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Undergraduate Major Project
Answering the examination
guideline format for answers

Research notes MUST be referenced throughout your answers DON’T simply repeat what is in your notes

Q1 (50 marks)
Your company’s current strategic position (30 marks) Essay format

Your answer should include:

  • Short introduction

  • Summary of your company’s current mission and performance (use your Balanced


  • Summary of external environment (use your PESTLE / STEEPLE and your SWOT)

  • How your company is placed in its market(s) (use your Porter’s 5 Forces)

  • Discussion of company’s capabilities (use your McKinsey 7s and your SWOT)

  • Brief conclusion signal that you will now consider key challenges in next part of the


b) Key challenges (20 marks)

  • Identify 3-5 challenges your company are facing

  • 2 or 3 paragraphs on EACH challenge

    o Why is it a challenge for the company?
    o Why is it important?
    o What are the consequences if the company does nothing?

    Q2 (50 Marks)
    a) Identification and evaluation of options for ONE challenge (30 marks)

    Essay format
    Your answer should include:

  • Brief introduction link the challenge you have chosen from q1B

  • Expand on the challenge to give more detail on the issue and why it is important

  • Introduce and explain as required the options you have identified that will help

    “solve” the challenge

  • Discuss how you have evaluated the options (do NOT simply repeat your SAFe from

    your research notes explain the scores you have given)

Conclude by clearly stating what your chosen option is. b) Implementation (20 marks)

  • Essay format

  • Introduce by linking to your answer for q2a

  • Identify practical issues the company will need to address to implement the chosen


o How will it finance the change? (you are NOT expected to undertake any

detailed costings)
o Does it need to obtain any other resources? If so, how? From where?
o Does it need to employ staff or train existing staff? If so, how? From where? o Any other practical issues?


Undergraduate major project requirement guidelines for research notes step by step

In the exam you will be asked to:

Fully analyse your company’s current strategic position

Identify and discuss the challenges your company faces over the next 5 years

Identify and evaluate the various solutions your company could use to address ONE of these challenges

Analyse how the chosen solution could be practically implemented at your company



Question 1

a) What it your company’s strategic position?

·      External environment

·      Internal capabilities

·      Key Performance Information

·      All compared with key competitors

b) out of the above, what are the challenges the company is going to face over the next 5 years?


Throughout the Module you will be preparing research notes

These are submitted at the exam and should be:

A maximum of 5 sides of A4 max of notes

A further maximum of 2 additional sides of references (in full Harvard style)

Minimum font size of 10 throughout

The notes are not in themselves assessed, but will give you the ability to answer the examination questions

You must reference your exam answers to your notes.

No notes / no referencing answers……..zero marks!

If you work in a group you can prepare one set of research notes if you wish



Important don’ts

All your research must be from secondary sources (published reports, journals, newspapers etc.)

You MUST NOT specifically contact the company or conduct any form of primary research (e.g. questionnaires to customers / staff etc.)

If you work for the company, you MUST NOT use any information that is not PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE

Any student breaking these rules is liable to be removed from the course.


Referencing Requirements

Reference List

A comprehensive reference list in full Harvard format is required

Your list should also be numbered consecutively from 1 to XXX

Research Notes to Reference list

You should reference the source of every piece of information in your research notes to the external source by using the NUMBER in the reference list

Harvard style in-text citations are NOT required


The Use of Theoretical Models

Theoretical models are very useful as a framework for analysing a business

Your research notes are likely to feature lots of business models e.g. PESTLE / Porters Five Forces / SWOT

Each model will be “populated” with relevant information you have found in your research (all referenced of course)

Make sure that your reference list includes citation for the model itself as well as the information you have found

The remainder of the Module classes will be given over to preparing your research notes and analysis for the examination


Your research should include the following:

Company Key Performance Indicators

This should be made up of BOTH financial and non financial indicators

KPIs are only really useful if they can be compared

over time (has the company got better or worse?)

relevant company / industry averages and competitors (how is my company doing compared to others?)

These KPIs will probably form a key element to your final research notes

Financial perspective:

·       Turnover

·       Profitability – (net and gross)

·       Balance sheet value

·       Share price

·       Debt levels


You only need a few KEY financial ratios and you will probably find sources that will calculate them for you!


