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The “KPMG Peat Marwick: The Shadow Partner” case (HBSP S596 Coursepak) provides the context for a firm and industry that are each undergoing changes and is set at the point of a decision regarding a potential investment path for digital transformation — before the term digital transformation was cool!
Recall that the first words on Jim Barton’s whiteboard were, “IT management is about management,” and the classic lessons for managing well endure through up or down economies, shifts in technology, (real) innovation in business models that generate more revenue than costs, M&A decisions, etc. It is for that reason that I have intentionally chosen a time-period case from 1991 with insights that are highly germane to our present decade. We will again revisit this case in Week #8.
The purpose of this assignment is to motivate discussions among your team regarding course topics from the first four weeks of the course — in particular Weeks #1 and #4. The KPMG case gives ample room for deeper thinking regarding competitive strategy, the role of IT in organizational change, investment and potential returns.
Before reading the case, watch the Apple Knowledge Navigator concept from 1987 (5 min)
o https://youtu.be/p1goCh3Qd7M (Links to an external site.)
o It was recorded in the standard definition format of the era, so watching it in a smaller window is advised for quality.
Now the memo: Please complete these two part:
Part 1: Complete these questions
Questions for your team discussion:
1. What are the challenges that KPMG Peat Marwick faces over the next five to ten years? What are the organizational implications of these challenges?
2. How important is implementation of the Shadow Partner for KPMG?
3. Evaluate the potential advantages and disadvantages to KPMG of the shadow partner project.
4. What are the arguments of Fact, Faith, or Fear? Any Fiction?
5. Why is the Shadow Partner project facing so much resistance?
6. Consider the February 1991 meeting of the U.S. Operating Committee:
? As Bob Elliott, how would you describe the benefits of the Shadow Partner to the partners?
? If you were a member of the committee, how would you evaluate the investment in the Shadow Partner?
? How would you vote?
7. What specific advice would you give to
? Tony Sapienza?
? Jon Madonna and Jim Brocksmith?
Part 2: Answer this question: Your team’s assignment is to write a memo that clearly recommends what should KPMG do next and why. (the response should have both what next and why)
Read these carefully to support the memo:
Assume that you are writing at the time of May, 1991. Assume that the U.S. Operating Committee met in February and had a rigorous and meritorious debate regarding the proposed Shadow Partner initiative and its funding. The next step is now a meeting of the committee with Madonna and Brocksmith and a few influential partners. Your memo will frame the agenda and be the pre-read for the meeting. It should be addressed to “KPMG Senior Executives” and assume that they know the details of the case information (thus, you do not need to inform them of things they should already know).
For this assignment, external research references are not needed and they are unlikely to be helpful. There is no right or wrong answer, but there are stronger and weaker recommendations based on their level of rationale and analysis. What KPMG ultimately did or did not do is irrelevant for the assignment. Remember that all HBS cases include the phrase that the case is a “…basis for a class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.”
If you do choose to reference any external sources related to the industry or technologies of the era, they must be published prior to June 1991. You may draw on any materials that we have referenced in the S596 course, e.g., The Adventures of an IT Leader book or other links/readings without any concern for its year of publication. As always, if you choose to draw on the work of others, you must cite them properly as footnotes or endnotes for your work (see examples in the Individual Case Write-up #1 Assignment).
Your recommendation will stand on its holistic assessment of the KPMG situation, recommendation(s), and most importantly, the rationale supporting the recommendation(s).
Your assignment should be submitted in the format of a 2-3 page memo addressed to KPMG Senior Executives, single-spaced. The memo should be clear in logical flow, written with precision and clarity, and include your “bottom line” recommendation. Citations or any optional illustrations can appear on page 4 if needed.