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.
Case Competition || Marshall
Case Competition || Teamwork
Looks to the Future
Manufacturing in China
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.
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
"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."
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. 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