The purpose of the Capstone course and its assignments is to help you use and further develop the skills that you have acquired during your studies: managing a team, identifying and evaluating critical problems, and developing recommendations for action – all skills that you will need when you graduate. You can read more about the student experiences at the Capstone course here.
The Capstone course is organized on campus this fall.
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Proper project planning and management is essential for a successful project.
Below are two videos created for you by August Associates, a leading strategy consultancy company in Finland. In these videos the consultants are sharing the key principles of project planning and management. Hopefully you find these videos helpful when planning and managing your Capstone project.
You may want to consider the following steps when creating your action plan and schedule for the project:
Problem framing (Video I)
· Define the research questions properly
· Break down the problem into several hypotheses that can be analyzed
· Create a project plan (using excel, power point or any other tool that you are comfortable using - for example, the Simple Gantt Chart template in excel is very good and easy to use)
· Structure the timeline based on the deliverables and meeting times of the project (see Capstone - course introduction and instructions for dates)
· Five tips for filling in the project plan (Video II)
- Understand the objective and outcome that you are working towards
- Break down the work into work streams and associated tasks
- Identify the logical sequence of the individual tasks and any interdependencies between them
- Estimate the duration of each task and assign responsibilities
- Execute the plan, and be prepared to adjust it as you go along
· Plan your work also according to other commitments outside the Capstone course (other courses' deliverables, exams, Master's thesis, work, etc.)
· Remember that the hours allocated for the project are 120 per student so adjust your plan accordingly if the project becomes too big
If you are conducting interviews/surveys and collect data from or of persons, you may be collecting personal data.
Personal data is all data relating to an identified or identifiable natural person, such as name, social security number, home address, telephone number, e-mail address, video image, voice of a person, IP-address, location data of a person or a combination data from which a person can be recognized (e.g. occupation and place of residence).
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is applied as of 25 May 2018 in all of the EU member states as the GDPR is the applicable legislation as such and applies to all processing of personal data.
How to handle personal data in the project (if conducting interviews/surveys)?Please contact your facilitator and Iiris (Iiris.Saittakari@aalto.fi) if you have any questions and we will help you further :)
- Individuals can be identified by other data than their names. Thus, simply deleting the names and other identifying data will not always render all data in a personal data file anonymous.
you are conducting interviews/surveys and collect data from or of persons, plan
what data you need.
- Think about what data you need and also what data you do not need. Is it necessary to collect personal data? Think of how you can design your study so that your data is least identifiable while still accomplishing your goals.
- Anonymized data
are no longer considered to constitute personal data and are not subject to
data protection regulations.
an individual data item can be considered anonymous or not requires
case-by-case evaluation. Therefore,
it is recommended that you will send the following privacy notice to
the interviewee even if you do not aim to collect personal data. The customized template for the Capstone course can be found here in English and in Finnish.
Please fill in your project specific information to the parts that are
highlighted in yellow and send it to the interviewee before the
interview. It's recommended that you anonymize (see the last bullet) or
pseudonymize the interview results (e.g. Company A, person 1) when
writing notes of the interviews, and report the findings in the final
report and presentation anonymously (see #4 in the privacy notice; if
it's not possible to pseudonymize the findings or report them
anonymously it needs to be changed to the privacy notice accordingly).
- Please also send the consent to participate (English or Finnish) to the interviewee with the privacy notice. It is enough if the interviewee states orally that they agree to participate
in the interview so no need to print, sign and scan it. If you wish to
record the interview, you need to ask the interviewee's oral permission
to do so before starting the recording.
personal information (also pseudonymized information is considered
personal information) should be stored on the researcher's personal
computer or on the
Aalto OneDrive or Google Drive platforms but not on the free cloud platform, e.g. free OneDrive. Store it only in one place.
most Capstone projects, the purpose of the interviews is to gain a
general understanding of the phenomenon, not to identify which
interviewee said what. Therefore, you can anonymize the interview notes,
after which it is no longer personal data and can be shared among the
team via email or stored in public cloud server. E.g. "Finnish corporate
tax level is deemed less attractive than that of Luxemburg" is
anonymous. However, if it is important to understand who stated this,
then use pseudonymized data in your notes, such as "Interviewee 1 from
company A stated that the Finnish corporate tax level is less attractive
than that of Luxemburg". Please note that pseudonymized data is
considered as personal data because it can be associated with a person.
