Starting with Communication Frameworks
I am a believer in creating what I call communication frameworks, which are structured templates for communicating an idea. Having communication frameworks removes the anxiety associated with forming and organizing ideas. They do this by creating a logical outline and template for your written or even spoken ideas—this enables you to focus on the content.
For example, a sentence has a framework or structure that most of us will remember from school: subject/verb.
A paragraph can have a framework of introductory sentence, three supporting sentences, and a conclusion sentence.
An essay can have a framework of an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.
Although you can deviate from the framework, it provides a clear road map for organizing ideas.
When it comes to case studies, the template or framework I use is pretty simple. It consists of the following:
- Company/Client profile
- Conclusion/Call to action
I’ll explain each of them in the following sections.
I start with a bulleted list of technologies—system technologies as well as processes. The list simply introduces what the reader will find covered in the case study.
Whether by name or simply by profile description, I want the reader to know the type of industry, the size, and the primary focus of the company whose problem I solved. As you advance in your career, you will begin to compile a list of cross-industry companies that you have worked for. Having case studies that identify these profiles will enable you to provide the closest match to a prospective employer.
This section should describe the primary problem on which the case study will focus. If you work for a company for an extended period of time, you will have multiple projects for case studies. It is better to break up extended work and projects into multiple studies and focus each study on a given technology or project.
The challenge, although it can be technical in nature, should also be framed in context of its impact on the business challenge. That impact can include efficiency, errors, lost time, lost income, and so on.
The solution is the section of the case study in which you get to showcase your identification of the problem, any mitigating factors that had to be considered, and your development of the solution. The solution section of your case study should give the reader a sense of your thought process and the pride you take in solving problems.
As you did with the problem, your solution should focus on the positive business impact of the solution.
For prospective employers, the solution section is where they can see why you might be a good fit for the company. They get to see something your resume cannot demonstrate—your thought processes and your understanding of how technical problems create business challenges.
Conclusion/Call to Action
The final section of any case study is a succinct conclusion. It should reiterate both the problem and challenge, explaining the benefit of the work that was done. It should then ask readers to do something: a call to action. This call to action can be as simple as suggesting that they contact you with any questions or comments. You can include your contact information at the bottom of the page.
Case Study Impact
You do not need to have a case study published in a formal journal or magazine; it can be a private document that is no different from your resume or cover letter. However, even when not formally published, it lends credibility to your professional persona. Just the fact that you organized your ideas into a cohesive document can do a lot to separate you from competition in the job market.