Case Approaches Among Students

In this document we present an example of the structure, content, and sources of information for the assignment. In addition, we mention the typical mistakes done by the students to prevent this from happening again. It is up to each student to present his or her own design and choices according to the particular facts of their cases and the approach they decide to link theory and information (e.g. Introduction, Strategic Context, Company Initiative, Critical Success Factors and Conclusions). This structure could not be applicable in some case.


Content (350 words approx.)Sources of information
Focus of the assignmentBackground information of the firmSectorProducts/ServicesBrief history of the companyNumber of employeesLocationsMain business partnersMarket positioning/shareMain strategic objective/need for the ISSpecific IS initiative and implementation yearBrief description of sections of the assignmentEtc.Website of the companyAnnual reportsCustomer success stories of the IS supplier (in the website of the IS supplier)Etc.

Strategic Context

Content (700 words approx.)Sources of information
Include multiple academic references related to strategy, e.g. Fahey and Narayanan (1986), Luftman (2003), Porter (2001, 2008), Hamal and Prahald (1993), Timmers (2001) and so on. Theories from other modules are also welcome but just as a minor complement to strategy related theories. Examples of some aspects to discuss/explain are: PESTEL framework5-forces of competitive positionGeneric strategiesValue chain analysisResource-based view of strategyStrategic scenariosEtc.Annual reportsCustomer success stories of the IS supplier (in the website of the IS supplier)Industry/government reportsReports of analystsAny industrial sector informationBrochures of the applicationsEtc.
Example 1: … numerous suppliers for this industry are located in emergent economies, also the internet has enabled companies to transact world-wide (PESTEL)… big retailers have bargaining power over small suppliers, above all with more suppliers and having the opportunity to interact electronically (5-forces) … this retailer saw all this as an opportunity to reduce costs further (generic strategy) … retailers can reduce costs by streamlining the supply-side activities, for example in the cost of products and inventory operations. They benchmarked those costs against the best indicators in the industry and… (value chain analysis)   Example 2: … the monopoly came to an end in the country to allow more telco service providers to enter to the market (PESTEL) … this increased the bargaining power of customers (5-forces) … the company was in the need to apply service differentiation to build loyalty with its current customers (generic strategy) … the company realised that they could increase the service experience by personalising it and making it faster. They compared their processes with the best practices in the sector and… (value chain analysis) 

Company Initiative

Content (1300 words approx.)Sources of information
Include multiple academic references depending on the type of IS applications you will write about (i.e. ERP, e-CRM, e-SCM, and/or e-Commerce). You could start by reading the bibliography recommended in the corresponding chapter of the core book (e.g. about e- Commerce in the chapter about that). Theories from other modules are also welcome but just as minor complements to the IS related theories. The section must include the following: Decision of the companyExplanation of IS-strategy alignmentBrand, if the applications were bought or rentedRole of the implementersDescription of the business processInclude internal and external links in the business process with external parties, if applicableFigures or illustrations to support the explanation of business processesInsertion of explanations of the benefits of the IS in different parts of the description of business processes, mostly, to better understand the wholeEtc.   Example 1: … the big retailer implemented an internet Supply Chain Management system and pushed small suppliers to connect their systems to it in order to receive products only when they were needed and saveCustomer success stories of the IS supplier (in the website of the IS supplier)Brochures and videos of the applicationsCustomer testimonialsWebsite of the companyAnnual reportsAny Internet information of the stories (e.g. news, blogs, specialised websites, etc.Reports of analystsUse the system yourself, if it available in the website of the companyEtc.
costs in physical space and manipulation in the warehouse (e.g. D’Avanzo et al 2003, Arun et al 2006) … the Supply Management system was SAP, part of its suite a, which was implemented by company b … the detail of the business process that were automated was [x, with this data the y feature does z] … note that z generates just-in-time deliveries which reduces the costs [in this way and this way] (Taiichi 1988)… another part of the business processes works [like that]… which creates [another benefit] because of… , etc.   Example 2: … the telco company decided to implement a Customer Relationship Management system in order to increase customer loyalty by giving customers multiple service options as well as prompter and better services (e.g. Chen and Popovich 2011, Saarijarvi et al 2013)… the Customer Relationship Management system was Oracle, part of the suite a, which was implemented by company b … the detail of the business processes that were automated was [x, with this data the y feature does z] … note that z allows personalised responses which increase loyalty (Izogo 2017)… another part of the business processes works [like that]… which creates [this benefit] because of…, etc. 
Content (1200 words approx.)Sources of information
Include multiple academic references related to critical success factors and that are relevant for your specific case study. You could start by reading the bibliography recommended in the last lecture slides of the session on CSF (session 18). For example, Huang et al (2021), Seht et al (2015), Leyh and Thomschke (2015), Sanad et al (2010) and Nah et al (2001). Theories from other modules are also welcome but just as minor complements to the CSF related theories. The section must include the following for each CSF: Selection of CSFAspects that make the selected CSF especially relevant for your caseExplanation of those aspectsMain stages of the IS life cycle in which the CSF are presentStages that are finally affectedMeasures to address well the CSFCase specific and/or hypothetical examples to illustrate any of your points   A general example: The inter-departmental integration is a vital CSF for most [the type of system o the case] applications (references)… for example, the work of agents, technicians and warehouse personnel depends on each other in [exemplify a situation connected to the case] (references)… this can create conflicts in terms of roles and responsibilities (references)… this CSF would be determinant for the proper use of the systems and the outcomes of customer satisfactionAny     of     the     sources            previously mentioned
(references)… for example, [give another hypothetical example related to the case]… to address the CSF, companies could create multi-departmental teams to accomplish the analysis and design of the IS in order to [explain the benefit] (references)…. This could be done with the support of expert consultants as facilitators (references), and the aid of industrial benchmarks (references) with the aim of… Finally, managers could compensate employees based on group achievements in terms of customer satisfaction (references)… 
Content (450 words approx.)Sources of information
Start by briefly summarising in a paragraph all what you did before. Then add critical comments and explanations about a few interesting aspects. These aspects must be backed by theoretical and/or empirical references. Examples: The system is working properly because …The system is not working properly because …The firm got an increase in sales of …The firm doubled customer retention …There  were  not  significant  changes  in customer retention … The system is only working partially because …How IS could be part of the future of the company… The next stage of the project would implement the modules a, b and cThe next stage of the project would be to expand the functionality of the modules x, y, zThe next stage of the project would be to deploy the system to other branches of the company …Comparison with what competitors have been doing in the same functional areas/business processes …Competitors are now trying to copy …The work of the system is not easy to copy because competitors would need … Competitors could easily copy the work of the system because … Lessons learned …Etc.Annual reportsWebsite of the companyCustomer success stories of IS supplier (in the website of the IS supplier)Customer testimonialsAny Internet information of the stories (e.g. news, blogs and specialised websites)Reports of analystsWebsites and information about competitorsEtc.

