Artisans Gallery and Gifts Situation Analysis
due Wednesday, 27 NOV

Project Objective:

The report is to be a situation analysis for our client, Artisans Gallery and Gifts.  Artisans Gallery is a place for artisans to meet, to work on projects, to display finished projects, and to sell finished projects.  The Gallery has been open for about 16 months and has attracted many artisans, has many items on display, and has made sales to customers who have come from far away.  Some effort has been invested into various forms of advertising, but it is not clear if these efforts are the best strategy for moving past the initial product launch phase.  We have been asked to conduct a more formal analysis of the Gallery to formulate a marketing strategy and tactical implementation for moving ahead in the future.  The summer MBA class did this same analysis, resulting in a little better understanding of the situation and some changes made at the gallery.  We are now doing a followup to that analysis. 

Keep in mind that the Gallery consists of a product portfolio, not just one single product.  Also keep in mind that we are concerned about meeting the needs and wants of a variety of constituents, not just those of the buyers of artisan creations.  Be sure that your report is not simply a list of recommended tactics; it must be an analysis of internal and external constraints that leads to a strategy followed by suggestions for tactical implementation of that strategy.

Some Important Rules:

Please take special precautions if you discuss this project with anyone outside of the class.  Some information that is distributed or discussed in class might be confidential.  Equally important, we do not want anyone outside of the class to be misled by our activities.  We must be especially careful that anyone outside of our class understands that this is a learning exercise for the class and that this is not otherwise an official undertaking of the university.  Please exercise restraint when expressing personal opinions about project issues outside of our class meetings.

For a variety of reasons, you are prohibited from conducting primary research excepting some kinds of observational research that would not reveal the nature of our project.  This has caused serious enough problems in the past that I will immediately drop you from the course if I have reason to suspect that you have interviewed or surveyed other organizations, business leaders, prospective customers, etc.  Engaging in these activities could, for example, jeopardize our relationships with university clients, could jeopardize relationships with university donors, and if running surveys, could jeopardize federal funding that our institution receives.

You are, however, expected to do outside secondary research for this project.  This could include, for example, finding demographic information that is related to estimating the size and location of potential target markets, finding information regarding industry trends, and such.  Keep copies of all information that you find because you will be required to cite all sources of information in your final report. 

Generic Report Structure:

The attached generic outline might provide some guidance with regard to writing an environmental analysis in general, but strict adherence to this outline is not expected where not appropriate for our client's project.  This is not a creative writing assignment; it is a technical writing assignment.  Length is expected to be no more than about 25 pages of text (exclusive of appendices).

All reports must have some sort of introduction that explains the nature, focus, and objective of the report to the reader.  The body of all reports must in some way address opportunities and threats in the environment and address the strengths and weaknesses of our client, client resources, or client product.  All reports must also end with some sort of recommendation.  That is, the report should lead to some speculation regarding the outlook for our client organization or product, the strategic direction that should be set for the organization or product, and some suggestions regarding how it is that the organization could go about heading in this direction.

Although some sort of strategic recommendation is required, most of the text of the report will be associated with a scan and assessment of the current environment that logically leads to a strategic recommendation.  You should suggest some elements of tactical implementation, but this must be very limited and absolutely must follow from logical development in the report.  A report that focuses on a list of tactical recommendations in absence of an environmental analysis that leads to a singular strategic recommendation is a candidate for a failing grade; without taking this course, anyone can "shoot from the hip" to create a laundry list of suggestions in absence of analysis.

The Assignment:

  1. Students will work in teams of about five members. 

  2. This is a real world assignment.  The report will be scored in large part on the professor's perception of the usefulness and acceptability of the report to the real client within the framework that this is to be a situation analysis.  A common problem is that students tend to include irrelevant and inappropriate material in a report to show evidence that some particular concept has been learned in the course.  Note that a minimal requirement is that reports be relatively free of problems of grammar, spelling, typing, and such.  Do not fabricate material for the sake of creating a report.  Remember that this is not a creative writing assignment but is a technical writing assignment.