It thus needs to be treated as personal data (see previous bullet).
Teamwork is at the heart of the Capstone course. Whether or not the course will be a positive experience depends largely on your group's teamwork skills. Here is some material to suport you with teamwork.
Here are brief guidelines to successfully manage a meeting and reach the targets you have set for a meeting.
Evaluation of teamwork emphasizes the importance of the whole team working together. Please take a look at this grid periodically to evaluate whether there is room for improvement in your group's teamwork skills.
Role of the leader summarizes the tasks associated with project manager's role.
Aalto Teamwork First-Aid Kit gathers tools that have proved to be useful in supporting diverse teams tackling ill-defined problems and building foundational elements for the successful teamwork.
If there are any issues regarding teamwork, please be in touch with your faulty facilitator as soon as possible so that she/he can help you solve the problems before they escalate!
With your team, you get to write a business report where you present the problem, your analysis, and recommendations. Your recommendations should be supported by solid, compelling evidence (quantitative or qualitative) from relevant and respected sources. Although you are writing a business report, your academic expertise as soon-to-be MSc graduates should show! For example, be sure to make it clear how you conducted the study (research methods to some degree) and refer to theories, research reports and academic articles to back up your plan and implementation. However, your target audience is the case company, which is the fundamental criterion for you to critically evaluate the extent to which and how you use references.
Your Capstone report length should be approximately 5,000 words + appendices and references + executive summary (mandatory). The report is evaluated on a 0-5 scale based on the Business Writing and Capstone Rubrics that are available in the course workspace in MyCourses. Please make sure you familiarize yourself with the rubrics both before you start writing and before you hand in the report.
Below are general guidelines for writing a business report, provided for you by Anne Kankaanranta, our Senior University Lecturer in organizational communication. All Capstone cases are different, so feel free to adjust the guidelines to meet your specific purpose.
In planning the report, the most important point is to analyze the overall situation before you start. First, analyze your audience:
- who is your primary (case company) and secondary audience (faculty facilitators, peer students),
- what do they know already about the topic and how much you need to remind them of certain points,
- what do they feel and
- how can you motivate them.
Second, analyse yourself as a communicator: what is it exactly you want to achieve with your report and what is your credibility based on and how you can increase it with your report.
Typically, a Capstone report consists of the following elements:
Table of contents
Body of the report
Appendices and Exhibits
The title page includes the following:
1. title of report (this typically includes the case company's name)
2. case company's name (if not included in the title)
3. authors’ names and affiliation (Aalto University)
4. course name and code
A good title should clearly describe what the report is about. For example, Corporate Communication in practice – The Evaluation of Nokia’s CSR communication informs the reader what the topic of the report is.
The executive summary summarizes the whole report. Having read it, readers should know the essentials of the situation and, for example, be in a position to make a decision. If they require more detailed information or want to check facts they can read specific sections of the report.
The executive summary is organized in the same way/order as the whole report. You need to keep it brief (typically max. 1 page), but at the same time make sure you provide a comprehensive account of the main issues dealt with in your report.
The body of the report
The body of the report typically includes (1) an introduction, (2) findings/ analysis and (3) conclusions/recommendations although other structures are also possible. For example, you may have a separate section for methodology and another for literature.
The headings corresponding to the sections may or may not use this conventional wording.
- Gives the reason and motivation for the report.
- Provides background information e.g. earlier literature.
- Explains the problem statement and objective of the report, as well as research questions
- Refers to the sources of data and methodology employed. For example, if you made interviews, briefly describe the interviewees, the interview framework/questions, etc.
- Indicates the scope (what it covers, and what it doesn’t cover).
- Includes also a brief statement (one paragraph) to clarify how the work was divided and tasks allocated in your team, i.e. who contributed what data/knowledge/information and how you put the report together. Alternatively, this can be at the end of the report.
