Practical projects on the Executive MBA

Our live projects reflect our belief in learning by doing. Executive MBA participants work on 2 major projects during their studies which offer experiential learning:

  • Team Consulting Project
  • Individual Project

These live projects provide a rare opportunity for participants to explore new industries and test new approaches within an academic framework. You will be supported by mentors to ensure you are getting the most out of your project and promote a rigorous approach.

Team Consulting Project

The Team Consulting Project is a collaboration between an external organisation and EMBA participants acting as a team of consultants.

The project may cover any business challenge or opportunity faced by their client. Participants can work with any company, not for profit organisation or public sector organisation of their choice.

Over an extended period, the team delivers agreed outcomes and receives client feedback. Each participant is assessed on how they reflect on their learning experience as part of the Management Praxis course.

One of the things that I was looking for out of the team consulting project was just to try something completely different. And I think it’s one of those opportunities to step outside your comfort zone and just try something new. So we’re actually looking at using the resources of the University of Cambridge and looking at maybe some of the new startups in the nanotechnology sort of space. So sort of looking at some of the advanced science and maybe how some of that technology could be commercialised.

So I think one of the great things, again, about Cambridge is that you’ve got all of this world-class research going on around you. And we’re in a reasonably good position to bring a business and commercial view to the table in terms of how can you take that and actually commercialise it and make it happen in the real world? And I think for me, that’s quite exciting.

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Working with clients

Previous projects undertaken by EMBA teams have included complete strategic reviews, benchmarking and best practice analysis, diversification assessments, new market strategies, innovation and working with startups.

These have covered sectors as diverse as finance, agriculture, energy, mining, food, health care, education, ecommerce, digital media, satellite-communications, consulting and human rights.

Hear from our participants about their experience of the Team Consulting Project

Project: Made in Britain

Made in Britain.

Team members Alberto Pereira, Emma Kent, Mark Frigerio and Mandeep Saini (all EMBA 2019) reflect on their team consulting project with Made in Britain (MIB), a nonprofit membership organisation for SME manufacturers, where they worked on developing a system of sustainability accredation.

The team consulting project is really a core module of the Executive MBA. And it requires a team to come together as a consulting team on a real, live business issue for a client.

We all wanted to undertake a project related to sustainability, that has real application and can make a difference. We all represented different industries and backgrounds that contributed to the success of our projects, and also to our learnings.

We just shared some values together, which really brought us together as a team. And that really made a difference.

I was really hoping to work with a client who was going to actually use the work that we had done, and implement it in their business. The Cambridge name does open doors. So working on a Cambridge University team consulting project can allow you to approach almost any client that you might want to work with.

Made in Britain supports and promotes British manufacturing. They essentially enable buyers and consumers, at home and abroad, to identify British-made products.

I think Made in Britain for us, as a not for profit organisation that represents an SME network, it was really kind of underserved by a sort of sustainability framework.

We really understood that we were interested in exploring new areas and we wanted to invest that passion, that drive, and that really strong sense of doing something profound.

And it really aligned very well with Made in Britain. An opportunity to work with John Pearce, the CEO, as well as the Made in Britain SME community.

We worked closely with Made in Britain to understand their members. And we worked closely with their Green Working Group, who were already a group of member organisations who were keen on the sustainability agenda, who were keen to prove their sustainability credentials. And we were able to develop this sustainability accreditation tool.

It does seem like we went beyond expectations to a point where actually, we’re going to go live with this. Which is actually really extremely rewarding.

They are actually implementing this programme across all of their members. They’ve built a website that’s dedicated to this sustainability accreditation tool.

They’ve got now over 40 members who’ve actually participated in the self-assessment process. And they’ve really sort of taken this project that we developed for them to the next level.

What sort of made us immensely proud as EMBA students was that in presenting this to Made in Britain, it went outside of the organisation to the UN Global Compact.

And there was actually someone there from the UN Global Compact actually recognising the value that this accreditation will bring to UK manufacturers.

For me the key outcome was really understanding that I had the opportunity to work with some incredible people that were highly motivated, highly skilled, and were really invested in doing something really quite profound, as well.

