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Feb. 23, 2018

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Students from case@BTM, the case analysis team from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Business Technology Management (BTM) program competed in their first-ever international case analysis competition in Vancouver from Feb. 12-16.

Case analysis competitions give students the opportunity to collaborate with their peers to find innovative solutions for real-world business scenarios within an allotted timeframe. In a BTM case competition, students also need a firm understanding of computer science, systems design and programming to create solutions that combine business acumen with technical know-how.

Fourth-year students Simran Hayer, Matt Raines, Fanyi Kong and Leah DeVos represented case@BTM at CaseIT, an internationally renowned technology case competition at Simon Fraser University’s Beddie School of Business. The long-standing competition attracts student teams from competitive BTM programs across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia – stiff competition for a team from Laurier’s emerging program to face in their first competition off the university’s campuses.

But the team, assembled in fall 2017, rose to the occasion. They placed second in their division in the five-hour case analysis competition on Feb. 13, and competed in the 24-hour competition from Feb. 14-15.

Although they did not qualify for the final round of competition on Feb. 16, Josephine McMurray, assistant professor in the Business Technology Management program and case@BTM founder, says the team’s impressive results reflect their dedication to the study of case analysis.

“These students in case@BTM have given up evenings and weekends since October to prepare for CaseIT. Some of them have part-time jobs, and many of them have other extracurricular commitments,” says McMurray, “There are no bonus marks for being involved. They are simply interested and excited learners.”

The BTM program is the only business degree offered by the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Laurier’s Brantford campus. The program, launched in fall 2012, continues to witness a rising momentum.

“Case analysis is an important part of the Lazaridis School's student experience on the Waterloo campus and I want to extend that opportunity to BTM students in Brantford,” says McMurray.

She launched case@BTM in spring 2015, offering evening lectures, arranging guest speakers, and hosting case analysis workshops. McMurray also organized internal case competitions and hacks, pitting junior student teams against teams of upper-year students to cultivate learning and collegiality.

The three-year ‘loading period’ helped build a case analysis infrastructure on the Brantford campus, preparing student competitors for the experience and environment of competitions like CaseIT.

“The student club is an incredibly important part of our extracurricular program as it supports BTM’s overall goal to develop graduates who can process large amounts of information, conduct sophisticated analyses, make evidence-based decisions, and present a spirited and confident defence of their position,” says McMurray.

Hayer, Raines, Kong and DeVos were selected to represent Laurier at the Vancouver competition. Preparations began shortly after the fall 2017 term started.

McMurray, along with associate professors Kevin McDermott and Rosemary McGowan, worked through various case scenarios with the student team – from issues faced by technology start-ups to those of multi-national corporations. Evening meetings consisted of guest lecturers, skill-building activities and smaller case analyses. Weekend sessions opened with an hour of instruction, followed by a five-hour independent case study and a two-hour debrief. The team also participated in a 48-hour mock case analysis and presentation to prepare for the latter portion of CaseIT’s competition schedule.

Despite giving up her Saturdays, Hayer says the intense three-month training period afforded the team the opportunity to make mistakes and refine their skills.

“We trained on all elements of case analysis, everything from how to structure a presentation to how to project our voices. The most valuable learning opportunity was being able to fail – and then learn over and over again.”

Hayer says the team’s nerves were high walking in to the competition on Feb. 12, as they were “up against some of the best and brightest in the world.” Reassurance from McMurray and McDermott quickly put any nerves to rest.

“As long as we gave it our all, our coaches assured us that they would be proud no matter what the outcome,” says Hayer.

That assurance stayed with Hayer and her teammates as they presented their case solutions to the competition judges – a panel of senior IT professionals from companies such as BitCoin Gold, Microsoft, and the Chief Information Officers Association of Canada.

It’s a student experience McMurray has worked towards since case@BTM’s beginning.

“Presenting their ideas on such an international stage can be a game-changing experience for our students,” says McMurray. “It also helps to build the reputation of Laurier’s BTM program and showcases the quality of our students.”

Outside of the sequestered competition times, case@BTM team members had the opportunity to network with other competitors, faculty coaches, and competition sponsors – an added benefit as students who will be looking to start their careers after graduation in October.

McMurray and case@BTM team members will be organizing the 2018 caseDebug competition from March 2-3. Teams will be presenting their case solutions on March 3 from 3 – 5 p.m. in the SC Johnson Building, room 127. Students interested in learning more about case@BTM and case analysis opportunities on Laurier’s Brantford campus are welcome to attend. McMurray will be available to answer questions following the presentations.


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