Genetic Algorithm Applications

Today, in this world of information processing, business intelligence and business analytics, are gaining in importance very fast. The three major techniques or groups of algorithms which have gained a lot of visibility in recent times are fuzzy logic, neural networks and genetic algorithms. In this article, we discuss in brief about the possible business applications of genetic algorithms.

In general, genetic algorithms find their application in problem domains that have a complex fitness landscape with many criteria with divergent needs or fitness function curves. Typically, genetic algorithms find application in computational science, engineering, manufacturing, phylogenetics, bioinformatics, economics, chemistry, mathematics, physics and other related disciplines.

The most popular application of Genetic Algorithms is in the field of Search applications.

Mostly, in such search techniques, the end objective may be an optimization function where the genetic algorithm may be applied for Fast Search through a huge pool of possible solutions so as to find the most optimal solution fast, without compromising the fitness of purpose too much.

Similarly, problems which are often solved using genetic algorithms include time-table scheduling and job-scheduling problems. Many scheduling software packages use Genetic Algorithms as a predictor model. GAs have also been applied to classic engineering disciplines besides the information technology, communications, telecommunications, electronics and semiconductor industry. Genetic algorithms are also popular for usage as an approach to solve global optimization problems.

Some of the other popular applications of Genetic Algorithms are in computer-automated design, artificial creativity, automated design of industrial equipment, design of mechatronic systems, in the financial services sector, design of multi-objective decision making problems, bioinformatics, quality control, operations planning, chemical kinetics, clustering,  code decryption, configuration applications,  design of distribution systems, control engineering, computer network design, gene profiling, electronic circuit design, economics modelling, scheduling applications,  marketing mix strategizing, molecular research,  neural network based applications,  software engineering, data compression, plant floor layout planning, and so much more.

By the way, did you read our article on the application of Fuzzy logic and Fuzzy set theory.

Brand Personality Dimensions

Brand personality refers to those human personality traits (sometimes developed cognitively) which are developed harmoniously with a brand, whether it is a product or a service. While branding a product or a service, especially if it is new, or is being launched in a new market, or is getting repositioned in a new or existing market, in depth understanding of all the dimensions of Brand Personality is of utmost importance to the product or service manager or the brand manager.

Consumers often describe products or services offered as brands (more often than not in their sub-conscious level of comprehension or brand association) by using descriptors of certain common personality traits. Marketers attempt to use this consumer behavior to create or reinforce these perceptions through strategies involving brand positioning or unique re-positioning. Now successfully positioning (or re-positioning) a brand’s personality within a product category requires the application of multiple measurement models and frameworks. This is to ensure that the branding manager can successfully disentangle a brand’s unique personality traits from those generic traits that are common across all the other brands in a similar product or service category and also from amongst its substitutes.

The dimensions of Brand Personality was initially proposed by Aaker (1997) in his famous brand personality framework consisting of 5 dimensions of every brand that impacts cognitive branding, brand association and brand recollection.  Again brand  association  appears  to  partially mediate the influence of the competence dimension of brand personality on brand attractiveness.

The 5 main dimensions of brand personality are Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, Ruggedness. Consumers perceive sincere brands as being honest, not-exaggerating, truthful, and cheerful. Similarly consumers perceive exciting brands as being daring, adventurous, high spirited, imaginative, and somewhat with a sharp cutting edge (especially for certain technology gadgets like the Play Station). Consumers perceive Competence from product or service reliability, deliver-ability and from the success symbols from a brand. A brand that is perceived to be sophisticated is viewed as being charming and associated with a higher snob value and thus fit for the upper society, or to fulfill higher order needs from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Similarly rugged personality brands are perceived to have the features of being outdoorsy and tough.

Generally speaking, brand  personality  is likely to be more difficult to imitate by competing brands and substitute products,  than more tangible product attributes or service level dimensions. So marketing practitioners have the advantage of using it more suitably to  achieve more  sustainable  advantages  (Ang  and  Lim  2006),  for  creating  product or service level  differentiation  and positioning, which in turn ensures a Pull strategy and is more sustainable in the long run. This also creates the highly sought after greater Brand Equity, something for which in current times, branding and advertising managers spend millions (if not billions) of dollars upon.

Now, since high  brand  equity tends  to  occur when  consumers have  numerous  positive  and  strong associations, either in the conscious our sub-conscious level, related  to  the brand. Brand association, which  is defined as “anything  linked  in memory  to a brand” is one of  the major components of  brand equity, and is greatly affected by the brand personality dimensions. Brand association, not only results in high greater brand awareness but also creates greater brand recall and so has a distinctively positive correlation with brand equity since it can  represent brand quality and brand commitment. These in turn creates the initial platform for any product or service brand to harness the strength to pull consumers, i.e. implement a pull strategy.

