Project Required Elements
1.    Analyze the company’s history, development, and growth. A convenient way to investigate how a company’s past strategy and structure affect it in the present is to chart the critical incidents in its history – that is, the events that were the most unusual or the most essential for its development into the company it is today. Some of the events have to do with its founding, its initial products, how it makes new-product market decisions, and how it developed and chose functional competencies to pursue. Its entry into new businesses and shifts in its main lines of business are also important milestones to consider. Often best to do this AFTER you have done the bulk of your analysis. 5 Points
2.    External Analysis, including
•    General environmental analysis (opportunities and threats). Apply the general environment model model to organize and assess the impact of external forces on the firm. Your analysis of the general environment should focus on trends in the six segments of the general environment. Many of the segment issues for the six segments are explained more fully in Chapter 2 of your book and in the lectures. Any analysis of the threats and opportunities facing a firm requires an understanding of the general environment within which a firm operates. You must provide an in-depth analysis of the broad trends in the context within which a firm operates that can have an impact on a firm’s strategic choices. You must discuss the trends in each of the six interrelated segments of the general environment. The objective you should have in evaluating these trends is to be able to predict the segments that you expect to have the most significant influence on your focal firm over the next several years (say three to five years) and to explain your reasoning for your predictions. 15 Points

•    Porter’s 5/6 Forces (opportunities and threats). In this part of your analysis, you want to determine the attractiveness of an industry (or a segment of an industry) in which your firm is competing. As attractiveness increases, so does the possibility your firm will be able to earn profits by using its chosen ­strategies. After evaluating the power of the five forces relative to your firm, you should make a judgment as to how attractive the industry is in which your firm is competing. You must discuss all indicators of the threat of both Buyers and suppliers in the Industry. You must discuss all attributes of an industry that increase both the threat of Rivalry and threat of substitutes. Finally, you must discuss all the barriers to entry into an industry. 15 Points
•    Strategic Groups Analysis. Studying such groups can be helpful in industry analysis to evaluate a firm’s competitors and differentiate themselves from the competition. 10 Points

3.    Internal Analysis, including
•    Assessment of firm’s strengths and weaknesses. You should perform a value chain analysis. Examine each of the value creation functions of the organization, and identify the functions in which the organization is currently strong and currently weak. Some organizations might be weak in marketing; some might be strong in research and development. Make lists of these strengths and weaknesses. 15 Points
•    Are any of the firm’s resources/capabilities sources of competitive advantage(s)? Are the firm’s advantages and disadvantages temporary or sustainable? You should perform a detailed VRIO analysis to assess each competitive advantage separately. 20 Points
•    What do the firm’s financial statements say about its health? Trends? Comparison to competitors? You must perform a financial ratios analysis. Feel free to include any figures, tables, charts, etc. in your reports and presentations in order to illustrate your analysis. Don’t just tack the exhibits on at the end of your reports and let the reader figure out what they mean and why they are included.  Instead, in the body of your report, cite some of the key numbers, highlight the conclusions to be drawn from the exhibits, and refer the reader to your charts and exhibits for more details. 5 Points
4.    Evaluate the SWOT analysis. Having identified the company’s external opportunities and threats as well as its internal strengths and weaknesses, consider what your findings mean. You need to balance strengths and weaknesses against opportunities and threats. Is the company in an overall strong competitive position? Can it continue to pursue its current business- or corporate-level strategy profitably? What can the company do to turn weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities? Can it develop new functional, business, or corporate strategies to accomplish this change? Never merely generate the SWOT analysis and then put it aside. Because it provides a succinct summary of the company’s condition, a good SWOT analysis is the key to all the analyses that follow. Results from a SWOT analysis yield valuable insights into the selection of a firm’s strategies. 25 Points
5.    Analyze corporate-level strategy. To analyze a company’s corporate-level strategy, you first need to define the company’s mission and goals. Sometimes the mission and goals are stated explicitly in the case; at other times you will have to infer them from available information. The information you need to collect to find out the company’s corporate strategy includes such factors as its line(s) of business and the nature of its subsidiaries and acquisitions. It is important to analyze the relationship among the company’s businesses. What type of diversification the firm is pursuing? Do they trade or exchange resources? Are there gains to be achieved from synergy? What type of economies of scope achieved by pursuing the corporate strategy? Alternatively, is the company just running a portfolio of investments? This analysis should enable you to define the corporate strategy that the company is pursuing (for example, related or unrelated diversification, or a combination of both) and to conclude whether the company operates in just one core business. Then, using your SWOT analysis, debate the merits of this strategy. Is it appropriate, given the environment the company is in? Could a change in corporate strategy provide the company with new opportunities or transform a weakness into a strength? For example, should the company diversify from its core business into new businesses?

