Graduate Studies Blog



Adjunct Faculty, Prof. AJ Boelens encouraged the class to adopt a “consultant’s mindset” when strategising solutions for companies.

On 21 March 2020, the current Nanyang Professional MBA (PMBA) cohort of 50 participants gathered for the kick-off session of the programme’s Strategy Projects at Nanyang (SPAN) capstone course. The energy level was high on that Saturday morning as the participants experienced their first taste of this unique feature of the programme, which is cited by many applicants as a key reason for wanting to join the Nanyang PMBA.

During the six-month SPAN module, which is distributed throughout the programme from March to September, PMBA participants work in diverse, cross-functional groups of four or five on real-world consulting projects for sponsor organisations. Mentored by a faculty professor, the groups apply their classroom learning as they develop innovative yet practical solutions to address business opportunities and challenges.

SPAN provides an unparalleled opportunity to practice a whole gamut of skills, including effective team building, strategic communication, research, and detailed data collection and analysis to arrive at realistic recommendations in a final presentation that could potentially be adopted by the sponsor organisation. Not a very impactful word. Perhaps we can say ‘business principles’ or even better ‘apply their classroom learning’

PMBA participants brainstorming the storyline of an MBA aspirant’s journey.

This year, 11 sponsor companies are collaborating with NBS on SPAN, the highest number to date. They include companies across a diverse range of sectors, from banking & finance, entertainment, and healthcare, to luxury products and FMCG. Some are participating for the first time while others have chosen to come on board again following previous positive outcomes.

The SPAN project topics present interesting challenges across a variety of industries, such as mapping the logistics ecosystem in Singapore; examining the consumer experience and buying behaviour of bathroom fittings; developing an AI strategy and roadmap for the automotive business; and a strategy for infant nutrition products. In developing their strategies and proposals, participants will focus on areas such as market profiling and entry, business expansion, competitive and customer intelligence, value chain analysis and opportunity analysis.

 The kick-off session began with Professor Rohit Bhatnagar, SPAN Director, laying out the objectives, assessment methods and regulations to observe when working as a “consultant”. The groups were formed by the faculty, ensuring a good mix of industries and functional backgrounds among the members of each group.

PMBA participants putting down important points during a group discussion.

The academic mentor also plays an important role during the process of SPAN. They are experts in the area of the allocated project, various mentors are assigned to each group to guide them at all stages of the project and provide direction on big-picture issues such as how to frame the project challenge. The idea is to inculcate independence and consulting expertise in the participants as they solve the finer issues on their own.

To prepare the participants with a consultant’s mindset, the session continued with a consulting exercise led by SPAN Instructor, Professor AJ Boelens. The exercise stimulated the participants to think about how to approach SPAN, making use of the hard skills, soft skills and industry knowledge gained during the PMBA programme. As the participants dived into group discussions and put down their thoughts on paper, AJ guided the class to be creative in their approach, focusing on not just the “what” and the technicalities, but also the “how” of accomplishing their goal.

Jacky Bo (left), Natasha Koo (centre) and Hassan Cader (right) posing for the camera during their break.

With SPAN now well underway, participant Jacky Bo, currently working as a Systems Engineer at Forescout Technologies. Inc, shares a little about his team’s experience so far. “Each team member is very proactive, and we are learning from each other. For example, one member is good at proposals and planning, one is good at communication, one is good at formatting PPT slides, and one is good at technology support. Every team discussion session is productive and our group mentor, who is from NTU, has provided a lot of advice.”

 On what she hopes to take away from the SPAN experience, Natasha Koo Ya Wen who is a Logistics Analyst at GE Healthcare nicely sums it up: “An experience of a lifetime playing the role of a consultant for a reputable company, working with classmates from very diverse backgrounds on a real-life company project and really pushing the limits of 1+1=3.”