TIM 50 Business Paper
The business analysis paper should focus on the use of information
systems within a company of your choice. You should pick a company for
which information systems played a key roll in making that company
successful, and the paper should focus on how information systems
contributed to that success. Your paper should answer the following
- Industry Profile: What is the industry? What value does the industry provide to its customers?
- Include an analysis of the competitive landscape of the industry in terms of the Porter Competitive model. You
will learn about Porter's 5 forces early in the quarter. Your paper
should discuss each of the five forces that effect the competitive
landscape of your company's industry. Discuss why each of the forces
plays a strong or weak role in the industry and give evidence to
support your argument.
- Be carefull to define the industry correctly. To do so, ask
the question "with whom does your company compete?" Be careful that the
definition is not too narrow. For instance, Charles Schwab is a
discount broker and they obviously compete with other discount brokers
like Quick and Reilly and Fidelity. But, they also compete against full
service brokers and deep discounters. There is also a risk of defining
the industry too broadly. For instance, total retailing in the U.S. is
over $2 trillion a year. This includes everything that is sold to a
consumer--groceries, automobiles, fast food, clothing, etc. There are
sub-sections to the retail industry and these provide a better
definition since they are consistent with the criteria cited above
regarding who companies compete against. Automobile dealers do not
compete with McDonalds or Safeway.
- Company Profile: What
business is your company in, and what value does it provide its
customers. In what ways is it different than its competitors? How has
it's history shaped what it can offer its customers?
- Information Technology:
How does the company use IT to support or enable its business processes
and competitive strategies? What technologies in particular does it
use? Does the company use existing technologies, develop its own
technology, or some combination of both? How much of the company’s
success do you attribute to its use of IT and/or the company’s early
adoption of IT into their business processes? Is it used to enhance or
differentiate their product, reduce costs, or both?
- Leadership: Who are/were
the key leaders of the company? What decisions did these leaders make,
in particular decisions relating to the deployment of IT? What
opportunities did they identify that helped make their company what it
- Market and Financial Performance:
What is the company’s revenue and profit, and how has it evolved over
the years? How does the company’s performance compare to its
competitors? You may also want to include other industry specific
measures of performances, like cost per available seat mile (CASM) for
airlines or sales per square foot for retailers. Is the company more or
less indebted than its peers? For example, you can look at the ratio
between Total Liabilities and Shareholder equity on the company's
balance sheet as one measure, and compare it to that of competitors. Note:
It is not sufficient to just provide stock price data of your company
without investigating some of the other performance metrics mentioned
- Trajectory: If the
company successfully used information systems in its past, has it
continued to innovate and improve up until today? Is the company
effectively postured for the future?
The business analysis paper will be done by team of about 4 people with
the same grade given to all members of the team. There will be an
opportunity during the final ecam for team members to give feedback on
how their teammates contributed, and this feedback may be used to
adjust the grades.
The paper will be assessed using the following criteria:
You will be marked down a lot if you fail to cite your sources in the
body of the text! Please read this guide on citing sources properly.
- How well does it address the questions listed above? Does the
paper incorporate enough information about the company to answer the
questions fully? Are the arguments presented in the paper persuasive
and supported by facts? Are enough sources cited?
- Is the analysis presented yours (the students’) or is it all
copied from other sources? Are facts and statements taken from other
sources properly cited?
- Is the paper organized in a coherent fashion? Could the paper be more persuasive if it were organized differently?
- Did the paper cite sources correctly?
Did the paper cite print sources and not just Internet sources? Please cite at least 5 print sources in your paper. If your article appears online and in print, cite the print version.
The paper will not be judged by its length, but rather by its content.
However, it would be difficult to address adequately all of the
relevant questions in less than 12 pages.
- Preference Submission Due 1/17:
The business paper will be done in teams of about four people. You are
encouraged to form your own groups, but ideally the groups should have
a mix of engineering and non-engineering students, as well as a mix of
students with different levels of experience. As
a group, turn the names of the people in your group, as well as a
ranked list of company choices (#1 is your first choice, #2 is your
second choice, etc.) that you would like to study in your project. At least two of the companies on your list should be taken from the following preferred list:
- Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Charles Schwab, Home Depot, Netflix, Amazon
- Pick companies for which information systems played a key role.
If you do not find enough classmates to form a group of 4, turn in your
company preferences as an individual or small group and we will pair
you with other students to form a complete group. The final assignment
of teams and companies will be done by the instructor and TAs.
- Avoid companies that are especially spread over multiple
industries, as this will make writing a good paper much more
complicated. In particular avoid choices like Apple, HP, IBM, and
Google.If you write about Amazon, keep the focus on its online retail business and not the web services business.
- Project Proposal Due 2/2:
Turn in a 2-3 page proposal for your project. You should discuss what
you plan to include in your paper, and how you plan to organize it. You
should have done some research by this point, meaning that you know
some of the principal facts about the company and have some idea of
what you would like to include in your final paper. This is an
opportunity for feedback before the final paper is due, so put some
thought into your proposal. You should also list some of the references
you plan to cite in the final paper.
- Project First Draft Due 2/28:
This should be a draft of your final paper. The closer you can make it
to the final product, the more the instructors will be able to give you
feedback to improve your paper for the final version.
Cite Sources Properly:
- Project Final Paper Due 3/15.
need to let your readers know where you got your information, so please cite sources and facts in the body of your paper properly. Using the ideas or words of
another author is plagiarism.
the business paper you do not need to follow a particular style, but be consistent
in whichever format you do select.
These are style manuals you might find useful to write your
And this is a Guide on Plagiarism: