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a) Research the relevant ‘real world’ industry, market and business environment the company/venture is situated in.

MSc in Professional Accountancy (MPAcc) Module: PAM006 Strategic Financial Project (SFP)

Final Individual Project (Study Session: July to December 2020) Submission deadline: Monday 14th December 2020 by 1pm (1300 hours) UK time. UOL regulations require all submissions to adhere to this deadline

1. Introduction

This project 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 14th December 2020 by 1pm (1300 hours) UK Time (week 23).
  • Any work received after the submission deadline will receive a recorded mark of zero. There will be no extensions given except in evidenced extenuating circumstances.
  • There are 2 sections for this Project assignment. You will submit TWO (2) separate documents – one for each section.
  • The upper limit of the word count should not be exceeded – see point 3 further below
  • If you do not state an accurate word count for each Section’s submitted document you will receive a 5 mark penalty for each omission.
  • You should cite references using, preferably, the Harvard referencing system 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.
  • 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.
  • Assessment criteria are referred to in point 4 on page 3/page 11.

on page 2 – and it is essential that you state an accurate word count for each Section’s submitted document on their respective title pages

2. Plagiarism

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

  1. There are penalties for exceeding the specified word count.
  2. The total word count for both submission documents combined, should NOT exceed 6,000 words.
  3. 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 penalising yourself as it is likely to be challenging to respond to Section 1’s requirement in less than 4,000 words.
  1. 4. 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 for Section 1 on the title page you will receive a 5 mark penalty.
  1. 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.

  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 penalising yourself as it is likely to be challenging to respond to Section 2’s requirement in less than 1,000 words.
  1. 7.    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 for Section 2 on the title page you will receive a 5 mark penalty.
  1. 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:

Mark range

Grade standard

85 - 100

Outstanding Distinction

70 - 84

Distinction

60 - 69

Merit

50 - 59

Pass

40 - 49

Fail standard

0 - 39

Bad fail standard

5. Tasks and requirements

To be submitted by Monday 14th December 2020 by 1pm (1300 hours) UK time.

There are 2 sections. Submit EACH section as SEPARATE Word processed documents.

The Turnitin submission link will have two sections: one for the business consultancy report (section 1) and one for the reflective piece (section 2).

Please ensure you submit the correct document to the relevant tab.

Section 1 (90% weighting of this assignment)

This should be submitted as a separate document and uploaded to the Project Turnitin submission link for this project via the designated relevant tab (section 1).

Your Individual New business venture proposal/Workplace business-strategic plan report

You are required to produce a 5-year business/strategic plan report.

There are three potential report scenarios from which you should select one:

  1. You may if you wish situate your report within your Workplace scenario. If you do so it should be suitable for consideration by a new management team for your workplace in the context of the strategic challenges facing the company.
  2. You may if you wish use a workplace/company which is not your primary workplace but one which you are familiar with and can have access to relevant data and information (which can be quite challenging).
  3. You may if you wish prepare a business/strategic plan report for a new business venture (NBV) scenario, the report should be suitable for potential investors and relevant stakeholders.

In any of these three scenarios, appropriate permission of use of data should be sought. Where data is of a confidential nature, a note should be placed on the front of your title page stating the following:

This project is CONFIDENTIAL and is not to be made accessible outside those academics who are marking/examining the project and the UOL Programme Team.

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 penalising 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 on the title page of Section 1. Failure to do so will result in a 5 mark penalty.

In producing your report you should:

a) Research the relevant ‘real world’ industry, market and business environment the company/venture 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.

b) Utilise a range of strategic tools (SWOT, PESTLE, Ansoff, Porter and so on as appropriate) to help analyse the relevant situated context.

c) Identify, explore and evaluate alternative strategies for developing the business.

d) Arising out of a), b) and c) above, set out a compelling five-year business plan consultancyreport designed to enhance shareholder value. You may use your own definition of shareholder value but must explain and justify its selection. The report may identify a range of strategies for consideration but should ultimately put forward your recommendation with evidence justification for why the proposed is the best way forward.

e) Identify specific key performances (KPIs) to assist in measuring to what degree shareholder value is being enhanced. These KPIs should be justified and appropriately monitored such that it facilitates a good overview of performance.

f) Include extracts of your spreadsheet planning tool results/financial forecasts within your report to strengthen your justifications and evidence. You are not required to submit the actual planning tool. However, the connectivity of your financial plans should flow throughout your report and should be presented in a user-friendly and robust manner.

d) 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. Please refer to the Project Presentation Guide document within the Final Project section on the VLE for word count guidance for tables and graphs.

If you carry out any primary research you should include relevant extracts within the main body or an appendix as part of the evidence of carrying out that primary research and appropriate analysis. Where you carry out secondary research you should ensure you reference appropriately.

PLEASE NOTE:

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 report to escape the word count limit! As such, appendices content will not be considered within the mark scheme formally but will, of course, provide the highlights of your evidence for reference purposes.

