Team Strategic Analysis Project (SAP)
The term-long Strategic Analysis Project (SAP) is a the major group assignment for this capstone class. I expect student teams to work on the project all the way from Weeks 2 to 8, collecting data, carrying out the analyses, and developing a business report that not only tells a “coherent story” about the strategic imperatives surrounding the company but is also valuable for the organization’s upper echelons (CEO and top management team).
The report must be strong on both these counts: (i) rigorous by being grounded in strategic management theory, and (ii) simultaneously be meaningful for practitioners by laying out implications and recommendations (to the extent possible, based on publicly available data).
At its heart, the report will attempt to answer two “big” questions fundamental to strategic management, at the level of the business division (unit): (i) First, why are some industries more “attractive” than others, based on macro-environmental trends (opportunities and threats) and industry structural conditions? (ii) Second, being placed in an industry, what can a company do (in terms of strategy planning), in order to earn the highest profits it possibly can, and on a continuing basis?
Further, at the corporate strategy level, the report will try to answer for the company executives the following two questions: (i) Among the current business divisions (unit), are there some that we should retain, some that we should strongly support, and a few that we should possibly divest? (ii) In other words, which businesses (industries) should we stay in, which (if any) should we get into, and which should we get out of?
I expect the final report to be about 15-20 pages (in single space, Times New Roman 12 font), excluding title page, tables, charts/figures, and list of references. My preference is for a report divided into sections (and sub-sections, if needed) with appropriate headings, rather than an essay-type paper that has no section headings. This is because we are preparing a business report rather than an academic essay paper.
In terms of section headings, the report structure could be as follows: Introduction, PESTEL Analysis of Macro Environment, Industry Attractiveness – Porter’s Five Forces Analysis, Business Model, VRIO Analysis, and Basis of Competitive Advantage, Company Business Strategy, Company Corporate and International Strategy, and Recommendations and Conclusion. Of course, this is a suggestion. You are welcome to re-word the titles to make them fit your report more appropriately, if needed.
Importance of the “Hook”
It is important to begin a report with a “hook” that draws the attention of the reader and makes him/her want to read the rest of the report. In the case of the SAP report, the “hook” could be a statement about (i) the inherently high (or low) profitable status of the industry, or (ii) a lot of (or a lack) of fresh, new investment coming into the industry, and why that might be so, (iii) the enduring basis of the company’s competitive advantage, as evidenced by performance vis-a-vis a market indicator, or versus the company’s nearest competitors, (iv) the company’s recent diversification/expansion initiatives and what may have prompted that, and so on. These are just suggestions. Teams are welcome to use any other interesting “hook” to anchor the discussion and make the reader want to go through the rest of the report.
The report must begin by precisely defining the company’s industry. This should be done in the introduction itself. For the external analysis part of the report (PESTEL and Industry Analysis), the reference to the company should be minimized, because the focus in these analyses is on the wider system surrounding the company. The company will become the “unit of analysis” for the purpose of subsequent internal analysis.
PESTEL Analysis will lay out the nature of the overarching trends for the company’s industry (in terms of opportunities and threats). It will be especially important to draw out implications based on the “intersection of trends”, e.g. an economic trend combining with a societal trend, or with an technological trend. Also, even though many of the companies are multinationals and, therefore, operate in multiple geographies (that could see some variations in terms of the PESTEL trends), for the purpose of this report just assume that the geography where the company operates is the United States. (3 points)
Porter’s Five Forces is the strategic management tool employed to identify the industry’s structural conditions, and therefore, its attractiveness (in terms of generating profits for an average or representative company operating in the industry). For this part of the analysis, please ensure the following:
Having completed the external analysis, the objective now will be to focus on the company itself, in order to understand its business and corporate strategies and how it ensures (or fails to ensure) sustainable competitive advantage.
First, assess suitability of the firm’s vision/mission, strategic intent and goals, given the emerging external conditions. For the company in focus (or its major strategic business units (SBUs, if appropriate), assess the current business strategy along the following dimensions: generic competitive strategy, business model, resources and capabilities and the basis of sustainable competitive advantage, growth strategy, business-level diversification strategy, and strategy for internationalization. Specifically, to assess the basis of its competitive advantage, conduct the VRIO Analysis (the strategic management tool for internal analysis of a company). Especially, for VRIO Analysis, remember to run the entire gamut of V,R,I,O questions on identified, specific resources & capabilities (at least 3-4 specific ones, so do not perform VRIO analysis on an Overarching resource such as the “Dell Brand”). For the above analysis, if the company has too many SBUs, you can perform your analysis on just the top 1-2 business divisions (in terms of revenues or importance). (7 points)
Next, assess the company’s corporate strategy and its effectiveness. This would include corporate diversification (vertical and horizontal integration), mergers and acquisitions, and consolidation/divestment (including application of Growth Portfolio Analysis, and so on). (2 points)
Finally, conduct a performance assessment of the company vis-a-vis its nearest competitor or an industry-average, (over a 5 year time frame) utilizing accounting (financial ratios and CAGR) and investor (shareholder return) measures. You will find a wealth of information and analysies relating to this in the Mergent Online Database, accessible through the UNH Library. You can directly import the analyses results from there into tables in your SAP report and just interpret them, in order to build a powerful SAP “story”. (2 points)
Now, begin writing the report. Structure the report into sections, as appropriate. Be subtle but actually hand-hold and lead the reader from one section to the next, using appropriate “bridging/linking” sentences. Your narrative should be able to tell the powerful, interesting, and convincing story you have in store for the reader. Use a mix of full sentences (in formal business language), key points (as bullets), and tables and figures, as appropriate. It is important that the final version reads as one coherent whole, backed up by solid evidence based on secondary data analysis. (2 points)
Please remember to thoroughly edit the report to ensure tightness of sentences and check for any grammatical/spelling errors, and do not forget to include page numbers. Finally, provide a title page for the report, and names of all team members that contributed to it. Save your file using the company name, e.g. “Walmart SAP Report” or “Amazon SAP Report”. Submit the report utilizing the assignment feature on Canvas.
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