For me TCP was a unique opportunity to experience different industry and work with different people from diverse backgrounds. Understanding how crucial it is for a team to discuss and agree on its values early in the process.

I think a key takeaway, certainly for me from the team consulting project– and really a wider theme of the entire EMBA– as a future leader, and as future leaders that are embarking on this programme, it’s all about working with and through people. And the TCP really brought that home.

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Project: SAMM Teknoloji

SAMM0 Teknoloji.

Team members Murtaza Khan, Angie Yi Zhang, Stephen Wang and Bartek Kiersznicki (all EMBA 2019), and SAMM CEO Mustafa Aksit discuss their team consulting project, working on growth stratergy and digital transformation with SAMM Teknoloji.

So TCP is a great opportunity for MBAs to put into practise all the knowledge gained, the new tools learned with a live consulting project.

At the very beginning, we’re quite clear about what kind of team we wanted to form.

We set ourselves a challenge that we want to do something important, something on the strategic level, something where we would be working with the top management of the company, solving the really critical business direction issues that they would have, or try to accomplish their strategic goals.

Team consulting project is the only opportunity for MBAs to select their team. In other projects, the team is given to you by the course. And this was a great opportunity for us to go out and find, literally, diverse skill sets within that cohort.

SAMM technology is a fast growing Turkish company that offers products and solution to telecommunication, information, and construction sectors. It has 200 employees. But most of them are Turkey-based.

What I found fascinating about the opportunity with SAMM was that the company seemed to have amazing technology, amazing R&D, and amazing commercialisation potential of the assets they were generating. Super excited that they were generating them in-house.

SAMM has the genuine challenges and the motivation to have this consulting product due to its company pension plan, in particular, its growth initiatives plan to have a market share by establishing and growing office and business.

All together, as a team, we thought we’re very strong. And we brought a very diverse background, in terms of, our cultural background, as well as working experiences. From the client perspective, the few clients that we approached in the beginning, they all identified us as a very strong team, I think, specifically, because the formation and the various different skill sets and background we bring on the table. I work in the marketing team as head of marketing for smart devices in Lenovo. We are the number one PC company in the world.

I’m running commercial functional global mobile operator and technology provider called, Truphone. I have previous management consulting experience with one of the big four companies.

I’m a director of solutions and services for Europe, Middle East, and Africa for a company called, Supermicro. Our customers are the greatest technology companies in the world.

I’m the director of corporate strategy and the partnerships in Huawei R&D, UK Limited. I also serve as industry advisory board member at Imperial College London.

Our customer, SAMM, they were hell bent on high growth. Part of our consulting project was to really change SAMM’s mindset from a account management to a high growth sales growth organisation.

During the TCP, we had the privilege of having the CEO engaged in the project from the very beginning.

We looked at SAMM collectively and looked at areas where they really needed to focus in order to really grow. One of those areas was sales. So as part of a aggressive growing company, we interviewed the sales team, the sales manager, and quickly found out that a drastic change of mindset was needed enable them to really aggressively grow as a sales organisation.

We did an extensive review of their current marketing practises, provided some advice on how they can better arrange their resources currently. And they’re also working on a few new ventures, for example, e-commerce, which is new to their capability. And we also advised a little bit on the e-commerce side of things, as well.

Last year our company was looking for a consultant company for reorganisation of our company, and also, consolidation of some of our departments. With TCP project from Cambridge, we were sure that the participants will be a very high calibre people. They were really, really very deep knowledge. And they’re experts in their field. It was really very, very helpful for me because I was talking to some, maybe, top three, top four companies.

But we were about to choose a service. And in value, we saved $60,000 worth the help of this TCP. And thank you for it.

As soon as we got on site, as soon as we got into this one conference room and had the ability to have an honest direct chat with the people running the business, running a particular business functions, any communication barriers evaporated. And we found very good rapport and very good understanding quite quickly.

Learning from each one of us, in a practical, setting is super important to me. Previously, during the classroom sessions, it’s very, very difficult for us to get this opportunity to actually gain insight from everyone’s previous experiences. But now, this is the perfect chance for us to actually do that and see everything in action.

