Siemens Key Account Management: Lost in Central Asia?

authorsGeorge Yip discusses the development of his Rotterdam School of Management case, Siemens Key Account Management: Lost in Central Asia?, co-authored with Tao Yue. Hajo Rapp also shares Siemens's motivation for participating in the case.

Since the mid-1990s, Siemens AG has adapted its business processes and internal structure to the expected future competitive environment in order to make the company faster, more focused, and more efficient. As part of this effort, customer-centric Key Account Management (KAM) programs (Siemens One) have evolved. Siemens One is a proven success that helped the company get through the financial crisis by cutting costs, focusing on core business, and strengthening customer relationship. While Siemens One continues to mature day by day, Siemens still encounters challenges in managing key accounts at the national or regional level. The case uses Siemens KAM program for EuroBric in Tamerstan as an example to illustrate two main issues that currently face the company: 1) How to align practices of two equally complex multinational organisations and 2) How to strike a balance between global integration and local autonomy.

Why Siemens?

Siemens contacted me about their program of outreach to business and also mentioned that they were planning to have cases written by a number of business schools. One of my long-time research topics is global account management (GAM), a special aspect of key account management, and I have written two previous cases on this topic (on Hewlett-Packard and Star Alliance. I thought that this was a good opportunity to write a current case about a different kind of company so suggested to my contact at Siemens that I also write a case.

Teaching objectives

The case can be used on MBA, EMBA or executive education programs in courses on international business, international marketing or strategy implementation and serves four main objectives:
  1. To understand the complexity and intricacy of global KAM;
  2. To understand the three forms of global KAM, their evolvement, advantages, and disadvantages;
  3. To analyse the relationship between global integration capacities and the different KAM forms;
  4. To explore how to strike a balance between global integration and local autonomy.
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If used in an executive program, the case also helps answer the following questions that concern many managers of multinational firms:
  1. Should a supplier adopt the KAM approach?
  2. How to choose the right customers as candidates for key accounts?
  3. Which form of KAM is most suitable for a specific customer?
  4. How to customize the KAM program for the customer in order to achieve best return?

Engaging students

The case works well in the classroom as it focuses on a state of the art issue faced by one of the world's most important companies. That it's set in an unusual, exotic location and includes several real people also helps. The hands on implementation issues provide a great opportunity for discussion and learning. We have found that disguising the customer company and country makes no difference to students' interest in the case.

Advice for case writers

When writing a case you should never underestimate the time and effort that should be invested in interviews. The amount of time needed can be difficult to estimate as things can change as you go through the process. With this case we originally wanted to write about a Chinese key account and interviewed a key account manager who, after an extensive interview, still decided against being included in the case. Luckily Siemens recommended another key account manager active in Central Asia who was co-operative and informative and we were able to move on quickly. My advice is to choose the right people to interview from the start: if you sense hesitation never get pushy, it scares them off. Knowing this saves you trouble later on, especially if you want to write about a regulated sector in a highly controlled country.

Hajo Rapp on the company's case experience

Alt textIn the global war for talent we at Siemens see the opportunity for MBA students to be trained using a case about our company as a first chance to contact them. Visibility to potential employees and other stakeholders is of high relevance to us and collaborating on a teaching case is a great way to achieve it. Additionally we have found that these cases can be a good introduction for internal newcomers on the topic on which the case focuses. We believe that supporting education is a duty for any member of society, but this process also provides a chance for getting visibility, feedback and to reflect. Overall it's a very positive experience, but be aware that it does take effort!

Case details

George Yip and Tao Yue
RSM Case Development Centre
Ref 311-256-1
Also available:
Teaching note

Ref 311-256-8

About the authors

George Yip is Emeritus Dean at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands, and Professor of Management at China Europe International Business School, China. e

Tao Yue is a Case Writer at Rotterdam School of Management Case Development Centre, The Netherlands. e

Hajo Rapp is SVP Account Management and Market Development at Siemens AG, Corporate Development Siemens One. e

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