Strategy Audit (MBS Thesis)

The Strategy Audit was the central assignment of the Diploma in Management qualification from the Irish Management Institute, and the final diploma required for the Master’s in Business Practice qualification.

This assignment called for a full audit of a company’s, in this case Brandon Global IT, practices in terms of business strategy, marketing, organizational behaviour, finance, strategic human resource management and organizational communications.

Business Strategy

This section formed the foundations of the document and feeds into every section that comes after. It is broken into three key elements.

Situational Analysis

The first step involved looking at the current external and internal situation of the business. External analysis was performed using PEST analysis, Porter’s 5 Industry Forces and strategic group mapping. Internal analysis involved looking at the resources and capabilities of the business through the VRIO framework. Finally, a SWOT analysis summarised the key findings.

Strategy Formulation

From there, the next step involves formulating a number of different strategic options. This approach means that all characteristics of the situation are considered, minimising the bias of any pre-conceived notions.

Strategic options were developed using Porter’s Generic Strategies model, the Ansoff matrix, incorporating Porter’s Value Chain and Blue Ocean Strategy. Three potential options were developed and from this a strategy was chosen.

Strategy Implementation

In this section the new strategic vision is set out and the 8 components of strategic execution are considered (Thompson et al 2008).

A balanced scorecard is used to articulate the objectives of the new strategy, including KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and targets. Also discussed at this stage are the likely challenges this strategy will face.


Building upon the strategy analysis, this section focuses on how the business discovers, creates, captures and sustains value for customers in terms of the Harvard Business School framework (Dolan 1997).

Marketing Environment

The 5 C’s of the marketing environment are Customers, Company, Competitors, Collaborators and Context. While competitors have likely been outlined in detail in the strategy section, this is a good section to delve deeper into customer analysis, in terms of the decision making unit, and the company in terms of marketing organization, systems and productivity.

Marketing Strategy

Again, the balanced scorecard is used here specifically in a marketing context. This helps to focus marketing strategy on marketing objectives, that feed into the overall business strategy.

Segmentation, targeting and positioning (STP) strategy is outlined at this stage. First the overall market is segmented into logical groups, based on factors such as industry, company size, requirements, location etc. Then the most favourable segments are chosen as the target market(s) for the company. Depending on the targets selected, one or more value propositions are developed in order to position the businesses offerings for the market, taken into account the value offered by competitors.

A perceptual map can be used to compare the company with various competitors in the market on the key characteristics in the industry. This helps to visualize where the business needs to move to in the market to improve their competitive positioning. This section is tightly connected with the section strategy.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix for a B2B services company can be analysed in terms of the extended 7 P’s. It’s worth noting that the the first six concern how value is created while the seventh, price, deals with how that value is captured.

  1. Product (/Service)
  2. Promotion
  3. Place
  4. People
  5. Process
  6. Physical Evidence
  7. Price

Customer Relationship Management

After discovering, creating and capturing value through marketing strategy, the key activity becomes sustaining that value to maximise the customer lifetime value (CLV). This shouldn’t be overlooked as the cost of acquiring a new customer is often many times the cost of satisfying existing accounts.

Customer loyalty can be thought of in terms of the ‘Loyalty Ladder’ where clients are systematically moved up each rung of the ladder until they are willing to partner with, or advocate on behalf of the business. The Loyalty Loop construct shows how it is important to avoid having clients reconsider their supplier, instead setting them on a loop of service and satisfaction.

Organizational Behaviour

Moving on to organizational behaviour, and specifically how the culture of the business and teamwork between different functions and levels enables or hinders business objectives.


To analyse culture, I used the Organisational Culture Assessment Tool (OCAI) (Cameron & Quinn 1999) to identify the current and preferred cultures in the company.


This section sought to identify which of Belbin’s (1981) team roles were missing from the sales team. In doing so it was possible to relate the team’s strengths to individual members, and find the skill gaps that could be filled through future hires.


A review of the financial performance of the business was undertaken to ensure the financial situation was congruent with strategic priorities. This review was broken into a number of subheadings:

  • Revenue Structure
  • Profitability
  • Liquidity
  • Efficiency
  • Corporate Structure
  • Investment
  • Cash Flow
  • Environmental Factors

Strategic HRM

The Harvard Framework of HRM (Beer et al 1984) underpinned my analysis of the HR function in Brandon. This section was heavily linked with the Organizational Behaviour section, and builds uon the conclusion and recommendations from there.

HR Planning & Staff Flow

Bramham’s (1994) HR Planning Model was used to analyse current resourcing requirements in the organization and plan for future needs. Following this the HC BRidge Framework (Boudreau and Ramstad 2007) helped to tie strategy to HRM.


Levels of engagement in the business were analysed using the Employee Engagement Value Chain (Macy et al 2009) and tactics set out in order to drive greater engagement.

Organizational Communications

Practical Communications Strategy

As the new and improved strategy had been set out for all facets of the business, the final step was to implement a practical communications strategy to communicate the new direction to all personnel. This included objectives, channels, messaging and challenges.

