The University of Adelaide Business School

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1 The University of Adelaide Business School MBA Projects Introduction There are TWO types of project which may be undertaken by an individual student OR a team of up to 5 students. This outline presents the assessment requirements for both projects. Please read it carefully. We have presented the information for both types of project in one document because some projects are not easily defined as either consulting or research. 1. MBA Management Project (7072) an applied research project This course draws on the work undertaken in the core MBA courses and provides an opportunity for an individual student or a team of up to 5 students to complete an applied research project based on a business problem or issue. Projects may be sourced by liaising with School academics who may be able to suggest a topic related to their own research interests. A program of activities will be completed and lead to a case or project report. The written report will contain findings, analysis and recommendations on the problem under investigation. Pre-requisites: 8 core MBA courses and demonstrated skills in relevant research methodologies. Assessment: written reports including a literature review and presentation of research findings to faculty. 2. MBA Business Project (7225) a consulting project This course draws on the work undertaken in the core MBA courses. Projects may be undertaken by an individual student or by a team of up to 5 students who take on the role of consultant(s) to an organisation and analyse a real business problem or issue and produce recommendations. The organisation may be a private or public company, a not-for-profit company or an industry association. Projects are usually sourced by students. Much of the time for this course will be in practical fieldwork as well as desk research. The project will conclude with a presentation by the student or student team, to members of the client organisation. Pre-requisites: 8 core MBA courses. In some circumstances, completion of 6 core MBA courses may be acceptable. Assessment: written reports, presentation to client and faculty, client satisfaction and feedback. Page 1 of 15

2 Finding a project and getting it approved You may source your own project - perhaps a consulting project from your employing company. If you have demonstrated research skills, you may liaise with academic staff to identify an applied research project in an area of interest to the faculty member and you. If you do find your own project you must complete and submit a project outline to the Coordinator, MBA Projects for approval. (Contact details are at the end of this document). The outline, typically one page, should include: Tentative Project Title; Problem Description; Reasons for Undertaking the Study; Problem Investigation; and Methodology. The outline is required to assess whether the project is appropriate in terms of its rigour, workload and whether it fits within the teachings of the MBA Program. Note that when choosing a topic for either a consulting or research project you must be confident that you will be able to access required data to complete the project. Projects must be approved before the beginning of trimester. General Each project will be allocated an academic supervisor whose role is to provide guidance which might take the form of advice on content, methodology, appropriate literature, tools, techniques, models and frameworks. You will be required to meet fortnightly with your supervisor. For teams, we recommend up to 5 students, ideally with a diverse mix of skills, work experience and knowledge. International students should try to team with local students as many projects require local knowledge. For team projects, each member of the team will receive the same grade. It is expected that each participant will contribute approximately equally to the entire project workload. Managing your team It is the responsibility of the student team to manage the project from beginning to end. Amongst other things, this means you need to determine roles within the group work out a project plan with achievable milestones for each member monitor your performance against the plan reflect on the group s dynamics to identify emerging issues and constructively deal with any tensions. Although it does not form part of the assessment, how well you work together is important because the project reflects the real world. Part of your learning will come from the experience of working as part of a high performance team on a challenging project with tight deadlines. Team members are expected to know how to deal with conflicts and to attempt to resolve problems themselves. Where assistance and advice are required for group-process-related problems, contact your supervisor. Page 2 of 15

3 ASSESSMENT: MBA MANAGEMENT PROJECT (7072) an applied research project Pre-requisites: 8 core MBA courses and demonstrated skills in relevant research methodologies. This course provides an opportunity for students to 1. develop the capacity to choose an appropriate research design and process related to the investigation of a management or organisational issue 2. relate the body of academic knowledge to the issue under examination 3. develop skills in the collection, analysis and evaluation of data related to business issues 4. develop skills in analysis, writing a major report and presentation. Role of the Supervisor Students will be allocated a supervisor whose role is to assist the student(s) to clarify the research problem, assist with the structuring and design of research and assist in the identification of relevant literature. This may involve suggesting readings which will help the student consider issues beyond those obviously present in the problem situation and raising questions that a practising manager may not consider to be immediately relevant. As many problems in management do not have a single best solution, the supervisor, in the course of discussion, may suggest alternative strategies, analyses and solutions. Students should not expect the supervisor to provide ready-made solutions to the problem they are investigating, but rather to act as a sounding board for their ideas. Categories of research project There are two broad categories of applied research project 1. A case study where the student(s) analyses a real-world management problem of which he or she has experience or has been able to observe. For example, high staff turnover, low sales, market share or lack of financial control. The case study should describe the organisational setting, the industry, the key decision makers and the extent of the problem. The student(s) is expected to evaluate and analyse the problem in terms of appropriate conceptual and theoretical material and develop feasible alternative mechanisms for solving the problem. Implicit in the case should be the use of relevant discipline-specific concepts. For example, where a problem of market segmentation is described, the report should analyse the problem in terms of marketing segmentation, targeting and positioning. It may be a problem in a student s workplace or within another organisation. 2. A project which involves the identification of a particular problem or issue through a literature review, followed by investigation using a survey or other forms of data collection. For example a project to assess perceptions of particular groups in relation to a service or product. Data collection and analysis may require the use of decision-support systems and statistical software such as SPSS to analyse trends and conduct statistical tests. While many projects are aimed at producing tangible improvements or outcomes in relation to a real organisational issue they are expected to apply the same rigour of analysis and argument as is expected in an academic thesis. Page 3 of 15

