Hbs Case Study Guid

1 January 2017

What is the point of these cases? Contrary to what some might think, cases are not just another tool used by firms to weed people out of the burgeoning volume of applicants. They are in fact an excellent indicator of how good you will be as a consultant, pure and simple. Almost everyday, consultants face the kinds of problems and questions often presented in these cases. Often times, tough problem-solving questions are asked face-to-face by their clients, under pressure, with the expectations of receiving some answers.

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The case is usually a business situation where the client is facing a difficult problem with the company/product/competitors or is thinking of a new opportunity to explore and asks you to help address some of the issues. The case can be a problem, a situation, a riddle, an example of a real client situation, a contrived scenario, or a game—all rapped up into one. It is an exercise for the firms to test your analytical thinking and to examine how well you can handle problem-solving questions. It is also a great opportunity for you to determine whether consulting is actually right for you.

If you do not enjoy problem-solving case interviews, the likelihood that you will enjoy consulting is fairly small. Because it is an exercise in problem solving, the case is not about finding the right or wrong answer, but rather about the method you use to derive your answer. It is about the questions you raise, the assumptions you make, the issues you identify, the areas of exploration you prioritize, the frameworks you use, the creativity involved, the logical solution you recommend, and the confidence and poise you present.

HBS Case Interview Guide, Page 1 The case also gives a strong indication of your personality in that type of setting. Aside from the problem-solving skills listed above, the interviewer uses the case to determine whether the firm would feel comfortable putting you in front of a client. Would you be able to handle a client situation with confidence when presented with a similar situation? Also, the interviewer wants to see if you have fun solving problems. They want to see enthusiasm from you when faced with ambiguity and tough issues.

Consultants almost always work in teams and the questions the interviewer is asking him/herself are: “Would I want to staff this person on my team? Would I have fun working with him/her? ” So make sure you are relaxed and have fun. There are many types of cases that firms use. This guide covers some of the frameworks and concepts that would help you tackle most cases that come your way. No case ever fits perfectly into a “type”, like marketing or strategy. Most of the cases presented cover a number of concepts that would range from market sizing and operations to economics.

This guide provides a review of major frameworks and concepts that will be very helpful in Cracking the Case. HBS Case Interview Guide, Page 2 Overview of Case Frameworks A complete understanding of the frameworks and concepts covered in this section is critical to conducting a successful case interview. Most “Plans of Attack” in Cracking the Case use at least one framework, often times several, to decipher the problem at hand and recommend a solution. NOTE: It is also very important for you NOT to directly apply these frameworks, i. e. you should never say during a case interview, “I’m going to use the 4Cs framework,” or “I’ll be applying Porter’s Five Forces. ” This approach indicates no creative or analytical thought on your part! The more comfortable you become with these frameworks, the more you will start to develop your own and customize them according to the nature of the case. Remember, the interviewer is not looking for you to apply a cookie cutter approach to each case. You are expected to make sound judgment as to which frameworks are appropriate and what components of those frameworks are most applicable to the problem at hand.

Frameworks are mere enablers that organize and guide your thinking. They are not the driving force behind the solutions and they certainly are not the solution themselves. The combination of your own intelligence, creativity, and preparation are the driving forces! HBS Case Interview Guide, Page 3 Porter’s Five Forces Source: Michael E. Porter, -Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors Michael Porter’s Five Forces is probably the most famous framework used in preparing for the case interviews.

It has endured as one of the frameworks most talked about by many in and out of the consulting field. Although the Five Forces is an excellent framework in helping you organize you thoughts, like any other framework we cover in this guide, its analysis is not complete. The Five Forces should be used in conjunction with other frameworks to enable you to fully understand the issues at hand. Further, we only briefly touch on this framework here, but we have included more detailed material of Porter’s work later in this guide.

New Entrants Competitive advantage in an industry is dependent on five primary forces: x The threat of new entrants x The bargaining power of buyers/customers x The bargaining power of suppliers x The threat of substitute products x Rivalry with competitors The degree of these threats determines the attractiveness of the market: x Intense competition allows minimal profit margins x Mild competition allows wider profit margins The goal is to assess whether a company should enter/exit the industry or find a position in the industry where it can best defend itself against these forces or can influence them in its favor.

Buyers Competitive Rivalry Suppliers Substitute Products HBS Case Interview Guide, Page 4 Porter’s Five Forces Source: Michael E. Porter, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors Barriers to Entry: There are a number of factors that determine the degree of difficulty in entering an industry: x Economies of scale x Product differentiation x Capital requirements vs. switching costs x Access to distribution channels x Cost advantages independent of scale x Proprietary product technology x Favorable access to raw materials x Favorable location x Government subsidies x Learning curve x Government policy

Relationship with Suppliers: A supplier group is powerful if: x It is not obliged to contend with other substitute products for sales in the industry x The industry is not an important customer of the supplier group x The supplier group is an important input to the buyer’s business x The supplier group’s products are differentiated or it has built up switching costs x The supplier group poses a credible threat of forward integration Substitute Products: Substitute products that deserve the most attention are those that: x Compete in price with the industry’s products x Are produced by industries earning high profits Rivalry: Rivalry among existing competitors increases if: x Numerous or equally balanced competitors exist x Industry growth is slow x Fixed costs are high x There is lack of differentiation or switching costs x Capacity is augmented in large increments

Relationship with Buyers: A buyer group is powerful if: x It is concentrated or purchases large volumes relative to seller’s sales x The products it purchases front the industry are standard or undifferentiated x It faces few switching costs x Buyers pose a credible threat of backward integration x The industry’s product is unimportant to the quality of the buyer’s products or services x The buyer has full information HBS Case Interview Guide, Page 5 Marketing/Strategy Concepts Review – Overview The Marketing/Strategy Concepts Review Module attempts to enable the interviewee with skills needed to evaluate the case from the perspective of a senior executive.

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