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5 Benefits of Learning Through the Case Study Method

Harvard Business School MBA students learning through the case study method

  • 28 Nov 2023

While several factors make HBS Online unique —including a global Community and real-world outcomes —active learning through the case study method rises to the top.

In a 2023 City Square Associates survey, 74 percent of HBS Online learners who also took a course from another provider said HBS Online’s case method and real-world examples were better by comparison.

Here’s a primer on the case method, five benefits you could gain, and how to experience it for yourself.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is the Harvard Business School Case Study Method?

The case study method , or case method , is a learning technique in which you’re presented with a real-world business challenge and asked how you’d solve it. After working through it yourself and with peers, you’re told how the scenario played out.

HBS pioneered the case method in 1922. Shortly before, in 1921, the first case was written.

“How do you go into an ambiguous situation and get to the bottom of it?” says HBS Professor Jan Rivkin, former senior associate dean and chair of HBS's master of business administration (MBA) program, in a video about the case method . “That skill—the skill of figuring out a course of inquiry to choose a course of action—that skill is as relevant today as it was in 1921.”

Originally developed for the in-person MBA classroom, HBS Online adapted the case method into an engaging, interactive online learning experience in 2014.

In HBS Online courses , you learn about each case from the business professional who experienced it. After reviewing their videos, you’re prompted to take their perspective and explain how you’d handle their situation.

You then get to read peers’ responses, “star” them, and comment to further the discussion. Afterward, you learn how the professional handled it and their key takeaways.

HBS Online’s adaptation of the case method incorporates the famed HBS “cold call,” in which you’re called on at random to make a decision without time to prepare.

“Learning came to life!” said Sheneka Balogun , chief administration officer and chief of staff at LeMoyne-Owen College, of her experience taking the Credential of Readiness (CORe) program . “The videos from the professors, the interactive cold calls where you were randomly selected to participate, and the case studies that enhanced and often captured the essence of objectives and learning goals were all embedded in each module. This made learning fun, engaging, and student-friendly.”

If you’re considering taking a course that leverages the case study method, here are five benefits you could experience.

5 Benefits of Learning Through Case Studies

1. take new perspectives.

The case method prompts you to consider a scenario from another person’s perspective. To work through the situation and come up with a solution, you must consider their circumstances, limitations, risk tolerance, stakeholders, resources, and potential consequences to assess how to respond.

Taking on new perspectives not only can help you navigate your own challenges but also others’. Putting yourself in someone else’s situation to understand their motivations and needs can go a long way when collaborating with stakeholders.

2. Hone Your Decision-Making Skills

Another skill you can build is the ability to make decisions effectively . The case study method forces you to use limited information to decide how to handle a problem—just like in the real world.

Throughout your career, you’ll need to make difficult decisions with incomplete or imperfect information—and sometimes, you won’t feel qualified to do so. Learning through the case method allows you to practice this skill in a low-stakes environment. When facing a real challenge, you’ll be better prepared to think quickly, collaborate with others, and present and defend your solution.

3. Become More Open-Minded

As you collaborate with peers on responses, it becomes clear that not everyone solves problems the same way. Exposing yourself to various approaches and perspectives can help you become a more open-minded professional.

When you’re part of a diverse group of learners from around the world, your experiences, cultures, and backgrounds contribute to a range of opinions on each case.

On the HBS Online course platform, you’re prompted to view and comment on others’ responses, and discussion is encouraged. This practice of considering others’ perspectives can make you more receptive in your career.

“You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from your peers,” said Ratnaditya Jonnalagadda , a software engineer who took CORe.

In addition to interacting with peers in the course platform, Jonnalagadda was part of the HBS Online Community , where he networked with other professionals and continued discussions sparked by course content.

“You get to understand your peers better, and students share examples of businesses implementing a concept from a module you just learned,” Jonnalagadda said. “It’s a very good way to cement the concepts in one's mind.”

4. Enhance Your Curiosity

One byproduct of taking on different perspectives is that it enables you to picture yourself in various roles, industries, and business functions.

“Each case offers an opportunity for students to see what resonates with them, what excites them, what bores them, which role they could imagine inhabiting in their careers,” says former HBS Dean Nitin Nohria in the Harvard Business Review . “Cases stimulate curiosity about the range of opportunities in the world and the many ways that students can make a difference as leaders.”

Through the case method, you can “try on” roles you may not have considered and feel more prepared to change or advance your career .

5. Build Your Self-Confidence

Finally, learning through the case study method can build your confidence. Each time you assume a business leader’s perspective, aim to solve a new challenge, and express and defend your opinions and decisions to peers, you prepare to do the same in your career.

According to a 2022 City Square Associates survey , 84 percent of HBS Online learners report feeling more confident making business decisions after taking a course.

