Case studies help business leaders and students learn by giving them a real-world scenario to parse and analyze. The case study presents facts about a particular company, and the student can put himself in the shoes of that company to make mission-critical decisions. The process starts with analyzing the most important facts and using this information to figure out the opportunities and threats facing the organization.

Case Study Tips: Focus on the Most Important Facts

Identifying the most important facts sounds easy enough, but business problems don't come wrapped up in neat boxes. Often, the case study will throw up tons of information with accompanying data and exhibits. Some facts will be more relevant than others. In your role as decision-maker, it's up to you to list the most important facts and use that information to help you define the nature and scope of the problem.

It's important to spend time on this step. If you start with the "wrong" or the least relevant information, then your conclusions are going to much less relevant.

List the Key Issues the Business is Facing

Many case studies present multiple issues or problems. Ask yourself, which are serious and which are trivial? If they are all relatively serious, which problems carry the most risk and which should the business tackle first? Use the key information you identified to list the major challenges facing the business. You should be able to explain:

  • What kind of problem the business is facing

    a management problem, process problem, technological problem? * Why the problem occurred –

    new competitors, a changing regulatory environment, inefficient business processes, declining market share? * What the impact will be on the performance or strategy of the organization

    reduced revenue, additional costs, staff turnover, supply chain problems?

Specify Alternative Courses of Action

What could the business do to solve its problem? For example, does the business need to invest in new technology or upgrade its existing systems? Are new business processes or organizational structures required? Do you need to change the flow of communication? Do managers need to change their behavior?

It's helpful here to think about what the business "should do" to fix the problem. This is the ideal solution for the business if time and resources were unlimited. Of course, in the real world not every course of action will be practical, affordable or achievable within a reasonable time frame. So you also need to think about what the business "could do" with its available resources and other constraints.

For each of the alternative outcomes in your business case study analysis, run a cost-benefit analysis to identify the likely outcomes of the proposed solution versus how expensive it will be. Is your solution feasible from an operational, financial and technical standpoint? What assumptions have you made?

Recommend the Best Course of Action

Finally, recommend the best course of action based on your analysis. The solution you recommend should be your first choice in light of the analysis you've performed. You should be able to explain why this solution is better than the alternatives, and why (specifically) you disregarded the other possible solutions. There often is no single "right" answer, so be sure to highlight any risks associated with the recommended solution as well as rewards.

Finally, write up your findings in a case study report. If applicable, recommend further action or research to resolve some of the outstanding issues.