BA 301 Research & Analysis of Business Problems: Identify a Problem

Research Tips

Search the news: any obvious/reported problems, scandals, challenges, etc.? These can be problems or symptoms of a deeper problem. 

Problems might not be obvious. Read up on the company, its competitors, the industry it operates in, and the broader environment. Problems will likely emerge as you gain a comprehensive and holistic view of the context and the current position the company is in.

Make comparisons: 

  • Compare your company with itself: changes over the past few years? 
  • Compare your company with its competitors: is it falling behind in any areas?
  • Compare your company against the industry: industry-wide problems, missed opportunities? 
  • Compare your company against the broader environment: broader social economic forces/trends at work?

Approach your analysis from two aspects: what the company says about itself, and how other stakeholders view the company

Consult a variety of sourcessynthesize the findings, and draw your own conclusion.

The company's point of view

Several sections of a public company's website are especially useful for learning about the company's "story": * specific section names might vary on different sites; some companies may not have a mission or vision statement per se, but you can still get an idea from how they describe what they do and what they believe in, etc.)

About: history, strategies, missions, visions, values, etc..-> Is the reality aligned with the proclaimed missions/visions/values?

Investor Relations: financials, SEC filings, annual reports, corporate social responsibility (or sustainability) reports, strategies, etc.. -> What did the company say in their annual report or CSR/sustainability report (if available)? Read the 10-K, esp. the Risk Factors and MD&A sections that discussed possible threats or vulnerabilities, as well as current performance and issues. How did company executives respond to questions at an earnings call?

Press releases: usually listed under "press", "news", or "media" -> Possible topics or keywords you can use? If there is a current scandal/crisis, how are they responding to it? 

What are others saying about this company?

Find info from other stakeholders like: analysts (stock/investment analysts, industry experts), journalists, academics, industry associations, government agencies (e.g., regulatory bodies), advocacy groups, competitors, customers. Try the following:

Company profiles. business description, news and other articles, court cases, etc.. Some library databases have SWOT analysis on select companies. The W - weaknesses and T - threats are current and potential problems.

Industry profiles and consumer information.  Every company is subject to risks in its industry (e.g., regulatory changes, social/demographic trends, technological advances, competition, etc.). Is your company adapting to these changes?

Environmental scan: are there broader economic, social, political, technological, and cultural factors that the company is not addressing? 

Articles: articles from trade publications, business magazines, newspapers, etc.. What are people saying about this company?