“Self-confidence is difficult to teach or coach, but the case study method seems to instill it in people,” Nohria says in the Harvard Business Review . “There may well be other ways of learning these meta-skills, such as the repeated experience gained through practice or guidance from a gifted coach. However, under the direction of a masterful teacher, the case method can engage students and help them develop powerful meta-skills like no other form of teaching.”

Your Guide to Online Learning Success | Download Your Free E-Book

How to Experience the Case Study Method

If the case method seems like a good fit for your learning style, experience it for yourself by taking an HBS Online course. Offerings span seven subject areas, including:

  • Business essentials
  • Leadership and management
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Finance and accounting
  • Business in society

No matter which course or credential program you choose, you’ll examine case studies from real business professionals, work through their challenges alongside peers, and gain valuable insights to apply to your career.

Are you interested in discovering how HBS Online can help advance your career? Explore our course catalog and download our free guide —complete with interactive workbook sections—to determine if online learning is right for you and which course to take.

business case study course

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What the Case Study Method Really Teaches

  • Nitin Nohria

business case study course

Seven meta-skills that stick even if the cases fade from memory.

It’s been 100 years since Harvard Business School began using the case study method. Beyond teaching specific subject matter, the case study method excels in instilling meta-skills in students. This article explains the importance of seven such skills: preparation, discernment, bias recognition, judgement, collaboration, curiosity, and self-confidence.

During my decade as dean of Harvard Business School, I spent hundreds of hours talking with our alumni. To enliven these conversations, I relied on a favorite question: “What was the most important thing you learned from your time in our MBA program?”

  • Nitin Nohria is the George F. Baker Professor of Business Administration, Distinguished University Service Professor, and former dean of Harvard Business School.

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How the HBS Case Method Works

business case study course

How the Case Method Works

business case study course

  • Read and analyze the case. Each case is a 10-20 page document written from the viewpoint of a real person leading a real organization. In addition to background information on the situation, each case ends in a key decision to be made. Your job is to sift through the information, incomplete by design, and decide what you would do.
  • Discuss the case. Each morning, you’ll bring your ideas to a small team of classmates from diverse professional backgrounds, your discussion group, to share your findings and listen to theirs. Together, you begin to see the case from different perspectives, better preparing you for class.
  • Engage in class. Be prepared to change the way you think as you debate with classmates the best path forward for this organization. The highly engaged conversation is facilitated by the faculty member, but it’s driven by your classmates’ comments and experiences. HBS brings together amazingly talented people from diverse backgrounds and puts that experience front and center. Students do the majority of the talking (and lots of active listening), and your job is to better understand the decision at hand, what you would do in the case protagonist’s shoes, and why. You will not leave a class thinking about the case the same way you thought about it coming in! In addition to learning more about many businesses, in the case method you will develop communication, listening, analysis, and leadership skills. It is a truly dynamic and immersive learning environment.
  • Reflect. The case method prepares you to be in leadership positions where you will face time-sensitive decisions with limited information. Reflecting on each class discussion will prepare you to face these situations in your future roles.

Student Perspectives

business case study course

“I’ve been so touched by how dedicated other people have been to my learning and my success.”

Faculty Perspectives

business case study course

“The world desperately needs better leadership. It’s actually one of the great gifts of teaching here, you can do something about it.”

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business case study course

“You walk into work every morning and it's like a fire hose of decisions that need to be made, often without enough information. Just like an HBS case.”

Celebrating the Inaugural HBS Case

business case study course

“How do you go into an ambiguous situation and get to the bottom of it? That skill – the skill of figuring out a course of inquiry, to choose a course of action – that skill is as relevant today as it was in 1921.”

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This listing contains abstracts and ordering information for case studies written and published by faculty at Stanford GSB.

Publicly available cases in this collection are distributed by Harvard Business Publishing and The Case Centre .

Stanford case studies with diverse protagonists, along with case studies that build “equity fluency” by focusing on DEI-related issues and opportunities are listed in the Case Compendium developed by the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership at the Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Udemy: The Founding Story

Adobe in 2023: transforming marketing through digital experience.

Adobe, founded in 1982, set out to develop software that would enable high-fidelity digital printing and publishing. A decade later, Adobe PDF quickly became the industry standard for preserving and sharing digital document formatting, fonts, images, and…

GoodLeap, spearheaded by Hayes Barnard, emerges as a pioneering financing platform offering comprehensive solutions for sustainable living, including solar loans, home purchasing, refinancing, and improvement loans. Barnard, with a robust background at…

Seconds to Save Lives with Viz.ai

Ajaib: building a high-growth southeast asian fintech venture, eyes on the prize: eyewa’s mena journey, hijra: building an islamic challenger bank.

