The case study is a possible approach to depict certain processes and circumstances within an organization or a situation. The aim of a case study is to supplement the findings from theory with those from practice.

The strength of case studies lies in the fact that complex processes and procedures within a company can be clearly illustrated and can be used as examples.

A point of criticism of a case study is often that general deductions from the individual case to the whole are not always possible or only possible under certain aspects. The reason for this is the strong contextual relevance to the respective case.

Types of case studies

There are two types of case studies. Case studies consider a case with a mostly critical, unique, typical or previously inaccessible nature over a longer period of time (Bodendorf et al. 2010). In doing so, you examine a company or a case very carefully and in detail. Often this is done in cooperation with just one practice partner.

The second case is the comparative case study. Comparative case studies have the advantage of critically illuminating the knowledge gained by looking at several cases in parallel and thereby discovering case-specific similarities and differences (Bodendorf et al. 2010). For example, it becomes clear how different companies use SAP or Scrum.

Tip: don’t forget yours Cleanly limit methodology.

Collect data and conduct a case study

The task now is to depict the case study through interviews or observation. If the project has already been completed, you can have the story of the project told you in 2-5 interviews. I recommend asking several roles, as this gives you a comprehensive view.

If the project is still ongoing and you are given permission to attend the project, have a piece of paper with you and write down your observations. These notes are attached to your work. So you write a kind of diary. Of course, this should be supplemented by interviews with the project managers. You should also try to take pictures if you get permission to do so.

brucklyn-coworkingspace1-work
Images of important points in the case study, such as the office equipment, provide a better understanding (source: Lindner and Brucklyn Erlangen)

Written down a case study

Now it is time to write down the case study. Remember: you are not writing a novel, you are still writing a factual report, which does not have to mean that it is boring. However, you should avoid saying: “It was a mild summer morning and the project manager is on his way to the next meeting”. Instead, stay objective and describe the following points:

  • event : When and where does the case study take place and how why did the project start? Eg project with Scrum due to a new customer
  • person : Which people and roles were there in the case study and what is their relevance? e.g. Scrum Master, Product Owner, …
  • place : What are the characteristics of this place and is it relevant to the case study? e.g. New Work Office or Open Space
  • phenomenon : Are there cause-and-effect relationships in the case study? Eg introduction of a daily led to better communication in the project

Furthermore, I generally recommend illustrations and, in any case, a schedule of the case study. This greatly helps the reader to better understand the case study.

A timeline or even pictures from the everyday life of the case study, e.g. of the office furnishings or relevant machines (as far as possible) help enormously with the visualization

Evaluation of the case study

Now it is important to derive meaningful results from the existing case study. There are numerous approaches to this. On the one hand, you might ask yourself: What approaches are there in the literature on your topic and which have been implemented? or even simpler: What best practices or tips can you derive from the case study?

You can also derive hypotheses based on the case study and then evaluate them using interviews or surveys.

Conclusion

A case study has the strength in the detailed presentation of an individual case and is often exciting for the practitioner and scientist to read. Interesting impulses relating to the research question can be derived from the case study. A case study is therefore ideally suited to take a detailed look at phenomena from practice.

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Bodendorf, F., Löffler, C., & Hofmann, J. (2010). Research methods in business informatics. business Informatics , (1), 1-44.

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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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