The Most Popular Frameworks for Structuring Consulting Cases

Thirty years ago, people started to use frameworks to structure cases, as was popularized by the book “Case in Point”. Another book, “Case Interview Secret”, went further by suggesting that most consulting cases could be solved using a single “one-size-fits-all” framework.

Unfortunately, candidates who depend on these books today are being led down the wrong path. Top consulting firms are increasingly using unusual case questions that do not simply fit neatly into a generic framework. A candidate needs to demonstrate to an interviewer that they are capable of strongly structuring a case, as opposed to just relying on a framework.

Although frameworks should not be memorized and applied as is, knowing them can be a good starting point and source of inspiration when crafting bespoke consulting case study structures.

Here are the five most popular frameworks candidates should know:

Profitability equation

This is the mother of all case interview frameworks as there’s a high chance that some form of a profit problem will come up during multiple rounds of consulting interviews.

Simply put, it consists of breaking down profits into revenue and cost. Revenue is the quantity sold multiplied by the price of the product and cost is the sum of all the fixed and variable costs. Increasing profit will require moving these drivers in the right direction.

To learn more about this framework and how to solve profitability case questions, read this article.

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces helps assess whether an industry is attractive given the competitive forces at play. It’s a good tool to use when considering whether to enter a new market:

The five forces are:

  • Customers
  • Competitors
  • Substitutes
  • New Entrants
  • Suppliers

A company is unlikely to be profitable if its industry has few potential customers, is dominated by a small number of competitors, has substitutes readily available, experiences many new entrants, or where critical resources are controlled by powerful suppliers.

The 4Ps

The 4Ps framework, or “Marketing Mix”, is often used to establish an effective strategy for launching a new product to the market. For a strategy to be effective, the four components of the marketing mix need to be aligned. They are:

  • Product (i.e. features, quality, design, packaging, after-sales service)
  • Price
  • Promotion (i.e. advertising plan)
  • Place (i.e. geographies and distribution channels)

BCG Matrix

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Matrix, or growth-share matrix, is a framework that helps businesses prioritize where to focus to maximize their growth and shape their strategy. It classifies businesses into four categories based on the growth of the industry and the relative market share. They are:

  • Dogs – Low market share in a slow-growing market. These should be discarded.
  • Cash Cows – High market share in a slowly growing market. These are profitable and should be milked (i.e. managed to maximize profitability).
  • Stars – High market share in a fast-growing market. These should be invested in, to create tomorrow’s Cash Cows.
  • Question Marks – Low market share in a fast-growing market. The company should decide whether to discard or to build up into a Star.

Victor Cheng’s Business Situation Framework

This framework is meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach to solving business case questions when entering a new market, launching a new product, growing revenue, or establishing a strategy. 

The four factors it lists to analyze are:

  • Customer
  • Product
  • Company
  • Competition

Unlike the other frameworks in this list, the Business Situation Framework does not have an overarching logic that helps candidates make a recommendation. It’s more of a list of important factors to bear in mind.

Although these frameworks can be a good starting point and source of inspiration, they are only relevant for a fraction of the case questions candidates face at interviews. To stand a chance, candidates need to be able to structure a broader variety of case questions, from obscure business problems to public-sector issues.

To learn how to create bespoke structures for the most atypical case questions, and familiarize yourself with our approaches to solve the top-10 business problems, sign up to Interview Prep Course on CaseCoach.com.

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