- Gives a short preview, e.g. This report is organized into four sections. Section 2 presents our findings, Section 3…
The Findings section contains all the relevant information you were able to obtain when you considered the assignment at hand. While you are reporting your findings, you could also discuss them in relation to the literature you studied (if any). In other words, you could first present what you found out (“findings”) and then you could discuss your findings and interpret them (“what they mean”). However, discussion can also take place in (Discussion and) Conclusions section of the report.
Aim to keep your text concise and to the point: only provide enough detail to effectively support the key points that you present. Consider putting very detailed information in the appendices.
Use pictures, tables, and figures to illustrate your points. Still, avoid irrelevant visualization as it makes your report restless. You can also use direct quotations from the interviewee to illustrate a point. However, remember that the text should be able to stand alone, in other words, comment on your illustrations in the text. For example, presenting a table in the text could follow this format: first introducing the table, then presenting it, and finally commenting on it.
Table 1 shows some background information about the personnel in the Corporate Communication function.
Table 1. Job title, work experience, age and education of Corporate Communication function employees in the ABC company.
Communication officer, internal
Communication officer, external
As can be seen from Table 1, the Corporate Communication function in the ABC company employs three full-time professionals… …
Conclude your report by summarizing the key findings. You may list them to ensure high skim value. Then, you could either interpret your findings and suggest what they might imply, or if you have done that earlier, you could summarize the implications. The recommendations can also be given in a separate section.
As you can imagine, it is important to make sure that the reader knows what you are doing: presenting findings or discussing the implications of your findings.
Compare the language of the following two examples:
(1) Presenting findings:
The interviewee emphasized the importance of knowing the role of the communication partner rather than knowing his/her nationality.
→ use the past tense to report your findings
(2) Presenting implications (based on your findings):
This finding suggests / might suggest / can reflect/ probably reflects a hierarchical organization, in which informal communication style may be discouraged.
→ use modal auxiliary verbs (can, might, etc.) and other tools to express uncertainty (e.g. words such as seem/tend; probably; suggest, contribute to)
When you are giving recommendations, make them stand out and present your rationale (i.e. support for them) explicitly. For example, you could do it like this:
Our three recommendations are presented below.
- Do this.
The rationale for doing this can be explicated by…
- Do that.
Doing that is crucial for the success of ….
- Do it.
The reasons for doing it can be summarized as….
As you know, there are various ways of listing the publications used in the report. Here are a couple of example observing the APA style:
A book: Cornelissen, J. (2017). Corporate Communication: A Guide to Theory and Practice. London: Sage.
An article in a journal: Hallahan, K., Holtzhausen, D., van Ruler, B., Vercic, D. & Sriramesh, K. (2007). Defining Strategic Communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 1(1), 3-35.
A web source: StoraEnso (2017). Annual Report. Retrieved September, 2018, from www.storaenso.com
Giving references within the text
There are basically two ways of giving references in the body of the report. In business, references within the body of the report are often numbered and then the sources are listed at the end of each section or at the end of the whole report. In academic papers, such as your Master’s thesis, on the other hand, the author and the year of the particular publication referenced are typically given in the text itself. Typically the former is used in Capstone reports but it is up to you to decide which one to use.
Appendices and Exhibits
Documents referred to in the report are usually placed at the end of the report rather than in the body, where they will slow the reader down. This helps the reader to follow the main lines of your argument and stops him/her being side-tracked by clutter.
Make sure appendix material is referred to in the main body. If no reference is made to it, your reader is likely to assume it has no importance and to question why it is there at all. For example, you could say
As you can see from Appendix 1, five themes were used in the interview to find out…Some links to university websites on report writing
An outline with five themes was used in the interview to find out…(see Appendix 2)
Appendices should appear in the order they are presented in the text of the report and should always have a title and be numbered.
 This is a ‘footnote’ and it is used to give some additional information. The same numbering system is used when sources are given but they would not appear at the end of the page (like this footnote) but at the end of the whole report. Such lists of sources (references) are called ‘endnotes’.
