Strategy & Biz Ops case interviews
|Voke Elstein, Manager, Strategy & Operations at Twitter
|Updated: August 23, 2022
Question bank | Full case examples | Prep tips
If you've ever been defeated by a case in a management consulting interview, know that many others, including me, have too.
The good thing about having been in those interviews is that you have experienced a case interview and have a sense of what a case interview looks and feels like. It's an experience that's to your advantage as you approach case interviews in strategy & operations (stratops) interviews.
The stratops case interview is an interactive conversation between you and your interviewer(s). To succeed, structuring your thoughts and thinking aloud are key. These help your interviewer understand your thinking pattern, especially how you prioritize, as many stratops case questions involve selecting the best path for a company from several competitive alternatives.
Similar to a consulting case, some stratops cases require developing a framework and structure with which to explore the issue faced by the company. Others, however, are free-form conversations. However, unlike consulting cases, Strategy & Business Operations cases are more specific to a company and their actual problems and are less likely to go into graphs, charts, and math. Below are some sample questions that demonstrate the types of cases you could get. These are company and industry agnostic so feel free to add in the additional lens of the company or industry you are applying to.
If this feels new to you, feel free to refer to the sample walkthroughs to get a sense of how to frame your thinking and your answer. There is no one answer but make sure to stay structured and answer all parts of the question.
Sample Strategy & BizOps case questions (Top)
Example question #1: Our company is interested in investing more money in new online and offline marketing channels to drive growth. How would you go about determining how much to spend and evaluate the effectiveness of new campaigns?
Example question #2: We currently make operational and financial plans on an annual basis. However, we are hoping to start looking more long term and you have been asked to put together a 5 year and a 10 year forecast, what are the key metrics that you hope to forecast and how would you go about it?
Example question #3: Our company currently works solely on a cost per click model where we make money every time a user clicks on a link to a client’s good. It is heavily dependent on user traffic and we are now thinking about building out new revenue models that would allow us to grow revenue. What are potential models you would suggest, what data do you need, and how would you go about making a decision?
Example question #4: Our company is hoping to grow by moving more downstream of our existing product and owning more of the customer pipeline. To make the move, would you suggest a buy, build, partner or multi pronged strategy?
Example question #5: We currently have a large set of suppliers that we work with who do not all perform at the same level. Moving forward, we hope to differentiate them by coming up with a global partner program to highlight our best partners. How would you go about implementing the program?- Sample walkthrough provided below.
Example question #6: Our company is interested in opening a new office location with a physical building, how do you go about selecting the city?
Example question #7: We want to launch a new product but have not been able to find enough external data to help us size the market. What would be your plan of attack to help size the potential market and what types of customer tests would you build to help collect data?
Example question #8: After a reorg, you’ve been tasked with creating a cohesive team culture and bringing together the teams under one roadmap, what is the structure you would propose including meetings and materials for alignment?
Example question #9: The company has decided to invest more in competitive research and wants a regular review of the competitive landscape. How do you go about putting together the analysis and what information would you choose to bring in?
Example question #10: The company is hoping to establish a monthly business review to bring together leaders from different departments and review key metrics. Your team has been tasked to take on the project and bring it to life. How would you set up a monthly business review? What teams would you involve, what types of metrics would you track, and how would you go about presenting it to get buy in?
Example question #11: Our company really values feedback from frontline teams that work with clients, however, there are too many pieces of data for any one person to sort. How do you go about collecting these ideas and completing the feedback loop to ensure that the ideas are getting to the right product teams and clients feel heard?
Example question #12: The sales team has been missing their targets for the last two quarters and you have been asked to dig into what could be going on. What are some of the key factors that you would look at to evalue where the problem is?
💡 Tip: Our biz ops interview prep can help
Full Strategy & BizOps case examples (Top)
Below, are answers to two Strategy & BizOps interview questions from Jessie Wang, a McKinsey Associate who previously managed strategy and analytics teams at Indeed and Expedia.
1. Our company is interested in investing more money in new online and offline marketing channels to drive growth. How would you go about determining how much to spend and evaluate the effectiveness of new campaigns?
Step 1: Understand our existing landscape
Key questions to ask:
- What channels do we use today?
- What is our channel mix? Are we focused on online (e.g. SEO, SEM, targeted ads etc) or are we primarily offline (e.g. radio, print etc.)?
- How are our current campaigns performing? How many new users are we acquiring? What is their average spend? How long are they spending with us? What is their overall lifetime value? What is the average ROI for our existing campaigns?
Step 2: Determining how much we should spend
- Meeting break even - We need to understand the customer lifetime value by different segments of customers. Customer segments could include customers by acquisition channel and then segmented for different geographies or campaigns. Once we know the average value the customer will generate in their lifetime, this is the max amount that we can spend to acquire them. The customer lifetime value can be thought about as how much the customer will spend with your company before they churn.
- Strategic value- We can also consider spending over the lifetime value of the customer if there are key competitors in the space or the market has significant market size that we want to go after. At this point, it is an investment.
