MSc in Professional Accountancy (MPAcc)
Module: PAM006 Strategic Financial Project (SFP)
UOLIA regulations require all submissions to adhere to this deadline.
This coursework assignment carries 70% of the total of 100% for this Module. It comprises TWO (2) sections, each with their respective weightings. It is an individual not a group-based assignment. The tasks/requirements are detailed in point 5 on pages 5, 6 and 7.
Please take careful note of the flowing points:
- The submission deadline is Monday 11th December 2017 by 1pm (1300 hours) UK Time.
- Any work received after the submission deadline will receive a recorded mark of zero. There will be no extensions given.
- The upper limit of the word count should not be exceeded – see point 3 below on page 2 – and it is essential that you state an accurate word count at the end of each of Section 1 and Section 2.
- If you do not state an accurate word count at the end of each Section you will receive a 5 mark penalty for each omission.
- You should cite references using, preferably, the Harvard referencing system (https://accountancy.elearning.london.ac.uk/mod/lesson/view.php?id=3808) although other appropriate alternatives are acceptable when used consistently. If you use a referencing system other than Harvard you should state the name at the start of your referencing list.
- At the end of your response to each section you should state your accurate word count, excluding your list of references.
- Submitted assignments are subject to a range of quality control and scrutiny checks including, as appropriate, double marking and/or moderation and/or scrutiny by the module’s Internal and/or External Examiners. All submitted assignments are subject to Turnitin checking for plagiarism (see point 2 below on page 2). All results when first published are provisional until confirmed by the Examination Board (held in 2018).
- Assessment criteria are referred to in point 4 on page 3/page 10.
- This is cheating. Do not be tempted and certainly do not succumb to temptation. Plagiarised copies are invariably rooted out and severe penalties apply. All assignment submissions are electronically tested for plagiarism. More information may be accessed via: https://accountancy.elearning.london.ac.uk/mod/lesson/view.php?id=3809
3. Penalties for exceeding the word count
- There are penalties for exceeding the specified word count.
- For Section 1 your submission should be between 4,000 and 4,500 words. You may use less than 4,000 words but in so doing you may be penalizing yourself as it is likely to be challenging to respond to Section 1’s requirement in less than 4,000 words.
- You MUST state an accurate word count (excluding the list of references) at the end of Section 1. If you do not state an accurate word count you will receive a 5 mark penalty.
- If you submit more than 4,500 words for Section 1, the following penalties apply: - up to 10% more than 4,500 words your mark for Section 1 will be reduced by 5 marks;
- For more than 10% than 4,500 words you will receive zero marks for Section 1.
- For Section 2 your submission should be between 1,000 and 1,500 words. You may use less than 1,000 words but in so doing you may be penalizing yourself as it is likely to be challenging to respond to Section 2’s requirement in less than 1,000 words.
- You MUST state an accurate word count (excluding the list of references) at the end of Section 2. If you do not state an accurate word count you will receive a 5 mark penalty.
- If you submit more than 1,500 words, the following penalties apply:
- up to 10% more than 1,500 words your mark for Section 2 will be reduced by 5 marks;
- For more than 10% more than 1,500 words you will receive zero marks for Section 2.
4. Guidelines regarding criteria for achieving particular grade boundaries
The grade standards represented by the mark ranges are:
85 - 100
70 - 84
60 - 69
50 - 59
40 - 49
0 - 39
Bad fail standard
5. Tasks and requirements
To be submitted by Monday 11th December 2017 by 1pm (1300 hours) GMT
There are 2 sections. Submit both sections within ONE (1) Word processed document.
Section 1 (90% weighting of this assignment)
Your Individual chosen Case Scenario business plan report
To complete this assignment you are required to produce a business plan report suitable for consideration by the management team of your chosen case scenario company in the context of the strategic challenges facing the company.
Your report should be between 4,000 words and a maximum of 4,500 words. Penalties apply for exceeding the word count. No formal penalties apply for using fewer than 4,000 words but in so doing you may be penalizing yourself as it is likely to be challenging to respond to the requirement in less than 4,000 words. When combined with Section 2 the total word count should not exceed 6,000 words. State an accurate word count at the end of this Section. Failure to do so will result in a 5 mark penalty.
In producing your business plan/consultancy report you should:
- Identify, explore and evaluate alternative strategies for developing the business.
- In undertaking a) above, research the relevant ‘real world’ industry, market and business environment the company is situated in. You should use a combination of relevant real world primary and/or secondary research to provide the basis upon which your strategic choices are made.
- Arising out of a) and b) above, set out a compelling five year business plan report designed to enhance shareholder value. You may use your own definition of shareholder value but must explain and justify it. The plan may identify a range of strategies for consideration but should ultimately put forward your recommendation with evidenced justification.
