Capstone project, Business Management

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Industry Analysis and Organizational Strategic Plan

This project is an individually-prepared strategic analysis with recommendations for a publicly-held corporation selected from an industry selected by your group.  All team members in the group will do a case on a company in the same industry to allow you to work together to collect and share information.  The analysis will be done in weekly sections reviewed in class by a consultative team of student peers and handed in to the instructor for grading.  

The Final Work Product

The entire Capstone Project (all sections) should be packaged together in a three-ring binder.  The front of your binder should provide the following information:  course name instructor name, date, student name, and company name. The binder should be a professional work product and should conform to general expectations for such an assignment.  Your project WILL NOT be returned to you, but will be kept on file in the Business Division at ODU and may be used to provide future students with project examples.  They may also be used to assist the faculty in evaluating student learning.  The project will be scored on a rubric.  

Individual Comprehensive Written Company Analysis
Your Individual Comprehensive Written Company Analysis should contain each of the following sections:

A. Industry Description and Ethics Check: You should include a general description of the industry in which your firm operates, the products or services delivered, key competitors, and sources of competitive advantage exploited within the industry. "Standard and Poors Net Advantage" is an excellent source of this type of information. See the section entitled "Online Data Bases Suitable for Business Research" for access hints. Name and describe the key competitors in this industry. At a minimum, indicate the location of their headquarters, annual sales volume, and primary products. Indicate, if possible, any areas of strategic strength or weakness of each competitor. Also include an Ethics Check on the industry. An "ethics check" identifies ethical issues currently challenging the industry. For example, the fast food industry is currently challenged by the impact of their menu offerings on public health and particularly the health of children. Make sure you cite all of your resources.

B.  Organizational History and Current State of Affairs:  This section should include a discussion of your organization's history, culture, and important leaders over the years, as well as the organization's current product or service offerings, target markets, and methods of product/service delivery. One of the most pervasive influences on business in the past decade has been globalization.   
Describe the key global influences and opportunities for this company and its industry.

C. Mission and Vision Statements: In this section, you should include what your organization publishes about its mission, vision, core values, key principles, etc. These statements take many forms and come packaged in different ways, but they tend to focus on defining the organization's business, philosophy, core values, and beliefs or hopes about the future. Next, develop your own version of a vision and mission statement for your organization which, in your opinion, improves upon or enhances what is currently adopted. Discuss the changes that you made and why they represent an enhancement. Remember to include all desired mission statement components (see page 61 in the text) in a way that is inspiring and comprehensive. Mission statements should not be too lengthy; statements under two hundred words are desirable. Make sure you cite all of your resources.

D. Analysis of the External Environment: In this section you will develop an understanding of factors external to your organization that impact upon its business and prospects for the future. For example, the price of fuel has lead to changes in the automobile, aircraft, and manufacturing industries. You should begin with an extensive exploration of literature related to the industry and/or its competitors including recent articles in business magazines and/or journals, industry periodicals, the organization's annual report, as well as an exploration of general trends that you believe may impact the industry or organization. See the section called "Possible Information Sources." Relevant information is available in Standard and Poors Net Advantage, Lexis Nexis Academic, Business Source Premier databases and others. Your next step will be to develop an External Environment Evaluation (EFE), comprised of a listing of external opportunities (or trends) and external threats as described beginning on page 80 of the text. Each EFE entry should be extensive enough to communicate your meaning to an uneducated reader. Once constructed, discuss your EFE in your paper in order to clarify for the reader the choices you made and the prioritization you assigned. Remember that you must cite all of your sources. Remember that opportunities and threats, for the most part, should identify phenomena external to the organization. It is not yet time to discuss possible choices that your organization might make in the future. One common weakness is to state opportunities as if they were goals or strategies as opposed to trends external to the organization. Also, your opportunities and threats should be specific enough to be "actionable" whenever possible. That is, instead of saying that a threat is "regulatory legislation," try to indicate the specific legislation that is considered threatening. The specific legislation is "actionable" whereas the broader "regulatory legislation" does not lend itself well to the identification of strategic action alternatives.