4 Observations and deduction must be well grounded and logical in their presentation; research methodologies need to be chosen with care and used competently and the relevance of existing academic research must always be acknowledged and incorporated into the argument. The criteria against which the project will be examined are 1. A clearly defined research problem, which can be examined with the use of established research methodologies 2. The ability to relate relevant academic literature to the definition of the problem, choice of methodology and research outcomes 3. Demonstration of the ability to choose and justify an appropriate research methodology 4. Ability to collect and analyse reliable data relevant to the issue under examination 5. Clear development of the argument leading logically to proposals, recommendations or conclusions. MBA Management Project (7072) Assessment Weight Three elements: 1 Research proposal including literature review 45% 2 Final project report with research findings 35% 3 Research seminar presentation 20% Total 100% Research proposal including literature review (45%) The research proposal will need to include a background literature review which explains the key concepts and issues, as well as a detailed proposal which describes your methodology as well as a justification for this. The literature review demonstrates that you have considered prior work in the area and are aware of the boundaries of the project you have selected. You will need to describe the significance of your research, why it is important and to whom, and develop one or more testable propositions from your literature base. You may also consider developing a tentative conceptual model that can be tested. Students undertaking a firm-specific case study should develop a justification and background to the research by positioning the problem in one or more functional disciplines such as marketing, accounting, human resource management and cite key literature to support the research problem and describe industry trends and firmspecific issues that show the full extent of the setting of the research problem and the key variables and concepts that will be used in the research project. As part of your research proposal, outline how you propose to carry out your research, including your hypothesis testing procedures, analysis techniques and rationale. You may undertake a pilot scale study prior to your proposal and test your methodology on a small scale before submitting your proposal. You may include a budget with realistic estimates of the costs that are likely to be involved in conducting your research, including the time frame using a Gantt chart and explain how and when you intend to complete each section. Assume that you are applying for a research grant from a funding organisation or private sources. Page 4 of 15

5 Assessment criteria for research proposal including literature review Criterion Weight 1 Comprehensiveness of relevant literature and 40% development of research background 2 Identification of research problem/question and 15% explanation of significance to business or both 3 Appropriateness and justification of overall research 20% design 4 Research budget and justification (if appropriate) 5% 5 Quality of arguments, logic, referencing, grammar, 20% punctuation and clarity Total 100% Final project report with research findings (35%) The following is a suggested structure for your final project report. It will usually be made up of three divisions as follows Divisions Preliminary material Body of report Supplementary material Individual Sections Title of report Table of contents (not always required) Abstract/Synopsis Introduction Literature review Methodology Results Discussion Conclusion Recommendations Appendices References Page 5 of 15

6 Each of the sections contains a different kind of content as summarised below. Individual Sections Title of report Table of contents (not always required) Abstract/Synopsis Introduction Literature review Methodology Results Discussion Conclusion Recommendations References Appendices Contents of each section Concise heading indicating what the report is about List of major sections and headings with page numbers Concise summary of main findings Why and what you researched Other relevant research in this area What you did and how you did it and why you consider this to be the most appropriate from the range of research methodologies available What you found. Key diagrams, graphs and tables should be included in the main body of your report and clearly explained Relevance of your results, how it fits with other research in the area. Explain how the research findings are consistent or inconsistent with previous applied or theoretical research. Also discuss the implications of your finding for practising managers within the industry in which your project is based. Summary of results/findings What needs to be done as a result of your findings. For case study research, students may comment on the essential principle managerial concepts that have been illustrated in the project. All references used in your report or referred to for background information Any additional material which will add to your report Source: Writing a Research Report CLPD, The University of Adelaide References A reference is required in the following instances: Direct quotation: when you quote another person word for word. Whether it is a phrase, sentence or paragraph, you need to put the quote in quotation marks and provide the source from which it was taken. Paraphrasing/Summarising: whenever presented in your paper, ideas or data obtained from another writer must be referenced. Statistics: for example, statistics on population, sales and revenue. Controversial facts, opinions or data which an informed reader might challenge. For example, if you say that Hong Kong came under Chinese governance on 1 Jan 1997, you need to acknowledge the source because common knowledge is that it was 1 July Tables, Figures, Diagrams and Appendices: apart from having a heading in numerical sequence, all of these must be referenced to acknowledge the source from which the information was either taken or was adapted. Page 6 of 15

