GMC: the HSE Team Takes 5th Place in the Final Competition
Global Management Challenge 2011, an international championship in company management has finished in Macao, where about thirty teams from national qualifying championships took part. The HSE student team took 5th place in the final competition. Just back from Macao, the team members shared their impressions of the contest.
— The Global Management Challenge (GMC) attracts teams consisting of both acting medium-level and top managers and of graduates and students of business schools and universities. What does the virtual management competition itself look like?
Mikhail Repnikov, 4th year student of the Faculty of Business Informatics: The competition is based on the use of a special simulator – a computer programme which reconstructs a company’s activity in an environment which is as close to reality as possible. The game is divided into several periods – notional fiscal quarters, during each of which we have to make decisions and come up with solutions. Each solution is reflected in about thirty financial indicators which describe the whole manufacturing and sales cycle of the company – from the number of machine tools involved, workers employed and the volume of loans taken out to logistics, marketing and advertising. And this is not a mono-product manufacture – the company sells three types of notional production in three different markets. The winning team is the one whose company has the highest capitalization at the end of the game.
Alexey Barabanov, Team Captain, 4th year student of the Faculty of Business Informatics:We have been participating in this competition for two years. We started from the student league Business Battle – this competition is based on the same simulator used in the GMC, but it’s free to enter. We saw an advertisement in one of the HSE buildings and thought ‘Why not try?’, and right away, in the first year, we were the winning team among the almost five hundred teams which entered from various Russian universities. Of course, we got some help: at the HSE there is an Optimum club, organized by Maxim Khivintsev, whose team were the GMC champions in 2009. There we held our meetings, studied cases and analyzed our presentation – basically, tried to improve. After the victory in the Business Battle we decided to go further and participate in the main GMC championship. You need to pay to enter, but the Faculty of Business Informatics sponsored our application, and for that we are very grateful to the Acting Dean Svetlana Maltseva.
— How was your team created? What was the decision-making algorithm? Did you have any disagreements among yourselves?
Alexey Barabanov: Mikhail and I studied in one class, that’s why it was easy for us to work together. And Rustam Zakirov from the School of Software Engineering helped with writing the code for the programme which we developed and which allowed us to automatize the decision-making process: in the latter rounds of the competition we were given only an hour for it, and then in the final, only half an hour. We spent a lot of time analyzing the reports – not only ours, but also those of our competitors who did not go through to the next stage. For example, I was responsible for ‘foreign’ communication: with teams from Czech Republic, Ukraine and Belorussia. We exchanged reports with them. Sometimes it was difficult to get the information from our competitors, but we succeeded. No less important was to establish communication within the team. At first, we argued a lot, almost fought, but by the fourth year of study we grew up and started to be more tolerant to other people’s opinions. We learned to use not the strength of our voices, but strong arguments.
Alexey Barabanov:The qualifying competition consisted of three rounds, the first two of which were online. During the first round we made one decision a week, and during the second one – two decisions a week. All of them were shown on a special website, which was accessible for all registered teams, about one hundred of them. The final round, which involved the best eight teams, took place at the Academy of National Economy. This included not only student and graduate teams, but teams of managers from some of the largest Russian corporations, such as ROSNANO, MTS, Russian Railways and others. We outperformed all of them with a good margin. We planned our strategy so that our last decision would bring the largest profit which would not be immediately ‘eaten’ by taxes.
— And then only a couple of weeks later, you went to the GMC final in Macao. Was it easy to adjust to the competition in the new environment?
Alexey Barabanov: I can’t really say that the level of the teams who participated in the international final competition was radically different from the level of the Russian finalists. We were pretty well prepared for what we faced in Macao. The international final was organized into two rounds: in the first one 25 teams were divided into four groups, and two best teams from each of the groups passed to the final competition. Our group included some quite strong teams from France, Poland and Denmark. During the day we had to make five decisions, and after each of them our team increased its lead over our competitors.
— For a long time you were a leader in the final competition, but in the end, you took the fifth place…
Alexey Barabanov: The final competition was far more tense, and it looks like we ‘burnt out’. We spent a sleepless night gathering reports on our competitors’ strategies, analyzing them and calculating the scenarios. At the beginning it all went well, but closer to the end we made a mistake which cost us a podium position.
Mikhail Repnikov: We forecasted the market situation too conservatively, and it started growing at the end of the game, and the winners were the teams who took risky decisions. But anyway, we consider fifth position in the international final competition to be a very good result.
Mikhail Repnikov: The same team cannot participate in the international final twice, but some players find a solution by creating international teams.
Alexey Barabanov: Such games swallow you up, but we understand that it is the time to ‘give way to the next generation’. For example, we know that some second-year students from the Faculties of Business Informatics and Economics have already become finalists of the Business Battle. I think they will have a good chance of getting into the international final. And for us, participation in the competition helped us get a clearer understanding of how companies work not just in theory, but in practice. This was a very interesting experience which will be useful in our future careers. And the contacts we have made during these years will also be of use.
— What are you planning to do next?
Mikhail Repnikov: Today I am involved in the development of three internet projects. One of them is just being launched, this is an application for group acquaintances TikTak which is available on VKontakte and Facebook. In real life people often start communication not one by one, but in interest groups. We offer an interface which will easily support such communication through social networks. The second project - HelpHunter.Ru – is a place for searching for and offering consumer services. We are still in the process of optimizing its services but we hope to launch it soon. We also have a small internet store where you can buy T-shirts with a personal QR code. The codes can be read with any mobile device with a camera and their contents can include a text, a business card or a link. In the latter case, when you point your device at the code, you can access a webpage, add a friend in a social network or become a follower on Twitter. QR codes are becoming more and more common in everyday life, and we thought such an unusual application may be interesting for many active internet users.
Alexey Barabanov: In addition to that, we have received an offer to work in the RF Ministry of Industry and Trade, but we are taking some time to consider that.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service