Use the following questionnaire to capture the necessary information to write your case study.
This questionnaire is designed to help case study writers work with their clients to gain a deeper understanding of how the implementation solved their specific problem.
It suggests a series of questions you can ask your client to learn more about the background to the project, what they learned during the implementing, and specific gains they made by adopting the solution.
Case Study Background
The first task is to gather details on the company’s background.
This helps prospective clients, this is, the reader, to understand the solution in context and compare their respective situation with that of the company discussed in the case study.
To do this, try to capture the following information:
- What is the full name of the client? How do they spell their brand name? It’s Yahoo! not Yahoo.
- What is the company size?
- Where is it located?
- What industry is it in?
- How many years are they in business?
- How many years are they your client, if this is relevant?
- What is their position within the industry?
- What details about this client should be shared, e.g. dominate in market, inventor, partner, government agency?
- How many full-time employees, part-time staff, contractors, do they have? [If relevant]
- Do you have permission to use their name and logo for the case study?
Depending on the type of case study, capture details related to business units, employee numbers, or other relevant information that will help the reader ‘paint a picture’ of the client before and after the solution was implemented.
As mentioned in the Storytelling tutorial, make your client the protagonist in your case study to evoke empathy in the reader.
Once you’ve gathered all this data, boil it down to about 75-100 words for the actual case study.
The next section in the case study relates to challenges.
- What was the single biggest issue they faced?
- What challenge (technical, business, strategic) did the client want you to address?
- What made your client contact you, award you a contract, or partner with you to resolve this?
- What triggered the client to take action? For example, government legislation, market erosion, customer dissatisfaction?
- What other secondary challenges did they face? For example, staff resistance, union issues, compliance, technical limitations, cross-border implementations?
- Why did the client contact you at the specific time? This helps the reader understand both the urgency of the product or service you implemented and also its relevance at that point in time. We can assume that if the reader is looking at your case study, they must be experiencing something similar right now.
- Why was your company qualified to address this challenge?
In a few sentences, describe the client’s expected outcomes from implementing the solution?
In this section, we need to describe who, what and how the solution was implemented.
This means you need to describe more than the actual products that were deployed, but the supporting activates that occurred at the same time. For example, if you were implementing a new accounting software package, you might describe how you tested it on mobile devices for customers on the go, how it adheres to specific security requirements, and how it was integrated into other related technologies, such as back office systems.
Here are some questions to ask to understand the ‘scope’ of the overall solution.
- When was the solution implemented? Give the estimated time frame to deploy the solution.
- What products were implemented? If it’s a range of products, describe each’s role.
- What other technologies were affected? For example, back office, HR, websites and other areas.
- What version of the software was used? For example, a specific version of MS SharePoint or SQL Server.
- How was it implemented? Determine the collaborate efforts between your team and the clients. This demonstrates your ability to work with clients and overcome the inevitable issues that will arise.
- How is the solution hosted? For example, self-hosted, in the cloud, or SaaS.
Here we describe the results. Ideally, we should provide some figures to demonstrate the effectiveness of the solution, such as how it reduced calls to the support center by twenty per cent in less than six months.
These figures need to be realistic. Outlandish numbers will be dismissed by the reader and undermining the credibility of your case study.
Instead, offer figures that are attractive enough to encourage the reader to want to learn more. Resist the urge to overdo it.
What were the results after the solution was implemented?
What immediate benefits did your client see?
For example, access to siloed information, mobile sales, direct access to remote staff etc
What long-term benefits will your client realize?
For example, reduced support calls, more visits to their website, more repeat business.
What measurements, statistics or data support your claims?
- Costs – by what percentage or amount did the solution save money. How?
- Costs – by what percentage or amount did the solution increase revenue. How? Where? Give an example.
- Risks – what risks were alleviated by introducing the product? This suggests to the reader that if they do NOT implement the solution (i.e. if they have these set of risks), then they could be at risk. Don’t go overboard on this, of course. Suggest it.
What new capabilities are you now able to offer? For example, a better view of customer data, faster cash collections, sales via mobile devices.
Finally, help the reader understand why the client choose you, your team, and your product.
- Why did you choose our products?
- Why was the product chosen instead of other rival products?
- Was this related to price, features, compliance, track record, or some other quality that might interest the reader?
- How does the new product support your overarching strategic goals?
- What was the main lesson learned during the implementation?
- What advantages does our solution offer over the competitors?
Ask the client to provide one to two quotes describing their experience using your product.
Encourage them to write in a natural writing style.
Another approach is to phone them, talk about the implementation on the phone, and transcribe what they said. This reads much better than clichéd corporate-speak littered with buzzwords and jargon.
Or write it yourself, and send it to them for approval.
In addition to their name, get their official job title to accompany the quote.
Consider the type of person/persona that will reference your case study.
- Who is the primary target reader for the case study?
- Is it business, technical, operations?
- Can you slant the case study so that it can later be modified for different personas?
- What type of information are they looking for to help them make a decision?
- In a single sentence: what will this case study demonstrate to your reader?