College of Business Communications Feature
  One of an occasional series of feature stories on the web


College home

Under Pressure:
Case Competitions Offer Realistic Challenges

Near and far, on campus and off, College of Business students eagerly tackle case problems during the annual spring ritual of case competitions. Recently student teams took part in case competitions in Champaign and in southern California.

CIBER Case Competition   ||   Marshall Case Competition   ||  Teamwork Looks to the Future

Manufacturing in China

A team takes questions.Near to home, the first CIBER Undergraduate International Business Case Competition in March featured a case researched and written by Professor Joe Finnerty. The assignment: perform a risk analysis of a US firm's plan to shift their Chinese manufacturing from low-cost DVD players and other electronics items to more lucrative, higher-end electronic goods. The firm, Apex Digital, is a real company that has received considerable press recently because of its agreement with Wal-Mart to supply lower priced televisions, DVD players, and other home entertainment products at competitive prices. Apex suffers in the market, however, from a perceived lack of customer service and reliability.

The four student teams were asked to provide advice to Apex in three areas: government relations, consumer relations, and operational and employee relations. They had five days to analyze the case and prepare an oral presentation for a panel of judges. Judges from business included Laurel Delaney, Global Trade; Tess Morrison, International Trade Center; and Sri Ramamoorti, Ernst & Young. Three faculty also judged the presentations: Werner Baer, economics; George Pinteris, finance, and Madhu Viswanathan, business administration. (l-r in photo at right: Viswanathan, Pinteris, Delaney, Baer, Morrison, Finnerty, Ranamoorti)

One of the teams suggested that Apex in the short term increase its advertising investment, offer rebates, and increase its staff. These three steps would, the students believed, address quality issues and document and increase controls, allowing the company toeventually go public.

The teams competed in two rounds with the top three teams advancing to the finals. The first place team won $1,000 and there was a tie for second place with each team winning $400.

"The teams make excellent presentations," said Lynnea Johnson, associate director of CIBER and the case competition coordinator. "Even with five days to research the specifics, the students were challenged to synthesize a great deal of data and make their recommendations."

California Dreamin'

In late February, a team of students flew to California for the Marshall International Case Competition for undergraduate business students. More than twenty business schools in the US and abroad were invited to send teams to participate in the competition. l-r, Kapil Kumar, Joshua Worley, Rajan Barad, and Scott Mayer.The team from the College of Business included seniors Rajan Barad (accountancy), Kapil Kumar (finance), Scott Mayer (finance) and Joshua Worley (business administration, marketing). Faculty advisor and adjunct professor Lloyd Hodges accompanied them to the competition site at the University of Southern California.

Their case dealt with the acquisition by AMGEN of IMMUNEX. With only 24 hours to research, analyze, and develop their presentations, the students were under considerable pressure to make their responses comprehensive and targeted. The team analyzed the circumstances and made recommendations on the most effective method to integrate the cultures, resources, and capabilities of the two firms. They also developed a plan, including a timeline, for implementation of their recommendations.

Although Illinois did not come away with the Marshall Cup, the seniors did well according to the panel of judges. "The team represented UIUC in a manner that made me proud," said advisor Hodges. "They did an absolutely professional job and really created a very appropriate response for the problem presented."

While they were in California, the students took a break at Universal Studios and enjoyed some social time with representatives of other schools.

Teamwork and a Glimpse Into the Future

Case competitions are considered a test of students' abilities to think and perform under pressure as well as a preview of the real-world business environment students will become a part of after graduation. Students who take on a case competition challenge are better prepared to work on teams and to recognize and provide solutions to today's business problems. They're better prepared to be tomorrow's business leaders.

--Ginny Hudak-David
March 2005