The following is from the professor regarding the case analysis assignment, and attached is the case w/ questions and other information about what is expected.
Basic components of your case analysis (term project):
A case study/business analysis is an extensive evaluation of a business. You should select a business that interests you from the cases that are detailed in the back of your book. Your report should include the following components:
1. The history of the company from inception (including founding, early products, product and company evolution). Note: you may need to use additional resources, including the company website, to determine the history of this business
2. SWOT analysis: Weigh strengths and weaknesses against opportunities and threats to determine the company’s competitive position.
3. Identification of internal strengths and weaknesses. Look inside the company to see core competencies. Concurrently, you need to look at weaknesses. Where does this company fall behind? What things can it be doing better?
3. Analyze the external environment to identify opportunities and threats. Include an environmental analysis of the following environmental components:
4. Strategic evaluation: Include discuss of corporate and business-level strategy.
5. Corporate structure: Look at the business organization (including hierarchy, chain of command, and centralized versus decentralized management).
6. Strategic Recommendations: Focus on ways that this company can improve. Include a discussion of ways this business can solve potential problems it may be facing and also recommendations for improving profitability.
You may also use (credible) business-related websites for your research.
Please note: Each student will present their projects to the class in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, which must contain a work cited page, and you also must submit a short four-page summary to me which addresses all of the above components.
This is a graded project and an important component of your grade.
Case 32. Organization at Apple
This case was prepared by Charles W. L. Hill of the School of Business, University of Washington, Seattle.
Apple has a legendary ability to produce a steady stream of innovative new products and product improvements that are differentiated by design elegance and ease of use. Product innovation is in many ways the essence of what the company has always done, and what it strives to continue doing. Innovation at Apple began with the Apple II in 1979. The original Macintosh computer, the first personal computer (PC) to use a graphical user interface, a mouse, and onscreen icons, followed in 1984. After the late founder and former CEO Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997, the list of notable innovations expanded to include the iPod and iTunes, the Mac Airbook, the iPhone, the Apple App store, and the iPad.
Unlike most companies of its size, Apple has a functional structure. The employees reporting directly to current CEO Tim Cook include the senior vice presidents of operations, Internet software and services, industrial design, software engineering, hardware engineering, and worldwide marketing, along with the CFO and company general council. This group meets every Monday morning to review the strategy of the company, its operations, and ongoing product development efforts.
The industrial design group takes the lead on new-product development efforts, dictating the look and feel of a new product, and the materials that must be used. The centrality of industrial design is unusual—in most companies engineers first develop products, with industrial design coming into the picture quite late in the process. The key role played by industrial design at Apple, however, is consistent with the company’s mission of designing beautiful products that change the world. The industrial design group works closely with hardware and software engineering to develop features and functions for each new product, with operations to ensure that manufacturing can be rapidly scaled up following a product launch, and with worldwide marketing to plan the product launch strategy.
Thus, product development at Apple is a cross-functional effort that requires intense coordination. This coordination is achieved through a centralized command and control structure, with the top-management group driving collaboration and the industrial design group setting key parameters. During his long tenure as CEO, Jobs was well known for clearly articulating who was responsible for what in the product development process, and for holding people accountable if they failed to meet his high standards. His management style could be unforgiving and harsh—there are numerous stories of people being fired on the spot for failing to meet his standards—but it did get the job done.
Even though Jobs passed away in 2011, the focus on accountability persists at Apple. Each task is given a “directly responsible individual,” or DRI in “Apple-speak.” Typically, the DRI’s name will appear on an agenda for a meeting, so everyone knows who is responsible. Meetings at Apple have an action list, and next to each action item will be a DRI. By such clear control processes, Apple pushes accountability down deep within the ranks.
A key feature of the Apple culture is the secrecy surrounding much of what the company does. Information that reaches the outside world tightly controlled, and so is the flow of information within the company. Many employees are kept in the dark about new-product development efforts and frequently do not know what others are working on. Access to buildings where teams are developing new products or features is tightly controlled, with only team members allowed in. Cameras monitor sensitive workspaces to make sure that this restriction is not violated. Disclosing what the company is doing to an outside source, or an unauthorized inside source, is grounds for termination—as all employees are told when they join the company. The goal is to keep new products under very tight wraps until launch day. Apple wants to control the message surrounding new products. It does not want to give the competition time to respond, or media critics time to bash products under development.
Sources: J. Tyrangiel, “Tim Cook’s Freshman Year: The Apple CEO Speaks,” Bloomberg Businessweek, December 6, 2012; A. Lashinsky, “The Secrets Apple Keeps,” CNNMoney, January 10, 2012; and B. Stone, “Apple’s Obsession with Secrecy Grows Stronger,” New York Times, June 23, 2009.