Conclusion & Recommendations

The strategy audit culminated in three recommendations and personal reflection on the audit process. Each of these recommendations were borne out of the research carried out across the business and so had mutual benefits for each function.

Finally the practice of reflective writing is promoted in the IMI and a reflection is included at the end of the audit.

Brand & Media Strategy – Hackett’s Bookmakers

Hackett’s Bookmakers is an outdated betting brand that has been left behind as the market has embraced online gambling targeted at an increasingly younger and more casual audience. Our proposal is intended to reinvent the brand and position it to compete with the major betting companies.

Brand Strategy

The core aims of our rebranding strategy were three-fold;

  • Regain market share in the core betting markets
  • Improve the customer experience through innovative technology
  • Attract new customers by positioning Hacketts for a modern audience

Our strategy involves differentiating Hackett’s from the main competitors in the industry, focusing on our core competency, refining the customer experience through technology and re-launching the brand through a print advertising campaign.

As part of this we tightly defined our buyer personas and conducted deep industry research to support our case that there was a gap in the market.

Design Process

After analysing competitors marketing communications strategies, we decided to distinguish our brand by focusing on it’s ‘vintage’ value. This lead to the classic black and white style, that leveraged the 50 year anniversary of the companies and aimed to position Hacketts as an aspirational brand. A betting app tailored to horse racing is to be launched in conjunction with the new brand.

The design process is detailed in the slide deck above, in addition to the final advert.

To learn more about branding, and why it is crucial to customer loyalty, check out how Apple have built the most valuable global brand.

UK Market Entry Plan – ABM Strategy

The UK Market Entry Plan was the cornerstone of the first part of the Master’s in Business Strategy in the Irish Management Institute. It followed 15 months of work in the Dublin and Sheffield offices of Auxilion, a subsidiary of I.T. Alliance Group.

Auxilion is a global award-winning cloud transformation and support company. Auxilion moves corporate and public sector ICT real estates to the cloud and support them up there, thereafter.

UK Market Entry Plan

The UK market entry plan consisted of four main sections:

  1. Company Analysis
  2. UK Market Assessment
  3. UK Market Entry Plan
  4. Performance Review

1. Company Analysis

This first section articulated the current business situation of Auxilion. This included the operational structure of the company, current clients, solutions offerings, financial status and current routes to market.

2. UK Market Assessment

This section was divided into four sections – market opportunity, competitor analysis, market research and needs assessment.

Market Opportunity

This is a key section in validating the UK as our first international market. As such, there is a detailed analysis of industry trends in the UK, market segments, objectives and challenges, and which solutions are of primary value to the market. Finally a PESTLE analysis summarises the key points and highlights any other factors in the external strategic environment.

Competitor Analysis

This section details the primary competitors in the UK cloud computing space, their strengths and weaknesses, and their overall strategic priorities.

Market Research

I conducted an extensive research project before leaving for the UK, leveraging the Market Research Centre in Enterprise Ireland’s HQ in Dublin. This provided valuable information on wider industry trends in the UK cloud computing market, and allowed me to build a list of companies in our target segments using BvD Orbis.

Needs Assessment

This section looked more closely at Buyer Persona and the key influencers in the decision-making process. Further, it articulated our prospect qualification criteria to ensure time was spent developing prospects that represented a commercial opportunity.

Finally Auxilion’s value proposition was analysed and reimagined to reflect the progress of the business. This research and its result were included here.

3. UK Market Entry Plan

This section described the market entry strategy as was laid out before I moved to Sheffield, how the plan was executed in reality and why the strategy evolved.

The initial plan involved a mix of direct marketing campaigns, LinkedIn marketing and traditional networking. As time progressed and test campaigns were conducted it became clear that our direct marketing efforts were not providing the same return as the other two channels.

In essence, leveraging our professional networks in the UK, both online and off, proved most successful in generating meetings with these large corporate accounts.

4. Performance Review

Finally, this section surmised the results of my time in the UK and contrasted the company position at the beginning and end of the project.

A number of opportunities with large, 250+ user, UK corporates were progressed to the pre-sales team from numerous leads. In addition to in-depth market and customer research, reach out to 2,000 accounts and contact networking.


The market entry plan was well received both by the management team in I.T. Alliance as well as the assessors in the IMI, earning a 1.1 First Class Honours grade.

Due to the commercial nature of the document I haven’t made it accessible online. However I would be happy to discuss my international business development experience with you directly if it’s relevant to your business situation.


Keyzy – Business Plan

Keyzy was the outcome of a year-long final year module in DCU, New Enterprise Development.

The challenge was to conceive a new product or service, assess it’s commercial viability and build a business plan to bring the product to market.

Keyzy was a small device that helped individuals with limited motor skills to guide their keys into keyholes. This module culminated in a Dragon’s Den-style pitch to some of Dublin’s business leaders and a full business plan, which can be viewed below.

I generated the technical product drawings for Keyzy using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software which can be found in the business plan above.

We reached the final of Accenture’s Leaders of Tomorrow business plan competition, pitching Keyzy to the Managing Director of Accenture’s Irish operations, and other industry leaders in media, healthcare and finance.

Accenture's leaders of tomorrow