Now brand name recognition with strong brand association can  successfully developed through  a carefully planned and panned out  long-term marketing strategy, which involves activities like advertising,  public relations, customer need identification, pricing,  understanding evolving market dynamics and subsequent product or service offering modifications. No wonder today, multinational companies and business firms are investing millions and billions of dollars in advertising and other forms of marketing communications in order to create greater brand awareness and also greater brand association, so as to be able to implement a pull strategy.

With time a more detailed brand personality structure evolved as managers attempted to understand the requirements of branding activities better through greater focus on consumer behavior.

By the way, do you know about how to create a marketing plan in a structured manner?

Also, Have you read our article on the Marketing Mix or the 4 Ps of Marketing?

Genetic Algorithm

Today, in the world of data mining, business intelligence and analytics, techniques which can learn and provide decision support is gradually gaining in importance in leaps and bound. The three major techniques or groups of algorithms which have gained a lot of visibility in recent times are fuzzy logic, neural networks and genetic algorithms.

A genetic algorithm (GA) is a search based, self learning algorithm (technique) that imitates the theory of natural evolution based on selective screening of results based on fitness of purpose. This self learning algorithm is routinely used to generate solutions to multi-criteria  decision making problems, optimization problems and search problems. Genetic algorithms have evolved from the more popular class of evolutionary algorithms (EA), which generate solutions to optimization problems using techniques mimicked from that of natural evolution like those of inheritance, selection, mutation  and crossover.

The structure of a generic technique developed based on the genetic algorithm would follow the mention sequence given in the diagram below:

First while coding using a genetic algorithm, the first activity is to code the data-sets in such a way so as to be equatable  for the fitness of purpose of the problem domain. Then typically, a random sample is chosen from the data set and the fitness of purpose of these data points are evaluated. Now for those points which have a higher fitness score, they are selected for further application of genetic algorithm optimization techniques like those of inheritance, selection, mutation  and crossover. The other data points are rejected and the algorithm continues to recreate data-points from this pool of selected data points using the techniques of inheritance, selection, mutation  and crossover.

Selection: During each successive iteration, a part of the existing population is selected to form a new generation sample pool. These data points are selected through a fitness-based purpose of usage in the problem domain, where fitter solutions (as measured by a fitness function) are  selected preferentially. Some selection algorithms rate the fitness of purpose of each solution and preferentially select the best solutions. Other methods often rate only a random sample of the population, as this process may be very time-consuming.

Reproduction using Cross-over and Mutation
The next step is to generate the next generation population of data points from those selected earlier (using selection), through the operator algorithms called crossover (also called recombination), and/or mutation.

Cross-over: During cross-over, a pair (or triplet) of data points are chosen from the refined selection and they are combined and data-exchange takes place based on the individual coding. After the data exchange occurs multiple times, the new data points created from this process is returned to the selection pool to be operated by the selection operator.

Mutation: The coded data point obtained after the operation of selection on the sample pool of data points, is modified by tweaking one parameter to test its fitness factor and this continues for the entirely set of selected data points. The newly created generation of data-points are then tested using the selection operator again and the entirely process is restarted.

Although Crossover and Mutation are known as the main operators of genetic algorithm, there are also other operators such as regrouping, colonization-extinction, or migration in genetic algorithms.

The application of these operators and re-selection of these new generation data-points continue till the optimal fitness of purpose is attained. Common terminating conditions are often due to a solution satisfying minimum criteria, fixed number of generations being reached, allocated resources (complexity of computation, computation time, money) reached, the highest ranking solution’s fitness level is reaching or a fitness plateau has been reached such that successive iterations no longer produce better results, manual inspection produces better results or even combinations of these.

Customer sentiment and Opinion Mining

Customer sentiment mining or opinion mining refers to the application of datamining techniques like natural language processing, computational linguistics, and text analytics to identify and extract subjective information from customer data like textual interactions (sms, emails), recorded phone calls (calls to CRM divisions) and more recently usage of products/services (website usage, etc).

There are many popular technology products for customer sentiment mining.

Typically, these products analyze e-mails and telephonic conversations to decide if it is a complaint or a query and forwards it to most suitable agent for immediate resolution thus increasing agent productivity. They can also perform both structured and unstructured data analysis to understand & quantify customer satisfaction, display customer details and past communication, prioritize complaints based on customer satisfaction level the value of the customer, update customer contact details in the data warehouse, and also helps to differentiate services to HNI and LNI clients.

