The Business Management SL IA is a written commentary investigating a real-life business issue or problem. Throughout your IA, you’ll need to demonstrate the application of business tools, techniques, and theories. Despite not being the most business-minded person, I enjoyed writing my IA and ultimately achieved a Level 7. These are my best tips to help you succeed!
Choosing your topic
I would suggest creating a mind map of topics in your course that would be interesting for you to explore, as well as businesses that you are interested in, or that you interact with often. It is a good idea to select a public limited company so that their data would be readily available for you to use to support your analysis. Try to cross-reference those topics and businesses and write out a few potential research questions. Here are some general examples:
- Will Company X’s decision to acquire Company Y allow it to be more competitive in Z market?
- How effective is Company A’s marketing strategy of product B?
- To what extent has Company M been profitable in N market?
I knew I wanted to center my Business IA around marketing and I chose the national bank Absa as my business. My research question was “To what extent has Absa’s rebranding strategy been successful in the South African retail banking industry?” Remember that, if your topic mentions broad terms like ‘competitive’ or ‘successful’, you need to explain how you are evaluating what it means to be ‘competitive’ or ‘successful’ in relation to your business and its market.
- Looking at past IAs can be helpful when formulating your topic.
- This site was helpful for me when I was getting started.
- I would recommend reading through the entirety of the SL internal assessment details in the Business Management syllabus guide.
Synthesizing business tools, techniques and theories
There are many ways to go about selecting your business tools, techniques and theories and this will be specific to your topic. At SL, the business tools covered in the syllabus include:
- SWOT analysis
- STEEPLE analysis
- Ansoff’s Matrix
- Motivation theory
- Break-even analysis
- Cash flow forecast
- Ratio analysis and final accounts
- Investment appraisal
- Marketing mix
- Product Life Cycle
- Product Positioning Maps
- BCG Matrix
I would suggest including 3-4 business tools/techniques/theories in your IA to ensure that you discuss each with sufficient depth. I also recommend against using both a SWOT and a STEEPLE analysis, because the external factors of a SWOT analysis (opportunities and threats) can overlap with external factors mentioned in a STEEPLE analysis. For example, I discussed the weak economy as a threat in my SWOT analysis, but it would also be an economic factor in a STEEPLE analysis, thus making the information redundant if I had used both tools.
There is flexibility for you to structure your discussion in your own way! For example I used the following tools/techniques:
- SWOT analysis — To evaluate both internal and external factors influencing my business.
- Analysis of rebranding strategy — To discuss the use of branding as a method of differentiation.
- Brand Value Analysis — To discuss a quantitative measure of my business’s brand value.
- Brand Positioning Map — To assess my business against other businesses in the market using benchmarking data.
As you can see, my tools weren’t necessarily extracted exactly from the textbook but I did reference syllabus theory throughout. Remember that your IA needs to be a coherent flow from paragraph discussions to business tools to figures.
- Make sure you have discussed why you are using a specific tool and that you relate your findings back to your research question.
- Make sure the order that you put your tools in flows well.
- Refer back to the syllabus topic your IA centers around to ensure you are using the correct terminology.
- Where possible, try to include both qualitative and quantitative tools in your discussion.
Selecting the supporting documents
You will need to select three to five supporting documents, from which you have extracted most of your information. You will be marked on whether your supporting documents present a range of views and ideas, as well as whether you present them correctly in your IA.
You can demonstrate a range of views and ideas by including supporting documents produced by your business and by others. You can also do this by including supporting documents that present different arguments/perspectives. In order to present your supporting documents correctly in your appendix, they must be titled “Supporting Document 1”, “Supporting Document 2”, and so on. You also need to highlight the information you extracted from them.
My supporting documents included an article, along with internal and external reports, and publications. Overall, just make sure the sources you select are reliable, relevant and balanced.
Structuring your IA
I structured my business IA as follows:
- Title Page — Includes research question, candidate number, session number, word count and the words ‘IB Business Management SL IA’.
- Table of Contents — An accurate list of each of your subheadings and their page number.
- Introduction — A brief background of your business and the central issue. Your introduction should give context to how you decided on your research question which should be stated as well.
- Methodology — I included a methodology where I gave a brief overview of how I would be evaluating the success of the strategy and the reason for selecting my business tools.
- Analysis and Evaluation — This included a detailed discussion of my business tools and theories.
- Conclusion — Summarized findings and answered my research question.
- Bibliography & References — Listed all my sources in the referencing style required by my school. I separated them into the subheadings of ‘Supporting Documents’ and ‘Other’ sources.
- Appendices — This included my images of my five supporting documents with information I extracted highlighted.
- I would recommend having a copy of the SL Business IA rubric to refer to when writing.
- Remember to be consistent when labelling your tables, figures, headings and subheadings.
- I used mybib.com for my references, which was really easy to use and could be changed to different referencing styles.
You now have an arsenal of tools to write a solid SL Business IA. Remember that just like any other IA, it is a process. My first draft was almost foreign when comparing it to my final submission, so there’s always room for improvement. And with that said, GOOD LUCK!