Global Part Time MBA: Group project case study

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Client: Salesforce.com
Business area: cloud computing
Students:

  • Matt Carroll, Senior Manager, Accenture, UK
  • Sebastian Dietze, Manager, Sales & Sponsor Management, ATP Tour, Inc
  • M. Melissa Forest, Project Controls Director, URENCO, USA
  • Ollie East, Consultant, ZS Associates, Chigaco, USA
  • Daniel Chu, IT FP&A Lead, Asurion

Class: Global Part-time MBA Class of 2014

What was the business issue?
“Global cloud computing company Salesforce.com provides bespoke software solutions to clients all over the world. Its team of developers works closely with clients to implement software and provide training. The company was looking to expand its base of developers by teaching unemployed job seekers the skills to deliver client training. This would contribute to Salesforce.com’s social mission while enabling the company to service more clients.”

What were the project objectives?
“The project aimed to recommend a self-sustaining business model that would allow Salesforce.com to enable and support the re-integration of unemployed job-seekers into the labour market, by enhancing their IT and cloud capabilities.”

How was the project carried out?
“The project team included five members based all over the world: Matt Carroll (UK), Melissa M. Forest (USA), Oliver East (Hong Kong), Sebastian Dietze (UK) and Daniel Chu (Japan). Working together, the team:
•    Gained a thorough understanding of  the client’s requirements by conducting interviews with employees from Salesforce.com and the Salesforce.com Foundation (the company’s not-for-profit initiative which donates 1% of the company’s resources to support organizations that are working to “make the world a better place”)
•    Agreed a project plan, assigning specific tasks to each team member
•    Conducted in-depth research into delivery mechanisms, including cloud and e-learning models
•    Analysed large quantities of unemployment data to identify target markets for initial deployment of the training programme
•    Analysed company forecast data to understand KPIs and break-even targets
•    Held interviews with senior directors at blue-chip, small and medium-sized companies within the industry, to understand appetite from end-users and vendors for skilled training programmes
•    Assessed the impact of the training programme on the Salesforce.com brand
•    Formulated recommendations, produced a final report and presented to Salesforce.com
•    face-to-face and via audio conference.”

What were the findings?
“The ideal target market was identified as young graduates that would otherwise be unemployed. The group identified that Salesforce.com’s existing developer training programmes could be leveraged for this project. The team also found that Salesforce.com bases its philanthropic activities on the traditional CSR concept, which is defined as “voluntary actions to promote and pursue social goals that extend beyond their legal responsibilities … beyond the corporation’s immediate financial interest” (Carroll, 1991). It then identified that a relatively new concept – Creating Shared Value (CSV) – would be a better fit for what Salesforce.com was trying to achieve. CSV “creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges through business, thus also creating economic value (Porter & Kramer, 2011).”

What were the recommendations and what implications will they have for the business (e.g. practical, social)?
“The team presented recommendations for a self-sustaining business model that enables Salesforce.com to increase its developer base by teaching unemployed graduates to deliver software training, thus increasing its capacity to sell customised solutions.

“The shared value model creates revenue opportunities for Salesforce.com.com (supporting the employees and shareholders of Salesforce.com), while also contributing to society and improving the community by integrating the unemployed. This aligns with the mission of the Salesforce.com Foundation, ‘to leverage Salesforce.com’s people, technology and resources to help improve communities throughout the world’. It also expands Salesforce.com’s concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to a model of Creating Shared Value (CSV).

“The recommended framework enables training to be provided to clients face-to-face or through the cloud, and includes an e-Portal that connects Salesforce.com’s customers with qualified trainers.”

What was the biggest challenge?
“Undertaking market research in international markets. Various methods were used, including approaching personal and business contacts, and social media. However, it is recommended that additional research is performed ‘on the ground’ in the selected market to validate some of the secondary research findings and assumptions made.”

How did you apply your Global MBA learnings to this project?
“Several academic models were applied and adapted to analyse Salesforce.com’s market position and research the proposed programme’s chances of success.”

How has taking part in this project benefited you / your approach to business?
“It enabled us to work as a global team applying principles and knowledge gained through the MBA to deliver client value in a live project environment.”

What was original about your project?
“The project gave us the opportunity to not only work on a typical strategic and CSR project, but one that needed to serve both social and business objectives. Through our research, we could not identify any similar existing projects based on the CSV concept.”

How did you find working as part of a multinational team?
“The team had previously worked together during the MBA journey (and so had endured the forming, storming, norming phases of group development). This meant we could hit the ground running to maximise performance. Naturally, the team had challenges given the geographical situation (Japan, Hong Kong, England and USA). We did have ‘disagreements’, especially on the style of writing and the structure of the final report, however we were committed to one shared end goal as team mates and steered the project in the right direction with weekly and, towards the end, daily Skype conference calls.”

Did your supervisor add value and how?
“Our supervisor, Jon Beck, was a great support to the team, providing guidance on the project direction with his business insights, and encouragement to inject academic literature and findings into the business solution. Not only did he constructively criticise our work, he also understood how to motivate each team member.”

How would you sum up your Global MBA experience?
“The team thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience: the accessibility to academic and business staff, the networking opportunities and the learnings, especially in workshops where people from a multitude of different industries, cultures and backgrounds met to discuss and resolve case study problems. The capstone was the final project in the last six months of the MBA. The team has come away from the MBA with greater business acumen, some valuable learnings and some great friendships.”

“The Global MBA graduates from MBS came in as high calibre consultants. They understood the problem quickly and engaged effectively with the Salesforce.com team, presenting a high-quality solution that provided useful insights which will be taken on board to execute the project.”
Arsenio Otero
Vice President – Sales Strategy and Sales Development, EMEA
Salesforce.com  

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Manchester Business School has a global reputation for innovative and influential teaching and research, which impacts business on a local, national and international level. We call this Original Thinking Applied.

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