Sometimes, these data-mining systems can even create customized email/sms/ automated phone call campaigns for the marketer to increase revenue from cross-selling and up-selling, analyze customer preferences post campaign-creation, analyze customer actions post email reading, generate reports to facilitate management decision making process (which can be integrated with the existing other report generation tools)and also helps to analyze productivity of agents and channels.

Customer opinion mining

A feature-wise competitive analysis of the 15 most popular instruments available in the market for customer sentiment mining can be obtained on request to arpan.kumar.kar@gmail.com. The comparative report is easy to understand with charts implying a comparison of features an is priced $350 only.

Customer Lifetime Value management

Today “customer is the king” is the mantra for success for all marketing managers. But for actual decision making, the marketers (especially the relationship managers) are often poised with a simple challenge. They cannot meet the needs of of all the customers equally and satisfy them all.  So how should they prioritize how to satisfy the needs of the customer and by what means to select such customers?

The answer lies in the estimation of the customer’s lifetime value. Customer lifetime value ( CLV or CLTV ), or lifetime value (LTV), or lifetime customer value (LCV) is the net present value of the economic benefits (monetary returns in terms of cash flows) attributed to the relationship with a customer throughout his relationship with the company. The focus on customer lifetime value as a marketing metric is for placing a much greater emphasis on relationship marketing for improving customer service and long-term customer satisfaction, rather than on maximizing short-term sales.

So then, comes the big question, how do one estimate the Customer Lifetime value? The answer is presented to you diagrammatically below, in a simplified manner.

So what should be done to maximize the value from CLTV management? Let us discuss the same in this article step-wise.

  1. First estimate your customer lifetime value for your entire customer base. This would enable you to make an estimate of the total revenue that the customer is likely to provide you if he/she stays with you throughout the estimated life-cycle of the product.
  2. For each customer, estimate the possible churn probability at each stage and discount the CLTV value for each customer.
  3. Segment the customers based on the discounted CLTV value into high net-worth individual (HNI) customers, medium net-worth individual (MNI) customers and Low net-worth individual (LNI) customers
  4. Now, allocate your budget for marketing and relationship management likewise for each customer segment, to maximize the retentivity of every customer in the segment. Do remember that normally, every new customer acquisition is 5 times costlier than retaining an old customer, as had been found out through research. However, if the cost of retention of a singular customer (based on a case-to-case analysis) is more than the discounted CLTV, incentivising his churn is often a good strategy to optimize the negative effects of his network value and negative word of mouth viral effects.
  5. Always try to ensure a greater deal of attention for maximizing customer satisfaction. A fully satisfied customer is likely to provide 5 times more economic value to the firm than a customer with a mid-level satisfaction level. It is also important to remember that it is better to let a customer with low satisfaction level churn rather than attempting to retain him, since such a customer has a negative return to the firm, from the customer’s network ( remember Customer Network Value? )

These are few of the necessary steps to ensure customer lifetime value maximization and optimal management of the same, through better resource allocation. Do let us know if you have any queries, we would be happy to resolve your problems.

Fuzzy Logic and Fuzzy Systems

A fuzzy system is basically a control system based on fuzzy logic, which is a mathematical system that analyzes input values in terms of logical variables that take on continuous values between 0 and 1 instead of belongingness or non-belongingness to any set, as in crisp set theory or classical or digital logic, which operates either in 1 or in 0  for a logic to be true or false respectively. Fuzzy systems have become extremely popular in recent times for their various business applications.

Fuzzy logic on the other hand is the mathematical theory based on set theory, from which fuzzy systems have been developed. Essentially, fuzzy logic is based on fuzzy set theory which proposes that logical variables can take on continuous values between 0 and 1 instead of crisp belongingness or non-belongingness to any set, as in crisp set theory  which operates either in 1 or in 0  for a logic to be true or false respectively.

Typically, a response in real life situation is not crisp, i.e. its not in black and white. Say one is asked to judge the performance of a technology application, typically the person (judge) will think that for every specification of feature there is a degree of acceptability in performance while in certain dimensions, the performance is not acceptable. This is precisely what fuzzy logic or fuzzy sets attempts to capture.  Here, every item of a set may belong to multiple sets by a degree of belongingness and not by absolution of belongingness or non-belongingness to any set.

Today, Fuzzy sets and systems have taken a major interest from both the academia and the industry for its numerous and unlimited applicability and the scope.  The first wave of application of these systems were primarily in process control and electronics, while slowly, these have made their impact felt in information systems development and deployment in business processes and activities. The largest applications are in the area of decision sciences in business intelligence and decision making, and is being thought of as one of the biggest change creating mathematical tool.

