AT&T

Appendix 1 – Strategy Context Report – Assessment Brief – Autumn Semester 2020

You will be required to work in groups to analyse a particular organisation and industry sector of your own choice. You need to produce one copy of the report to be no more than 2,500 words in length (not including executive summary and appendices). You are expected to upload an electronic copy of the report, along with all appendices, to BlackBoard by 23:59 on Monday 30th of November 2020 (the Monday of week 10). It is important that you submit by the deadline. If you are late (even by a minute or two!) the maximum you can get for the report will be a mark capped at 40%. The late submission period is 3 working days after the deadline. During this late submission period the report mark will be capped at a maximum of 40%. If you submit after this point, you will automatically get a zero for the report and may have to re-sit next year!

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You identify the organisation/sector you wish to study, subject to the following constraints. FIRM IS AT&T.

The tight word length will encourage you to write succinctly. Use of bullet points and graphics is encouraged (but don’t make the report all bullet points, and don’t use graphics as an excuse to smuggle loads more words into your report). Strategy is about focusing on the ‘big stuff’ – so avoid getting sucked into too much detail!

Format of Report

Executive Summary

Introduction
Industry overview
Macro environmental analysis
Competitive environment analysis
Internal company analysis
Evaluation of Business-level Strategies
Identification of Major Strategic Issues facing organisation

Conclusions
Recommendations

Appendices:
including these mandatory appendices
Review of group process
Week 4 Workload Allocation Form
Week 10/Final submission Workload Allocation Form
Meeting logs (for all of your meetings)

plus any other appropriate and relevant appendices

Assessment criteria

Content
• The overall picture of the business is conveyed clearly both externally (macro and competitive environment) and internally
• Content items have a consistency and logic supporting the overall picture
• Appropriate use is made of strategic tools and techniques enabling the reader to understand the strategy and approach adopted

Communication
• Written in a business-like style to convey economically and precisely the content
• Accompanying visuals, graphs and tables are appropriately designed, placed and referenced in relation to the text
• The main body of the report contains the essential content and is supported by relevant data in the appendices
• Critical reflection on the process by which individuals and the group constructed the report

Appendices

The role of appendices is to provide appropriate supporting data for the main report. Generally we would expect graphics (unless they are particularly complicated) to be in the main report, but more detailed information in the appendices. The flow of logic and argument should be carried by the main report itself – if the reader has to constantly flick backwards and forwards to the appendices to build up a picture of what is going on, you have the flow wrong. It should be possible to follow the argument just from the main report, only having to look to the appendices for supporting data and evidence.

There are certain mandatory appendices (explained below) which have to be included. Other than those it is up to you as to how many other appendices you have and what they contain but don’t just put information in “just in case”. The appendices should add value to the report, not just bulk it out. If you have detailed information (for instance financial figures or market data) you should make it clear what the key takeout is from this information.

Mandatory appendices

These appendices have to be included:

Review of group process (comparing the two workload allocation forms and reviewing group process, using the questions below)
Week 4 Workload Allocation Form
Week 10/Final submission Workload Allocation Form
Meeting logs (for all of your meetings)

Failure to include these appendices will result in a reduction to your communication marks for the entire group.

These mandatory appendices can be supplemented with whatever other relevant additional material you think appropriate, but see points above about relevance and appropriateness (i.e. don’t just put information in “for the sake of it”)

Work allocation form

You will be required to submit a “work allocation” form identifying who is intended to be doing what with regards to the report by the end of week 4. You will also be required to update this form to reflect what actually happened by the time you actually got to submit the report itself in week 10 and submit the updated form as part of the review of group process.

Meeting logs

You are required to record the key elements (agenda, actions etc.) of your group meetings on a simple form and upload this as a journal entry on Blackboard. This will also go on to form part of the mandatory appendices of your report.

STG5A3 – Strategy Context Report
Explanatory notes – Autumn Semester 2020

Executive Summary
Main focus should be on:
Key findings/conclusions
Recommendations
(i.e. less about introductory stuff or which particular techniques etc. you will use, more about what these have told you and what you think the organisation should do as a result)

1.0 Introduction
Main focus should be on:
Brief overview of the company and its history
Introduce the rest of the report, so that the reader knows what is coming

2.0 Industry overview
Main focus should be on:
Defining the scope of the industry/sector that will be used as a basis for the rest of the report
Some evidence for the size of this sector (in volume [units] and/or value [e.g. £/$] terms)
Some evidence for the growth of this sector
The composition of the sector (e.g. Market shares of competitors )

3.0 Macro environmental analysis
This should focus exclusively on Macro issues OUTSIDE the industry/sector that act upon it
(Be careful to avoid bringing in Industry issues at this stage, focus on macro issues)
(Also be careful of over-investing words in this area just because it may be within your “comfort zone” compared to some of the other techniques on the module!)

4.0 Competitive (a.k.a. micro) environment analysis
Main focus should be on:
Analysis of sector, probably using Porters Five Forces, and possibly Strategic Groups Analysis
Competitor analysis – who is/are the main competitor(s) and what is the basis for competition?
Customer analysis – who are the main customer segments, and on what basis do they choose between competing offerings?

5.0 Internal company analysis
Main focus should be on:
What is going on within the company?
e.g. Purpose, Mission and Objectives
Resources and Activities/Competencies
Organisational Culture and Stakeholders
(Potentially a wide range of techniques could be used – which few give the best insight as to what is going on?)
How well are they delivering the value proposition, and what is your evidence for that?

6.0 Evaluation of Business-level Strategies
Main focus should be on:
Identifying what strategies are being pursued
a) This should focused on the Business level for the strategy/strategies of the unit under analysis
Evaluating how well the organisation is delivering the strategies you identified above, being clear as to the criteria you are using for this evaluation and the evidence you are basing it on
(this should probably in part link back to the objectives for the organisation you identified in the internal company analysis previously, perhaps in an Objectives Pyramid)

7.0 Identification of Major Strategic Issues facing organisation
What are the major strategic issues facing the organisation, and why are these important?
(The main issues following from the preceding analysis, liable to be a mix of internal and external. As a rough estimate of number of issues, probably 4-6)
(Avoid bringing in new material at this stage. This relatively short section should build on previous work NOT be the result of separate research and analysis)

8.0 Conclusions
Summary of the key things YOU have found above
Should NOT bring in new material at this point
Should NOT bring in view of other writers/textbook(s), should be based on your analysis

9.0 Recommendations
Given what you have found, what do you think the organisation should do as a result?
Make sure your recommendations map onto the issues you found (sometimes reports come up with recommendations/”fixes” that have little link to the issues)
Should NOT bring in view of other writers/textbook(s), should be based on your analysis

Bibliography
Remember to include references to all books (including the core text) and articles used in the production of the report
Remember to use Harvard referencing to do so

Appendices:
The role of the appendices is generally to provide relevant supporting more detailed data and evidence
It should NOT be carrying the main argument (this should be covered in the main report)
Generally, unless there are good reasons to the contrary, graphics should probably be in the main report unless they are particularly detailed
It is generally good practice if you have something like a table of data in an appendix to summarise the key takeout from that data in the appendix itself (for instance by highlighting key aspects of the data or having some short discussion in the appendix as to the key point[s])
You can then bring forward these key points into the report itself
Remember that there are some elements that are mandatory appendices (i.e. they have to be included)

Notes:
The vast majority of this report is about one sector and the business/division within that sector
As long as you can cover the above issues, you can choose the precise headings for elements of your document (you could for instance choose the main headings from the Strategy Context brief and put in some sub-headings to suit you), but it should be in business report format overall
We are looking for analytical rigour, not descriptive discussion
We are also looking for a logical flow through the document (i.e. avoid bolting together separate elements – the conclusions and recommendations should follow naturally from the preceding issues)
The word length should force you to be succinct, using graphics and bullet points to get your analysis across in a punchy fashion

Additional notes
You DO NOT have to use all the models/techniques mentioned in the formative/summative feedback form
Just because there are lots of techniques (particularly internal ones) mentioned in both the Workload Allocation form and the Feedback form, you don’t have to use all of them, or even something in this proportion
Part of your learning from this process is for you to balance the breadth versus depth of techniques used to best tell the story of your organisation and its context

In terms of the mix of External vs Internal focus for your selected organisation – this depends on its context.
If you have evidence to believe that the majority of important issues for that organisation lie outside in the Macro or Micro (Competitive) Environment, then the majority of your word count and techniques should be focused here.
If you believe that most are internal, than there should be a corresponding increase in word count and internal techniques

Be aware that there are some “overlaps” between some of the techniques
e.g. “customer segmentation” can easily be incorporated into the “value proposition” model when identifying which customers;
you do not need to do both a “Value Chain” or an “Activity Map” as both of these essentially look at value creation but in different ways;
you can identify competitive strategies and position via Porter’s Generic Strategies or Bowman’s Strategy Clock, and not both models
The same can apply to the Cultural Web or McKinsey 7S framework, etc.

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