7 In summary, you are required to reference ANY ideas or data which are not your own. All information that you did not know before you read it, should be referenced. Information of a general nature such as facts and ideas that are common knowledge do not need to be referenced (for example, the fact that accounting is currently on the accrual basis is well known so you don t need to reference it). Please refer to the Communications Skills Guide available on the School s website for more information about the Harvard System of referencing. It has two components: In text references these are acknowledgements in the text of the report; and, List of references this is a list of the sources which were cited in the report, except for personal communications. Unless you are specifically instructed to do so by your supervisor, the list of references (or bibliography) should include ONLY those works which were cited or referred to in your paper. Assessment criteria for final project report: Criterion Weight 1 Abstract or Executive summary 10% 2 Linkages to reviewed literature, quality of analysis of results, discussion and argument leading to logical conclusions and recommendations. 3 Clarity of writing and presentation including references and citations 70% 20% Total 100% Research seminar presentation (20%) Your mark for the research presentation will be awarded in line with the following criteria: Content and Analysis Structure Presentation Quality Debate Timing Ability to explain your research and analysis clearly Rigour of methodology and analysis Logic and flow of the presentation, it should be easy to follow and understand (Tip: include a slide at the beginning outlining your presentation and one at the end as a summary) Effectiveness and clarity of delivery: not read from a script Effective use of presentation aids Eye contact, variety, creativity Ability to maintain audience interest Ability to stimulate discussion and respond appropriately to any questions Ability to complete the presentation within 20 minutes Page 7 of 15

8 Week MBA Management Project (7072) timetable for students Tri Tri Tri Find a project, submit an outline (see page 2 for required details) and get it approved Last date for approving or matching student and project proposal for completion within a given trimester Student(s) to prepare a detailed Research project proposal including literature review Draft final report with research findings due to academic supervisor for review 1. Research seminar presentation by student(s) to key personnel from organisation and faculty. 2. Final report with research findings submitted to both academic supervisor and the client organisation on the same day as the presentation. Before start of trimester Before start of trimester Before start of trimester 23 January 18 May 24 August 3 17 February 12 June 21 September 9 2 April 23 July 30 October April 20 August 19 November Enquiries Una Spiers Coordinator, MBA Projects Telephone: Physical Address Business School The University of Adelaide Room 1020, 10 th Floor 10 Pulteney Street, Adelaide 5000 Page 8 of 15

9 ASSESSMENT: BUSINESS PROJECT (7225) a consulting project Pre-requisites: Generally, 8 core MBA courses. Depending on the nature of the project, prerequisites may be amended. For team projects, the combined skills and work experience of team members will be taken into account. This course provides an opportunity for students to 1. develop skills in business consulting 2. relate their academic studies to a real world project 3. develop skills in the collection, analysis and evaluation of data related to a business issue 4. develop skills in analysis, writing a major report and presentation 5. exercise a high degree of initiative in relation to methodology MBA Business Project (7225) Assessment Five elements: Weight 1 Letter of Understanding to client organisation 10% 2 Interim report 15% 3 Draft and final client report 30% 4 Rehearsal and final oral presentation 35% 5 Client feedback and satisfaction 10% Total 100% To pass this course, participants must achieve 50% or more overall, and at least a pass (50%) for the oral presentation and at least a pass (50%) for the client feedback and satisfaction. Typically, the total time spent on a project would be distributed as follows: Research, data collection and analysis: 40% Report writing and editing 20% Presentation preparation 20% Interaction with client organisation and faculty 20% Page 9 of 15

