How to Analyze a Case Study?
Case study, as it implies, is a study of data to analyze a given real-time situation enabling a student to solve problems or make decisions.
This involves looking at the practical aspects of a problem apart from its theoretical aspect. The problems are usually open-ended with no single answers because each time a case comes up, a solution is analyzed, information is gathered and a decision is made. No single decision is considered as a final solution since there are no definite answers to the problem. Also this helps in discussing and exchanging information or views about the solution proposed.
The usual steps followed in a case study analysis are:
1) Identity the objective(s) of the case study - who, what, when, where - is it? The criteria for making decisions should be defined.
2) The case study must be read several times. The gap between the knowledge and the problem should be filled by reading about it as many times as possible. The problems should be mapped to determine if it's just a single problem or a multiple problem issue.
3) If there are multiple problems, then identify the most important one and leave out that which is the most trivial. Then an outline for the solution/ solutions should be proposed. This would be a rough draft, open to all changes. The extreme scenario should be considered before working on the solution.
4) Gathering information (linear or non-linear) related to the data that can be used in this problem. Previous background knowledge or related studies can be used and their solutions can be used as a prelude to the study. Based on that a solution can be proposed to be talked about from different angles or viewpoints.Notes about decisions made by those who were involved in the case study previously must be considered carefully. All pertinent facts relating to the study should be listed and underlined. If facts are not available, then appropriate assumptions can be made based on the problem.
5) The analyzer should identify his role and work within the legal measures. Anything illegal should be avoided.
6) The reason for the problem and its source must be identified - if it's organizational, management or technology-based.
- If it's organizational, then who's involved in it and to what capacity? Are they work-groups? Competitors? Relationships? What was the impact? Did the business or the firm suffer a loss? Any gains? Who benefitted from them?
- If it's technology based - is it based on software or hardware issues, hacking or intrusion etc. Are the technological assets aligned properly with the organization's objectives? Who's the IT administrator? What's the frequency of these problems? Are there any troubleshooting issues? Does the firm have an IT solutions provider? What did they implement? How robust and stable was the solution? What was the cost?
- If it's management based issue- then is the problem in the managers or the administration? Who were involved in the decision making process? What were the decisions? To what extent were they executed? Any relevant documentation? If not, then what were the reasons for not being executed?
Some problems might be a combination of one or more of them. In that case the extent of each problem must be analyzed and then determined if the solution needs to be one-sided or two-sided.
7) If there are conflicting views and opinions, then check which one was accepted and the reason for its acceptance. Was the acceptance valid within the scope of the data provided? People see things differently. So the results and outcomes differ due to different perspectives. Evaluating such data with respect to the conflicting opinions helps in arriving at the correct judgment. Resolving conflicting views is part of the process because many situations or problems coming from this study will have different managerial opinions.
8) The course of action must be specified. Solutions that can be achieved and those that can't be achieved must be highlighted with reasons. Also, any possible risksor dangers should be considered. A previous history of risks that have occurred already must be studied. After thatthe best course of action in terms of cost, time and people should be identified. If the solution is implemented, then
- What type of changes will be required at organizational level? Does it involve restructuring the organization? What will be the consequences? Who will be affected? Will it affect the resources? Can the organization accept the solution? Is it economical?
- What type of changes will be required at the management level? Any change in the management policies?
- What types of changes will be required for technology? Can it be implemented or should the current solution be further customized to satisfy the new solution?
9) The proposed solution must be explained in detail with reason- why one aspect was considered over the other? Evidence from research, theories and studies must be cited.
10) The solution must be open to probe and criticism. If questioned, then the analyzer should be able to defend the solution. The analyzer should be ready and be able to discuss at length and be ready to change his opinions if he feels the opposing viewpoints are better than his. A note about this should be made for future reference. After discussion, irrelevant aspects should be removed.
11) Recommendations are a must. They should tally with the analysis done. They can be set along with the solutions or conclusions. The reasons for recommendations should be outlined. Also their implementation process should be suggested. Alternative solutions must be suggested.
12) Finally a report should be made about all the parameters mentioned above in an appropriate format using graphs, charts and diagrams. An appendix and a table of contents must be attached to the study for easy and quick reference. A quick glossary of some terms that may not be understood in the context with references should be included as well along with a Bibliography of sources used in the study.