Dima Djani founded Hijra in late 2018 to provide digitally-enabled financial services to businesses and consumers who followed Islamic finance principles. Islamic finance prohibited the use of usury (interest), mandated that all transactions been linked…

Polpharma Group: Transformation Through Innovation

When Markus Sieger was appointed CEO of Polpharma Group in 2016, he found himself at the helm of a company that would be deemed successful by virtually any metric. Polpharma Group included Poland’s leading pharmaceutical company and leading drug…

Stanford Health Care

  • Dean Jonathan Levin

This Managing Growing Enterprises (MGE) case presents a multifaceted examination of leadership challenges in the academic sector, encompassing issues of faculty negotiation, student-faculty relations, crisis management, and institutional response to…

ClearMetal, a supply chain software-as-a-service startup, exemplifies the challenges of innovating in the global container shipping industry. Under CEO Adam Compain, the company developed a solution to reduce the costly repositioning of empty shipping…

Board Dynamics at Defy, Inc.: When is the Right Time to Raise the Next Round?

Defy, Inc. developed individual safety software solutions for highly automated aircraft operation through its FlySafe modular platform. Defy’s cofounders saw great potential in flying drones to solve the last-mile problem in deliveries. In addition to…

Founders Fund: Every Moment Happens Once

Nuveen and ecozen solutions: valuing a private equity impact investment.

In December 2021, Rekha Unnithan, CFA, received a cold outreach from Devendra Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Ecozen Solutions (“Ecozen”), an agriculture-focused cleantech business based in Pune, a major technology and manufacturing hub in India. Founded in…

APA Technologies

APA Technologies, a startup in the trucking industry, faced a significant challenge with its innovative product, the Tyro - an automatic tire inflation device. Founders Brad Miller and Jeffrey Howell, Stanford mechanical engineering students, developed…

APA Technologies (A): Just When We Were Hitting Our Stride

Apa technologies (b): no good deed goes unpunished, apa technologies (c): a potential partnership, apa technologies (d): reveal, senaca east africa (a): a family security business grapples with expansion.

Senaca East Africa, aka Sentry & Patrols, is a Kenya-based security guard firm founded in 2002 by John Kipkorir, a longtime member of the Kenyan police. At the time, there were only a few well-known Kenyan-owned security companies, and crime was rising…

Jason Scott: Creating a Dream Job to Find and Fund Entrepreneurs Across the Globe

Jason Scott’s superpower had always been his ability to connect people and ideas across industries, sectors, and geographies. After graduating from Stanford GSB, he pursued his professional North Star of finding the best entrepreneurs in the world and…

Impact Engine: Measuring Impact Across Investment Stages

Senaca east africa (b): a family security business grapples with expansion, senaca east africa (c): a family security business grapples with expansion.

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How to Write a Business Case (Template Included)


Table of Contents

What is a business case, how to write a business case, business case template, watch our business case training video, key elements of a business case, how projectmanager helps with your business case.

A business case is a project management document that explains how the benefits of a project overweigh its costs and why it should be executed. Business cases are prepared during the project initiation phase and their purpose is to include all the project’s objectives, costs and benefits to convince stakeholders of its value.

A business case is an important project document to prove to your client, customer or stakeholder that the project proposal you’re pitching is a sound investment. Below, we illustrate the steps to writing one that will sway them.

The need for a business case is that it collects the financial appraisal, proposal, strategy and marketing plan in one document and offers a full look at how the project will benefit the organization. Once your business case is approved by the project stakeholders, you can begin the project planning phase.

Projects fail without having a solid business case to rest on, as this project document is the base for the project charter and project plan. But if a project business case is not anchored to reality, and doesn’t address a need that aligns with the larger business objectives of the organization, then it is irrelevant.

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Use this free Business Case Template for Word to manage your projects better.

The research you’ll need to create a strong business case is the why, what, how and who of your project. This must be clearly communicated. The elements of your business case will address the why but in greater detail. Think of the business case as a document that is created during the project initiation phase but will be used as a reference throughout the project life cycle.

Whether you’re starting a new project or mid-way through one, take time to write up a business case to justify the project expenditure by identifying the business benefits your project will deliver and that your stakeholders are most interested in reaping from the work. The following four steps will show you how to write a business case.

Step 1: Identify the Business Problem

Projects aren’t created for projects’ sake. They should always be aligned with business goals . Usually, they’re initiated to solve a specific business problem or create a business opportunity.

You should “Lead with the need.” Your first job is to figure out what that problem or opportunity is, describe it, find out where it comes from and then address the time frame needed to deal with it.

This can be a simple statement but is best articulated with some research into the economic climate and the competitive landscape to justify the timing of the project.

Step 2: Identify the Alternative Solutions

How do you know whether the project you’re undertaking is the best possible solution to the problem defined above? Naturally, prioritizing projects is hard, and the path to success is not paved with unfounded assumptions.

