I choose Amazon’s E-commerce industry.
The business analysis paper should focus on the use of information systems within a company and how they contribute to the success (or sometimes failure!) of their business strategies.
(Companies and groups will be assigned after we get your preferences submission.)
For companies that participate in different industries (e.g. Apple in mobile phones and personal computers) focus on the company’s participation in oneindustry.
The paper should contain the following elements.
For companies in multiple industries, identify the industry your paper focuses on.
Defining the industry can be trickier than it appears. You have to adjust the narrowness or expansiveness of the definition to include the natural competitors and exclude those that aren’t.
Transportation? No, that’s too broad. BART and the New York subway system are in the transportation business too, but a customer wouldn’t make a purchase decision between JetBlue and Bart.
The US Discount Airline industry? While some might categorize it like that, I would argue that is too narrow. Southwest often competes with so-called legacy carriers like United for the same travellers. Years ago some considered Southwest a “no-frills” carrier and the legacy airlines “full-service” carriers, the market has changed so that Southwest often includes more services in its fare than the legacies. (e.g. baggage fees)
The US Airline Industry? This is probably the best definition. It includes competitors like United, Alaska, Spirit, etc. It excludes airlines that don’t compete with it like British Airways and Lufthansa, which have no overlap in routes.
Example: What industry is Southwest Airlines in?
Once you have an industry definition that makes sense, construct a Porter Competitive model (we will learn about what this is early in the quarter). Discuss each of the five forces, and explain why you believe that the force is strong or weak in the industry.
What is the industry and how does it provide value to its customers?
What is unique about your company’s history, evolution, and circumstances that make it offer distinctive (and/or lower cost) experiences and products to its customers?
Example: Southwest Airlines has a unique history as a startup in the 1970s. It focused on routes within Texas to avoid having its routes and other aspects of its business regulated by federal authorities, as other airlines were at the time. The legacies fought its creation and Southwest, in-turn, has always competed like an outsider — avoiding copying the practices of the legacies, which were always copying each other. (e.g. pricing models, change fees, assigned seating, fleet planning, bag fees, distribution by travel agencies and online travel agencies, etc.)
How does your company use information technology to enable its business processes, and perhaps more importantly, support its strategies and enhance its competitive position with respect to the five forces?
To the extent the system works without employees having to do much, it reduces the dependence on the knowledge of store employees, which makes them more easily replaceable. Thus, this reduces the bargaining power of suppliers in the Porter Five Forces framework.
Just-in-time replenishment reduces inventory costs, and avoids stock-outs (lost sales because items are missing from the shelves) This enhances WalMart’s ability to compete with current competitors, and also raises the bar for any new entrants to be able to enter the market and compete effectively.
e.g. WalMart’s Point of Sales system helps keep track of inventory, enabling just-in-time replenishment and better management of the whole supply chain.
Discuss some details of how the information systems are architected. Are the main components developed in house, by outsourced developers, or purchased as a product with options? [E.g. systems like Canvas are purchased as a product by UCSC with configurable options.] To what extent are systems/applications hosted on the cloud versus in facilities run by the company?
Compare the market success (or lack thereof) relative to its competitors. For example, how does Walmart performance (revenue and profit) compare to say Costco and Target? This comparison is interesting at the overall level, as well as some in some normalized way that accounts for the relative size of the competitors. In retail, this could be sales per store, sales per square foot of retail space. Other industries have their own preferred metrics for normalized performance. For instance, airlines measure the Cost and Revenue per Available Seat Mile (CASM and RASM respectively) as a way to compare performance among competitors of different sizes.
How is your company’s relative performance changing? Is it improving or are its competitors catching-up or getting further ahead?
Adapting to COVID
What has your company done with its business processes, and offerings to function and compete during the pandemic?
E.g. Touchless payments, online ordering and delivery, curbside pickup, self-service kiosks, distance work for employees and online meetings with clients.
Some of these changes may involve strategy changes
E.g. Using idle Uber drivers for Uber Eats. Airlines flying cargo instead of passengers.
Discuss what IT has supported these changes.
What do you think will be the long-run impact of COVID to the company and its industry?
E.g. If you are studying an airline: Will the airline industry recover, or will the adoption of remote collaboration, and people’s increased awareness of contagious diseases mean the industry will never recover to pre-pandemic levels?
E.g. If you are studying a supermarket chain: Will people’s adoption of grocery-delivery apps mean that the need for traditional brick and mortar grocery stores will decline, or perhaps increase as people who frequented restaurants now discover how to cook for themselves?
E.g. Many analysts think that retail stores’ decline has accelerated during the pandemic and will not reverse if and when it is over.