Pricing of Information Technology

There are multiple approaches to pricing of information technology products and services.  Although pricing strategies differ based on whether the software or system is getting sold as a product or getting leased as a service, there are certain basic generic strategies for pricing the same. These strategies are being discussed in this article. Continue reading “Pricing of Information Technology”

Value Creation Strategy – Business Model

To create sustainable, long-term value for all the stakeholders of a firm, it is important to explicitly establish an appropriate stakeholder value target. However what would constitute the “success” condition for all the stakeholders of a firm would vary from the goals of individual stakeholder. For an investor in a firm, value may be seen as through higher market price of his stocks and bonds, where as, for a mid level worker, value may mean better returns in terms of satisfaction from the job, maybe in terms of pay grade improvements or in terms of job satisfaction. Although, what constitutes “value creation” may be dependent on stakeholder perception, for a generic strategic framework, there is a need to conceptualize a generic framework to achieve a target so the value may be created for the firm as a whole, in strict strategic sense.

The key to reach this target and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage is the alignment of business strategy, financial strategy, technology strategy, marketing strategy and investor strategies. One such model developed in strategic management literature is that of Strategy Maps.

In Strategic Maps framework, value is created through 3 main organizational resources, namely Human Capital, Information capital and Organization Capital.

As depicted in this model, value for a firm is essentially created through the interaction of  four processes, namely, “Operations management processes“, “Customer relationship management processes“, “Innovation processes” and “Regulatory and Social processes“. Under each process, there are lots of transaction level processes which create value. Monitoring and strategizing on the value creation of  transaction level processes is the functionality of Mid Level management in the organization which may be termed as “Ploy for Value Creation“. Focus here could be “Ploys” for improving cost structure or improving asset utilization within the firm. The objective at this level is to focus on productivity enhancing strategies.

For the executive senior management, strategy formulation for the purpose of “Value creation” would have a different focus. Their objective could be to expand the revenue opportunities through entering a new marketdecide a growth strategy for a product or market, or focus on Business Diversification strategies. In short, the role of the executives would be to evaluate various growth strategies for the firm, which could lead to huge revenues and thus economic value creation in the near future, upon realization of the plan post implementation of the strategy.

There are many other strategic frameworks for the creation of value for businesses which have their individual merits and limitations.  Another popular framework for value creation is that of Prahlad et al. (2004)

Do let us know if you have any query.

 

Product Life Cycle Management

Product life cycle management (or PLC management) is the sequential formulation and implementation of strategies used by Marketing Professionals as a product goes through its life cycle. The conditions of the market in which a product gets sold changes over time and the issues that arises with the changes must be managed as the product moves through its succession of stages. Continue reading “Product Life Cycle Management”

Supply Chain Value Management

No doubt that the efficient management of the Supply Chain is crucial for any business, but the grasping question always comes is how does it create value for the firm? More still, how can that value be better managed so as to create competitive advantage for the firm?

While the Value Chain analysis as developed by Michael Porter in 1985 argues as being efficient for creating a sustainable platform for value generation for firms so that they may achieve competitive advantage in the industry, the proposition is not without major limitations, like all other popular frameworks in strategic management literature.

Theory of Economics is one of many possible ways to define and measure value. 

While operationalizing the definition of value, it is crucial to note whether the exchange that creates this economic value is between business entities i.e.  Business to Business (B2B) – or between a firm and a consumer – i.e., Business to Consumer (B2C).

Since Supply Chain is intrinsic to creation of economic value between business entities only, we focus on B2B value creation. There are 3 forms of value that is created in B2B type economic transactions that is widely accepted in strategic management literature focusing on Supply Chains.

  1. Technical value, which is intrinsic to the resource being provided and occurs in almost every economic exchanges.
  2. Organizational value, which is built upon the context of the exchange, and may derive from a range of factors such as ethical standards, prestige, reliability, and association.  This may help the organization get more than the normal economic value from the transactional point of view, in terms of helping the same to achieve some degree of competitive advantage.
  3. Personal value, which is derived from the personal experiences and relationships involved in the exchange of resources and the benefits provided to the entities associated with the firms bounded by the economic exchange.

Value in supply chain gets created through the following processes:

  1. Supply chain modeling must be done quantitatively and objectively. Understanding of the goals objectively is crucial for its success.
  2. The major challenge in an excellent supply chain network is not to build a model but to model the sensitivity of one variable against others optimally. A simple model can work fine in many cases. However, supply chain experts (OR & Analytics Professionals) should be involved immediately when doing multi-layered inventory strategies, industrial engineers and operations.
  3. The fundamental building blocks of work are the methods and standards for the tasks. Value creation occurs when the changing business dynamics can be effectively modeled regularly to drive maximum benefits. (remember the Theories of Constraints?)