Case Discussion Questions
Describe as best you can the organizational architecture at Apple, specifically its organizational structure, control systems, incentives, product development processes, and culture.
What do you think is different about the way Apple is organized compared to most high-tech firms?
What is Apple trying to achieve with its current organizational architecture? What are the strengths of this architecture? What are the potential weaknesses?
Are there changes that you think Apple should make in its organizational architecture? What are these changes? How might they benefit Apple?
Writing a Case Study Analysis (as per the course)
Often, as part of your course requirements, you will need to present a written case analysis. This may be an individual or a group report. Whatever the situation, there are certain guidelines to follow in writing a case analysis that will improve the evaluation your work will receive from your instructor. Before we discuss these guidelines and before you use them, make sure that they do not conflict with any directions your instructor has given you.
The structure of your written report is critical. Generally, if you follow the steps for analysis discussed in the previous section, you already will have a good structure for your written discussion. All reports begin with an introduction to the case. In it, outline briefly what the company does, how it developed historically, what problems it is experiencing, and how you are going to approach the issues in the case write-up. Do this sequentially by writing, for example, “First, we discuss the environment of Company…. Third, we discuss Company X’s business-level strategy…. Last, we provide recommendations for turning around Company X’s business.”
In the second part of the case write-up, the strategic analysis section, do the SWOT analysis, analyze and discuss the nature and problems of the company’s business-level and corporate strategies, and then analyze its structure and control systems. Make sure you use plenty of headings and subheadings to structure your analysis. For example, have separate sections on any important conceptual tool you use. Thus, you might have a section on the Competitive Forces Model as part of your analysis of the environment. You might offer a separate section on portfolio techniques when analyzing a company’s corporate strategy. Tailor the sections and subsections to the specific issues of importance in the case.
In the third part of the case write-up, present your solutions and recommendations. Be comprehensive, and make sure they are in line with the previous analysis so that the recommendations fit together and move logically from one to the next. The recommendations section is very revealing because your instructor will have a good idea of how much work you put into the case from the quality of your recommendations.
Following this framework will provide a good structure for most written reports, though it must be shaped to fit the individual case being considered. Some cases are about excellent companies experiencing no problems. In such instances, it is hard to write recommendations. Instead, you can focus on analyzing why the company is doing so well, using that analysis to structure the discussion. Following are some minor suggestions that can help make a good analysis even better:
Do not repeat in summary form large pieces of factual information from the case. The instructor has read the case and knows what is going on. Rather, use the information in the case to illustrate your statements, defend your arguments, or make salient points. Beyond the brief introduction to the company, you must avoid being descriptive; instead, you must be analytical.
Make sure the sections and subsections of your discussion flow logically and smoothly from one to the next. That is, try to build on what has gone before so that the analysis of the case study moves toward a climax. This is particularly important for group analysis, because there is a tendency for people in a group to split up the work and say, “I’ll do the beginning, you take the middle, and I’ll do the end.” The result is a choppy, stilted analysis; the parts do not flow from one to the next, and it is obvious to the instructor that no real group work has been done.
Avoid grammatical and spelling errors. They make your work look sloppy.
In some instances, cases dealing with well-known companies end in 1998 or 1999 because no later information was available when the case was written. If possible, do a search for more information on what has happened to the company in subsequent years.
Many libraries now have comprehensive web-based electronic data search facilities that offer such sources as ABI/Inform, The Wall Street Journal Index, the F&S Index, and the Nexis-Lexis databases. These enable you to identify any article that has been written in the business press on the company of your choice within the past few years. A number of nonelectronic data sources are also useful. For example, F&S Predicasts publishes an annual list of articles relating to major companies that appeared in the national and international business press. S&P Industry Surveys is a great source for basic industry data, and Value Line Ratings and Reports can contain good summaries of a firm’s financial position and future prospects. You will also want to collect full financial information on the company. Again, this can be accessed from web-based electronic databases such as the Edgar database, which archives all forms that publicly quoted companies have to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC; e.g., 10-K filings can be accessed from the SEC’s Edgar database). Most SEC forms for public companies can now be accessed from Internet-based financial sites, such as Yahoo’s finance site (http://finance.yahoo.com/).
Sometimes instructors hand out questions for each case to help you in your analysis. Use these as a guide for writing the case analysis. They often illuminate the important issues that have to be covered in the discussion.
If you follow the guidelines in this section, you should be able to write a thorough and effective evaluation.