One way to narrow down the focus to make the right solution clear is to follow these six steps (after the relevant research, of course):

  • Note the alternative solutions.
  • For each solution, quantify its benefits.
  • Also, forecast the costs involved in each solution.
  • Then figure out its feasibility .
  • Discern the risks and issues associated with each solution.
  • Finally, document all this in your business case.

Step 3: Recommend a Preferred Solution

You’ll next need to rank the solutions, but before doing that it’s best to set up criteria, maybe have a scoring mechanism such as a decision matrix to help you prioritize the solutions to best choose the right one.

Some methodologies you can apply include:

  • Depending on the solution’s cost and benefit , give it a score of 1-10.
  • Base your score on what’s important to you.
  • Add more complexity to your ranking to cover all bases.

Regardless of your approach, once you’ve added up your numbers, the best solution to your problem will become evident. Again, you’ll want to have this process also documented in your business case.

Step 4: Describe the Implementation Approach

So, you’ve identified your business problem or opportunity and how to reach it, now you have to convince your stakeholders that you’re right and have the best way to implement a process to achieve your goals. That’s why documentation is so important; it offers a practical path to solve the core problem you identified.

Now, it’s not just an exercise to appease senior leadership. Who knows what you might uncover in the research you put into exploring the underlying problem and determining alternative solutions? You might save the organization millions with an alternate solution than the one initially proposed. When you put in the work on a strong business case, you’re able to get your sponsors or organizational leadership on board with you and have a clear vision as to how to ensure the delivery of the business benefits they expect.

Our business case template for Word is the perfect tool to start writing a business case. It has 9 key business case areas you can customize as needed. Download the template for free and follow the steps below to create a great business case for all your projects.

Free Business Case Template for Word

One of the key steps to starting a business case is to have a business case checklist. The following is a detailed outline to follow when developing your business case. You can choose which of these elements are the most relevant to your project stakeholders and add them to our business case template. Then once your business case is approved, start managing your projects with a robust project management software such as ProjectManager.

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary is a short version of each section of your business case. It’s used to give stakeholders a quick overview of your project.

2. Project Definition

This section is meant to provide general information about your projects, such as the business objectives that will be achieved and the project plan outline.

3. Vision, Goals and Objectives

First, you have to figure out what you’re trying to do and what is the problem you want to solve. You’ll need to define your project vision, goals and objectives. This will help you shape your project scope and identify project deliverables.

4. Project Scope

The project scope determines all the tasks and deliverables that will be executed in your project to reach your business objectives.

5. Background Information

Here you can provide a context for your project, explaining the problem that it’s meant to solve, and how it aligns with your organization’s vision and strategic plan.

6. Success Criteria and Stakeholder Requirements

Depending on what kind of project you’re working on, the quality requirements will differ, but they are critical to the project’s success. Collect all of them, figure out what determines if you’ve successfully met them and report on the results .

7. Project Plan

It’s time to create the project plan. Figure out the tasks you’ll have to take to get the project done. You can use a work breakdown structure template  to make sure you are through. Once you have all the tasks collected, estimate how long it will take to complete each one.

Project management software makes creating a project plan significantly easier. ProjectManager can upload your work breakdown structure template and all your tasks are populated in our tool. You can organize them according to your production cycle with our kanban board view, or use our Gantt chart view to create a project schedule.

kanban card moving into next column on the board

8. Project Budget

Your budget is an estimate of everything in your project plan and what it will cost to complete the project over the scheduled time allotted.

9. Project Schedule

Make a timeline for the project by estimating how long it will take to get each task completed. For a more impactful project schedule , use a tool to make a Gantt chart, and print it out. This will provide that extra flourish of data visualization and skill that Excel sheets lack.

10. Project Governance

Project governance refers to all the project management rules and procedures that apply to your project. For example, it defines the roles and responsibilities of the project team members and the framework for decision-making.

11. Communication Plan

Have milestones for check-ins and status updates, as well as determine how stakeholders will stay aware of the progress over the project life cycle.

12. Progress Reports

Have a plan in place to monitor and track your progress during the project to compare planned to actual progress. There are project tracking tools that can help you monitor progress and performance.

Again, using a project management tool improves your ability to see what’s happening in your project. ProjectManager has tracking tools like dashboards and status reports that give you a high-level view and more detail, respectively. Unlike light-weight apps that make you set up a dashboard, ours is embedded in the tool. Better still, our cloud-based software gives you real-time data for more insightful decision-making. Also, get reports on more than just status updates, but timesheets, workload, portfolio status and much more, all with just one click. Then filter the reports and share them with stakeholders to keep them updated.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

13. Financial Appraisal

This is a very important section of your business case because this is where you explain how the financial benefits outweigh the project costs . Compare the financial costs and benefits of your project. You can do this by doing a sensitivity analysis and a cost-benefit analysis.

14. Market Assessment

Research your market, competitors and industry, to find opportunities and threats

15. Competitor Analysis

Identify direct and indirect competitors and do an assessment of their products, strengths, competitive advantages and their business strategy.

16. SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis helps you identify your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The strengths and weaknesses are internal, while the opportunities and threats are external.

17. Marketing Strategy

Describe your product, distribution channels, pricing, target customers among other aspects of your marketing plan or strategy.

18. Risk Assessment

There are many risk categories that can impact your project. The first step to mitigating them is to identify and analyze the risks associated with your project activities.

ProjectManager , an award-winning project management software, can collect and assemble all the various data you’ll be collecting, and then easily share it both with your team and project sponsors.

Once you have a spreadsheet with all your tasks listed, you can import it into our software. Then it’s instantly populated into a Gantt chart . Simply set the duration for each of the tasks, add any dependencies, and your project is now spread across a timeline. You can set milestones, but there is so much more you can do.

Gantt chart from ProjectManager

You have a project plan now, and from the online Gantt chart, you can assign team members to tasks. Then they can comment directly on the tasks they’re working on, adding as many documents and images as needed, fostering a collaborative environment. You can track their progress and change task durations as needed by dragging and dropping the start and end dates.

But that’s only a taste of what ProjectManager offers. We have kanban boards that visualize your workflow and a real-time dashboard that tracks six project metrics for the most accurate view of your project possible.

Try ProjectManager and see for yourself with this 30-day free trial .

If you want more business case advice, take a moment to watch Jennifer Bridges, PMP, in this short training video. She explains the steps you have to take in order to write a good business case.

Here’s a screenshot for your reference.

how writing a business case for your project is good business strategy


Today we’re talking about how to write a business case. Well, over the past few years, we’ve seen the market, or maybe organizations, companies or even projects, move away from doing business cases. But, these days, companies, organizations, and those same projects are scrutinizing the investments and they’re really seeking a rate of return.

So now, think of the business case as your opportunity to package your project, your idea, your opportunity, and show what it means and what the benefits are and how other people can benefit.

We want to take a look today to see what’s in the business case and how to write one. I want to be clear that when you look for information on a business case, it’s not a briefcase.

Someone called the other day and they were confused because they were looking for something, and they kept pulling up briefcases. That’s not what we’re talking about today. What we’re talking about are business cases, and they include information about your strategies, about your goals. It is your business proposal. It has your business outline, your business strategy, and even your marketing plan.

Why Do You Need a Business Case?

And so, why is that so important today? Again, companies are seeking not only their project managers but their team members to have a better understanding of business and more of an idea business acumen. So this business case provides the justification for the proposed business change or plan. It outlines the allocation of capital that you may be seeking and the resources required to implement it. Then, it can be an action plan . It may just serve as a unified vision. And then it also provides the decision-makers with different options.

So let’s look more at the steps required to put these business cases together. There are four main steps. One, you want to research your market. Really look at what’s out there, where are the needs, where are the gaps that you can serve? Look at your competition. How are they approaching this, and how can you maybe provide some other alternatives?

You want to compare and finalize different approaches that you can use to go to market. Then you compile that data and you present strategies, your goals and other options to be considered.

And then you literally document it.

So what does the document look like? Well, there are templates out there today. The components vary, but these are the common ones. And then these are what I consider essential. So there’s the executive summary. This is just a summary of your company, what your management team may look like, a summary of your product and service and your market.

The business description gives a little bit more history about your company and the mission statement and really what your company is about and how this product or service fits in.

Then, you outline the details of the product or service that you’re looking to either expand or roll out or implement. You may even include in their patents may be that you have pending or other trademarks.

Then, you want to identify and lay out your marketing strategy. Like, how are you gonna take this to your customers? Are you going to have a brick-and-mortar store? Are you gonna do this online? And, what are your plans to take it to market?

You also want to include detailed information about your competitor analysis. How are they doing things? And, how are you planning on, I guess, beating your competition?

You also want to look at and identify your SWOT. And the SWOT is your strength. What are the strengths that you have in going to market? And where are the weaknesses? Maybe some of your gaps. And further, where are your opportunities and maybe threats that you need to plan for? Then the overview of the operation includes operational information like your production, even human resources, information about the day-to-day operations of your company.

And then, your financial plan includes your profit statement, your profit and loss, any of your financials, any collateral that you may have, and any kind of investments that you may be seeking.

So these are the components of your business case. This is why it’s so important. And if you need a tool that can help you manage and track this process, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager .

Click here to browse ProjectManager's free templates

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Business process reengineering (BPR) is the radical redesign of core business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in performance, efficiency and effectiveness. BPR examples are not one-time projects, but rather examples of a continuous journey of innovation and change focused on optimizing end-to-end processes and eliminating redundancies. The purpose of BPR is to streamline  workflows , eliminate unnecessary steps and improve resource utilization.

