University students win business strategy competition

Senior Spencer Price holds his team's 1st Place trophy that the University of Minnesota was awarded in the 2015 CoMIS Case Competition during an award ceremony held at Urban Eatery in Minneapolis on Saturday evening.

Liam James Doyle

Senior Spencer Price holds his team's 1st Place trophy that the University of Minnesota was awarded in the 2015 CoMIS Case Competition during an award ceremony held at Urban Eatery in Minneapolis on Saturday evening.

Barry Lytton

After spending 24 hours locked in a hotel room with no outside communication, a team of three University of Minnesota students defeated 14 others in a competition to create the best hypothetical plan for a company to effectively incorporate the Affordable Care Act into its business strategy.
 
The contest, the Competition on Management Information Systems, asked three-person college teams to solve the problem in one day and didn’t allow the teams any contact to the outside world while creating the solutions.
 
The University’s team took first place, while students from Georgia Tech came in second and Arizona State University took third. 
 
Teams were asked to decide how a large health insurance company should adapt to a consumer-based business model after the federal government adopted the Affordable Care Act.
 
The Minnesota team decided the company should revamp its website, create an app and implement a rating system — which they called “Health ID” — to act like a credit score for a person’s fitness.
 
All day on Friday, management information systems and international business senior Charline Lach managed a crew of five students that did everything from confiscating contestants’ phones to providing them meals. 
 
Lach had to police all 15 teams and uphold rules that barred the use of cellphones and cameras. And though the teams could use laptops, they couldn’t communicate with anyone outside of the room.
 
If any of the contestants wished to leave their room or walk outside of the hotel, Lach said she and her team had to escort them.
 
The Minnesota team’s coach, Ken Reily, put the group together in October. And after months of offering guidance, Reily said he had to step back and let the students handle the competition on their own. 
 
Though he was not allowed to have any contact with the students during their 24 hours in the hotel room, Reily did watch them present their solution at the end.
 
“I crossed my fingers, and I wondered if they slept last night,” he said. 
 
Before the 24-hour solution period, about 50 people sat in the hotel’s dining room on Wednesday.
 
Among them sat information systems senior Spencer Price — the University team’s designated tech person — and finance and management information systems junior Sam Bagley, the team’s financial adviser. The two were anxious as they sat at a table near the back of the dining room, surveying the other contestants. 
 
And they had a reason to be nervous.
 
The team failed to place in a similar contest last fall and recently lost two practice rounds to University teams, Reily said.
 
Despite that, the group went home with a trophy. 
 
Price, Bagley and the team’s third member, Teja Choudhary, didn’t have much time to celebrate the victory, as they will continue practicing in preparation for a similar competition in Singapore next month.
 
“They won, but I made a lot of notes,” Reily said. “It wasn’t perfect.”