10 Letter of Understanding to Client Organisation (10%) Your letter of understanding (LoU) to the client organisation forms the basis of your project plan and agreement as to what work will be conducted, how and to what end. It summarises the project focus, planned approach, timelines, information needs and other resources required to complete the project. It should detail the scope of the project; outline the proposed methodology and why it was chosen, activities, timelines and deliverables. It should outline information needs and other resources required to complete the project. Think of the LoU as the proposal that a consultant would send to the organisation if he or she were to be contracted to complete a project. It lays the foundation for the structure of the project. It must satisfy both parties; on the one hand you or your team must be confident that you can deliver what is promised in the LoU, and on the other, the client must be satisfied that the LoU accurately reflects their expectations for the project and how it will unfold. The LoU provides a benchmark against which your success can be measured. There is no word limit, it is expected that the LoU will typically be around 4 pages long. The LoU must be submitted to your academic supervisor for approval and grading. Then an updated copy, incorporating your supervisor s feedback is forwarded to the client organisation. It is the student(s) responsibility to contact the client and seek express approval of the LoU, the client must confirm that it accurately reflects their expectations as to the scope and methodology of the project. Assessment criteria for Letter of Understanding: Criterion Weight 1 Consultation with client and scope and objectives of the project 40% 2 Clarity with which the objectives and proposed deliverables are stated 50% 3 English expression, structure and proof-reading 10% Total 100% Page 10 of 15

11 Interim report (15%) As each project is different, dealing with a problem or opportunity in a unique business setting, it is difficult to generalise about what should be included in an interim report. Your supervisor will provide guidance. Where the project involves a strategic review, the interim report would include the external environmental analysis. Where the project tackles an industry analysis, the interim report would present an account of intelligence gathered. Where the project is analysing a particular business issue where there are various alternative possible approaches, the interim report might be an Issues and Options paper. In a marketing plan the interim report might be a summary of information gathered in relation to environmental factors, competitor and market intelligence. Assessment criteria for interim report: Criterion Weight 1 Intelligence gathering and explanation 40% 2 Reasoning of analysis 50% 3 Clarity of writing and presentation 10% Total 100% The interim report is submitted to your supervisor for grading and feedback. It is not passed on the client. Draft and final client report (30%) Each student or student group is expected to write a project report and submit a draft to their supervisor by the date shown in the table at the end of this document. The project report should include a copy of any PowerPoint slides or story boards you plan to use in your presentation. Six PowerPoint slides to a page printed in mono is acceptable. This is the draft of the report that will eventually be made available to the client organisation as the final report. The purpose of having it submitted to your academic supervisor two weeks before the scheduled presentation to the client organisation is to enable your supervisor to assess the content and make suggestions on areas for improvement. Your final report should incorporate feedback from your supervisor. Your final report will be presented to both your supervisor and the client organisation on the day of your final oral presentation. Page 11 of 15

12 As an example of report structure for a strategic review, the final project report would include: Executive Summary Intelligence Gathered Analysis Options Conclusions and Recommendations. Assessment will take into account your use of appropriate methodologies including relevant tools, techniques, frameworks and concepts. Your written analysis and recommendation must be based on the data. It must flow logically from the information gathered and analysed. In preparing your report, you should take a very practical approach. This means it should be carefully structured, easy to read with clear recommendations in the style that you might expect from a top consulting firm. Your report should be words. It should be clearly written, avoiding jargon. It should be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch (25mm) margins and presented in a manner consistent with a professionally prepared consulting report. Assessment criteria for draft and final report: Criterion 1 Executive summary (Tip: Refer to the Communications Skills Guide for advice on how to write an Executive summary) Weight 15% 2 Intelligence gathering reasoning, methodology and explanation 40% 3 Options generated, conclusions and recommendations 35% 4 Clarity of writing and presentation 10% Total 100% Rehearsal and final oral presentation (35%) Your oral presentation is when you deliver your findings and recommendations, ideally a practical solution to the business issue. It should be limited to 20 minutes plus time for questions. There are two related parts to this item of assessment. Both must be completed satisfactorily to achieve a mark. Firstly, your oral presentation must be made to School personnel as a rehearsal on a date at least one week before the scheduled presentation to key personnel from the client organisation. This rehearsal will to give you an opportunity to develop confidence in your presentation and to gain constructive feedback from School personnel that you can use to fine tune your presentation for the client. You or your team may be required to present a second time to School personnel before being allowed to present to the client organisation. If your rehearsal presentation is deemed unsatisfactory and the unsatisfactory issues cannot be resolved quickly, your project will be deemed incomplete. The oral presentation to the client organisation will be cancelled. An incomplete project will result in a fail grade. Page 12 of 15

