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Course Project: Presentation and Report

CURRENTLY UNDER REVISION.
 
About the Project

The purpose of the course project is to evaluate an existing foreign direct investment project for one of the three companies in one of three corresponding target countries. Detailed assignments and a schedule for the presentation appear on the course syllabus, along with information on how to sign up for a course project.

The intended audience for the presentation and report is the senior management of the company. The objective of the presentation is to critically assess the existing operation in the given location and make a recommendation to (i) expand, (ii) continue as is, or (iii) discontinue the current operation. Good presentations combine research on the company, the target countries (including any partners if applicable), and the industry. Your goal is to evaluate whether or not the FDI location is a good fit for the company and its objectives---and the fit may change over time as conditions change. You should make a compelling case for options (i), (ii) or (iii) guided by the facts and your research. If you recommend expansion, you should explain how and where and---if applicable---with which partner; if you recommend exit, you should explain why and suggest a feasible exit strategy; and if you recommend status quo, you should explain which factors limit further growth.
 
This year's theme is the resource sector and will focus on west coast companies in the forestry, oil exploration, and mining sector. Each of these locations pose unique opportunities and challenges. Some of the locations involve "mature" markets, others involve "emerging" markets.

Team Selection

Students will sign up for one of nine teams by Wednesday, September 21. Each team will make an in-class presentation and write a corresponding report. A minimum of three students can request a particular project slot, which are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis in order of the arrival of an e-mail messages that contains the names, e-mail addresses, and student numbers of the prospective team members. The e-mail must also rank the available choices in case a first choice has become unavailable. (Go to the "Teams" web page, select your section of the course, and click on the appropriate link for generating an e-mail.) Team assignments are confirmed on the course web site. Students who fail to sign up to a team by the deadline will be assigned by the instructor to available slots so that the number of team members is balanced across sections.
 
To facilitate team formation, I will help identify students who are still looking for team members at the beginning of classes. Students who fail to sign up voluntarily for teams will be assigned at random to those teams that still have less than the maximum number of students.
 
After forming a team, team members should exchange their e-mail addresses or other suitable contact addresses. Teams should plan on regular meetings to start the research. Teams that experience any problems organizing meetings, or experience "free-riding" issues, should contact the instructor immediately well in advance of the presentation.

Preparing the Presentation

After you have formed a team and have been assigned a company and target country, your team has about one month time to research the company and target country. Start with the company and identify the company's current international strategy. Understand the company's strength and weaknesses, and determine the rationale for FDI. You should develop a solid understanding of the company before you proceed to the next step: identifying the company's FDI strategy.
 
When researching the target country, a typical mistake is to focus too intensely on the general business environment. Instead, you should start with the company's specific needs, the relevant industry characteristics, and the compatibility of potential partners in the target country with the company's FDI objective (if the chosen route involves acquisitions or joint venturing). How can the FDI project in the target country improve the company's core competence, while not exposing its weaknesses? Then look at the opportunities and risks in the target country from this perspective.

I will assist and meet with teams to discuss their research strategy. You should not hesitate to contact your target company for information. The company's public relations office may be able to provide information material, annual reports, etc. Databases such as Lexis-Nexis provide an opportunity to investigate where the company has been in the news lately. It is often useful to contact your target country's consulate general in Vancouver, or the country's embassy in Ottawa. Some countries also have dedicated foreign investment or export promotion agencies that you can contact. I encourage teams to see me at least once before their presentation. Experience shows that you should start your research as early as possible. While much information is available on the web, you should not eschew the wealth of resources available offline, in print, or on CD-ROMs. In particular, you should pay a visit to our library's government section and to UBC's Data Library. Useful resources include statistical abstracts and yearbooks of international organizations (UN, UNCTAD, World Bank, IMF, ILO). Staff in the David Lam Library are particularly helpful with finding suitable resources. Please do not hesitate asking our librarians for help.

Our classroom is set up for multimedia presentations. You only need to bring a USB memory stick with your PowerPoint or PDF presentation. Check with our Learning Technology Services desk (HA 391) if you have particular questions or needs regarding the presentation technology. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the available presentation equipment prior to your presentation. Because we are on a tight schedule on presentation days, technical problems that delay your presentation may cut into your remaining presentation time. You are also required to send a copy of your presentation to me before 10am on the day of the presentation. You also need to provide me with a handout showing all the slides in the presentation (with space for notes). I strongly recommend that you rehearse your presentation at least once before your actual presentation. Make sure that you stay within your allotted time frame of 15 minutes for your presentations. There is a five point penalty for exceeding your allotted time frame by more than 3 minutes. In fairness to the other presenting team. I am forced to cut off any team that exceeds 20 minutes. Each presentation is followed by a 5-minute question and answer period.

When delivering your presentation, try to convince the audience through the logic and consistency of your arguments. Do not embellish facts, and avoid swamping your presentation with incomprehensible statistics. Use numbers and statistics sparingly, and when you use them, they should make a point. Keep in mind that statistics should be presented in a way that make them comparable and intuitive. Avoid absolute figures (e.g., GDP in $); rather use relative figures (e.g., GDP per capita). If you can visualize statistics, this often works better than presenting numbers in a table. Typical mistakes in presentations involve the over-use of presentation technology. Avoid clutter on presentation slides and technical gimmicks.