BPR involves business process redesign that challenges norms and methods within an organization. It typically focuses on achieving dramatic, transformative changes to existing processes. It should not be confused with  business process management (BPM) , a more incremental approach to optimizing processes, or business process improvement (BPI), a broader term that encompasses any systematic effort to improve current processes. This blog outlines some BPR examples that benefit from a BPM methodology.

Background of business process reengineering

BPR emerged in the early 1990s as a management approach aimed at radically redesigning business operations to achieve business transformation. The methodology gained prominence with the publication of a 1990 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate,” by Michael Hammer, and the 1993 book by Hammer and James Champy, Reengineering the Corporation . An early case study of BPR was Ford Motor Company, which successfully implemented reengineering efforts in the 1990s to streamline its manufacturing processes and improve competitiveness.

Organizations of all sizes and industries implement business process reengineering. Step 1 is to define the goals of BPR, and subsequent steps include assessing the current state, identifying gaps and opportunities, and process mapping.

Successful implementation of BPR requires strong leadership, effective change management and a commitment to continuous improvement. Leaders, senior management, team members and stakeholders must champion the BPR initiative and provide the necessary resources, support and direction to enable new processes and meaningful change.

BPR examples: Use cases

Streamlining supply chain management.

Using BPR for supply chain optimization involves a meticulous reassessment and redesign of every step, including logistics, inventory management and procurement . A comprehensive supply chain overhaul might involve rethinking procurement strategies, implementing just-in-time inventory systems, optimizing production schedules or redesigning transportation and distribution networks. Technologies such as supply chain management software (SCM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and advanced analytics tools can be used to automate and optimize processes. For example, predictive analytics can be used to forecast demand and optimize inventory levels, while blockchain technology can enhance transparency and traceability in the supply chain.

  • Improved efficiency
  • Reduced cost
  • Enhanced transparency

Customer relationship management (CRM)

BPR is a pivotal strategy for organizations that want to overhaul their customer relationship management (CRM) processes. Steps of business process reengineering for CRM include integrating customer data from disparate sources, using advanced analytics for insights, and optimizing service workflows to provide personalized experiences and shorter wait times.

BPR use cases for CRM might include:

  • Implementing integrated CRM software to centralize customer data and enable real-time insights
  • Adopting omnichannel communication strategies to provide seamless and consistent experiences across touchpoints
  • Empowering frontline staff with training and resources to deliver exceptional service

Using BPR, companies can establish a comprehensive view of each customer, enabling anticipation of their needs, personalization of interactions and prompt issue resolution.

  • 360-degree customer view
  • Increased sales and retention
  • Faster problem resolution

Digitizing administrative processes

Organizations are increasingly turning to BPR to digitize and automate administrative processes to reduce human errors. This transformation entails replacing manual, paper-based workflows with digital systems that use technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for routine tasks.

This might include streamlining payroll processes, digitizing HR operations or automating invoicing procedures. This can lead to can significant improvements in efficiency, accuracy and scalability and enable the organization to operate more effectively.

  • Reduced processing times
  • Reduced errors
  • Increased adaptability

Improving product development processes

BPR plays a crucial role in optimizing product development processes, from ideation to market launch. This comprehensive overhaul involves evaluating and redesigning workflows, fostering cross-functional collaboration and innovating by using advanced technologies. This can involve implementing cross-functional teams to encourage communication and knowledge sharing, adopting agile methodologies to promote iterative development and rapid prototyping, and by using technology such as product lifecycle management (PLM) software to streamline documentation and version control.

BPR initiatives such as these enable organizations to reduce product development cycle times, respond more quickly to market demands, and deliver innovative products that meet customer needs.

  • Faster time-to-market
  • Enhanced innovation
  • Higher product quality

Updating technology infrastructure

In an era of rapid technological advancement, BPR serves as a vital strategy for organizations that need to update and modernize their technology infrastructure. This transformation involves migrating to cloud-based solutions, adopting emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) , and integrating disparate systems for improved data management and analysis, which enables more informed decision making. Embracing new technologies helps organizations improve performance, cybersecurity and scalability and positioning themselves for long-term success.

  • Enhanced performance
  • Improved security
  • Increased innovation

Reducing staff redundancy

In response to changing market dynamics and organizational needs, many companies turn to BPR to restructure their workforce and reduce redundancy. These strategic initiatives can involve streamlining organizational hierarchies, consolidating departments and outsourcing non-core functions. Optimizing workforce allocation and eliminating redundant roles allows organizations to reduce costs, enhance operational efficiency and focus resources on key priorities.

  • Cost savings
  • Increased efficiency
  • Focus on core competencies

Cutting costs across operations

BPR is a powerful tool to systematically identify inefficiencies, redundancies and waste within business operations. This enables organizations to streamline processes and cut costs.

