Sunday, July 24, 2005

SCU MBA Capstone Course (IDIS 619) Advice

If you will be taking the capstone course IDIS 619 in the near future, you may find of interest the following conversation I had with an SCU MBA student on the SantaClaraMBA Yahoo! Group, in which I respond to questions about my experiences in taking the class:

> 1. How was the course workload (Madsen Vs. Palmer Vs. Leidecker)?

I just took the class with Professor Madsen. The workload is manageable as long as you keep up with the assignments. Hopefully you won't have any personal or work crises to disrupt your coursework; otherwise it's difficult to catch up.

> 2. Assuming that you are working full time, is it advisable to take
> Capstone by itself or is it manageable to take another course along
> with it?

I recommend taking Capstone by itself, since it is a lot of work. The workload was heavy and intense, but doable. I only took Capstone, but some of my classmates took multiple classes, and not only survived, but did very well. Not to say that it wasn't stressful on them.

> 3. Learning from what all core courses was used for the
> Capstone paper?

I believe MGMT 503 and MKTG 553 are definitely used. What else? I think what's most important is to know what is expected but NOT reviewed very deeply: financial analysis. Make sure you have at least one financial guru in your group who has taken some financial electives and/or uses financial analysis at work. Two gurus are better, so that if one makes a mistake, the other might catch it. Without financial gurus, you may find yourself spending a lot of time digging through your old textbooks and notes (if you still have them) trying to remember how to do all of those calculations. I suppose MGMT 503 knowledge could be leveraged for talking about the management within an organization and organizational structure. While I learned about Porter's Five Forces model in MKTG 553 and other classes, Professor Madsen goes much deeper into the advanced usage of the tool than any other class I took. Don't worry about reviewing it; she'll spend plenty of time teaching you the way that she wants you to use it. Be sure to ask questions. For example, it can get a little confusing remembering if a score of 1 is a good or bad thing for a company (you'll see what I mean when you go through it).

> 4. What all electives do you recommend should be taken
> prior to taking capstone?

As mentioned above, hopefully at least one or two people in your group have some financial electives under their belt so that they haven't forgotten as much as others may have about financial analysis. Otherwise, I think it's best to have a diverse group. So take any electives, and try to get in a group in which everyone hasn't taken the same electives as you. I can tell you that some of my Information Systems electives did not come into use at all in this class. But I don't regret taking them, as they were useful classes. I wouldn't recommend picking electives to prepare for Capstone. Just pick a smart, diverse group with a strong work ethic and you'll do very well! (Maybe easier said than done?)

> 5. How was your team forming process & experience?

Short, but useful. We all met as a group for the first time at the end of the quarter party right before the class started, and had one dinner meeting after that. Those two meetings were sufficient for us. I had Professor Heineke for Econ 401 the quarter previous to Capstone, which required my complete focus, so I wasn't even thinking about Capstone once I was on a team. Heineke was keeping me plenty busy before Capstone, and I have no regrets that we didn't meet earlier. Capstone is tough, but it's all doable within a quarter.

>6. Did you use scucapstone.com or yahoogroups for the project?

Our team used scucapstone.com and found it to be useful. It has a few quirks and a little bit of a learning curve, but overall was very useful. It was nice not having to worry about file attachment size limits or total storagelimits.

> 7. Would it be possible to share your Capstone papers
> with the group? If yes, please upload your papers @
> http://tinyurl.com/cxdcn

I'll have to check with my group. Also, I don't know if I advise looking at Capstone papers far in advance. Just know that it will be a lot of work, and that the professor (at least Madsen) will give you a sample of what is considered a good paper. As I've mentioned above, the class is all doable within a quarter. I think people could be overstressing themselves getting too prepared for the class. I'm glad I had Heineke the quarter before to keep me focused on the class in front of me. Otherwise, I might have been preparing for Capstone a quarter in advance (due to the verbal and email scare stories I've heard and read before), and would have gained little if any benefit. If everyone starts preparing a quarter in advance, then those wanting an edge for the Belotti award might start preparing two quarters in advance. Next thing you know, people will be researching Capstone companies before they submit their application for the MBA program! (OK, I exaggerate. Maybe) I humbly suggest for the health of everyone involved that the madness be nipped in the bud. Starting work on the Capstone class in the break before the Capstone quarter is reasonable (required for Madsen since an assignment is due the first day of class), but don't go overboard by not giving your previous quarter's classes your full attention because you're worrying about and working on preparing for Capstone (One exception: It is a good idea to find a team far in advance, maybe a quarter or two at least).

> Any other tips or advice would be very useful.

Check out scucapstone.com for a lot more Capstone advice. In the public forums, there is a thread called "General Discussion". Click on it to open it. The "sticky" thread at the top of the list is called "Capstone Recommendations". Click on it to read some more advice. Remember that everything posted as advice is advice and not the gospel truth that applies to and is best for everyone; your mileage may vary. Check out the other public forums on scucapstone.com for other useful information. And check out professor reviews within the database sections of a number of SCU MBA Yahoo!Groups (such as the Life Long Network, Women In Business, and the FinanceConnection), as well as on SCU's internal web site. For a list of SCU MBA Yahoo! Groups, see http://www.rickupton.com/scu-mba-msis-networks.htm Good luck!

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