What are they
A definition of case study is provided by the researcher Robert K. Yin ( 1984, p:23) as “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used”. Therefore, case studies allow to comprehensively describe and analyse a phenomenon – or case – within its context, identifying the variables, structures and processes that affect the occurrence of it (Mesec, 1998) with the ultimate objective to gain a well-grounded understanding of the case itself (Cousin, 2005).
It is possible to identify different advantages and disadvantages in using case studies.
One of the main advantages of case study is that it allows to examine the phenomenon within its context and therefore focusing on all the variables that might affect it (Yin, 1984).
Secondly, case studies are considered by most of the researchers as part of qualitative research types and methods, they can be based on both qualitative and quantitative evidence (Zainal, 2007).
Thirdly, the fact that this method analyse a case within its real-life environment, help to understand the reasons and complexities of these situations that might not be completely captured with another type of method (Zainal, 2007).
Finally, the possibility to use multiple case study provide with the opportunity to analyse data within each single situation and, afterwords, compare the different situations highlighting differences and similarities identified. This provides evidence that are more reliable (Baxter & Jack, 2008) and increase the validity of the findings.
One of the main disadvantages is that case studies often show lack of rigour and biases (Zainal, 2007; Yin, 1984). Secondly, especially when conducting a single case study, this method do not allow basis for scientific generalisation and strong conclusion due to the limited sampling case (Yin, 1984).
Finally, their implementation is expensive and time consuming (Baxter & Jack, 2008) and sometimes difficult to conduct.
Qualitative case study represents one of the best method that can help us answer the research questions. Indeed, this method will allow us to identify the choices made by Hortonworks’s partners and other companies (which show same objectives and operates within the same context and industry) when deciding to use – or not – predictive analytics for sales forecasting. Taking into consideration Hortonworks’s needs, this method will allow us to understand if it would be possible to suggest the implementation and use of the same tools within the company subject of the research.
Depending on the number of companies we will have the opportunity to interview as well as the context within which they play, we will ultimately identify if the format of the case study that needs to be conducted will be single or multiple.
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