Key to Succeeding in the IBM University Business Challenge

Six weeks after forming James Burys’ team Neon 2.0 to represent UEA in this years 312 team IBM University Business Challenge, we have successfully booked a place in the national semi-finals in Newcastle, comfortably winning our first round group and achieving the highest profit of all 312 teams!


But was it as easy at that? – Certainly not!

The UBC presents a variety of challenges requiring the use of a much wider plethora of skills than we had perhaps first imagined which really emphasises its highly respected status amongst employers. The first challenge we encountered arose in attempting to schedule meeting times amongst inevitably busy third year student timetables. However, once overcoming this we faced the much harder tasks involved in running a virtual business as a team.

Rather than trawl through a list of challenges we have had to overcome it may be more interesting to consider what skills have lead to our success so far.


Despite only being in charge of a virtual business, the importance of a business strategy proved paramount from the beginning. Knowing the first stage of the UBC would only last 6 weeks, it was clear that we needed a focused direction and to not waste any time.

Following a test run in the trial period we chose to operate a focused strategy of product specialisation, development and competitive pricing to make sure we came flying out of the blocks.

As the weeks progressed it became obvious that other teams had not been so direct with their strategy and thus faltered, lacking in a distinct route.

By weeks 4 and 5 we knew we were with a chance of progressing and through sticking to our strategy managed to top the overall leaderboard.


Another hugely important skill feature was organisation. After reading the wealth of initial information provided by the UBC organisers it was apparent that we would need to be organised in our understanding and processing of all the financial information available.

We constructed an excel spreadsheet including production capacity formulas to ensure we remained organised and didn’t get lost in all the numbers and data available.

Risk taking

A fundamental part of business and entrepreneurship is risk taking and it was calculated risk taking that proved to be important to success. Using the trial period wisely we experimented with the impacts of increasing production capacity and the impact of marketing. When it came to the real rounds, we chose to heavily invest in the areas we tested fortunately proving highly lucrative.

Learning as you go

Ultimately, adapting to our competitors as well as our own performance each week was essential in being able to progress each week and reach the top spot by the end of the final trading period. Even with our underlying strategy, being able to adapt our response each week to the new information provided was arguably our hardest challenge. Whether it was ensuring we remained competitively priced or making sure we carried enough materials forward, being able to learn and react was crucial to our success.

Overall, success in the IBM University Business Challenge (certainly in the first round anyway) appears to be dependent on the ability to identify and use these key business skills as well as many others that I have not mentioned. It may only be a simulation but in order to succeed in the IBM UBC teams must use the same fundamental skills required in real world business and entrepreneurship.

Posted by: Ben Bibby


2 Comments Add yours

  1. ueanbs says:

    New Blog! Great work by James and his team!

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