BPR focuses on redesigning processes to eliminate non-value-added activities, optimize resource allocation, and enhance operational efficiency. This might entail automating repetitive tasks, reorganizing workflows for minimizing bottlenecks, renegotiating contracts with suppliers to secure better terms, or by using technology to improve collaboration and communication. This can enable significant cost savings and improve profitability.

  • Lower costs
  • Enhanced competitiveness

Improving output quality

BPR can enhance the quality of output across various business processes, from manufacturing to service delivery. BPR initiatives generally boost key performance indicators (KPIs).

Steps for improving output quality involve implementing quality control measures, fostering a culture of continuous improvement, and using customer feedback and other metrics to drive innovation.

Technology can also be used to automate processes. When employees are freed from distracting processes, they can increase their focus on consistently delivering high-quality products and services. This builds customer trust and loyalty and supports the organization’s long-term success.

  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Enhanced brand image

Human resource (HR) process optimization

BPR is crucial for optimizing human resources (HR) processes. Initiatives might include automating the onboarding process with easy-to-use portals, streamlining workflows, creating self-service portals and apps, using AI for talent acquisition , and implementing a data-driven approach to performance management.

Fostering employee engagement can also help attract, develop and retain top talent. Aligning HR processes with organizational goals and values can enhance workforce productivity, satisfaction and business performance.

  • Faster recruitment cycles
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Strategic talent allocation

BPR examples: Case studies

The following case study examples demonstrate a mix of BPR methodologies and use cases working together to yield client benefits.

Bouygues becomes the AI standard bearer in French telecom

Bouygues Telecom , a leading French communications service provider, was plagued by legacy systems that struggled to keep up with an enormous volume of support calls. The result? Frustrated customers were left stranded in call lines and Bouygues at risk of being replaced by its competitors. Thankfully, Bouygues had partnered with IBM previously in one of our first pre- IBM watsonx™ AI deployments. This phase 1 engagement laid the groundwork perfectly for AI’s injection into the telecom’s call center during phase 2.

Today, Bouygues greets over 800,000 calls a month with IBM watsonx Assistant™, and IBM watsonx Orchestrate™ helps alleviate the repetitive tasks that agents previously had to handle manually, freeing them for higher-value work. In all, agents’ pre-and-post-call workloads were reduced by 30%. 1 In addition, 8 million customer-agent conversations—which were, in the past, only partially analyzed—have now been summarized with consistent accuracy for the creation of actionable insights.

Taken together, these technologies have made Bouygues a disruptor in the world of customer care, yielding a USD 5 million projected reduction in yearly operational costs and placing them at the forefront of AI technology. 1

Finance of America promotes lifetime loyalty via customer-centric transformation

By co-creating with IBM, mortgage lender Finance of America was able to recenter their operations around their customers, driving value for both them and the prospective home buyers they serve.

To accomplish this goal, FOA iterated quickly on both new strategies and features that would prioritize customer service and retention. From IBM-facilitated design thinking workshops came roadmaps for a consistent brand experience across channels, simplifying the work of their agents and streamlining the application process for their customers.

As a result of this transformation, FOA is projected to double their customer base in just three years. In the same time frame, they aim to increase revenue by over 50% and income by over 80%. Now, Finance of America is primed to deliver enhanced services—such as debt advisory—that will help promote lifetime customer loyalty. 2

BPR examples and IBM

Business process reengineering (BPR) with IBM takes a critical look at core processes to spot and redesign areas that need improvement. By stepping back, strategists can analyze areas like supply chain, customer experience and finance operations. BPR services experts can embed emerging technologies and overhaul existing processes to improve the business holistically. They can help you build new processes with intelligent workflows that drive profitability, weed out redundancies, and prioritize cost saving.

1. IBM Wow Story: Bouygues Becomes the AI Standard-Bearer in French Telecom. Last updated 10 November 2023.

2. IBM Wow Story: Finance of America Promotes Lifetime Loyalty via Customer-Centric Transformation. Last updated 23 February 2024.

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Case Brief #1

How to Teach Any Case Online

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A s you prepare to teach any class online, you’re likely to come upon cases in your syllabus that you haven’t yet taught in the virtual environment. If so, how do you transfer your in-person teaching plan to the online classroom? Or, if you’re teaching a case for the first time online, how can you leverage the tools and technology of your virtual environment to build out your class plan in a way that’s sure to engage students and stay true to your teaching objectives? What follows is some guidance to consider when you’re picking up any case (and teaching note) that’s new to you online.

What’s Challenging About Online Case Teaching

First, let’s identify some core challenges of teaching with cases online. This list is not exhaustive—nor should it be surprising to anyone who has taught online. Nonetheless, it emphasizes that what works for an in-person setting does not always translate to a virtual environment.

Technological glitches are inevitable.

Students are more distracted when learning online, especially if they are at home.

Because “ Zoom fatigue ” is an ongoing challenge, students are more likely to have difficulty following the material.

Most online sessions can cover only 80 to 90 percent of what an in-person class can.

