How to Use the Business Situation Framework to Crack a Case

business-situation-framework
Rachael Troughton
Rachael Troughton

Former Accenture

The 3 C’s, the 4 P’s – using business frameworks to crack a case can feel as muddled as alphabet soup. Walk through the Business Situation Framework step-by-step with us in this case example. We’ll make using this framework crystal clear.

In this article, we’ll:

  • Explain what the Business Situation Framework is,
  • Provide a case example using the Business Situation Framework,
  • Provide links to other business frameworks that will help you ace your consulting case interviews.

Let’s get started!

What Is the Business Situation Framework?

A business framework is a structured way of thinking about a business problem so that you can solve it.

The Business Situation Framework helps with analyzing a business’s current situation to improve its performance. The 4 components of analysis in this framework are:

  • Customer
  • Competitors
  • Product
  • Company

The Business Situation Framework was derived from a classic framework developed by Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese organizational theorist. Ohmae believed that — to be successful — business strategy should concentrate on the customer, the competitors, and the company. The Business Situation Framework simply adds product onto this model.

The Business Situation Framework is most useful when exploiting a business opportunity such as scaling the existing business, entering a new market, or developing a new product.

So if your consulting case is about any of these areas, it makes sense to take these factors into consideration.

Let’s quickly look at each factor in more detail.

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Customer

In this part of the analysis, you want to get really clear about who is the customer and what exactly they want.

You’ll need to consider demographics, market segments (groups of customers with similar likes), what influences their buying decisions, and trends in segment growth.

You’ll also need to understand the customer needs your product could satisfy and how much they’d be willing to pay.

Competitors

Next, you’ll need to consider business competitors.

  • What is the market like for your product?
  • How are your competitors organized?
  • What share of the market do they have?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses and how do we compare?

Product

In this part of the analysis, examine what features the product should have to meet customer requirements, its unique selling point, and how it should be branded, priced, and distributed.

Company

Finally, you need to analyze the company itself.

  • What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • What capabilities does it already have in place — such as a strong distribution network or significant brand loyalty — that could make it easier to exploit new opportunities?

The Business Situation Framework: A Case Example

Let’s move on to the bit you really care about — how to apply the Business Situation Framework during a consulting case interview.

Consider this problem statement from the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s case book:

Sample Problem - Business Situation Framework

There are 3 key elements you need to answer in this question:

  • Should they launch the product?
  • How should they launch the product?
  • What should the marketing strategy be?

Using the business situation framework gives us issues to consider.

Case Structure for Business Situation Framework Case Example

In case interviews you may not be initially given all the information you need to solve the case. Asking your interviewer logical questions will get you more information.

In this case, when you ask your interviewer questions from the ‘Competition’ element of the model — “What is the size and breakdown of the flavored water market?”, and “How much market share do our main competitors hold?”— you’ll be provided with the following information.

Market Size & Breakdown for Business Situation Framework Case Example

From these charts it’s clear to see that the non-sparkling water category represents just a small amount of the overall market.

Within that category, there are 2 main competitors with a large amount of the market share captured by multiple, smaller competitors.

This provides an opportunity for the client to capture market share from smaller competitors and become a 3rd large competitor in this category.

What’s the Size Of the Opportunity?

Once you’ve grasped the current market situation you need to estimate the size of the opportunity for the client to decide whether it’s worth pursuing. Here comes the math!

What is the potential size of the flavored, non-sparkling water market?

The market share of non-sparkling flavored water is 10% of the total market for flavored water so there are:

  • 8 million US fluid gallons x 10% share for non-sparkling = 800,000 gallons.

Each drink is packaged in 16oz bottles and there are 128 oz in a gallon:

  • 128 oz/16 oz = 8 therefore there are 8 bottles in a gallon.

800,000 gallons are sold each year therefore:

  • 800,000 * 8 bottles/gallon = 6.4 million bottles sold each year.

Each bottle costs, on average, $1 a bottle therefore:

  • 6.4 million bottles * $1 = $6.4 million total revenue per year.

What About Risk?

The information above suggests there’s a potential opportunity for the client so now you should consider costs and potential risks before offering your conclusion.

For example, how long would it take to break-even should the client launch a new product?

Let’s assume the following:

  • The costs per bottle of non-sparkling flavored water is 90 cents.
  • Start-up launch costs are $400,000.

$400,000 investment /10 cents profit per bottle = 4 million bottles need to be sold to break-even.

To work out the number of years it will take to break even, you need to make an assumption about % of market share the client could capture. This assumption should be backed up by a logical argument.

For example:

  • Since the entrant is a major company, it has strong brand name power and distribution networks.
  • Other major competitors have 12% and 18% market share. Since our product is backed by a strong company, let’s assume we can hit the mid-point (15%) as an estimate.
  • 15% of 6.4 million bottles = 960,000 bottles sold each year  (approx. 1 million bottles)
  • 4 million bottles to break-even / 1 million bottles = 4 years to break-even.

Given this information and any other risks identified — such as changing customer preferences and competitive response to our client’s entry into the market — you should recommend that the client launch the product but put in place a marketing plan to exceed 15% market share and get the payback period down.

In deciding how to launch the product, you should focus on:

  • Key capabilities identified in the ‘Company’ analysis — their strong brand and established distribution network. 
  • Best practices identified in the ‘Competition’ analysis particularly product launch best practices since the competitors have more experience with this.

What Should the Marketing Strategy Be?

Using the ‘Customer’ questions in the Business Situation Framework, you should consider consumer trends and how other competitors are marketing to them. When you ask your interviewer for information on this, you’ll get the following information:

Consumer Preferences: Respondents' Preferred Beverage type

From this you should identify the following insights before offering your final recommendation:

  • The new product will fall into the ‘Other’ category.
  • Given this, the company should market the new product as a sports drink or leisure beverage — rather than a health drink — as the potential ‘Other’ market share is larger in these categories.

Links to Other Resources that Will Help you Ace Your Case

Hopefully, you’re now crystal clear on how using the Business Situation Framework can help you solve a case interview question. Read our article on other case interview frameworks to find more tools to help you solve your consulting case interviews. This article also discusses making your own tailored case framework, which will set you apart from other candidates.

Our article on case interview examples provides links to tons of case interview questions you can use to practice. 

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • What exactly the Business Situation Framework is,
  • How the Business Situation Framework helps “solve” a consulting case, and
  • Where you can find more information on other business frameworks.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about the Business Situation Framework, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.
Other people prepping for consulting case interviews found the following pages helpful:

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