- Identify specific KPIs to assist in measuring to what degree shareholder value is being enhanced.
- Review your proposed plan, and identify and assess the key risks within it.
You should include graphs, tables and figures within the main body of the report where appropriate. You may also wish to include extracts of your spreadsheet planning model results within your business plan report to strengthen your justifications and evidence.
If you carry out any primary research you should include relevant extracts within an appendix as part of the evidence of carrying out that primary research.
Where you carry out secondary research you should ensure you reference appropriately.
PLEASE NOTE: If you submit a business plan report that does not match the choice of case scenario made by Thursday 9th November 2017 or allocated to you because you did not select a case, you will receive zero marks for Section 1.
Any appendices should not contain any materials central to the core thrust of the assignment: it should not contain information or large amounts of text which you cannot fit into the main body of your business plan report. As such, appendices content will not be considered within the mark scheme formally.
The following criteria will be assessed:
- Overall contextual research into the relevant industry, market and business environment (15%)
- Use of primary and/or secondary research to justify the strategic option(s) being set out for the company (20%)
- Definition and justification of shareholder value for chosen case study company (5%)
- Recommended strategy/strategies and justifications (10%)
- Case study company-specific KPIs justification (10%)
- Identification and assessment of key risks within proposed plan (10%)
- The quality of the business plan taking account of cohesion, links with your research and associated considerations (25%) - Note: this will be assessed using the assessors academic judgement of the submission presented.
- Overall communication (5%)
To help you frame your thoughts around the case study business plan report, here are a few points to think about:
- In essence, you are doing something similar to the Icarus activity in that you are given a business to plan for.
- You are given some financial data and a planning tool you can use to explore different scenarios. These scenarios should be based upon your own research of the economic landscape and trends within it. Such exploration should enable you to develop a range of suitable strategies and to assess their impacts on the business`s financial status over five years.
- Ultimately you are being asked to project a plan for the future of the business, a future which will enhance shareholder wealth. Remember you define (and justify) what you mean by shareholder wealth. Having done so, you will need to identify and set out appropriate objectives to aim for and to be measured. This could involve identifying KPIs for such measurement.
- You may wish – not unreasonably, to use on the business`s current financial position and its strategy(ies) as your departure point.
- The research you carry out could well be based upon primary and/or secondary research (as covered in the first 11 weeks of the module) where appropriate. Finding out about the business landscape/industry that your case study is based within is a first step. The strategies you will wish to try out will depend upon your research.
- The spreadsheet planning tool can help you generate forecast results for the alternative scenarios and strategies you decide to explore. You then select the scenario and strategy you feel most appropriate for the business. You should then ‘officially’ recommend and endorse it, and in so doing provide justification, citing ‘evidence’ where necessary. This is much like the rationales you and your team were providing as support for the choices you were making for each round in Icarus – but with further development.
- The spreadsheet planning tool is there for you to use, adapting it as you see fit. There may be some cell references that need some tweaking but essentially it is a tool to help you plan. The main output for this assessment is the business plan report – the Excel planning tool should be viewed as part of the process you use to arrive at the business plan.
- Ultimately, if this was your business... What would you do....?
There is no one set way to structure your report for this assessment. Below are some Section headings that you may wish to utilise to help structure your report or to help ensure you cover key areas. But, again, it is not set in stone and can be adapted as you see fit.
- Introduction/Executive summary
- Background Industry/market analysis
- Any key primary research (if applicable) conducted with results, particularly in the context of identifying and exploring alternatives.
- Identification of overall objectives; relevant KPI selection and justification; selection and justification of key strategies
- Financial plans/projections
- Risk assessments
- Recommendations and conclusion
- Full consistent reference list.
Section 2 (10% weighting of this assignment)
Your Individual Reflective piece
This relates to one main area: the Icarus activity.
The total word count for Section 2 is 1,000 – 1,500 words maximum.
Penalties apply for exceeding the word count. No formal penalties apply for using fewer than 1,000 words but in so doing you may be penalizing yourself as it is likely to be challenging to respond to the requirement in less than 1,000 words. When combined with Section 1 the total word count should not exceed 6,000 words.
State an accurate word count at the end of this Section. Failure to do so will result in a 5 mark penalty.
Context and Requirement
“We do not learn so much from experience as we do from reflecting on our experience.” – John Dewey
John Dewey (1859-1952) is considered by some to be one of the most influential thinkers about the philosophy of education in the twentieth century. His writings in Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think. A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process (Revised edn.), Boston: D.C. have inspired many of those involved in the education process – educators and students. His ideas are located in more recent, populist writings, illustratively:
Harry stared at the stone basin. The contents had returned to their original, silvery white state, swirling and rippling beneath his gaze.