  3. The exact format of the finished report is of the team's own choosing.  Although a general format for a situation analysis is attached for guidance, it is unlikely that you could follow this exactly.  HOWEVER, the attached outline does cover the major issues that are often important in a marketing situation analysis; whatever format that you choose must be appropriate for this assignment.  Other published report formats commonly called "situation analysis," "market analysis," "environmental analysis," "business plan," and such might or might not be appropriate and acceptable.  (Note that your orientation must be associated with discussions from our classes; many software applications and online examples are dangerously bad and would receive a failing grade in this course.)  Although elements of the SWOT idea must be in your analysis, avoid using it as a way to format your final report; reports written in a linear SWOT format are generally confusing at best, nonsensical and unpersuasive at worst.  No two finished reports would be the same, and it is unlikely that a report could ever be constructed to exactly fit an imposed outline.

  4. ALL facts in the report must be substantiated except those that are obviously common knowledge.  This necessarily requires that the source of information be cited (footnoted).  Watch for statements that lend themselves to red-ink comments such as, "says who" or "I disagree."  For example, if a statement is made that the local economy is likely to get better or worse over the next five years, then the report MUST indicate the source of this expectation.  Additionally, related questions associated with substantiating this statement might have to be answered, e.g., Who expects this?  How did this person or organization or publication arrive at this expectation?  How many others agree with this expectation?  How many others disagree?  If the speculation is your own, be sure that it is substantiated with charts, graphs, tables, or figures that indicate the source of the information contained therein.

  5. Information sources must be as close to the original source as possible.  For example, reporting population statistics that you found on a Chamber of Commerce or real estate agency Web site is not appropriate in a professional report and these third-party compilations are very often in error.  Such demographics, for example, are easily obtained directly from Census Bureau and you have absolutely no excuses for not citing directly to an exact page at this original source.

  6. You are required to cite all sources of information.  A less obtrusive method of citing in a business report is to list the references at the end of the report in a numbered list: List all sources at the end of the report in alphabetical order.  Number them in this order, starting the list with number 1.  Whenever a statement is made that must reference that source, indicate the source by a number in parentheses after the statement, like this (12).  Note that the first time in a report that a source is referenced, the number is not necessarily (1), the second is not necessarily (2), etc.  Also note that the same source may appear multiple times in the same report, like this (23).  If several sources support the same statement, they should all be included like this (4, 7, 12, 15); a greater number of sources often strengthens an assertion.  If several statements are made in the same paragraph that use the same source, list that source only once after all such statements within a single paragraph.  That is, do not source this (8) and this again (8) for two separate issues that are included in the same statement.

  7. If you cite information that was obtained from a Web site, your reference list must provide a complete URL to the exact page that you cite.  Since Web pages sometimes disappear, you must also indicate the date on which you accessed the page.  (Assume that I WILL look up those references to verify information and that I will seek out cached and archived pages if I cannot find them.  The more work you make for me, the lower your grade.)  For more information on citing Web sources, see a recent style manual such as APA - this information can be found online.

  8. Please do not use any sort of report folders; use plain white paper with a single staple in the top left corner.


SUGGESTED COMPONENTS OF A SITUATION ANALYSIS

  1. Introduction and Overview

    • focus of the report
    • objective of the client
    • objective of the report
    • brief summary of the report

  2. Assessment of Organizational Resources, Strengths, and Weaknesses

    • mission and objectives
    • portfolio analysis
    • resources and competencies
    • organizational weaknesses

  3. Assessment of External Environmental Opportunities and Threats

    • demographic
    • sociocultural
    • economic
    • technological
    • competitive
    • political
    • legal and regulatory
    • etc.

  4. Product-level Assessment

    • Consumer/customer Assessment

      • who buys?
      • why do buyers buy?
      • how do buyers make choices?
      • what are bases for market segmentation?
      • what are potential target markets?

    • Competitor Assessment

      • who are direct competitors?
      • who are indirect competitors?
      • what is the likelihood of new competition?
      • what is the intensity of competition?
      • what are competitors' advantages and disadvantages?

    • Market measurement

      • estimate market potential
      • determine potential of each geographic area
      • assess trends
      • make forecasts

  5. Summary and Recommendations

    • define opportunities and threats
    • define strengths and weaknesses
    • suggest objectives or future direction
    • suggest strategy for reaching objectives
    • suggest tactics to implement strategy

Adapted from Guiltinan and Paul (1990), Marketing Management: Strategies and Programs, New York: McGraw-Hill.