Step 3: Evaluate the effectiveness
- An effective campaign is one where we have high ROI on customer spend compared to customer acquisition cost. We need to measure this on a per campaign level if possible. If attribution is too difficult at this level, we can also evaluate based on channel or at a geographic level.
- Other measures of success could include driving up the customer lifetime value over time if the campaign is bringing in better customers than what we have today.
Feel free to list the questions that you would need to answer to do more- Because you won’t know the ins and outs of the company, the expectation is more that you would know what questions you want to ask rather than come up with numbers or a correct answer. The interviewer will provide you with more information if they want you to provide more detailed analysis.
Make a primary recommendation and then add in secondary considerations- Your primary recommendation should be what you think the answer is but there are likely other considerations or risks that make your answer more holistic.
2. We currently have a large set of suppliers that we work with who do not all perform at the same level. Moving forward, we hope to differentiate them by coming up with a global partner program to highlight our best partners. How would you go about implementing the program?
Step 1: Understand the program value proposition
- Help us as a company prioritize the partners we should devote more time to and allow us incentivize good marketplace behaviors
- Help our customers understand which partners to work with and how they are performing as not all partners may be equal
- Help our partners gain more recognition and business by standing out from competitors
Step 2: Define the different approaches that we could take
- Tiered approach with guidelines and qualifications at each level
- Key questions to answer include: How often do we review performance and redefine tiers? What metrics do we measure? Do we need a different scale based on partner location, size, focus etc?
- Ranked approach based on a scoring rubric with a clear top and bottom
- Key questions to answer include: Are there enough differentiating characteristics? Does a hierarchy bring more value to the table or does it add confusion? Can all customers access all partners or do partners have specific focuses?
- Badging system for different qualifications
- Key questions to answer include: What are the badges worth including? What is the right number of badges? What scale or threshold should we set to receive a badge?
Step 3: Rollout and go to market
- Determining the criteria - First, we need to work with partners to determine the key criteria and make sure that differences in size, scope, geography are taken into account. These criteria and thresholds also need to be announced publicly to allow new entrants or people who are not our partners today a chance to participate.
- Grace period - After we have defined the criteria, we need to give partners time to meet the standards that we set before we announce.
- Pre-announcement - Before we go to launch, we should check with partners to ensure that there is alignment on the data and results of each criteria and that partners are aware of where they wil be in our partner program. This is also a chance to create joint marketing and communications around what the new title will mean.
- Announcement - Once we are live, we need to continue to update our partner program and create benefits to incentivize our partners to improve in the areas we want.
Relate this to what you know - If you’ve ever used a site like Poshmark or Amazon, you know that sellers often have differentiators that the platform has assigned based on their performance. Poshmark has Ambassadors and Amazon has Best Seller. While these examples may be more consumer focused, the intention is similar to hte partner program mentioned in this case so don’t be afraid to leverage what you may have seen work for other companies!
One step at a time - Candidates often jump to implementation without considering the purpose of the program and the different ways the program could work. By starting from the basic building blocks, it will give you better insights in your go to market strategy.
Case interview prep tips (Top)
Adequate preparation is essential to successfully scaling case questions during your interviews. As you navigate the interview process, these 5 tips will come in handy.
1. Practice, practice and practice
It is almost impossible to wing a case interview. Like Dave Chapelle recently said on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman on Netflix, "it's easy to do something if you've seen it before." A case interview is definitely not something you want to tackle in an interview the first time you see it.
2. Context matters
Case interviews at stratops interviews are nowhere near as difficult as those for management consulting interviews, as they are more straightforward and involve fewer twists than you'd see in a consulting case interview. In fact, while generalist consulting interviews may expect you not to be an expert in the field in which the case is set, for stratops interviews, many companies expect you to have knowledge of the business or industry in which they operate. There is only so much "creativity" you can show about a business for which you are unfamiliar before you end up completely in the weeds with no hope of redemption! Before your interview, get familiar with the industry - trends, challenges, key players - and find out who the company's direct competitors are.
3. Be organized
The interview may take twists and turns, and you will need to find your way back to where you started from to give a good summary and final recommendation. Typically, your responses to the initial case questions lead to subsequent questions. Figure out a system of compiling your responses to each section, so that you can give a cohesive and holistic final response. The worst thing you can do is to contradict your initial stance with your final response.
4. Engage your interviewer
Approach your interview as a conversation rather than as an exam. Have a back and forth going with your interviewer - ask clarifying questions and incorporate the interviewer's responses as you work through the case. Avoid getting into "exam mode" - working on your own and then presenting your interviewer with a final solution.
5. Quantitative skills are important
Depending on the company and the department in which the stratops role reports into, your case interview may include a quant assessment. It could be in the form of mental math questions or a request for you to demo your Excel or SQL capabilities. Brush up and get comfortable with your numbers prowess!
To wrap up, the case questions you can expect to receive during the interview will likely be around a current problem the company is facing - growth strategy case, new business or market entry or just about anything the interviewer feels would give a good sense of your stratops skills. While the difficulty level of the stratops cases is on the medium scale when compared with management consulting interviews, you should approach your preparation, and indeed your interview, with the same diligence and professionalism as you would a management consulting case interview!
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