Capstone course develops extremely well students’ working life skills

Collaboration between consulting companies and the School of Business was again highly successful.
Opiskelijoita Kauppakorkeakoululla. Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto / Unto Rautio
The students in the picture didn't participate in this course. Photo: Aalto University / Unto Rautio

Professor of Information Systems Science Matti Rossi teaches the master's level course Project Management and Consulting practice. The students taking part in the course are already in the final stages of their studies, and the course brings together what they have learned in their master's studies. 

‘As the name of the course suggests, the course covered areas related to project management and consulting, such as the project life cycle, agile methods and tools and the competence required of a consultant. The project course lasted six weeks and included both lectures and a real-life project done for a company or organisation. At the end of every other week, the students also handed in a learning diary in which they reflected on what they had learned.’

Senior Consultant Roni Luoma acted as EY-Parthenon’s contact person in a case project. He says that EY-Parthenon has long collaborated with Aalto students in the form of, for example, course projects and student events. ‘This is the second year we are taking part in the School of Business’ Project Management and Consulting practice course.’

The collaboration has been excellent according to Luoma. ‘The credit for that goes to the active students and the skilled faculty and staff of Aalto who make the collaboration go smoothly.’ 

Defining the scope of a project

Heta Räikkönen is one of the master's students in Information and Service Management who participated in the course. She did a group assignment together with Saku Kiviharju and Linda Kronberg. ‘I wanted to take the course because I think that every business student benefits from having project work skills and understanding consulting, as many will act as consultants and customers in their working lives. Customer work is very often central,’ Heta says.

‘Interpersonal communication has been one of the most important things in the lectures, and it proved to be just as important in project work too. Ethics, interpersonal work and managing expectations are things I have already encountered while working alongside my studies. In the lectures and group assignments, I have been able to mirror my experiences and hear interesting ways of approaching these questions from others.’

Heta Räikkönen explains that her group's task in the project work was to advise an imaginary venture capitalist regarding a corporate acquisition. ‘It was nice to have a topical subject and interesting sector.’

‘The investor considered acquiring an electric car charger manufacturer that would be detached from the current parent company and established as a spinoff company. Our task was to examine the electric car market and consider whether the investment is profitable, how the company relates to its competitors and how the continuity of the new detached electric charging business would be guaranteed as a spinoff company.’

‘Knowing how to define the scope of the project depending on the information we received was important. At first, we only received limited information and had to draw up a project plan on that basis. We received more information some time later, which changed our approach quite a bit. We had resolved to draw up a sufficiently flexible project plan so that additional information or changes to the scope of the project would not make our previous work obsolete.  We also did not want to investigate most things in depth until we knew what we were expected to focus on in the project. A consultant may certainly come across situations like this in their work.’

‘Best thing about the School of Business is working together’

Heta Räikkönen likes project work done in groups. ‘I had friends in my team with whom I did all the group assignments during the first year of my bachelor's studies, but with whom I have done nothing together since then. It was nice that different major subjects had the same Capstone course, and we were able to work together after a long time and combine our experience accumulated over the years,’ says delighted Heta.

As an end product, the group created a report that included a market analysis, competitor analysis and plan for the continuation of the company's operations after the possible acquisition. ‘We thought about what kind of things a consultant could face in this situation. For example, we discussed how the possible acquisition would affect the employees of the company or if it would change the company in the eyes of customers. In situations like this, there are so many things that could be taken into account, but we must be able to focus on the essential ones.’

‘We also made proposals for focusing their business activities and clarifying their market position by focusing on, for example, pricing and business activities that correspond with their own strengths. We combined different research methods and made evaluations of the development of the sector: in what stage of the development curve they are now and what kind of competitors they would be competing against,’ Heta says.

Heta has always liked how Aalto collaborates with companies. ‘The people who planned our project task knew well what kind of things to focus on because they work on similar cases themselves. Although our case company was fictitious, the EY-Parthenon consultants said that the case could just as well have been real. EY-Parthenon involved a few master’s graduates who had graduated from the School of Business a year ago, and it was interesting to hear what kind of work they are doing and what opportunities the companies they represent offer to new professionals.’

Roni Luoma from EY-Parthenon thanks the School of Business for the opportunity to engage in meaningful collaboration and the students for their excellent efforts in the case task.

‘The best thing about implementing a course project is the chance to challenge and develop students' competence in the skills needed in management consultation and to see the results and insights they have produced. We feel that the solutions and ideas developed by students have proved to be of high quality and that the most important outcome, the development of students' competence and working life skills, has been incredibly successful,’ Roni says.

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