The corporate relationship is in the heart of the case study production process, because the companies are a key stakeholder for the author of the case, at the same level as the students and the home institution.
Therefore, it’s necessary to master the optimization mechanisms of this relationship, in order to maximize the chances of producing high-quality case studies, likely to be recognized in international competitions.
A. What’s an award-winning case study?
- It’s a case with the following characteristics:
- It is produced in close partnership with the involved company, with their signed authorization to collaborate in the case writing and publication.
- Its main question is innovative and original. It deals with a real need in the company.
- It is animated several times in class, and the return of experience is included in the teaching note, that accompanies the case study.
- Its teaching note is well structured; it includes all possible suggestions of resolution, and as wide a range of tracks of analysis as possible. When the information is available, the teaching note can contain the decisions made by the company and the impact of these decisions.
- When choosing the topic, the author considers that, currently, case studies dealing with specific markets (African, Mediterranean, Arab contexts, MENA region, etc.) are of great interest to the juries of international competitions and case centres.
- It involves, at all levels (writing and teaching), the four main stakeholders, namely: the author of the case, the home institution, the students, as well as the company in question.
B. Why optimize the corporate relationship in case writing?
The company is usually sought in the gathering of data for the case study. This is a conventional approach, where the company merely provides data for the author of the case: internal documentation, interviews (directed, semi-structured or open).
However, this relationship can be upgraded to bring synergy between the stakeholders, by establishing a close collaboration in the case writing:
- As regards the company, it gains access to the expertise of a researcher, as well as a consultancy service that offers innovative resolution methods, sometimes obvious but difficult to see from inside. The author and the students can provide an objective and more critical view about the situation and/or the main question. Sometimes, it is about Success Stories for which the companies haven’t deciphered the key elements of success and/or their competitive edges. On another level, accepting to collaborate with a researcher is an indicator of transparency for the company, which will improve its image and increase its visibility, with nearly as many intangible benefits as a stock market listing. Another advantage for the company is the brand awareness that the case will generate among students as first users of the case, both nationally and internationally, since the case will be published in case centres or case reviews, or participate in international competitions. When the relationship with the company is sustainable, the author develops an expertise regarding the activity sector, which is more relevant and profitable for the company.
- As regards the author of the case, the benefit is the quality and quantity of collected information from the company. Moreover, instead of being provided as raw material, the collected data will be shared with suggestions of interpretation during direct and close exchanges between the author and the company managers. This enhances the chances of producing an award-winning case study, with prestigious competitions and case centres awards. Furthermore, the author develops an important network thanks to the privileged relationship with the company, which is more likely to accept further collaborations, and can provide recommendations for ulterior case studies among the company’s partners.
- As to the students who are involved in the process of case writing (data gathering from the company, data analysis, market studies, interviews, etc.), they gain direct contact with the company’s managers and improve their skills in professional communication. Besides, they develop their field research methodology, as well as their knowledge of the sector, which can make them better potential company collaborators.
- Regarding the home institution, the main interest is to foster the production of high-quality case studies, in collaboration with the companies, and hence improve its corporate connectivity. Last but not least, the close collaboration with the company can lead to funding case studies production.
C. Does the corporate relationship in case teaching matter ?
To enhance prospects of producing an award-winning case study, the author needs to strive for high quality in the teaching note, which has to be as comprehensive and explicit as possible. Accordingly, it becomes crucial to move from conventional case teaching, where the company doesn’t intervene, to co-animation. As a matter of fact, co-animation helps upgrade the relationship between the company and the other stakeholders, while supplying the teaching note with a return of teaching experience:
- As regards the students, the main benefit of co-animation is to make them propose tangible solutions, since they are facing the manager in question, which helps them practice their analysing abilities and carry out the necessary interpretations for an optimal decision making. It also provides them with immediate feedback about the feasibility of the proposed solutions. On the other hand, the co-animation allows the students to be in a decision maker’s shoes, with nearly the same stake, environment and time constraints. Furthermore, this encounter helps the students develop their professional network.
- As to the author, co-animation brings credibility with the students and the company managers, who see in the animation session, the culmination of their collaboration. Moreover, it makes the animation session more lively and dynamic, thanks to real-life anecdotes from the manager’s experience. The presence of the latter challenges the author who has to adapt the animation method to the new teaching situation, and who will explicit it in the teaching note.
- Regarding the home institution, co-animation brings real participation of managers in the teaching sessions.
- Lastly, as regards the company itself, the manager who co-animates the case gains an immediate feedback from the participants. The resolutions obtained at the conclusion of the animation session, can be innovative and of great added value for the company. It also improves the company’s visibility and image among a great number of students who are potential future managers, customers and/or collaborators, as well as among corporate participants undergoing continuous education.
D. What opportunities can help optimize the corporate relationship in case production ?
Several factors can promote the relationship between the company and the other stakeholders:
- The existence of change contexts and untapped areas (fast-evolving sectors, crisis contexts, new markets, etc.).
- The existence of a dense corporate network at the author and/or the company level.
- The presence, inside the company, of students or alumni from the home institution.
- The reputation of the home institution in the corporate world.
- The existence of a prior partnership or collaboration between the home institution and the company in question.
- The existence of co-writing opportunities with managers from the company in question.
- The existence of a case study centre inside the home institution, fostering applied research programmes, and providing the author with useful corporate connections. This centre will help the author identify topics that are relevant both for the home institution and the company in question.
E. Are there any threats for an optimized corporate relationship?
Various major factors that can hamper the optimization of the corporate relationship:
- The company authorization is unwritten (verbal and informal).
- The authorization is signed by individuals instead of the company as an institution.
- The company’s key data is confidential and can’t be published.
- The company’s managers aren’t available for the meetings and/or for the case co-writing.
- The companies aren’t as comfortable with revealing their failure stories as their successes.
- There are distance issues that reduce exchange channels with the company.
- Collaborating in the case production is no longer a priority for the company.
F. The ten best practices to optimize and sustain the corporate relationship:
- Formalize the collaboration with the company, through a partnership agreement.
- Propose a counterpart to the company, through consultancy and expertise services.
- Orient the case topic towards the real needs of specific sectors, markets or contexts.
- Include the company in the process of choosing topic(s) and main question(s) of the case study.
- Share with the company, the progress of the various steps in the case production.
- Discuss with the company the different drafts of the case study.
- Seek company validation of the case study final version.
- Convince the company of the benefits they can gain from co-writing and co-animation.
- Suggest new company-oriented tracks for future case studies.
- Propose to the corporate unions the creation of a unit dedicated to a win-win collaboration between home institutions of case study authors on the one hand, and companies on the other hand.
“HPS, a successful South/North Technology Transfer Model” is the 2013 winner in the “Euro-Mediterranean Managerial Practices and Issues” category in the EFMD Case Writing Competition.
This case is written by Lhacen Belhcen and Yoni Abbitan, ESCA School of Management, Morocco.
The case study deals with HPS Company, which, in only 15 years, has managed to gain a foothold on the international electronic money market. The main question of this study is about the HPS strategy for expansion abroad and the imposition of its PowerCard solution. The case aims to emphasize three aspects: international management, human resources and Innovation/R&D. The originality of this example is that it was produced with the direct support of the company’s management: Samir KALLOUQUI, Managing Director and co-founder, Mohamed HORANI, CEO and co-founder, Nacer AMRAOUI, HPS Europe Director and Samir LAMRISSI, HPS Executive Vice President Strategy, who also co-animated the case with the authors.
Competition’s winners link : http://www.efmd.org/index.php/blog/view/520-case-studies-on-euro-mediterranean-management-styles
The Business Case Institute mission is to encourage the production of case studies in management. It also helps the school faculty participate in International competitions (EMERALD, The Case Centre, FNEGE, AABS…), through various actions, such as:
- Corporate network
- Connectivity between faculty and professionals from different sectors
- Case studies database
- Case study seminars and workshops (Case teaching/ Case Writing)
Imane El Ghazali is the Head of the Business Case Institute, ESCA Ecole de Management and Rihab Abba is a Member of the Reading Advisory Committee of the Business Case Institute, ESCA Ecole de Management