Strategic management midterm exam questions



This is a take-home, open-book exam.

There are three essay exam questions below. Please answer all of them.

Each question starts with an abstract of an article in Business Week Magazine. You can see the full article by copying the article name and searching for it in the FIU Online Library. When it comes up, click on the pdf version. (Note: You must be signed in to the FIU Online Library).


WalMart’s Rocky Path From Bricks to Clicks

Full Text Available


By: Boyle, Matthew; MacMillan, Douglas. Bloomberg Businessweek. 7/25/2011, Issue 4239, p31-33. 3p. 1

Reviewer: CharlesNewman, PhD

Abstract’s sales are less than a fifth of, but a new division, @WalmartLabs, is experimenting with social media and mobile apps. Since Wal-Mart Stores first ventured into cyberspace 15 years ago, the Bentonville, Ark., company has struggled online. Early on, featured a clunky digital version of the greeter who welcomes shoppers at each store. still doesn’t excel at features that are commonplace on other major e-commerce sites, such as personalization and recommendations. 

The company doesn’t disclose its online sales, but analysts say does about $6 billion a year in business, less than 2 percent of total sales and well below’s $34 billion in 2010 retail revenue. For a long time, Wal-Mart’s poor online performance didn’t much matter. The retailer built hundreds of Supercenters every year in the late 1990s, and profits soared. Over the past two years, however, the company has cut its new U.S. store development by half. Sales at domestic Wal-Marts open for at least a year have declined in each of the last eight quarters. Over that time e-commerce has exploded, even among the lower-income households that are Wal-Mart’s core customers. 

Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke has recently focused his company’s considerable firepower (and an $11 billion cash hoard) on improving its use of the Web. He bought a Chinese online merchant, is testing home delivery of fresh groceries ordered online in San Jose, and most significantly, has created @WalmartLabs. Run by Silicon Valley veterans Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, the division is charged with bringing Wal-Mart up to speed with innovations such as smartphone payment technology, mobile shopping applications, and Twitter-influenced product selection for stores. It’s an ambitious attempt at a technological makeover, but still might not be enough. One goal of @WalmartLabs is to use social media and mobile apps to get shoppers to spend more at Wal-Mart’s physical stores. One-third of Wal-Mart customers own a smartphone, and the company is investing in tools for them. The plans for increasing online sales are more vague. The @WalmartLabs division is testing an app that allows Facebook users to give gifts without ever clicking away from the social network. 

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the structural characteristics of the online retail Industry, from the point of view of the Five Competitive Forces (Porter) framework. (Porter)framework.

2. To help you answer this question here is a link to further information Industry Handbook: The Retaling Industry. Feel free to find and cite other information sources as well.

2. Discuss the Wal-Mart online strategy, from the perspective of the Resource Based View of the Firm framework.


3. Discuss the Wal-Mart online strategy, from the perspective of the Competitive Advantage (Porter) framework.


Citigroup Hopes Small Really Is Beautiful

Reviewer: CharlesNewman, PhD


The Bloomberg Businessweek article “Citigroup Hopes Small Really Is Beautiful” (Nov. 22-Nov. 28, 2010) discusses how Citigroup is expanding in small business lending. It is targeting U.S. companies with less than $20 million in annual sales and plans to hire about 200 bankers by the end of 2011 to court them. That would bring the number of small business bankers to about 500. Expanding the bank’s focus to include doctors, restaurants, and cabinet makers alongside Coca-Cola and wealthy individuals won’t be easy. It’s totally different and requires a good deal of monitoring.

The four largest banks by assets have been criticized by some entrepreneurs for tightening credit to small business after taking a combined $140 billion of federal bailout money. A record 41 percent of small business owners say they cannot get adequate financing. Banks with less than $10 billion in assets make 56 percent of the country’s small business loans. Larger banks are now trying to muscle in as losses stay high on home loans and commercial mortgages. 

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the structural characteristics of the banking industry from the point of view of the framework. To help you answer this question here is a link to further information The Industry Handbook: The Banking Industry . Feel free to find and cite other information sources as well.

2. Discuss the Citibank strategy from the perspective of the BCG Matrix framework.

3. Discuss the Citibank strategy from the perspective of the Competitive Advantage (Porter) framework. 


United and Continental Reach for the Sky

Reviewer: CharlesNewman, PhD


The Bloomberg Businessweek article “United and Continental Reach for the Sky” (May 17, 2010) discusses the merger of United Airlines and Continental. The U.S. aviation history is littered with the debris of airline mergers. Jeff Smisek, the CEO to be of the combined airline, will have to figure out a way to generate profits at the combined carrier after annual losses at UAL and Continental in each of the past two years.  He will have to navigate a tough U.S. antitrust review and work with restive unions that had demanded the ouster of United CEO Glenn Tilton, who is staying on as nonexecutive chairman of the combined carrier.

Key to Smisek’s success will be his ability to realize $1.2 billion in combined cost savings and new revenue, while funneling additional traffic from the expanded United-Continental domestic network into its more lucrative international routes. Just managing the sheer logistics of the combined airlines will be a huge undertaking. Traditionally, the key task has been harmonizing work rules and consolidating union seniority lists into a single worker roster. Smisek must also convince regulators that the Continental-United marriage will not significantly reduce competition. Some industry insiders believe regulators may force route divestitures or the sale of some of United and Continental’s takeoff and landing slots at coveted airports in the New York and Washington areas. 

Discussion Questions

1.    Discuss the structural characteristics of the airline industry from the point of view of framework. To help you answer this question here is a link to further information The Industry Handbook: The Airline Industry . Feel free to find and cite other information sources as well.

2.    Discuss the United-Continental merger  from the perspective of the Acquisition Integration
        Approaches framework.

3.    Discuss the United-Continental merger from the perspective of the Competitive Advantage (Porter)

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