The following criteria will be assessed on a scale of up to 10 mapped to the mark ranges for this module (point 4 above):

  • 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 organisation (15%)
  • Definition and justification of shareholder value for chosen organisation (6%)
  • Recommended strategy/strategies and justification of those strategies (8%),
  • Robust linkages with your financial forecasts (11%)
  • New business venture/workplace scenario-specific KPIs justification (10%)
  • Identification and assessment of key risks within the proposed plan (10%)
    • The quality of the report taking account of cohesion, links with your research, evidence, financials, justifications and associated considerations (20%) - Note: this will be assessed using the assessor’s academic judgement of the overall submission presented.
    • Overall communication (5%) – Note: this will be assessed using the assessor’s academic judgement of the overall submission presented.
      • In essence, you are doing something similar to the Icarus activity in that you are thinking ahead strategically for an organisation over the next 5 years.
      • Whether you are using your workplace scenario or a new business venture (NBV) scenario, there is a skeleton spreadsheet planning tool which you can use to explore different scenarios. The skeleton tool, however, is just that – a tool. We have provided this to help you but the extent of its usage is up to you. If you are using your workplace, you may already have access to a tool or may need to develop a simple one using the skeleton or your own to aid your exploration of options. If you are going for the NBV scenario, you may wish to create your own simple tool or create an adapted version of the skeleton or you can use workings of your own design. Again, this is your choice to make.
      • Ultimately you are being asked to plan for the future, a future which will enhance shareholder value. 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

To help you frame your thoughts around the report, here are a few points to think about:

aim for and to be measured. This should involve identifying a range of KPIs for such holistic measurement.

  • You may wish – not unreasonably - to use your workplace’s current financial position and its strategy(ies) as your departure point. Or you may need to project the first year’s financial status for your NBV and build upon that.
  • 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 NBV/your workplace scenario is based within is a first step. The strategies you will wish to try out will depend upon your independent research.
  • The skeleton tool can help you generate forecast results for the alternative scenarios and strategies you decide to explore be they, for example, exploring a new international market or extending an existing product line or introducing a new product line. You should 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 skeleton tool is there for you to use, adapting it as you see fit. You will definitely need to make adjustments to the tool but it is just to help you plan. Remember, the

main output for this assessment is the report – the skeleton tool should be viewed as part of the process you use to arrive at the report you submit. Unlike Icarus, you do not have the luxury of ‘rolling the world forward’ but nonetheless, the mindset Icarus should have put you in will help think about the issues you will need to address for this assignment.

  • Try not to spend all of your time playing with any skeleton tool ‐ your justifications must come from your research into the environment, target markets and possibly even primary research to back up your assertions. This helps inform the numbers you pump into the tool!
  • The skeleton tool is not a perfect one – indeed, a ‘perfect’ one probably does not exist! You will need to tweak it yourself if you find any issues and/or if you change anything yourself. But it is a general one to help kick-start your thought process and to help provide some inspiration for you. Remember, you do not have to use this tool, you can create/adapt one of your own.
  • At the end of the day, if this was your business... What would you do? and will someone objective reading your plan for the first time understand what you are trying to achieve, why and how?
  • If someone were to pick up your report and read the conclusion first, then the main body and then the introduction, would it all tie together? There should be a thread/narrative throughout that allows the reader to be able to go back, go forward and come back again and still allow good linkages. Does it ‘hang together’?

A note about structuring the report

There is no one set way to structure your report for this assessment. There is room for individuality and creativity but with a goal of providing an easy to follow, clear and well- evidenced report. Below are some areas/headings that you may wish to utilise to help structure your report or to help ensure you cover key areas. But, again, this is not set in stone and can be adapted as you see fit.

  • Introduction
  • Background Industry/market analysis using relevant frameworks tools
  • Any key primary research (if applicable) conducted with results, particularly in the context of identifying and exploring strategic alternatives/opportunities.
  • 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 using accepted referencing style e.g. Harvard.

END OF SECTION 1

Section 2 (10% weighting of this assignment)

This should be submitted as a separate document and uploaded to the Project Turnitin submission link for this project via the designated relevant tab (section 2).

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 or state it on the front title page. Failure to do state the word count for each Section in your submission will result in a 5 mark penalty.

Context and Requirement Context

“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 18). 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. Note that if you did not participate in Icarus, then you will be unable to reflect and therefore forgo the marks available for this section.

Required:

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 and its impact upon your personal and professional development now and in your future.

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 (on a scale of up to 10).

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

Appendix A

Reflections guide

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). This is depicted on the right and contains six categories.

You can use these six categories as a departurepoint as you embark on thinking and writing reflectively for each round of Icarus and indeed, for the final project when the time comes:

Description

  • 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.

Feelings

  • 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. Evaluation
  • 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? Analysis

 

  • · 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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

Action plan

  • 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.

 Reference

Gibbs, G (1988). Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic


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