John Molson Undergraduate Case Competition Concordia University Montreal, Canada
A team of four students from B.Sc. Business & Law and B.Sc. Business & Management- Georgina Hughes, Roisin Power, Serena Gallagher and Jack Daly – represented DIT at the 9th edition of this the largest undergraduate case competition in the world.
This maintains the College of Business’s very proud tradition of qualifying to participate in every edition since the competition was first held in 2009 – one of only three schools with this distinction – along with Concordia University (the hosts) and the University of South Carolina.
This year, our participation was again, in part enabled by very generous support and sponsorship from Accenture.
The format of the competition is such that each school competes heads up against each other school in the division (4 teams) over the first three days of competition. Each school has three hours to analyse a case study on a company and prepare a PowerPoint presentation of 20 minute duration prior to making that presentation immediately thereafter to a panel of judges. The students have no access to books, notes or internet during this period and must design the PowerPoint entirely from scratch. They compete for a maximum of 11 points each time – the potential results are 11-4, 10-5, 9-6 or 8-7. In other words the maximum a team can attain over these first three rounds / days is 33 points and the minimum is 12 points. The final round i.e. the research round is carried out over a 24 hour period during which teams do have access to the internet and in this round all for teams compete against each-other for 25, 30, 35 or 40 points. The top team in each division after these four grueling rounds progress to the Grand Final.
Day 1 – Opening Ceremony and Divisional Draw
This evening, teams, coaches, organising committee members, Concordia faculty and competition sponsors all attended the opening ceremony and divisional draw at 8pm. The DIT team just made it on time … having had their original connecting flight from New York to Montreal cancelled at the last minute. When it came time for DIT to draw their division number, the President of the Committee announced “DIT haven’t arrived yet” and requested our team ambassador to do the honours. However we had arrived … just at that moment- in our Accenture hoodies … and to great cheers of welcome, we shouted “we are here”!
And so on to what everyone had been waiting for – the draw to decide divisional opponents. The 24 selected schools were drawn into six divisions of four schools. DIT were drawn against reigning 2016 Champions, Queensland University of Technology, 2016 runners up the National University of Singapore and the University of Muenster, Germany. A very tough group!
Day 2 – Round 1
And so it begins! After three months of team selection and preparation, with significant input from DIT faculty, previous DIT JMUCC participants and Accenture Consultants – most especially Katie Brennan and Darragh Smyth, rehearsals are over and the action begins. Against competition kingpins – the National University of Singapore. The case today is on Ardenne – a Canadian fashion retailer with intentions to leverage their omni channel and to expand to the US. The guys did a great job presenting their analysis, issue prioritisation, options evaluation and recommendations. The panel of five judges had only one criticism – perhaps too much focus on option evaluation including critique of rejected options. So a key lesson here for tomorrow.
Anyway – the decision: a one point win for NUS 8:7. Disappointed. But unbowed and even more determined to win Round 2.
Day 3 – Round 2
Today the opponents are reigning champions – Queensland University of Technology. The case was on Mwana Canada – a Montreal headquartered Canadian not for profit / charity for family support in the Congo. Totally unexpected – the first time a not for profit organisation has come up at JMUCC in 9 years. The key Issues were volunteer recruitment & retention and fundraising. QUT did a cracking job and DIT were right up against it as they entered the presentation room. But … a brilliant analysis and extremely creative recommendations would be enough according to many in the audience. But it is the judges’ – including the founder of Mwana Canada – opinions that count
And so the long anxious wait until judge’s feedback. And … a win for DIT over QUT on a 9-6 score line. And fabulous feedback from the judges … giving DIT great confidence ahead of the final 3 hour round.
Day 4 – Round 3
The Division is really tight going into this the third 3 hour round. NUS Lead on 17 points, DIT lie second on 16 points, QUT have 15 points and Muenster, today’s opponents, have 12 points.
Today’s case was on Buffalo Stationary – a Canadian Stationary company looking for a short term (6-12 months) sales growth strategy.
And … another win for DIT – beating the rapidly improving University of Muenster 8-7. This result and score line in tandem with QUT beating NUS today means DIT top the division going into the 24 hour round on Friday – Saturday. However the division is so tight that in effect whichever school wins that 24 hour round progresses to Grand Final on Saturday afternoon.
This is the fifth year in a row that DIT has lead their division going into this the final 24 hour Round. But this is never a guarantee of success. So …. nothing to get excited about … for now at least.
And now, ahead of tomorrow’s rest day – a gala party in the John Molsen Brewery in Old Town Montreal. Time to dress up and chill down!
Day 5 – Recovery Day
And boy does everyone need it!
Day 6/7– Round 4 – the 24 Hour Research Round
Nerve-wracking for the 24 coaches … who have had no contact whatever with their team since commencement of the 24 hour round. And all the more so as the news coming back to us from the Organising Committee is that all teams are finding the 24 Hour Case extremely challenging. We are not told what the company is. Nor the sector. We place small wagers among ourselves as to what it might be. Some of the competition sponsor companies are popular picks – Sun Life Financial, RBC, CN, Brother, IBM or would they really throw a curveball and have Ardenne, Mwana or Bufallo again? Or as in previous years have a silent sponsor as the focus of the 24 hour round?
So 24 hours later … down to the presentations in the Sheraton Hotel to find out!
It is Agripur – a Canadian Agri Co-Operative with CAD$200m to invest in agri sector start ups. The task: to identify such startups to invest in. A curve-ball for sure. A non traditional case and a total surprise.
Queensland are up first. Good job. Some quite interesting suggestions here.
And now Muenster. A very different set of companies suggested here.
Now it is DIT. Wow – the very best set of 24 hour round ppt slides many in the audience have ever seen. A perfect presentation in terms of timing and delivery too. Feeling a little confident. But it’s only NUS up next!
Ahh … it’s going to be close between DIT and NUS for the win. NUS have just done a great job identifying and evaluating startups.
So now the agonizing wait. And the announcement of the divisional winners – Concordia University, University of Florida, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Pan American University, University of New South Wales and … NUS!
Heartbreaking. During feedback Judges said “it was a fraction” – they “debated long and hard about who to deem the winners”. On balance good for team to know they were so close. But certainly bittersweet.
Fast forward now to Announcement of 1st, 2nd and 3rd In the Grand Final at the Closing Gala Dinner. 3rd – Concordia, 2nd – NUS, 1st Florida. So … NUS’s presentation which bettered DIT was deemed second best overall in Grand Final. Again – bittersweet.
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In summary, great experience, great challenge, great learning, great networking, great performances. Georgina, Roisin, Serena and Jack wonderful ambassadors for DIT College of Business. Roll on JMUCC 2018.