Strategy & BizOps Guide


What's a Biz Ops homework assignment?

An overview of the HW assignment part of the strategy & biz ops interview

Jon Yang, Revenue Strategy & Analytics, Asana, ex-Disney
Publishled: December 28, 2020

A key part of most strategy & biz ops interview processes is a take-home assignment.

Typically, if a company uses a homework assignment, they'll ask a candidate to take it after they've spoken to a recruiter or hiring manager as a first step.

Strategy & biz homework assignments: part of the interview process

Why do companies use HW assignments?

From the company's perspective, these are a necessary evil, since they don't have an alternative method to assess your work product and quality, presentation and strategic thinking skills, and technical ability such as Excel and SQL skills.

As mentioned in previous posts, a core competency of the strategy & operations role is the ability to perform data analyses and use those insights to develop strategies and tactics to scale and optimize the business across key functions such as product, sales, and customer service. Therefore, the majority of take-home assignments that you will encounter will test these skills.

Key topics for HW assignments

Typically, these cases will include a prompt pertinent to the business and a relevant data set for you to perform your analysis. From there, you will submit a presentation along with any supporting work. Included are examples of take-home assessments that you could reasonably encounter across key topics:

  1. Product strategy
  2. Sales strategy
  3. General analysis
  4. Technical ability (e.g., SQL)

Product strategy prompts

Product oriented homework assignments focus on - you guessed it! - the company's product(s) or services.

These prompts can range from incredibly wide open (like the 1A, 1B, and 1C in the example below) to more tactical product analysis, where you're provided with a specific data set and asked for your insights after reviewing it (like question 2 below). In many cases, you may see the full spectrum, from open ended strategy to highly tactical, with the same homework assignment like the example below.

EXAMPLE

1a. Please recommend one new product feature, product idea, or expansion opportunity that you think is promising. Anything that would help the company grow. Use Data to illustrate the size of the opportunity, and why this would be a good fit for the company.

1b. Include a high-level summary of the key implications for the company, and what sort of additional analysis we would need to do as the next steps.

1c. Present this information as a write-up in Excel or PowerPoint.

2. You have been tasked with analyzing the performance of the conversion funnel for an eCommerce website, Widgets.com. You have been provided a data set that includes information on the most frequented webpages on Widgets.com, how many customers click purchase, and how many customers successfully complete a purchase.

  • What are your top 5 takeaways from this data?
  • What do you see as the largest opportunity to increase purchases?
  • What experiments would you perform to validate your hypothesis?
  • What additional information would you need to provide additional insight?
  • Present this information as a write-up in Excel or PowerPoint

Sales strategy prompt

Sales strategy prompts are often modeled after the exact type of sales biz ops projects you'll find on the job.

In many cases, the core questions are around sales team efficiency and how to scale up teams appropriately in line with the company's revenue growth. This type of team optimization topic often pops up in ancillary sales orgs as well, like customer success and account management.

EXAMPLE

The leadership team has asked you to evaluate the performance of leads assigned to a team of sales reps in January and February. One group of leads is assigned to the sales team, while the other group remains undistributed. Your task is to assess whether the sales team is driving a revenue lift and to evaluate whether the team should hire additional reps.

  • How much revenue lift was the sales team able to drive in January and February? Based on this, how many additional sales reps should the team hire?
  • Do you have any hypotheses for what is driving the performance of the sales team?
  • What tests or improvements would you make to the sales process in order to drive further growth?
  • Present this information as a write-up in Excel or PowerPoint.

General bizops performance analysis prompts

A third common category is the general analysis prompts.

Often times, these focus on analyzing company performance, benchmarking against competitors, evaluating new markets and sometimes even thinking about acquisitions.

EXAMPLE

Attached is a data set of the company's financial performance and some of its competitors.

  • How would you rate the company's performance?
  • Based on what you learned, what hypotheses do you have that could be driving the company's performance?
  • For each hypothesis, how would you go about learning more, and what analyses would you need to validate them?
  • Present this information as a write-up in Excel or PowerPoint

We are evaluating the performance of 5 different markets that our company currently operates in. The goal of this exercise is to determine which markets performed the best and to identify the drivers behind that performance. We've included financial metrics such as revenue, orders, and price as well as customer acquisition data such as marketing costs for this assessment.

Stack rank the markets in terms of overall performance from best to worst. Explain your methodology used to stack rank these and include commentary to explain market performance.

Give 1-2 strategic recommendations for each market based on your analysis of the data that would help drive growth in each market.

Analytics (SQL) Prompts

Finally, a very popular type of homework assignment, especially for more junior roles is a data-intensive exercise which often requires writing SQL queries.

This category pops up because a critical part of the biz ops jobs is obtaining and analyzing data (see the common project phases detailed here). And in most tech companies, this will require you to get your hands dirty with SQL - both to pull the raw data out of the right databases and find answers to specific analytical questions.

Questions assessing your ability to write SQL queries are fairly straightforward. The company will provide data tables for you to complete these assessments. Example questions resemble the following:

Instructions:

Use the sample schema to write a SQL query that addresses each of the questions below. We recommend you annotate your code in words to help explain the logic behind your SQL query. If you cannot complete the exercise in a single query, get as far as you can with querying, and then explain how you would complete the question in the most programmatic way (in other words, in the fewest number of queries and/or other analytical steps). You may write your code directly below, or provide images of your code from an editor such as Sublime.

Questions:

  1. Write a query to calculate the average earnings per hour spent driving by day of the week.
  2. Write a query to see how many rides and deliveries were generated for each zip code in submarket 18.
  3. Write a query to identify who the most efficient driver was in terms of deliveries per time spent driving during the month of January.

Best Practices for Nailing the Take-Home Assignment

It's extremely important to remember that, particularly for the open-ended prompts, there isn't one "right" answer.

Since the hiring manager is largely assessing your ability to reason through an ambiguous problem and communicate your conclusions in a logical and concise manner, a "right" answer will often be a conclusion that can be supported convincingly by the data.

With that in mind, there are a couple of things worth calling out.

Organize your output

Assume the hiring manager is reviewing your entire work product, from the supporting work done in Excel, to the actual deliverable. Your take-home assignment functions as a representation of the work you'll eventually be delivering and presenting. As a result, it's well worth investing additional time to make sure your work is easy to follow, organized, and visually appealing.

Finally, don't forget that a key part of biz ops is presenting your work and recommendations to the company's executives. Even if it's not explicitly asked for, providing a cohesive and concise executive summary is important.

Build a narrative, not an answer

Crafting an effective narrative to communicate and present your ideas is just as important as finding the "right" answer. Strategy & Biz Ops is a highly collaborative and cross-functional role, thus the ability to influence and align members across the entire organization is non-negotiable.

Include outside research

Bringing in company-specific insights and metrics, as well as outside research to support the conclusions in your assignment, will help you immediately stand out from your peers.

Conclusion

One final consideration with homework assignments: use them to evaluate your own interest in the job as well.

Most homework assignments are designed from the specific problems the biz ops team face on the job. Thus, these assignments are a super helpful way for you to gauge whether or not you're truly interested in the type of work this role would offer.

Biz ops roles will vary company to company (as we talked about the in unicorn vs. big tech comparison), so don't miss out on gaining insight about the work from the HW assignment itself!

P.S. Are you preparing for Strategy & BizOps interviews?

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