strategy
necessary to address the problem.

Additional Notes
We have to recognize that there is rarely one single case solution. There may be two or more
alternatives which, if properly implemented, will solve the problem. This is another reason for a
detailed, convincing plan of action. Your plan of action should support and defend the alternative you
chose, even though it may be different from another equally convincing alternative.

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