In regard to the style of your presentation, avoid reading from a prepared script. Try to speak freely (although you may consult your notes or presentation slides). Make eye contact with your audience. Do not rush through your presentation. Instead, emphasize the important issues. Remember that "less is often more". You should prioritize your material and apply a relevance test before including material in your presentation. While I require that all team members participate actively in the presentation, team members do not need to speak for an equal length of time. Each presentation will be followed by a discussion during which the audience is required to pose questions to the presenting teams. Members of the audience should be prepared to ask challenging questions. Participation during this phase will contribute to your participation grade

Evaluation

The presentation grade is determined as an equal-weighted average of the following evaluation criteria:

  1. Breadth: the presentation covered all important and relevant issues. Was the presentation comprehensive?
  2. Depth: the presented information was well researched and compelling. Were topics explored thoroughly?}
  3. Style: the presentation was clear, lively, and intelligible. Did the team communicate effectively?}
Grades will not be assigned until all presentations have been held, and then will be posted in the grades retrieval system on this web site.

Peer evaluations across teams will form part of the process of assigning grades for the presentations. Presentations may be video-recorded for evaluation purposes.


Preparing the Report

Following the presentations, you are required to write up a report that summarizes the key points of your presentation. In addition to your research the report should also reflect any questions or points raised during the discussion immediately following the presentation. The course syllabus contains details on the permitted length of the report. Remember that a key point of this exercise is to demonstrate the ability to condense, prioritize and rank the importance of information. Information sources (including web sites) must be cited appropriately either in footnotes or in a separate bibliography at the end of the report.

The structure of the report should follow the presentation. Beginning with the company, outline the company's strategy for outsourcing and how the chosen outsourcing partner (and the services the partner provides) fits into this strategy. It may be useful to explain which factors (e.g., competitive forces, demand shifts, trends, government intervention) are currently driving the development of the industry (i.e., the potential outsourcing partners). Having identified a suitable outsourcing partner, assess how the business environment of the target country relates to the project. In making the case for the target country, identify and highlight the opportunities provided by this location. You should also address potential problems for the company's project and weigh their importance against the positive points.

Depending on the nature of the project it may also be necessary to discuss the integration of the new project with other units or projects in the multinational enterprise, or with external suppliers and distributors. This is particularly relevant in the case where manufacturing abroad requires intermediate goods. The report should conclude with a recommendation to either go ahead with the outsourcing project, or to scrap it. The latter outcome is a feasible option if you demonstrate that the negative points dominate the positive points of the project. Given the brevity of the report, you will only be able to focus on the most important points. It is important to show the relevance of the points that are being discussed, and to show the ability to prioritize and rank the importance of the points.

In writing your report, the investment project is the central issue. You are not writing a country report, thus all issues about the target country must be specific to the investment project. When you write the report, ask yourself for each piece of information: is this relevant for the investment project? Based on the above considerations, you may want to structure your report as follows. (This is only a suggestion and may not always fit the particular nature of the investment project):

  1. Company Overview and Strategy:
    What does the company do and what is their strategic focus for internationalization? [keep this short and concise]
  2. Description of FDI Project:
    What is the scope of this project? What is the project going to accomplish? What are the objectives and success criteria for this project? [this section is central]
  3. Rationale for the original FDI Project:
    How did the project fit into the overall strategy of the company? Does the project build on, or utilize effectively, the company's core competence? How does the project enhance and strengthen the company's core competence? Is the project going to be profitable? Also identify potential risks on the revenue and cost side.
  4. Target Country Business Environment:
    What are the conditions in the target country? Are they conducive to the project? Where are problems and risks? [this section must be relevant to the outsourcing project; do not discuss issues that are obviously irrelevant to the project; clearly prioritize the issues based on their significance to the investment project]
  5. Industry Perspectives:
    Discuss key drivers of the relevant industry, market projections, potential partners, rivalry and competition.
  6. Evaluation of Options:
    Discuss the available options of expanding, maintaining the status quo, and exiting. Assess opportunities and threats.
  7. Conclusions:
    Brief summary of major points and your recommendation.
  8. [Appendix; References]

This outline is merely a suggestion. You should deviate from it as appropriate. Virtually every company, target country, and project type will have its own unique issues that may require a different approach. There are many alternative ways of organizing your report. However, your report should always be structured in a logical and consistent manner.

You will usually not be able to obtain concrete numbers that would allow you to calculate financial implications of your recommended strategy. Just like the presentation, the report should focus on the central strategic issues.

You can either add a list of references at the end of the report or provide them as footnotes. Either way you must cite sources appropriately following standard citation styles. If you cite online resources, it is insufficient to merely cite a URL. For online resources you must identify an author (person, company, or institution), a title, and a publication year. It must be identifiable who provided the information and when. Avoid citing online resources of dubious origin (authorship) or dubious publication date. For further guidance, please refer to the UBC Library's Criteria for Evaluating Internet Resources. The typical citation style is
Author's last name, First name. "Title of work". [URL] Date of publication or visit.



 
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