I would say, the key took away from my side is the diversity. I mean, basically, diverse tastes bringing in the advantage to keep the success, to make the success.

Diversity leads to success. We already know. But I didn’t know that diversity was so much fun.

What I also appreciate a lot from this project is that we felt that what we do, for SAMM, has a meaning to them. They appreciated our support. And that it was valued. And that any ideas, any subject matter, expertise, that we might be bringing was really appreciated.

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Project: bluetentacles


Team members Anna Hoff, Dean Curran, Michal Gabrielczyk, Tom Kinmonth and Danny Siriboe (all EMBA 2019) reflect on their team consulting project with Bluetentacles, an Italian agricultural technology company, where they worked on analysing the company’s growth plan.

What is the TCP? The Team Consulting Project is a project within the MBA class. We come together as a group with different backgrounds, and the goal is to advise a company in a consultant manner with a certain issue the company might face.

It’s an opportunity for us to take the academic work we’ve done in the classroom, and our previous experience, and move that into a new context, and apply that in a project for a real customer.

I found Bluetentacles and introduced them to the team. An agri-tech business in an Italian winrey, you can imagine that was not a particularly difficult sell.

Bluetentacles is a small Italian startup working at the intersection between AI and IOT for agri-tech.

Bluetentacles monitors rainfall on an area and simply determines whether or not an irrigation system should be put on. It’s something so basic but so essential in the modern environment. What we’re trying to do is move irrigation from quite a mediaeval approach where taps get turned on and off manually every so often, to a much more intelligent predictive approach which conserves water and improves yields

I’m Operations Director of a technical manufacturing business, and I have experience in growing small businesses.

I’m an Electrical Lead Engineer in the Electrical Development Department within Ford Motor Company. I have to bring to the team my engineering experience, which probably was quite valuable.

I’ve worked in strategy consulting for a number of years now, mostly with high tech businesses. So whilst the technology with Bluetentacles I was reasonably familiar with, the opportunities to work with some colleagues who had operational experience and deep finance experience was going to be a great value add for me.

I’m a Vice President of Sales for an industrial manufacturing company. I basically take care of Salesforce in Asia. And my background is mechanical engineering.

I wrote research on different banks, and I just hope to bring a bit of background into the financing.

The problems Bluetentacles were having is actually a problem which almost all small companies are having, especially from a technical side, is that they need to find a way how to sell their products, how to market their products.

One of the key things to consider was how do the clients, or the customers, the farmers, how do they buy the software? Previously they would have a huge upfront cost. So one of the first things we looked at was, how do we reduce that upfront cost? How can we lower it to make it the most attractive proposition from the customer side?

The best experience about the whole TCP project is really making a difference. Sometimes you work in big corporations, you start pushing PowerPoint and Excels around, and it takes years and then something happens. Here you’re able to see the impact directly, you’re able to see what good you can bring with your consultation.

Working with an Executive MBA team was a great experience for all of the Bluetentacles team because we are a small company. And we understood that an Executive MBA team could be a great chance for a small startup to grow up.

My biggest takeaway is that you cannot plan everything. Sometimes things just need to arrive and then they are better than you ever could imagine.

All in all, I think it’s the impact and the great friendships we’ve made over the time, and also experiencing different personalities and how we can work together. That’s actually, in my opinion, the biggest takeaway.

Working so closely over the course of a few weeks and, actually, after the project as well, with Marco and his team has really got us to understand business in a completely different context to the one that we’re used to.

That from the MBA is just a great opportunity in a field that you’re not familiar with, and try to just apply what you’ve learned in your career to help this company and see immediate reaction. And really with Bluetentacles, I think we’ve really made friends for life with them.

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Individual Projects

The Individual Project is equivalent to a masters thesis, and can be about any practical aspect of business or management. It gives participants the opportunity to explore an area of particular interest to them in detail.

Participants’ individual projects are supervised by members of faculty. They represent a contribution to new knowledge, some of which are subsequently published as papers or case studies for academic, practitioner, or policy audiences.