E. Analysis of the Financial and Internal Environment: In this section, you will evaluate the internal strengths and weaknesses of your organization compared to its competitors. You should begin with a thorough financial analysis of your organization.  The "recent news" and "key developments" sections offer discussion of recent events impacting upon the financial condition of the company. To support your analysis, build a spreadsheet showing the last three years of side-by-side income and a balance sheet of fiscal year-end data. This report should be common sized. Also, identify key ratios that best illustrate the financial condition of the organization. You should develop one or more relevant ratios in each ratio category as defined on pages 110 and 111 in the text. Compare these over several years for your organization as well as to recent industry averages. Based on your analysis, compose a narrative on the financial condition of your organization. At a minimum, comment on liquidity, leverage, activity, profitability, and growth. Consider both its current condition as well as trends in important accounts and/or ratios. Avoid sweeping generalizations like "they are in great shape." Instead, make empirical statements that you then support with data. For example, instead of saying "sales are up higher than a jack rabbit in a rain storm," say "revenues have increased at a 5% average annual rate over the last three fiscal years." Next, research other internal factors such as marketing capability, management expertise, production or operations effectiveness, research and development practices, information technology capacity, and culture. This information is most easily available through independent sources, so focus on current articles on the company in business periodicals and/or journals. These can be found by doing searches in the "Lexis Nexis Academic" or "Business Source Premier" databases. For example, you might search under "Wal-Mart" and "Management" or "Wal-Mart" and "Marketing." Finally, construct an Internal Factor Evaluation (IFE) for your organization as described in the text, beginning on page 122. Follow your IFE with a thorough discussion of the important internal factors you have identified. Make sure you cite all of your resources.

F. Application of Strategic Tools: Apply the following strategic tools to your organization and its current products/services. For each tool, discuss what you have learned. That is, discuss what the application of each tool has told you about the type of strategic direction the firm should consider.

  • Product Life Cycle (PLC): Plot the organization's key products and/or services on the product life cycle.  Information on the PLC will be provided by your instructor in class. Discuss why you positioned each product or service as you did on the PLC.  Further, discuss what you have learned about the way in which your organization has managed its products or services along the PLC.
  • Boston Consulting Group Matrix (BCG Matrix): This tool, found on pages 185-188, is a portfolio matrix.  The tool is designed to examine the relationship between various autonomous divisions or profit centers of an organization.  If your organization only  possesses one division (or product/service line) then you may exclude this tool.  Build a BCG matrix for your organization.
  • Competitive Profile Matrix (CPM): A CPM identifies critical success factors for your industry and compares your company to the industry in terms of those factors.
  • Other: Utilize other analytical techniques like Product Positioning Maps and Porter's Five Forces Model (page 74) to help identify strategies and the organization's competitive position.  
  • Analysis of Existing Organizational Strategies: Identify and discuss your organization's primary strategy (who, what, and how) as well as any critical operational strategies that you have identified (e.g. marketing, inventory management, quality processes, etc.).  Also, categorize the strategies you identify according to the terminology on page 137 of the text. As a part of your discussion explain what you have learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the existing strategies.

G.  Developing Strategic Recommendations:  A SWOT matrix is designed to help you develop alternative strategies for consideration.  Develop a SWOT Matrix as described on pages 192-194 of the text and brainstorm some alternative strategies for your organization.
Alternative strategies should be consistent with and respond to the factors identified in your analysis of IFE and EFE.

Next, identify one strategy from your SWOT analysis that you believe would benefit your organization.  The strategy may be "strategic" (e.g. a new product) or "operational" (e.g. new marketing campaign).  Then, you should clearly, and in detail, articulate your strategy as well as define the reasons for your choice.  Finally, discuss the ethical implications of the strategy selected if relevant. 

Note:  It is suggested that a portion of each class be peer-to-peer consulting on the progress on the Company Analysis Capstone Project.  The students should meet to review their work with other students, offer suggestions for improvement and determine "Best Practices" as reviewed in these consultations.  The "Best Practices" would then be shared with the entire class.


Develop an "executive summary" presentation of what you learned in your company analysis.  Summarize your findings in a compelling, creative, and professional fashion. Your presentation should focus on the company and its strategic position in its industry. Plan to utilize PowerPoint appropriately in your delivery. Your presentation should not exceed 15 minutes plus a brief question and answer/discussion session.  This may have to be adjusted depending on the number of students in the class.

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