Other issues should be considered as well. How and why has the company’s strategy changed over time? What is the claimed rationale for any changes? Often it is a good idea to analyze the company’s businesses or products to assess its situation and identify which divisions contribute the most to or detract from its competitive advantage. It is also useful to explore how the company has built its portfolio over time. Did it acquire new businesses, or did it internally venture its own? All these factors provide clues about the company and indicate ways of improving its future performance. 15 Points

6.    Analysis of business-level positioning strategy used by the firm, including
•    What the overall positioning of the firm is in this particular market; you will need to identify the company’s generic competitive strategy – differentiation, low cost, or focus. You need to thoroughly justify your choice. 5 Points
•    How the positioning strategy is (or is not) supported by its functional strategies; Identifying the functional strategies that a company pursues to build competitive advantage through superior efficiency, quality, innovation, and customer responsiveness and to achieve its business-level strategy is very important. The Value Chain analysis will have provided you with information on the company’s functional competencies. You should further investigate its operations, marketing, or research and development strategy to gain a picture of where the company is going. For example, pursuing a low-cost or a differentiation strategy successfully requires a very different set of competencies. Has the organization developed the right ones? If it has, how can it exploit them further? Can it pursue both a low-cost and a differentiation strategy simultaneously? 5 Points
•    How the positioning strategy influences (or responds to) the competitive and/or cooperative dynamics of the industry. The five forces analysis is especially important at this point if the industry analysis has revealed the threats to the organization from the environment. Can the organization deal with these threats? How should it change its business-level strategy to counter them? 5 Points
7.    Recommendations 10 Points
The last part of the case analysis process involves making recommendations based on your analysis. Recommendations should respond to the key issues of the case, and must be specific and actionable. They must not be obvious “so what” platitudes, and they must be consistent with the analysis. Obviously, the quality of your recommendations is a direct result of the thoroughness with which you prepared the case analysis. The work you put into the case analysis will be obvious to the professor from the nature of your recommendations. Recommendations are directed at solving whatever strategic problem the company is facing and at increasing its future profitability. Developing alternatives is often one of the most difficult steps in preparing project recommendations. Developing alternative strategies is common for business- level strategy and corporate- level strategy alternatives. Each alternative should be feasible ( i. e., it should match the firm’s strengths, capabilities, and especially core competencies), and feasibility should be demonstrated. In addition, you should show how each alternative takes advantage of the environmental ­opportunity or avoids/ buffers against environmental threats. Developing carefully thought out alternatives requires synthesis of your analyses’ results.
Your recommendations should be in line with your analysis; that is, they should follow logically from the previous discussion. For example, your alternatives should flow from the configuration of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats you identified by analyzing your firm’s external environment and internal organization. Likewise, your recommendation generally will center on the specific ways of changing functional and business strategy and organizational structure and control to improve business performance. The set of recommendations will be specific to each case, and so it is difficult to discuss these recommendations here. Such recommendations might include an increase in spending on specific research and development projects, the divesting of certain businesses, a move to a new business-level strategy. Again, make sure your recommendations are mutually consistent and are written in the form of an action plan. The plan might contain a timetable that sequences the actions for changing the company’s strategy.

Other Important Requirements
1.    You MUST use headings per the outline above. Also, you must use subheadings throughout the paper as appropriate. For example, you have to use very clear subheadings to breakdown the various parts of the general environment, industry analysis (i.e., five/six forces analysis), value chain analysis, and VRIO…etc. I will deduct 10% from the overall grade of your project score for failing to completely adhere to these document organization requirements.
2.    Complete proper citations of references and supporting information (source, date, page, etc.). Citation of reference sources should be included A) at the point of reference in the text, showing how reference materials support statements made in the body of the analysis, as well as B) listed in an appropriate citation format after the end of the project document. That is, citations should be throughout the paper as appropriate, and a reference listing page should be included at the end listing the overall references used. (Space taken up by these reference lists are not counted in the required size of the paper!). I will deduct 25% from the overall grade of your project score for failing to completely cite EVERY source used to complete the project.

