Expert case by Adi

EducateEarth: Digital Operations Transformation

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Problem Definition

EducateEarth is the world’s LEARNING company, with expertise in educational courseware (Text Books) and assessment, and a range of teaching and learning services powered by technology. They operate in 70 countries, have nearly 25,000 employees and are headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.

After years of expansion and M&A, EducateEarth needs to operate more efficiently and reduce costs in order to meet rising market challenges. The digital publishing market is growing at 10% CAGR whilst the print publishing market shrinks in comparison. Consumers are increasingly turning to rental offerings. EducateEarth which had grown rapidly and operated with legacy systems and processes, realised that its dispersed operations offered great opportunities for improvement.

They recently conducted two global benchmarking studies with independent consulting firms. Both studies revealed the following:

  • High supply chain costs compared to peer group (30% higher)
  • Fragmented organisation structure
  • Excess of one year’s worth of physical inventory (books)
  • Poor product demand & supply planning tools in pace
  • 80% of sales revenue generated from 10% of SKUs and an extensive tail delivering little sales value to the business

EducateEarth now needs help to create a strategy and excution approach for a future state operating model that will deliver siginificant financial and operational benefits in 2 years - savings of $100m. They are looking at good practice processes, right technology solution and new organisation structure for the new operating model. What would such a programme look like for EducateEarth? Please outline the approach & solution.


  • This is a candidate-led qualitative case with little/no quantitative calculations. The interviewer should provide minimal help to the interviewee
  • Interviewee can assume the year is 2019 and ignore COVID-19 impact
  • EducateEarth's customers are Learners (students in schools, colleges, universities and professional learners). Total Leaners are in millions in number if not billions around the world
  • Digital learning services include online learning content
  • Assesments include things like GMAT, Drivers License online test etc
  • Operations in this case refers to getting the books and digital services from EducateEarth to the customer, so supply chain planning, printing, binding, shipping, storing, delivery & distribution and returns. The execution of operations are country specific and local
  • Interviewee can assume that EducateEarth's suppliers are those who provide components for a book- paper mainly

Short Solution


Paragraphs highlighted in blue can be verbally communicated to the interviewee.

Paragraphs highlighted in orange indicate hints for you how to guide the interviewee through the case.

At the back of the two benchmarking studies, its clear that EducateEarth's operations function needs to be fixed first. Followng capabilities must be fixed and brought in line with industry peers:

  1. Complex product portfolio- manage the long tail and get rid of products (books) that make no money
  2. Poor processes
  3. Poor technology and tools used for demand & supply planning
  4. Sub-optimal organisational structure (roles & skills)

The interviewee should have indentified the above correctly before moving forward.

A 2-year programme can be designed with following stages/phases: (*Exceptional candidates will highlight to make the programme analytics and insights-driven)

Interviewer can provide minimal intervention to help the interviewee out in case they struggle with the structure below.

Define (3 months)

  1. Future state operating model, i.e what will be the process flows, right technology solution and organisation structure (people, roles, skills)
    • Exceptional candidates will point out that certain capabilities can be kept local (e.g. local suppliers, local language customissations etc) while certain others can be made regional/global (Demand planning, global suppliers of paper etc) to drive efficiencies and avoid duplication
    • Exceptional candidates will also highlight that EducateEarth must go to market with tender to select the right technoloy solution for demand & supply planning
  2. Indentify target countries/markets to receive the new operating model.
    • Exceptional candidates will point out to prioritise bigger and friendly markets first; not every market will need these as some will be too small in size & scale of operations
  3. A clear business case needs to be established to understand the cost of fixing the existing processes, deploying new tools and restructuring the existing organisation in terms of people, roles and skills. Financial and operational savings targets need to be set for year 1 and year 2
  4. Data Management - collection, cleaning and loading of data for the new processes and tools as its safe to assume data quality and availabiltiy will be a challenge within EducateEarth

Roll-out (12 months)

  1. Exceptional candidates will highlight setting up a central programme team with multi-skills (project managers, data experts, training & development etc.)
  2. Understand gaps (process, tools and people) from current state to future state in target markets
  3. Deploy the new operating model in target countries
    • Exceptional candidates will point out to do this in an agile manner with clearly defined sprints
  4. Exceptional candidates will highlight segmentation to clean up the product portfolio and remove those products which don't sell
  5. Establish performance reporting to track, measure and report operational and financial performance of the programme
  6. Regular governance & check-point meetings to track programme progress, capture any escalations

Adoption (9 months)

  1. Engagement and alignment of all the teams and business units involved in the programme; clear messaging on changes involved and outcomes excpected
  2. Use training to help with adoption of new processes and tools; training can include written material & online videos/lessons
    • Exceptional candidates will highlight gamifying (quiz, puzzle, leaderboards) the learning and training to create buzz
  3. Monitoring and reporting of change metrics e.g. # of hours of training completed etc

Innovation (optional)

  1. Exceptional candidates will also bring in sustainability- due diligence on existing suppliers and remove any non-compliant ones. Focus on procuring sustainable paper
  2. Exceptional candidates will introduce the idea of using AI/ML to improve the process efficiencies e.g. better product forecasting, social media semantics to understand impact of celebrity endorsement on book sales

Difficult Questions

With changes in behaviour and growth in Digital publishing market, what other ideas do you have to help EducateEarth truly digitise and adapt to the new ways of learning?

Suggested Answer

  • Create own Global learning platform and charge by a subscription model
  • Partner with schools, colleges and universities and sign exclusive training deals

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