Return on Capital Employed (profit before interest and tax / Equity plus long term debt

Profit Margin (profit figures / sales turnover)


Financial ratios:

Investor ratios

·      Return on Capital Employed (as before)

·      Earnings per share (Profit after tax / number of equity shares)

·      Price to earnings ratio (share price / EPS)

·      Leverage (or gearing ratio) (Long term debt / equity)

Liquidity ratios

·      Current ratio (Current assets : current liabilities)

·      Acid test ratio (Current assets – inventory : current liabilities)

Efficiency ratios

·      Debtor days (trade debtors / sales) x365

·      Creditor days (trade creditors / purchases) x365

·      Stock turnover (stock / cost of sales) x365


Customer perspective

·      Loyalty

·      Reaction / complaints

·      Reaction on review websites (remember bias!)

·      Delivery times

Internal perspective

·      Measures of efficiency

·      Reductions in waste / green agenda

·      Effectiveness of IT systems

Innovation and learning

·      How does the company learn to improve (or does it stick with what it has done for years?)

·      Investment in training

·      Investment in IT and retail space

What are all four of these perspectives telling you about the company??


Try to compare your company with:

·      Key competitors

·      Industry norms

·      Best practice

Again, think what this is telling you – is your company doing better or worse? What does this tell you about strengths and weaknesses etc? How can it improve?


Strategic Position

The Environment:


·       Industry Competition  Porter’s Five Forces

·       The Industry Life Cycle

·       Environmental Analysis: Opportunities  and Threats



Strategic capability:


·       Resources

·       Competitive advantage – the VRIN Model


Understanding capabilities


·       The comparison of company data with others

·       Industry / sector benchmarks

·       Best in class benchmarks

The TOWS Matrix


Organisational purpose

Mission statement:

·       What business are we in?

·       Why do we do what we do?


·      What do we want to achieve?


·      Core values – those that won’t change if our external environment changes

·      Non-core values – those that might be adapted or even removed if the environment changes


Corporate Governance

How do we govern our business?

Who is on our Board of Directors – Executive and Non-Executive?

How is the business structured?

Who do we have responsibility to?

Who are our shareholders?

How do we keep our staff motivated?

How do we listen to our customers, suppliers etc?


Social responsibility and ethics

Contractual v community stakeholders

How do we know what our stakeholders want?

What if this leads to less profit? Do we do the “right thing” regardless?


History and Culture

What “style” of company are we?

Is this a strength or a weakness?

Strategic drift

Business strategy develops slowly and incrementally based on historical and cultural factors

Companies tend to focus on what has worked in the past as solutions to future problem

Sometimes companies become victims of their own success

When the old strategies stop working firms must transform or die – but can they??


Putting it all together McKinsey 7S Framework


Swot analysis

·      Summarise the Strengths and Weaknesses of the company itself (we looked at opportunities and threats last week)


·      SW is comparative – a strength is only a strength if it is a weakness for your competitors!



Question 2 is about change, what should your company do next?

Identify a Challenge

·      Question 1 should have included a number of issues, problems and challenges….

·      Question 2 asks you to take ONE of them and provide a potential way forward

·      This could be for the entire company or for one of its key Business Units

Question 2 Structure

Some good advice….

·      Choose a challenge where you can also think of 2-4 realistic options the company could use to move forward.

·      Avoid challenges that are just to big and unsolvable for this question

Porter’s generic strategies

Ansoff Matrix

How to grow a company?

·      Grow in size doing the same thing?

Ø  Greater market share – how?

Ø  Greater efficiency (lower cost)

·      Diversify?

Ø  Yourself?

Ø  Through merger and acquisition?

Growth by Merger

·      Vertical integration

Ø  Merging with a supplier or a customer

·      Horizontal integration

Ø  Merging with a competitor who does similar things to you

·      Conglomerate

Ø  Merging with another in a different industry type to gain some advantage (maybe as part of a diversification strategy

Which strategy to follow?

SAFe criteria do this

·      Suitability

·      Acceptability

·      Feasibility

Using the SAFe Technique


Implementing the chosen option

What resources does the company need to implement your solution?

·      Finance?

·      Staff and expertise?

·      Plant and equipment?

Does it have these resources or how can it obtain them?

How should it go about implementing the change?

·      Informing staff?

·      Informing customers?





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