Please find examples of excellent reports and presentations from previous Capstone courses here.
Please see also Business report and Presentations sections for more guidance and tips!
Here are instructions if your team wants to create the final report in a slide-based format:
With your team, you are expected to write a final report in the form of an extensive and detailed slide deck. The content and purpose of such a slide deck is similar to a written format final report, but the slide deck format is more user-friendly for the client and more powerful for presenting tables and graphs.
In the report you present the problem, your analysis, and recommendations. Your recommendations should be supported by solid, compelling evidence (quantitative or qualitative) from relevant and respected sources. For example, be sure to make it clear how you conducted the study (research methods to some degree) and refer to theories, research reports and academic articles to back up your plan and implementation. However, your target audience is the case company, which is the fundamental criterion for you to critically evaluate the extent to which and how you use references.
In the final report, include a brief statement (one slide) to clarify how the work was divided and tasks allocated in your team, i.e. who contributed what data/knowledge/information and how you put the report together.
The report length should be 30-50 slides (equivalent to a written report that is 5,000 words), including an executive summary (mandatory, for 3-6 slides) + appendices and references. The report is evaluated on a 0-5 scale based on the Business Writing and Capstone Rubrics that are available in the course workspace in MyCourses. Please make sure you familiarize yourself with the rubrics both before you start crafting and before you hand in the report.
Some tips for the slide-based report:
• Slide-based reports are not intended to be presented. Therefore, the slides need to be self-explanatory and not rely on a presenter explaining them. The case company members will either read them in full or browse through and only focus on selected parts. They may publish them on their (internal) websites (with your permission) or use individual slides in other presentations.
• The final report slide deck is not your presentation deck. You may use the same layout, diagrams, etc. but note that the final report slide decks are likely to be too “heavy” for presentation purposes.
• In reporting, everything must be explained in one way or another. It’s an intermediate form between a presentation deck and a written (word) report. Focus on the essentials, but so that just by reading the deck one knows the main points. Therefore, things need to be explained thoroughly, but concisely, so there will not be a “wall of text”.
• Using your client’s template is possible, but only on a specific request of the client and with their permission. Using their template allows the client pick those slides for their own internal without having to move and convert them to the company’s own template. Generally, it is recommended to use Aalto templates, since this is Aalto course work. However, you can create your own template with a visual image best suited for the purpose.
• Guide the reader throughout the report. It is done with a table of contents and often, for example, a progress bar running in the bottom or top margin that guides the reader within the chapter. In other words, the report must be divided sensibly and logically to keep the reader aware of the progress.
• Use section divider pages to break down the report into distinct sections, and to make the report easier to read, navigate and digest.
• Use action titles on all slides. Action title tells the key message of the slide and is the single most important element of each slide – pay attention to good action titles as it allows you to tell a story. Use full sentence titles, but max 2 lines.
• "Title Flowing" - Many times the management only reads the titles and chooses the slides of interest by the titles - The titles have to provide some information to the reader and they have to tell the whole story of the slide set (if someone only reads the titles they still know the main points or can evaluate whether they want to read more).
• Rich use of boxes, tables, lines and icons in visualization - enhances communication.
• Visual consistency, essentially the same base and font on all slides.
• Visual accuracy - Boxes and bottoms and header boxes do not jump from page to page but remain the same, inside the pages the boxes are aligned and the contents of the slides are in the middle of the slide and not at the edges.
• Visual comfort - Adequate contrast with background colors, not too small fonts, use of bolds to highlight key points.
• In reporting decks avoid "inspirational images" and other stuff in a normal presentation deck since such images have no explanation or context.
• Clear referencing, often done with stars and at the bottom, and finally all references listed together at the end.
• Appendices at the end - Anything extra here for those who want to learn more about something (for example, calculation templates, interview frames, pictures of used service design frames, sideline slides (not so important things)).
We would like to warmly thank Jori Mäkkeli from the Faculty of Organization and Management at Aalto University School of Business for sharing his expertise when crafting the instructions.
Please also see Guidebook prepared by EY-Parthenon for you here.