New and sustainable strategies for practical problems: students’ consultancy projects
Teams of management students applying their new skills to real business challenges as part of their master programme have given all kinds of businesses a boost in their activities. One of the teams was judged to be a winner – after giving an Amsterdam-based start-up business valuable new insights for its go-to-market strategy for a self-help app. The Consultancy Project every June is part of the MScBA Master in Management (MiM) at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).
This year’s student teams took part in an internal competition for the MiM Consultancy Project at RSM. The master programme is designed to add management skills at master level to students’ existing specialist bachelor knowledge. During the consultancy project, students are asked to develop recommendations for a real business’s problem, and are guided by an RSM academic and a coach from the company.
Welcomed by participating companies
A dozen teams took up the challenge presented by businesses; the students’ involvement is welcomed by participating companies every year because of their open approach and enthusiasm in finding new and sustainable strategies for practical problems. Participating companies included Ahold Delhaize, Deltalinqs, Nuon Vattenfall, Health Leads, Liberty Global, Prime Ventures, Unilever, and others. The international teams of students represented a variety of backgrounds.
They were judged by a jury comprising Gabi Helfert (executive director at RSM), Arri Pauw (senior consultant at Genesis consulting) and Roland Teixeira de Mattos (former senior executive at GE; interim executive at Eneco Wind). They worked on a project from Health Leads, a start-up in Amsterdam that has developed a digital therapeutic smartphone app to help people take control of lower back pain and regain normal life. The app, selfBACK is an evidence-based system of decision support for the self-management of low back pain. The project is backed by the €5 million Horizon2020 fund and it worked on by six universities across Europe. Each member of the team won an RSM sweater.
Health Leads partner Marco Pieterse said that the students’ consultancy resulted in a creative and thorough analysis of its selfBack business plan, including the financial details, and led to new insights into a new strategy to take the app to market. “They skilfully determined and limited the scope of the assignment to the go-to-market strategy. After that they were flexible to additional requests such as pricing strategy and comparables.” The students developed an 'optioneering’ approach, which is a qualitative evaluation of the target market. They applied pricing hypotheses and evaluated Health Leads’ existing business plan and financial model. Health Leads was impressed with the students’ initiative to interview other businesses in the market to confirm assumptions about the go-to-market strategy before developing a plan to implement it. “The students were highly responsive to the requirements that we discussed at the start of the project. They developed excellent presentations containing data visualisations which we can present to our investors,” said Marco Pieterse. “This was our second experience with an RSM team, and it had an excellent outcome.”
Telecoms, banking and food sales
Other teams worked on completely different problems for other businesses, such as developing new business models for a telecom provider – specifically looking for new ideas from other fields; and ideas for improving and testing initiatives for sustainability for a banking business. Other teams: successfully interpreted big data from food sales; another team turned implicit knowledge (from incidental activities) into explicit rules for private equity investment decisions; and another team developed a recommendation for scaling-up a start-up’s new product by contacting and approaching a lot of stakeholders.
The assignments the student teams were set included investigating how private equity firms select potential investing targets; how the Port of Rotterdam’s chemical industry is perceived by people considering working for the firms there; and potential business models for consultancy activities of the future.
Learning and maturing
Each year, MiM students say they learn a lot during the Consultancy Project, particularly how to narrow down the business problem at hand into realistic pieces while still taking into account all internal and external stakeholders. Students are also urged to show a proactive attitude and take the initiative to talk to relevant parties in the field; it’s a maturing process.
The jury appreciated the initiatives that all the teams took and how they leveraged the diversity of respondents, methods of data collection, and the proactive attitude of the team members to gain deep insights and a thorough understanding of the companies’ needs. The jury was also impressed with the completeness of the recommendations: from developing personas for targeting the sales effort and including strategic steps for the future.
RSM’s MScBA Master in Management is a challenging 12-month programme that provides an intense experience in order to develop bachelor graduates with impressive knowledge from their specialised bachelor studies into business professionals, using interactive classroom sessions and intensive team assignments. Participants find that fellow students bring their own experiences with them, transforming the programme into a potent educational experience.
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.
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