IT and successful businesses [Archives:2003/640/Business & Economy]
By Waleed Hezam
Cleveland OHIO U.S.A
The successful company will be driven to increase stakeholder value and profitability while creating a working environment that encourages and nurtures the growth of personal creativity and development as well as nurturing a sense of well-being for all members of the organization. When dealing with the forces that drive industry competition, a company can devise a strategy that takes the offensive.
This posture is designed to do more than merely cope with the forces themselves; it is meant to alter their causes. The IT professional's role in competitive market intelligence The IT professional is increasingly being called upon to be a sleuth in the quest for the competitive market intelligence that is so necessary to support the enterprise's overall business strategy. In today's fast-changing marketplace, it is essential to monitor the techniques of similar businesses, and IT is being called upon to fulfill that functional need.
IT must provide marketing with answers to vital questions such as:
1. How are competitors getting business?
2. Where does the enterprise look for new customers?
3. How are prospects targeted?
4. What services, products, and prices do competitors offer?
5. What images do our competitors project, and how does that compare to our image?
The combined strength of marketing and IT Enterprises have depended on marketing for too long to provide competitive intelligence. It is crucial for IT professionals to contribute their specialized expertise to successfully adapt to the changing dynamics of the market arena. Marketing cannot do the job without the cooperation, tools, and willing support of the IT department. With the combined strength of the two complementary functions, a winning competitive market intelligence program is within the enterprise's reach.
Useful and sometimes surprising insights can be gained from exploring the terrain of actual and potential competitors. Hardly an academic exercise, sizing up the competition should become an ongoing, regular, and systematic process of gathering, analyzing, and acting upon relevant data, which will provide businesses with two tangible benefits:
– It will reveal the steps that management must take to preempt competitive strikes.
– It will signal new market opportunities. Competitive monitoring enables management to develop practical strategies and measure the success of their actions. What you should know? Simply knowing who your competitors are is not enough; you should also ferret out what their strategies and objectives are.
You can gauge their strengths and weaknesses by learning about their products and services (current and new), pricing, features, and the level of customer satisfaction.
How are your products or services positioned relative to the competition? Do your customers and prospects see your service as having the highest quality and still selling at the lower price? Is your product viewed as the low-cost brand, the premium-priced brand, the old standby, or the leader?
After getting some comments, it may still be neither possible nor desirable to change your service's features. Instead, research could point out what to communicate and how to communicate to your market. For example, you could tell your marketing department what potential customers are looking for and highlight the features that are valued by your customers. Your information will enable the marketing people to create materials that tell customers what they want to hear and sell them what they want to buy. Differences can be subtle but they really do matter.
Are yesterday's customers and clients being lured away by today's competition? Are they being tempted by the competition's siren song? Are they saying yes to your rival's lower fees or discounts? Are they buying new products or services that your company has not even thought of offering? Who will provide the answers?
IT can, at the very least, provide meaningful data to formulate the correct solutions. Potential market threats while management understands the importance of keeping an eye on the competition, some members of management mistakenly believe that the marketing department alone has the resources to do a proper job.
This is simply not true. Much valuable information exists in the database mines of the IT function. The IT professional must do some of the digging in those mines to find it. Most IT professionals are already in an excellent position to obtain and use primary competitive information and need only the encouragement or permission of management.
Frequently, IT has become the central repository for this kind of competitive analysis information.
However, using the information can be a challenge when different departments within the company engage in territorial squabbles, and the company is forced to dilute valuable resources through unnecessary duplications of effort. In such situations, management must educate all departments to funnel customer and prospect data back to a central IT point. Emphasize your strengths.
The benefits of a competitive intelligence effort coordinated by the IT department are:
1. Learning the enterprise's strengths and weaknesses.
2. Learning whom is and who is not buying.
3. Determining customers' and prospects' buying plans.
4. Anticipating rather than reacting to the market.
5. Taking the competition seriously.
They are not going to vanish. Equally important, but occasionally overlooked, is that competitive research, if done well, can give your company a refreshing appreciation of the role of the IT function and a better understanding of your company's own competitive strengths. You may discover, for instance, that your firm's style or delivery is more appreciated or valued by customers than management may have realized. Knowing this facilitates your exploitation of those strengths.
Conclusion In conclusion, the awareness of these forces can help a company stake out a position in its industry that is less vulnerable to attack. Many factors determine the nature of competition, including not only rivals, but also the economics of particular industries, new entrants, the bargaining power of customers and suppliers, and the threat of substitute services or products.
A strategic plan of action based on this might include: positioning the company so that its capabilities provide the best defense against the competitive forces; influencing the balance of forces through strategic moves; and anticipating shifts in the factors underlying competitive forces. Increasingly, corporations are recognizing the strategic role of the operations function.
These organizations are discovering that a focus on customer needs is effective only if the operations function is designed and managed to meet those needs.
From acquiring raw materials to fabricating parts, to assembling products, to customer delivery, a total systems perspective can enable them, in the ideal, to fashion an operations function like the inner workings of a finely tuned machine. Today that operation can be fine-tuned by using modern information systems.