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2012 Trustees of Boston University.

Materials contained within this course are subject to copyright


CS782 Assignment No. 1
This week, you are exploring business models and competitive strategies as a
prelude to studying the role and functioning of IT. Choose a for-profit business, with
at least 10 employees that you know reasonably well or one where you can obtain
reasonably detailed information. If need be, you can create a fictitious organization.
Choose in such a way that you will be able answer the questions posed below very
effectively. Later in the course, we will return to the business example that you
Its acceptable if you work with or work for the company; just make sure that
you do not disclose proprietary information.
You may learn more if you pick a company which does not dominate its
industry, and where there are a fair number of competitors.
If you dont know a candidate company to select, retail is often a good
choice; Lowes, Home Depot, or Best Buy for example.
If you need to create a fictitious organization, please speak with your
facilitator about this first.
Write the following five sections about the company you chose in at most 10 pages of
12-point type. You may follow this with appendices if you wish. Appendices will be
read only as needed by the reader and the evaluation is not based upon them.
Respond to the bulleted points where relevant and use your judgment as to their
relative importance for the business that you have selected.
1. Business Model: Describe key aspects of its business model.

Keeping the following questions in mind will help your response.
What's the name of the company, how large is it, what industry
segment is it in, and what does the company do?
Is the company primarily a product or a service business, or some
kind of hybrid?
What are its offerings (i.e. its products and/or services)? What is
its market position? What are its value propositions (perhaps offer-
How does the business earn revenue (including the pricing of its
offerings) and make a profit?
What other features of its market model, operational model, or
financial model are significant, unusual, or distinctive?
Does the organization follow a cloud computing model? Are there
aspects of those models in the organization that you choose?

2012 Trustees of Boston University. Materials contained within this course are subject to copyright

2. Competitive Forces and Challenges: Consider each of Porter's five
Competitive Forces. For each of the five forces, list and describe the
relevant actual competitive challenges (if any) that the company faces (or is
likely to face soon). Also list and describe competitive challenges the
company faces (or is likely to face soon) as a result of other changes in the
business environment (e.g. economic, regulatory, etc.)

3. Competitive Strategies: For the most significant competitive
forces/challenges that the company faces, describe the company's
competitive strategies for addressing that challenge. If you are unsure, you
can discuss how the company has (or similar companies have) addressed that
challenge in the past, or how you believe it should address the challenge.
What approach will the organization need to take in order to sustain an
advantage; or will it need to change approaches? Indicate whether you
believe the strategy will work or not and why.

4. Business Model Evolution: Discuss any other ideas you have for how the
company's business model could evolve, and what might drive the business
to evolve in that way:
How might the company enhance its products and services, and
How might the organization improve internal processes to become
more efficient or effective?
How might the company expand into new related products and
services, new territories, or new market segments, and why?
How might the company extend into new lines of business or new
business models? Why would they do so? (Include mostly non-e-
commerce initiatives if possible)
5. Best IT-Supported Proposal: Identify the best proposed idea you
have listed in Section 4 above that can also be supported by IT in a
substantial way. For that proposal, provide the following:
Justification: Explain why you believe this is a
particularly good proposal -- i.e. how and why will it
enable the company to more effectively compete?
Role of IT: Describe the most essential ways in which IT
could be used to support the proposal.
You may find it useful to first perform a PEST analysis to guide your overall

2012 Trustees of Boston University. Materials contained within this course are subject to copyright

We dont expect you to be a business genius. What we do expect is that you
fully appreciate the challenges of business and how IT has to be supportive of
Keep the evaluation criteria in mind as described in the syllabus. End with a list
of references following the standard reference format, as described in References
and Citations document.

Ask Your Facilitator Discussion Board if you have any questions regarding the
objectives of the assignment or how to approach the assignment.

Save your assignment as LastnameFirstname_assign1.doc and submit it in the
Assignments section of the course.
This assignment is an edited form of one by Ellis Cohen.