Thursday, 14 January 2016

Industry Research Checklist - CIMA Operational Case Study Exam

One of the key areas where you can gain extra marks in the case study exam is having a deep understanding of the company and the industry in which it operates.

We find many students are unsure where to begin when it comes to researching the industry and often there is just too much information available! It can be hard for them to distinguish what is relevant, distill the key points, how they relate to the case study and how they can be applied in the exam to gain vital marks.

So, to ensure you are on the right track we have produced a list of key topics for you to focus on. We recommend that you use this as a checklist when researching the industry. 

Industry Topics

The Products and their History

  • How old is the industry?
  • How did it originate?
  • What’s the history from that start point to now?
  • Industry life cycle

  • Product ranges of competitors
  • Product lifecycle of key products
  • New products being introduced
  • R&D - spending, trends

Production, Supply and Distribution

  • Methods
  • Technology used - new technologies
  • Inventory - methods, processes (e.g. JIT), problems or issues
  • Skills needed of staff

  • What are the key supplies to this industry?
  • Who are the key suppliers?
  • Do any suppliers have ‘supplier power’ (Porter’s 5 forces)? If so which ones?
  • How important is supplier management?

Transport and Distribution of Products
  • Methods used by competitors
  • Issues
  • Improvements providing competitive edge in terms of quality or reduced transportation damage
  • Environmental legislation regarding vehicles/emissions
  • Outsourcing vs inhouse

Technological Issues
  • What technology is necessary?
  • What new technology are companies using?
  • What types of internal systems are in use (e.g. Enterprise resource planning, finance, production, inventory management etc etc)
  • Online issues - importance of website etc
  • Social media - relevant to this industry?

Supply Chain
  • Security
  • Impact of technology e.g. use of internet
  • Current trends

Key Stakeholders and CSR

Staff - HR
  • Skills needed
  • Any areas of staff shortage
  • Health and safety issues
  • What training schemes are necessary for working in the industry?
  • Employee power (i.e. trade unions) - any impacts?
  • Union issues? Are staff unionised? What action has there been in the industry recently?

Ethical Issues
  • Recent ethical issues that have arisen in the industry
  • Bribery?
  • Staff treatment?
  • Integrity?
  • Confidentiality?
  • Pollution?
  • Wastage?
  • Social responsibility (e.g. for local community)?

Environmental Issues
  • Key environmental issues
  • What do competitors in the industry do in relation to the environment?
  • How important is the environment to this industry?
  • How important is the company’s approach to environmental issues for its consumers in terms of sales trends?
  • Recent media exposure of environmental issues linked to the industry.

Who are the other key stakeholders in the industry?
  • Shareholders/stock market?
  • Local communities?
  • Governments?
  • Environmental groups?

Competitors and Marketing

  • Changing demands
  • Importance of branding to industry
  • Key methods of reaching the market in this industry (e.g. TV, sponsorship, radio, website, social media)
  • Who are the key customers
  • Where are the customers?
  • Changing customer trends

  • Main competitors e.g. top 10 in industry
  • Or focus on one country (e.g. UK) as an example - top 3 in one country
  • New competitors
  • Recent mergers or acquisitions?
  • How are they trying to compete? What is their competitive strength?
  • Recent failures? why?

Industry Issues

Political and Legal Issues
  • Key laws to be abided by
  • Industry regulations
  • Industry bodies and their role
  • Political importance of industry (e.g. Oil very important)
  • New/changing legislation

Economic Issues
  • Effects/impact of recession on product and market
  • Impact of EU - other trading groups
  • Changes in tax laws e.g. VAT
  • Impact of interest rates
  • Exchange rate issues
  • Market prices (e.g. oil price, other commodity prices)

  • How to companies raise finance?
  • What opportunities are there to raise funding internally (e.g. selling assets)

Industry trends/statistics
  • E.g. graphs on changing demand
  • Effects of emerging markets on market share
  • Future trends
    • What are people saying will change in the future and how?

Analysis of one Real Life Industry Company

Analysis of one Competitor as an Example

  • Who are they?
  • History
  • Strategy
  • Basis of competitive strength
  • Operations (what? where? how?)
  • Marketing (how they reach the market, how successful are they?)
  • Financial performance
  • P&L
  • Balance sheet
  • Analysis of the P&L and balance sheet
  • Key problems or issues faced by them
  • Recent news - what have they been doing recently?

Industry Examples

  • 25 industry examples
    • Focused around the top 10 issues list so they are directly relevant to use in the exam
    • Include some industry statistics as these are very easy ones to incorporate into a variety of exam answers
    • Consider also:
      • What industry competitors have been doing to compete
      • Industry trends that would be relevant to the preseen company
      • Ethics, CSR, Environment (very commonly useful in the exam)
      • Major issues in the news in that industry over the last year or two (relevant and often used as inspiration by examiners for exam questions)
    • Focused around what is useable in an exam question (think about what exam questions could arise and what industry example would be relevant to that question).
    • It is okay to repeat examples that have appeared elsewhere in the text
  • Include exam paragraph which students can learn to use on exam day
  • Include focus on the pre-seen so people know where it is relevant

Some of you may be thinking 'this is a large amount of research to do in a short space of time!'. If so, you may be interested in our Industry Analysis.

Our industry experts have spent hours researching these areas and have done most of the hard work for you!

See a sample of our Industry Analysis:

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