Yet, as significant as the above challenges are, there is an upside. Teaching online affords moments for deepening engagement that are not readily available in a conventional classroom. Such opportunities can be used to place your own stamp on a case. Our baseline observations include the following:

Breakout rooms are a much more convenient way to assign students to groups in numerous ways and quickly bring them back together.

Online teaching affords multiple modalities for engaging students in real time , and some modalities, such as chat, offer ways to bring quieter students into the conversation by asking them to comment on written insights they have shared.

The technology behind online teaching can create insights not easily obtained during in-person classes, such as a word cloud that quickly identifies what issues students believe are most important in a case.

Specific Techniques to Encourage Participation and Deepen Case-Based Learning

Many instructors facilitate online engagement by dividing case discussions that would go longer during in-person classes into shorter 10- to 15-minute chunks . Keep students focused during these short discussions by asking them to participate in a variety of activities. Pre-class assignments, polls, breakout rooms, chat, role plays, and live documents can all be effective methods for maintaining momentum and enhancing learning.

When using these tools, however, it’s important to remember that less may be more when it comes to maximizing student engagement and learning. Deploying technology simply because it is available will not work for long. For instance, polls can be extremely effective for assessing what students think, for encouraging them to take a stand, and for fostering debate. Nonetheless, many students will quickly tire of polls—and tune out—if that’s the only form of interactivity their instructor uses, or if every class begins with a poll. A variety of approaches is more likely to keep students tuned in, but variety that has no clear goals will seem forced and can fail to successfully teach students what they need to learn.

The accounts of online case teaching that most inspire us involve not only a variety of tools, but also instructors who use these tools to achieve multiple directed objectives—taking time to read the room , deepening students’ understanding and application of a core concept in the case, and building students’ general professional skills, for example. Although any one moment in class can tackle multiple learning objectives, ranging from the specific to the general, thinking about this continuum can help instructors focus their attention on what tool they should use, when they should use it, and how to use it most effectively. For inspiration, here are a few examples of the various uses of online tools.

Take a Quick Pulse Check When Covering Thought-Provoking Topics

During case discussions, look for optimal places to use instant comments—when the case covers a challenging topic, for example. Professor Laura Huang notes how she takes a “pulse check” on how students are feeling when her class is discussing a case that has a provocative topic: “I love to ask students to ‘chat in one adjective that describes your current feeling right now.’ This gives me a sense for how some are feeling, for example, ‘frustrated,’ while others are feeling ‘determined,’ and so on. I never would have been able to get such a quick check on the emotions in the entire room, in such a quick fashion, when in the physical classroom.”

A case instructor can then use such insights to pivot the discussion in unanticipated directions and address students’ concerns in the moment, when doing so feels appropriate. Sometimes processing these emotions can be the right action to take , especially if not responding to these concerns will impede subsequent learning.

“Teaching online affords moments for deepening engagement that are not readily available in a conventional classroom.”

Seize Moments to Dive Deeper into Opposing Opinions

If the case discussion is heading in a direction where there is opportunity to dig into a topic, using instant polls can be a lively way to provoke this deeper learning. One way to do so involves eliciting the extreme positions students might take: saying, for example, “Let’s hear from someone who has a very high forecast and someone else who has a very low forecast.” This approach helps students clarify the assumptions underlying their beliefs, and shows what happens if those assumptions do not hold.

Immerse Students in the Case Through Role Play

Role plays, long a staple of in-person case discussions, can also be used to a variety of ends in a virtual format. A case instructor can use a role play as an ice breaker among students who otherwise would not associate with each other. Alternatively, role plays can be used to understand the challenges of inter-functional disputes, such as those among marketing, sales, and manufacturing, and how they impede collaboration.

An instructor can also decide to enrich the experience by scaffolding it with background context for each role, and use the role play as a vehicle for developing skills in perspective taking, persuasion, and compromise. The instructor’s latitude in assigning students, checking in on students’ conversations, and perhaps even playing back snippets of some role plays to illustrate important insights offers learning moments that can exceed those offered by an in-person setting.

Know Your Students and Experiment Often

How you might use these techniques—or any other methods you choose—when teaching your next case online depends on multiple factors. Begin by considering who your students are. Learn about them as time allows, because this information will help you decide which tools to use. As the late Professor David Garvin notes, “There is a difference between teaching a case and teaching a class. Teaching a case is independent of who is in the room. … Teaching a class tries to link the material with the people who are there.”

Consider how the potential tools at your disposal might be used to further relevant objectives for your students, for a specific day of class, for your course, or even for your program as a whole. In short, even when you use the same case as someone else, your version of the case—and what your students learn from it—will be very different when your teaching responds to both your students’ needs and your course objectives. This effort will take time, but your willingness to experiment and adjust as needed will enhance both your students’ engagement and your own.

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