iSchool students win 2012 UW Case Competition

Jiuqun Fang, Lulu Yu, first year students in the Master of Science in Information Management program, and Informatics student Curtis Howell, along with Jenny Sang, an undergraduate from the UW Business School, were on the winning team of this year's Deloitte's Case Challenge, beating 30 other teams for the prize.

In its fifth year, the UW Case Competition attracts more than 100 students from across the University of Washington. UW faculty and 20 Deloitte practitioners were involved in giving advice and serving as judges over the course of five days.

This year's challenge involved the fictitious Second City National Bank and their interest in achieving a competitive advantage in mobile banking and payments. The teams analyzed the mobile payments industry and presented recommendations for a market entry strategy.

This is the first year that iSchool students were on the winning team. The iSchool had students on 3 of the 9 teams in the semi-finals (out of 31 teams).

The team agreed that what prompted their interest was gaining valuable experience that will enhance both their resumes and their learning.

"I know that a Case Challenge will make me grow faster than any other possible way. I can hone my analytical, communications, team work and presentation skills, which will be very good for my career goals," said Lulu Yu of her first competition.

Curtis Howell has been competing in Case Competitions since he was a freshman. "It is a great way to apply what you learn in the classroom to a real-world situation. You can put together everything you are doing in different classes, plus adding other team members' experience, to drive towards a common goal and present a concise recommendation to the panel of judges."

The teams were judged on three factors: Teamwork, communications, and analysis. Teams of two were assigned randomly to make up a competing team of four. In this case, Fang and Yu did not know Howell and Sang prior to the assignment, making it critical for them to establish ways of working effectively together.

Fang felt her experience in working in diverse teams with other international students at the iSchool and their study of SWOT analysis was instrumental to their success. Yu pointed to their project management courses as giving them a good foundation to work effectively on the project. Howell specifically used one of the frameworks presented in the Information Systems Analysis and Management course taught by Greg Hay as a way to analyze the assigned case.

They all agreed that the secret to their success was their ability to present a clear and compelling recommendation for action. "We had a very understandable recommendation that was less risky than others. I think we did a great job of presenting an understandable story," notes Howell.