“ What is it?” Harry asked shakily.
“This? It is called a Pensieve,” said Dumbledore. “ I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.”
“Err,” said Harry who couldn’t truthfully say that he had ever felt anything of the sort.
“At these times” said Dumbledore, indicating the stone basin, “ I use the Penseive. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into a basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.’
Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling
(Rowling, J.K., (2000) Harry Potter and the goblet of fire. London, Bloomsbury Publishing.)
Reflection is important within educational experiences. A reflective statement is a statement that captures thoughts about, perceptions of, a past experience, such as that you have experienced in your study of this module. They help us to understand past events and associated experiences and to learn lessons. Having written a reflective statement, it is then possible to analyse it and draw lessons about future decisions, behaviour and actions. Such a statement can focus on the consequences of the educational experience for work-related decisions, behaviour and actions, not least in the arena of confirming or amending professional work practices.
With this in mind, look back over your Icarus rationale and minutes of meetings submissions and any other correspondence you held with your team mates over the Icarus period (between weeks 12 to 17). If you have been keeping an ‘off-line’ diary during the activity as suggested, you should also refer to this as it will certainly help you identify the experience ‘raw’ at the time in preparation for analyses.
Take time to think about what you have learnt from the various interactions, research tasks, performance analyses, and teamwork etc. that took place during each of the five rounds of play. You should have already captured some of this during the activity. Now, you should be seeking to articulate your experience, feelings and evaluation of the activity in terms of any personal and professional impact upon you.
1. Using Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (see Appendix A of this document) or an appropriate alternative reflection framework, provide a reflective account of your Icarus activity.
In addressing this task you should ensure that you do not just describe each round of the Icarus activity but rather reflect upon the learning experience through evaluation, analysis, conclusions and ultimately provide your future plans for enhancing your professional practice.
Overall, the reader is seeking to be provided with a written account that captures your critical thought process of reflection. Accordingly, the marking criteria for Section 2 will consider overall cohesion but with particular emphasis on the quality of your evaluation, analysis, conclusions and action plans.
Please note that if you use an alternative reflective framework you should state what it is and cite its author. The marking criteria will still be seeking evaluation, analysis, conclusions and action plans.
In responding to this requirement you should, clearly, certainly refer to relevant MScPAcc materials as appropriate. You are encouraged to also draw upon other materials, as appropriate, from other sources. Ensure that your response is not just descriptive but also reflects analysis, evaluation, conclusions, and plans. There are a number of sources freely available concerning the art and science of reflection. Feel free to draw upon such sources. Alternatively you may wish to read Appendix A of this document.
To help you frame your thinking around being ‘reflective’ one particular model that may be of use is Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle or Model of Reflection (1988)1. This is depicted on the right and contains six categories.
You can use these six categories as a departure point as you embark on thinking and writing reflectively for each round of Icarus and indeed, for the final project when the time comes:
- What happened during the round? Who was involved/not involved?
- What was the actual process that was applied as you embarked upon the activity?
- What were the aims of the round and of your team within Icarus compared to your own aims?
- Relay the account to the reader but do not spend too much of your word count on providing an account that is just simply descriptive.
- What did you feel? How did you react or respond?
- Why did you respond in such a way? Did your feelings affect your actions?
- Identify and examine your reactions, feelings and thoughts at the time.
- It is important to be honest.
- Look at the judgements and choices you made at the time about how things were going.
- What was positive? Negative? What made you think this?
- Try to stand back from the event/round/experience and
- be objective in your evaluations.
- What made you think something was good or bad?
- Examine your own judgements and what contributed to them. How do you feel about them now?
- Examine the experience/event/round in depth and identify an overarching key aspect of
- the experience/event/round that affected it greatly and as such needs addressing next time. For example, an aspect of communication or time management or organisation or commitment that might have played a central part in the outcome.
- How was it flawed this time? In what way? Why? How should it have worked in this situation?
- What ideas or theories are you aware of which look at this? Does theory about this aspect help you make more sense of what happened?
- Could you use theory to improve this aspect in the future? In this section, you need to fully examine and make sense of factors affecting the situation, and exploring ways to change and develop these.
- What have you learned from each experience/event/round?
- What would you change for next time?
- Would such a change be possible?
- You should also identify what to improve. These may be specific skills, or identifying new knowledge.
- What could you do differently next time and how could you prepare for this?
- What areas need developing or planning for? What resources do you need, and where would they be found?
- What steps will be taken first?
Do remember that your reflections on an event/experience/round can change over time as you reflect more and acquire more knowledge. Refine your reflections, perhaps by writing a longer, more descriptive account but focusing on key events/moments. Reflective writing is useful as a positive method to help identify and develop yourself and your skills. Often, we do not get a chance to do this.