13 Secondly, your oral presentation to the client organisation which will also be attended by your academic supervisor, should address any suggestions from the rehearsal presentation to School personnel. You will present your findings and recommendations and be willing to discuss your findings with the organisation. You should rehearse and time your presentation to ensure that you can achieve your objectives in the nominated 20 minutes, as the time limit will be strictly applied and points will be deducted for going over time. The 20 minute time frame is considered optimal in terms of concentration and commitment, given the target audience of busy senior executives. Given the time constraint, you won t be able to include ALL the information gathered. You should use your judgement as to what to include and what to exclude from the presentation. Bear in mind that you are presenting to a team of senior executives. They will want you to demonstrate that you have done your homework thoroughly, selecting relevant frameworks and applying rigorous analysis. They will expect good insights into the facts but not all the data. They will be looking for a concise, logical presentation with clear recommendations. In the presentation, make sure you include an adequate introduction (for example: I/we set out to this is our approach and we ll show you ) and also a summary (a synopsis of your main findings). A good opening effectively shapes expectations and sets the direction for the presentation. The summing up is equally critical. Be clear about any assumptions or models you use to undertake your analysis. Indicate choices or alternative ways of looking at issues. Do not repeat unnecessary information but do provide a succinct summary of agreed facts of the situation as they relate to your analysis. Use appropriate aids to get your story across, but do not let the technology take over. For example, continuously flashing graphics in PowerPoint presentations tend to be distracting. Page 13 of 15

14 Oral Presentation assessment criteria Content and Analysis Structure Presentation Quality Debate Timing Ability to explain your research and analysis clearly Rigour of analysis including relevant tools, techniques, concepts and frameworks Logic and flow of the presentation, it should be easy to follow and understand (Tip: include a slide at the beginning outlining your presentation and one at the end as a summary) Effectiveness and clarity of delivery: not read from a script Effective use of presentation aids Eye contact, variety, creativity Ability to maintain audience interest Ability to stimulate discussion and respond appropriately to any questions Ability to complete the presentation within 20 minutes Client feedback and satisfaction (10%) This assessment item is administered by a feedback questionnaire to the client which focuses on the project process and project outcomes. A copy of this questionnaire is available on request, Una Spiers, Coordinator, MBA Projects: Clients will be asked to rate your performance on a number of dimensions. They will be asked to assess your professionalism in your dealings with them, the value of research conducted, problem identification, problem solving and advice and recommendations provided. It is important to the School that client organisations perceive tangible benefits from participating in this exercise. If client organisations are not satisfied with the project experience or outcomes, it will not only reflect badly on the University, School and its student body but may also jeopardise the supply of future projects. Extensions of time All assessment items must be delivered on time. Work handed in late, or after the date of an agreed extension will incur a penalty of 10% of the maximum mark available for each working day the assessment item is overdue. Applications for extensions must be made to the Coordinator, MBA Projects at least one week before the due date of the assessment item by with an explanation of the reason for the requested extension of time. Note that pressures of work or overseas travel do not quality as a valid reason for an extension. Presentations and reports to the client organisation will not be granted extensions unless there is a compelling reason supported a by medical certificate or police report or similar substantiation. Page 14 of 15

15 Week MBA Business Project (7225) timetable for students Tri Tri Tri Since time is limited, we strongly recommend that student(s) attempt to complete these activities BEFORE the beginning of trimester, if at all possible. Find a project and get it approved If you source your own project you will need to submit an outline (see page 2 for required details) Last date for approving or matching student and project proposal for completion Student(s), supervisor and coordinator to meet with client organisation to sign a Non- Disclosure Agreement and Client Agreement. This meeting will also enable student(s) to gather information to develop a detailed Letter of Understanding (LoU) Student(s) to prepare a detailed Letter of Understanding, and submit to supervisor. When approved by supervisor, it must be submitted to the Client for approval Interim report due to academic supervisor Draft final report due to academic supervisor Before start of trimester 23 January January 2 10 February Before start of trimester Before start of trimester 18 May 20 August May 3 5 September 4 June 17 September 6 9 March 2 July 8 October 9 2 April 23 July 31 October Presentation rehearsal by student(s) to School personnel 1. Presentation by student(s) to key personnel from organisation and academic supervisor. 2. Final report submitted to both academic supervisor and the client organisation on the same day as the presentation. Client feedback by April 24 August 10 3 April 24 July 3 November April August November 27 November Enquiries Una Spiers Coordinator, MBA Projects Telephone: Physical Address Business School The University of Adelaide Room 1020, 10 th Floor 10 Pulteney Street, Adelaide 5000 Page 15 of 15

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