A case study is, broadly speaking, an “intensive, systematic investigation of a single individual, group, community, or some other unit” that’s used across numerous fields and subjects.
Specifically, business case studies examine a challenge or situation involving a single player, which can be an individual or organization. Though the purpose may shift depending on the specific audience (such as customers, business students, decision-makers), they ascribe an analytical framework to a business-related situation, whether past or ongoing.
Most importantly, business case studies are compelling and insightful narratives. They convey a firsthand account of real-world problem solving, whether successful or not, with implications for modern management. Regardless of the purpose, case studies are a crucial medium for communicating a business analysts’ skills to colleagues, potential employers, clients, and others.
How to Write a Business Case Study
Step 1: Gather the Facts
Effective business case studies convey information in a direct, structured manner. Before diving into writing, gather the main facts, data, and resources.
Consider the “Who-What-When-Where-Why” of the situation you wish to illustrate. Business case studies should focus on a narrow problem and outcome (or potential outcomes) for one player, contextualized effectively.
Step 2: Outline
After compiling information, the next step is to outline your case study. Planning will ensure that you’re prioritizing the most important details throughout the writing process. There’s no single formula, but the following structure by Express Writers can get you started:
- Challenge: What was the complication, obstacle, or problem that needed to be solved? Offer context from within the company and, if appropriate, broader trends in modern management.
- Solution: What solutions did you explore? How did you choose your approach? Consider incorporating an effective business analysis technique to build a case.
- Outcome: What were the results and what effect did they have? Use data to support what you claim the situation to be.
Step 3: Write the Case Study
As you write, consider three elements for each section: details, purpose, and style. Details are selected so that the reader has clear, concise information without feeling burdened. Facts are structurally introduced and explained so that readers can follow a clear timeline.
Ensure that you’re writing purposefully through each section. All information should be included for a reason as fluff is an immediate red flag that can be considered unprofessional and distracting. Moreover, write with the audience in mind: Are you convincing leaders to make a certain decision, or are you persuading clients that your company has a proven track-record?
The purpose will inform the work’s style and tone. Stylistic elements include writing in first or third person, emphasizing keywords and certain action verbs, and wielding persuasive material (such as quotes and graphics).
Step 4: Format, Proof, and Publish
The final phase is to format your case study. Consider the readability of your document. Break up blocks of text with quotes that crystallize compelling points (e.g., “The business saw a 90% reduction in waste.”).
Ensure that titles, headings, sub-headings, and body text are distinct in size, color, and font without being distracting. The final look should be clean and professional. If your company has a communications team, you can inquire about in-house branding guidelines.
Proofread your work multiple times before you publish or share business case studies. Copyediting errors are the quickest way to lose the readers’ trust. Ask an outside editor, writer, or colleague to proofread your work.
Business Case Studies: Examples
Reading business case studies as you plan and write your own will mold your writing for the better. Leaders in modern management offer models for engaged, effective writing.
One popular case study published by the Yale School of Management is Coffee 2016. The report skillfully narrates the complexities of coffee’s global supply chain through the struggles of Andrea Illy, a CEO of the premium coffee company named after his family. The study is an excellent example of highlighting broader industry challenges while staying focused on the decision-making of a single individual or company.
Another example of foregrounding a key player comes from MIT Sloan School of Management, titled Turnaround and Transformation: Leadership and Risk at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. The authors show how Jillian Medvedow, a newly-hired director of the art institution, “was able to rebuild (literally and figuratively) a powerless organization.” The case study is powerful because it contextualizes the organization’s history in the Boston area while tracing her unique leadership.
Other studies focus on high-stakes decisions and their results, such as Netflix Goes to Bollywood, another piece by MIT. The authors analyze Netflix’s risks and strategy as it entered the Indian market. The study focuses on corporate culture and financial decision-making, relying on data and examples from Netflix.
Some famous business case studies document a company’s failures and theorize what could have been done differently, such as “The Rise and Fall of Nokia.” Once a leader in telecommunications, Nokia sold its Device and Services business to Microsoft. The research focuses on Nokia’s missteps and imagines what the company could have done differently, thus demonstrating how case studies can also theorize alternative outcomes.
Lastly, another classic case focuses on how Starbucks undermined its own brand value through rapid, superficial growth. Professor John Quelch’s piece offers a model for concise, self-assured writing that communicates business analysis with confidence.
Why Case Studies are Important to Business Analysts
Mastering case studies is crucial for business analysts, as their job description is to improve a company’s efficiency and performance by applying their analytical skills to company problems. Business analysts are researchers, problem-solvers, and architects of better management systems, all of which are aimed at improving a company’s bottom line.
In modern management, case studies are a relevant and powerful tool for demonstrating best practices and creating buy-in for new strategies. Business case studies, whether they highlight company successes or ongoing issues, are communicative tools for analysts to influence an organization’s decision-making processes, as well as demonstrate their value and competence.
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