The table below shows some specific examples of sources of information. Again, the students could opt to use different sources:

Source TypeExamples
Customer success stories of IS suppliers (in the websites of the IS suppliers)                     and testimonials See the Ariba’s, Oracle’s and SAP’s book I’ll post on Canvas (success stories) Try also with other software manufacturers such as NetSuite, Salesforce PeopleSoft, Siebel, JD Edwards, MS Dynamics, Infor, Epicor, Lawson, SugarCRM, Amadeus, Sabre, HubSpot and so on. And other IT service providers like IBM, HP, Fujitsu, CSC, Accenture, NTT Data Corporation, NEC, etc.
Any Internet information of the stories (e.g. news, blogs and specialised websites)For example, Google ‘Alpha natural resources Oracle’ or ‘Marriot international Oracle’. I’ll explain it in the class
Brochure of the products. Note, the assignment is about                              business applications (ERP, e-CRM, e-SCM and/or e- Commerce), so take care when you choose your case
Industrial                                  Sector information
Website of the company and annual reports It’s better if you see several annual reports from a couple of years before the e- business initiative until the one of last year
Industry/government reports,       reports       of analysts, etc.


Students should take into consideration all the aspects explained in the document Assignment – Instructions as well as in this document. However, according to experience students typically make mistakes in the following points:

  • No use of enough academic literature on IS and strategy, including the section on the IS initiative.
  • Use of it but not included in the list of references.
  • Too many irrelevant definitions (e.g. what IS is).
  • Irrelevant use of academic references (e.g. to support what IS is).
  • Too much explanation of theory instead of applying it (the section on CSF is relatively more theoretically based).
  • Reference more than twice Laudon and Laudon in the main body of the text.
  • Not including a very brief 1-paragraph introduction in the sections on strategy, the IS initiative and CSF.
  • Not specifying the year(s) of the implementation of the initiative in the Introduction section.
  • Not follow in a disciplined way the analytical path of strategy based on PESTEL/5-forces/generic strategies/value chain in which one concept informs the next in a pre-determined order (unless you use the resource-based view of strategy).
  • Following the sequence PESTEL/5-forces/generic strategies/value chain but applying some parts of it that then are not used in the sequence. For example, to apply the P, E and L of the PESTEL analysis but then not use the P in the rest of the sequence (for example in the 5-forces). Sometimes there is no connection between the macro and micro analyses, and then with the generic strategy.
  • In connection to the previous points, some students claim that a company uses more than 1 generic strategy but without any proper justification for this particular situation and without any logical flow in the whole section.
  • Instead of following all the logical/explanative sequence stated in the previous points, just to summarise everything in the form of a SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis cannot be used in the assignment.
  • Too simplistic value chain analysis with no benchmarks, numerical indicators or quotations that could indicate what area or processes are doing poorly or could be improved with the support of new IS.
  • The previous point also applies when applying a resource-based view of strategy. It is fine to explain the general story of the company in terms of its core competencies, but it also must include some evidence of where exactly in the company they could improve processes and performance.
  • Mix the PESTEL/5-forces/generic strategies/value chain analytical sequence with the resource-based view of strategy without a valid and well elaborated justification.
  • RBV: Lack a comprehensive explanation of how the organisation of different resources in the supply chain create competitive advantages.
  • Regarding the previous point, sometimes students just list some aspects that the company does (e.g. buys cheap raw material or delivers good services) but don’t really explain why the company excels on those activities.
  • RBV: Not clear how the company nurtures its core competencies.
  • RBV: No comments on what competitors do in the same area or how they tend to compete.
  • RBV: Not clear why the competitive advantages are rare or difficult to imitate/substitute.
  • RBV: No evidence-based explanation of where exactly in the supply chain there are needs or opportunities that can be addressed by IS.
  • Include the IS solution in the strategic part. The strategic part must be pure business strategy. The link with the solution and the description of the solution normally comes in a posterior section.
  • Little or no description of the business processes, which in many cases is due to the not reading of the brochures of the solutions. The reading of the brochures of the systems is vital.
  • Instead of describing business processes, there is too much explanation of the benefits of the systems. Doublecheck in your proofreading that the section on the initiative does not seem a marketing document.
Newcastle University  

It is necessary to include the benefits of the systems but include the explanation of most of them in the right place of the text according to the progress of your description of the busines processes. In this way we will know from where the benefits come from.

Newcastle University  

In relation to business processes, some students that choose an e-commerce only describe the front-end of the system (e.g. the front-end of an e-store) but do not connect it with a detailed explanation of the internal business processes (e.g. logistics and the automation of the supply side of the business).

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