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Darla Moore School of Business

Undergraduate team wins first place at international case competition

May 15, 2020

The Moore School’s undergraduate team won first place at the John Molson Undergraduate Case Competition earlier this spring.

Hosted in Montreal, Canada, the week-long competition strives to prepare the world’s brightest undergraduate business students to become leaders in a globally interdependent, culturally diverse and rapidly changing economic environment, according to the John Molson Undergraduate Case Competition website. The competition is the largest of its kind.

The Moore School’s team, comprised of Haley Dietsch, Ryan DeSane, Hope Manninen and Chad Wonder, traveled to Montreal to compete in a series of strategic business competitions and attend various networking events.

“There were three three-hour cases and a 24-hour case in this competition,” said Wonder, a senior international business and finance student. “Our three-hour cases solved challenges presented by SunLife Financial, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Stradegi.AI, with our 24-hour case sponsored by Walmart Canada.”

While the team said that the three-hour cases were challenging, the true test of their skill came with the 24-hour Walmart case.

“We had to come up with a strategy for Walmart Canada that optimized the in-store experience and that allowed the possibility for data collection,” said Dietsch, a senior international business and finance major. “We suggested an application upgrade that incorporated a personalized nutrition program, as well as a data collection dashboard for our suppliers.”

Using the feedback and comments from the shorter cases, the team prepared for 24 hours of data analysis, strategizing and presentation preparation.

“For the Walmart case, we had to develop a more in-depth and thorough strategy since we had more time [than we did for the three hour cases],” said DeSane, a senior finance major. “We actually created a slide deck with more than 100 appendix slides for our final presentation. We also had to figure out who was going to sleep when, if at all. Between the four of us, I think we got about three hours of sleep combined.”

The four students decided to recommend a three-step strategy to utilize Walmart’s existing data while also encouraging participation from the company’s employees, customers and suppliers.

“Our team proposed a strategy called ‘U & ME’ - unify, match and engage,” said Manninen, a senior international business and operations and supply chain major. “Within ‘unify,’ we discussed consolidating all of the data points that Walmart currently collects throughout its supply chain; ‘match’ involved utilizing these data points to create a tailored health-centric customer experience on their app; and ‘engage’ dealt with marketing to the customers and the employees themselves. My favorite components were in the app, where you could create a personalized profile that would outline recipes, score your basket with a health rating and even scan your food's barcode to see where it came from.”

The team said they utilized their data analysis background from the Moore School to drive their strategy and recommendations for Walmart.

“[Our data analytics skills] allowed us to understand a little more about machine learning and artificial intelligence which allowed us to provide nuanced recommendations,” Wonder said. “All of our strategies included the analysis and continuous adaptation to the data collected, and I believe that our foundation from the Moore School made this possible.”

After 24 hours of hard work, the team finally presented their proposal to a panel of judges that included executives from Walmart Canada. Compared to 27 other teams from the University of Pennsylvania, University of California, University of Southern California, University of British Columbia, Queens University and schools from Asia, Australia and Europe, the Moore School team said they were “surprised” to hear that they won the competition.

“Winning the John Molson Case Competition felt unreal in every sense of the word,” Manninen said. “The moment right before they called our name was so suspenseful, and we were in disbelief as soon as it was announced. The world seemed to pause for a few seconds, but it was one of the best moments knowing that our team had worked so hard, and it showed to the judges.”

In addition to the team’s win, Wonder also won an individual award: best male presenter.

“I was shocked to be selected as the best male presenter,” he said. “As the largest competition in the world, there were so many incredible presenters, so it was a true honor to be selected for this additional individual award.”

All four students have also been invited to present their ideas to Walmart Canada’s “top team” once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided, Manninen said.

-Erin Mooney


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