Case Competitions: A Guide to Implementation
By Kevin Shaji
In the third part of our five-part case competition series, our publications team sits down with Kevin Shaji to explore the financial modelling component of case competitions.
- About Kevin
- Approach to implementation
- Topics that consultants should include
- Advice for student consultants
- A memorable project
- Favorite consulting experience
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Kevin, and I’m a 4th year Commerce (Finance)/Law student. I have worked in various capacities in different industries such as retail, education, not-for-profit, legal and most recently, start-up. In terms of student society involvement, I was the 2019 BSOC Competitions Director and have also been involved with consulting societies such as UMCG, UCC and B1. As for Case Competition experience, I’ve managed to place strongly in a few domestic competitions over the past two years, even picking up a win along the way.
What is your approach to implementation?
No matter how good your strategy is, it is all for naught if you cannot sell how you’re going to implement it. Implementation is intrinsically linked to feasibility and its always on a judge’s mind for Q&A. In fact, weaker and less creative strategies often take the win because they are more feasible to implement, so it is essential to get it right.
Generally, implementation has two primary components: the implementation timeline and the risks and mitigating strategies. I will break them down in more detail below, but at its crux, you want to provide a detailed roadmap about how you are going to roll-out your strategy in the short, medium, and long-term. This means understanding the different factors that make-up your strategy at a high-level, including anything that may derail it off its course.
1. Implementation Timeline
The implementation timeline is typically set out in a Gantt Chart style with a 5-year project horizon. I have included an example from UNSW’s 1st place presentation at the 2020 CBS Case Competition to help illustrate what a good implementation timeline looks like. Be mindful that if you have two strategies, you should include the most critical components of both strategies by prioritising what is necessary to communicate to the judges.
You should structure your timeline in a way that allows you to evaluate your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so that you can understand if everything is going to plan (notice the black diamonds representing the evaluation points below). They typically tie in with your financials and make your strategy more credible and convincing. It also adds to the feasibility of the strategy by allowing you to show the judges you can pivot or abandon it before it gets overly expensive.
2. Risks and Mitigation
For every strategy, there will be risks that jeopardise it. Therefore, you must show the judges a thorough understanding of these risks while also developing contingency plans to mitigate them. If you cover the obvious bases, then you can show just how feasible your strategy is! I guarantee that something will come up in Q&A about this so ensure you are prepared. A good framework through which to structure this part of the implementation of your strategy is the use of a Risk Matrix (Likelihood of Risk vs Impact on Strategy). I have once again included the one used in the CBS Case Competition to help illustrate how you can approach it as well. While the matrix might include a range of different risks, you want to ensure you show an awareness of the most prominent ones that justify discussion.
Do you have any considerations for topics that student consultants should include in this section?
1. Implementation Timeline
In the short-term, you need to consider what you need to do to get your strategy up and running so that it can be launched. Do you need to hire new staff? Do you need time to prepare your marketing? Do you have adequate time for developing and testing your product?
In the medium-term, you need to consider what you need to do post-product launch to ensure its success. The first year of product launch is often the most difficult, and a lot of work needs to be done to penetrate the target market. Maybe it would be a good idea to launch in one state first to see how successful it is before making the decision to launch nationwide? Maybe you should have your development team ready for all the issues that may come up post-launch?
In the long-term, you need to consider how you are going to maintain the growth of your strategy. Think about how you can scale and reach new horizons or potentially move into other markets. Is international expansion may be on the table? New product features based on customer feedback? A revamped marketing plan?
2. Risk and Mitigation
As you complete your crack, you should be collating the risks you see with your strategy as a team on post-it notes or on a list somewhere. If you have a tech/data related strategy, be sure to include how you may deal with a potential data breach. As well, consider what you would do if there is a low uptake with your strategy, and you are not reaching the numbers you originally planned you would. Another consideration is to make appendix slides for the most prominent risks to show that you have considered in detail how to mitigate it.
What is your biggest piece of advice for students looking to get into consulting/case competitions?
One of my regrets is starting to get into consulting/case competitions later in my university journey, so my biggest piece of advice is to start as soon as you can. The only way to get better is through getting yourself into the thick of things even though it might not go too well at the beginning. Remember that although getting into consulting/case competitions can seem like a daunting task, there is a lot of support at UNSW that you can lean on. There are a range of consulting societies such as UMCG, 180DC, B1, UCC etc. that can provide you with the necessary platform to develop yourself through the workshops and programs they hold.
Furthermore, there are a range of Case Competitions offered every year that gives you a chance to practice and cultivate your problem-solving and presenting skills. I know way too many people that start but never submit, and you are doing yourself a huge disservice if you do not as well. Though you might struggle at the beginning with allocating a large portion of your time to completing them as well as finding teammates, you become a little faster and more efficient with every competition you complete. It is not all doom and gloom though – some of my fondest memories have been in the middle of a crack because its just such a fun and enjoyable time with your team! There is so much growth to be had so remember - you get out what you put in!
What’s one of the most memorable times you’ve had to present implementation?
A time that comes to mind was during the recent WPP Case Competition that I completed with my team this year. What made it memorable was how different our strategy was compared to other competitions I had completed, where we usually went with a disruptive technology-focused strategy. However, in this case, it was purely a marketing strategy. This meant that we needed to go into a large amount of depth regarding how we planned to roll it out. Researching the different components of a marketing plan was refreshing and gave me a better understanding of the various channels that marketers must consider when trying to reach their target demographic. That’s the beauty of case competitions; it forces you out of your comfort zone by expanding your knowledge of a range of different industries and fields in a practical way that extends upon what you learn at university.
What is your favourite experience in consulting to date?
My favourite experience so far was making it to the national finals of the 2020 Microsoft Protégé Case Competition. Due to COVID-19, the whole experience was online though we still managed to have a fantastic time! Not only did we get free UberEATS, but also got to participate in a range of workshops about where technology is going in the future as well as opportunities to be mentored by experts in the industry. It helped us to improve our way of approaching problem-solving and also allowed us to polish our strategy to a level that I was quite proud of. Definitely would recommend the competition to everyone!