3.    You should cite at least 10 credible sources (i.e., Journal articles) in the paper (WEBSITES MAY NOT BE USED). Any use of a website to support any discussion in the paper will result in a grade of ZERO. If you have questions about or do not understand any aspect of this rule, please ask your professor to explain it again before you start your project analysis.
4.    The report should be completely free of spelling and grammatical errors. You must edit the paper for correct grammar, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and paragraphing. I will deduct 10% from the overall grade your project score for such errors.

5.    The project output includes a written report of 20 doubled-spaced pages long (with 1” margins and 12 point font), and error-free. The limit does not include appendices, which can be used to provide charts, figures, or tables that effectively condense and summarize key material. DON’T include any key analysis (e.g., SWOT, VRIO, VALUE CHAIN) in the appendix because it will not be graded. Key issues must be addresses and analyzed in the main body of the document. Each extra page beyond the 20 doubled-spaced pages long limit will result in a penalty of 5 points deducted from the final grade of the project.

6.    The page count DOES NOT include the Cover Page, Table of Context, Citations, or the Appendices.

I.    Research Project. The class will be organized into one-four person teams to complete a research project.That is, a group of one is an acceptable option for those of you who don’t prefer group work, don’t accept the rules governing the grading of group work, or are not confident that they can meet the requirements of group work, which are demonstrated through the peer appraisal form rubrics. One of the key implications of joining a team is the peer evaluation process. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO APPEAL THE EVALUATIONS YOU RECEIVE FROM GROUP MEMBERS REGARDLESS OF THE REASON AND YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO CHANGE YOUR EVALUATIONS OF OTHER TEAMMATES REGARDLESS OF THE REASON. Once the peer evaluation is submitted there will not be any chance to change it because of misunderstanding of the peer evaluation rubrics, misunderstanding of the peer evaluation score impact on the project’s grade of a teammate, miscalculation or any other reason.If you have questions about the peer evaluation rules or do not understand any aspect of these class rules, please ask your professor to explain it again before you join a group.

(i.e., marketing, finance, accounting, etc.), a balance of aggressive and conservative dispositions, and scheduling flexibility (i.e., ability of team member to meet out of class). A team that is functionally diverse may be more likely to do better than a team of all accounting majors, for example. So, don’t just pick your friends as teammates – as this type of group work has been known to occasionally strain friendships.

The objective of the project is to apply what has been learned in the course to evaluating the strategy and performance of a real organization and, on the basis of an analysis of the present situation and emerging trends, to chart or recommend a future direction of the enterprise. You are assuming the role of management consultants for this project. This project should answer the question: “What would the consultant do to gain/maintain competitive advantage if it were in the driver’s seat of this organization.

The research project is a semester-long project; hence it is referred to as your semester project. It IS NOT a “Paper”!

Please do not forget your research project is a semester long project. You should begin immediately! The expectation is that you will begin work as the material is covered. Detailed instructions regarding the required steps to complete the research project are provided under the “Assignments” tab on Blackboard.
The instructor will assign each team or individual student to a certain company (referred to as your “target company”). You are expected to become an EXPERT on this target company. You will assemble a database of financial and non-financial information from and about your target company. You will conduct an in-depth study of the firm, and apply the concepts, analytical tools and frameworks of this course to analyze its external and internal environments, identify the firm’s strategic options, and come up with a set of recommendations to maximize the firm’s long-term performance.

The project output includes a written report of 20doubled-spaced pages long (with 1” margins and 12 point font), and error-free. The limit does not include appendices, which can be used to provide charts, figures, or tables that effectively condense and summarize key material. DON’T include any key analysis (e.g., SWOT, VRIO, VALUE CHAIN) in the appendix because it will not be graded. Key issues must be addresses and analyzed in the main body of the document. Each extra page beyond the 20 doubled-spaced pages long limit will result in a penalty of 5 points deducted from the final grade of the project.