The team consulting project

One of the key parts of the EMBA is the team consulting project. So this is where you get together as a group of four, five, six people who work together to help businesses, help an industry. And our journey starts, just a coffee conversation during a break between lectures. And I got talking to the former deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan. And he was talking about some challenges that their post office has got.

I work in retail banking, and I’ve got a lot of experience learning from that sector that we could bring. Long story short. We formed a group of people that would work effectively with other parts of the EMBA. And fast forward a few months, we’ve landed in Kazakhstan to help the post office. And we’re helping to digitise the post office.

So this is a country that has the landmass the size of Western Europe, that has 18 million people. It has huge logistical challenges. They’ve got money to invest in rolling out broadband across the country, but how is that going to transform the post office? And that’s the question that we’re trying to answer– answering with the team.

Learning from others

I learned bucket loads doing this. So I’m a banker, numerical. I’m very structure with problem-solving. I work in a large corporate environment. But other team members, for example, former England rugby player is the best networker, our most highly emotionally intelligent person I’ve ever met.

And together with the other people– so the other guy was from a large pharmaceutical company, one of the largest in the world. Another one was from Norway. Another one worked for all the leading telecoms companies in the UK looking at Internet of Things and innovation. And we came together brilliantly. And we’re now adding a lot of value to the post office and helping transform that country.

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Read about some of the previous research our EMBAs have done for their Individual Projects

Luke Gillott, co-founder, Chi Impact Capital

Luke’s thesis purports that over the past 5 decades, organisations have been operating with the sole focus of maximising profits and shareholder value, regardless of social and environmental externalities. This has resulted in a global economy that is failing to address key challenges including global warming, inequality, and natural resource degradation.

For today’s businesses to sustain long-term success, he suggests they require managers and leaders with a heightened consciousness of their organisation. This includes its internal and external stakeholders, the broader community and environment, as well as how all these elements intersect. Luke’s research led to publication in Conscious Investing, published by Harriman House. He provides an overview of companies which broaden their operating purpose and focus beyond profit, unlocking improved customer service, competitive advantages, market leadership and multiple value creation.

Kjetil Holgeid, Managing Director, Nordic Technology Lead Health & Public Service

Kjetil Holgeid developed his Individual Project, a reflection on why large public projects fail, into a book chapter. Working with his supervisor Dr Mark Thompson (co-author of the chapter), Kjetil highlighted the importance of contextual issues in contributing to the failure rates of large projects in the public sector. By studying these contextual issues related to project failure, the authors developed a new framework – the Contextual IT Project Framework – which takes greater account of hyper-emergent characteristics that often cannot be predicted at the outset.

Read the full chapter in The Governance of Large-Scale Projects – Linking Citizens and the State from The Hertie School of Governance and the Journal for Political Consulting and Policy Advice, 2013.

Michael Salama, Lead Tax Counsel and VP of Corporate Tax, The Walt Disney Company

This study explains how Jensen’s Inequality exists in various income tax contexts and discusses why representing uncertain numbers with average values will, on average, produce a faulty result.

Read “The flaw of averages in US corporate income taxes” in The Virginia Tax Review‘s Spring 2011 issue.

Daniel Ganev, Director, Karoll Capital Management

Research has found that social media is a proven tool for companies to achieve strategic goals, including higher profitability and valuations. Yet the adoption of social media by asset managers is rather low compared to other industries.

For a business where brand awareness, networking and client communications are key sources of competitive advantage, the reluctance to embrace social is a problem. Why does smart money shy away from social?

Read “What’s not to like: smart money shies away from social” in Funds Europe magazine’s June 2013 issue.

Dr Gergely Toth, CEO and President, Gardedam Therapeutics

The study uncovers distinct paradoxes in the funding ecosystem of early-stage biotechs, which suggest that the present ecosystem is not well aligned with the interests of these biotechnology firms and the biotechnology industry. Specifically, it neglects strategic disease burden needs.

The study recommends that increase in funding and improvement of current financing approaches for early-stage biotechnology companies by more government and big pharmaceutical company participation should take place. The cost of capital for these two organisations is substantially lower compared to private corporate investors such as venture capitalist.

Read “The financial ecosystem and early-stage biotechnology firms” in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology.