This consultancy project constitutes the largest piece of assessment undertaken by MBA students at Cranfield School of Management. It is a live project, designed to provide students with the opportunity to carry out real consultancy for a sponsor organisation. Such an organisation is expected to have a specific issue which needs to be solved or has, alternatively, identified an opportunity for development. This initiative should therefore be beneficial to both the organisation and students. Students are expected to submit a report with key recommendations to the organisation and, in the meantime, they should develop their knowledge in the relevant field and their consultancy skills.

The Cranfield MBA students are experienced individuals, with an average work experience of at least 7 years, some with a consultancy background. They are an international and diverse cohort – these individuals come from different parts of the world, spanning across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, North and South America and have varied educational and professional backgrounds. They generally undertake the Cranfield MBA with the aspiration of advancing their careers and become senior managers or, in some cases, entrepreneurs.

Students are expected to incorporate their knowledge, as well as the skills and learning they have assimilated throughout the MBA programme, in their consultancy project. Decision Making and Data Analytics (DMDA), the module that serves as an umbrella to this project, provides the students with an important toolkit. Students are taught about how data should be collected, techniques used to analyse them as well as how results should be presented and recommendations uncovered from the research carried out. The module also provides individuals with workshops, designed to advance  their consultancy skills.

Aims of the DMDA module

In the current competitive environment, it is vital that managers are able to understand the relationships between different business variables in order to appreciate the risks associated with their actions. It is also important that they are able to forecast business trends and to optimise their business strategies, given the level of uncertainty and time constraints they continuously face.

This course aims to provide students with the ability to critically examine existing literature which can underpin the decision-making process and also to provide students with the skills to collect, process, analyse and present relevant data that support their decisions. In addition, the module also provides a platform which helps students engage with internal or external clients, undertake a consultancy project and, consequently, be able to make coherent and compelling recommendations to senior managers.

Intended Learning Outcomes of DMDA

On completion of the module, the students should be able to:

  • Select and make use of appropriate quantitative and/or qualitative techniques for the analysis of business issues
  • Use frameworks and analytical tools to structure analysis and recommendations which are supported by data in a consultancy engagement
  • Understand how to build effective internal and external client  relationships              
  • Present key findings effectively from a consultancy project to senior managers, ensuring that substantive recommendations are developed as a result of competent data collection and analysis.

Module Syllabus/Content

1. The principles of management research:

  • Strategies
  • Research designs
  • Planning a management project and formulating management questions
  • Using literature to inform the research processes

2. The nature of quantitative analysis:

  • Sampling
  • Structured interviews and questionnaires
  • Statistical analysis of data and probability theory
  • Correlation and regression analysis
  • Time series analysis
  • Cluster analysis

3. The nature of qualitative analysis:

  • Ethnography and participant observation
  • Semi-structured interviews and focus groups
  • Mixed methods project: breaking down the quantitative/qualitative divide

4. The analysis of business processes in the context of:

  • Business analysis tools which enable the identification of specific opportunities aligned to strategic goals
  • Frameworks to assist students in identifying areas to improve performance

5. consultancy skills as pivotal in the success of a consultancy project:

  • Principles of building strong relationships with clients and the benefits of earning trust
  • Key components on how to give advice
  • Attitude(s) of an effective consultant
  • Framing the issue(s)
  • Envisioning an alternate reality
  • Process versus expert consultant roles

6. Key stages in writing up a management project and presenting recommendations

consultancy Project general guidelines

  • The project should be carried out in learning teams (groups of 5 – 6 MBA students)
  • There are several stages to this project, including:

    1) Clinic sessions (February and March)
    2) Informal presentations (last week of April)
    3) Formal, assessed presentations (end of May)

        - maximum 10 slides
        - 15 minutes presentation
        - 10 minutes discussion

    4) Final report (end of June)

       - 8,000 to 10,000 words)

Important steps to consider in the development of the Management Project

  • Identify management area/field and sponsor
  • Negotiate access and schedule meetings with sponsor organisation
  • Formulate research question in agreement with sponsor and Cranfield supervisor
  • Formulate research strategy
  • Select methods/techniques required to be used in the consultancy project
  • Write research proposal
  • Literature review
  • Data collection
  • Data Analysis/Key findings
  • Recommendations to the sponsor organisation

Throughout the process, it is important that students ensure continuous liaison with the sponsor organisation, manage sponsor expectations and agree plan/schedule of meetings.

If you have any queries regarding the Cranfield MBA consultancy project initiative or would like to discuss an opportunity in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact me. My details are below.

Professor Catarina Figueira
Head, Economic Policy & Performance Group
Professor of Applied Economics and Policy
Cranfield School of Management
Cranfield University
Cranfield, Bedfordshire MK43 0AL
T: 01234 751122
F: 01234 753621
Skype: cat.figueira1