So creating value from supply chain should be a major focus for all manufacturing companies.

This is crucial to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of not only the supply chain in particular, but for the overall firm productivity.

By the way, did you read the following articles?

These are few of our highly popular articles

 

Market Entry Strategy for International Business

An international market entry strategy is defined as the planning and implementation of delivering goods or services to a new target international market. It often requires establishing and further managing contracts in a new foreign country. Few firms successfully operate their business in a niche market without ever planning to expand into new markets (mostly due to the localized nature of their Business) but most firms strive to expand through increased sales, brand awareness and business stability by entering a new market. Developing a win-win market entry strategy involves a thorough analysis of  multiple factors, in a planned sequential manner.

For a generic framework for Market Entry Strategies read our article here.

There are 2 basic Strategic Frameworks for Market Entry Strategies which are all dependent on Product type and the Product Lifecycle.

These frameworks have been developed built upon the theories of Innovation Diffusion Models in monopoly and a competitive Game Theory frameworks based on theories of Business Economics.

Market-Entry-Framework

The Waterfall Strategy

In a Waterfall strategy, the business is spread in international markets sequentially. First a firm enters a new market and establishes an identity in the same. Establishing an identity involves estimation of potential market size and revenue patterns, identification of target segment, creation of brand awareness, identification and creation of possible distribution channels and finally formulation and implementation of sales strategy. All these strategies at individual stage is dependent on the product type and the life cycle.

Once the product identity is established in the new market, the learning from the same is utilized to expand into another new market, somewhat with similar structure, sequentially. Learning is an iterative process in such a strategy formulation and it is a less risky process of expansion of business.

Typically, products with a longer product life-cycle or in the maturity phase would follow a Waterfall Strategy, for expansion into new markets.

 

The Sprinkler Strategy

Markets are approached simultaneously in the sprinkler strategy. While this is a more risky strategic framework for entering new markets, typically it is more suitable for products with a shorter life cycle (like Technology products) or are at the Introduction and Growth Stage of the Product Life Cycle. In such a strategic framework, markets are entered simultaneously and often a Skimming Product Pricing strategy is used to generate as much profits as possible from sales. Experiences from market responses are limited to individual markets and the same are not replicated in the other markets.

 

While there is a third Strategic Framework (Namely the Wave Strategy ), it is much less popular for its limitations.

Have you read the article on the Porter’s Five Forces analysis of industry competitiveness? This is a must-read article for anyone planning to get into a new market.

Ansoff Matrix

The Ansoff Growth matrix is a tool that helps firms decide their product and market growth strategy based on objective analysis of industry structure and product type. It is one of the more popular tools for strategic management analysis, in the scenario of deciding the case for a related diversification of businesses and firms, which itself is a highly risky strategic decision. Continue reading “Ansoff Matrix”

Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management is often defined in Operations Management literature as the integrative planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all Logistics Management activities (Handfield & Nichols, 1999; Mentzer et al., 2001). Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, third-party service providers, In fact, the coordination is one of the major challenges in effective supply chain management (Thomas & Griffin, 1996). Stakeholders could be intermediaries, and even customers. At its core. Supply Chain Management integrates supply and demand management within and across companies.

Supply-Chain-Structure

Supply Chain Management can also be defined as the integrative planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all Logistics Management activities. Securing one of the few respected logistics companies can be a great way to have a more efficient supply chain management.

However, selection of any supply chain partner is a multi-criteria decision making process and is extremely complex. Therefore a lot of advanced decision support systems are used for partner selection for effective supply chain management. There has been lots of studies which has focussed on the challenges and approaches for supply chain partner selection (Kar, 2009; Pani & Kar, 2011, Kar, 2014; Kar & Pani, 2014a; Kar & Pani, 2014b)

 

Supply Chain StructureThe structure and activities of a typical Supply Chain for a large manufacturing firm is displayed above.

So what does integrative supply chain management?

Integrative supply chain management consists of all the activities involved in logistics, supplier identification and management, reverse logistics, cash to cash management, service level distribution, management to demand and responding to fluctuations, manufacturing, management of e-SCM issues, management of technology, auctions, negotiations, reverse auctions, customer relationship management (to an extent), ware house management, inventory management and so on.

However the most crucial activities in proper management of the supply chain focuses on activities involving logistics management, supplier / vendor selection, procurement strategizing (make vs buy decisions), vendor management, value co-creation with partners and collaborators, and daily operational aspects. Essentially, the crux of excellence in Supply Chain Management lies in managing the Supply Chain Network, which extends from the many tiered suppliers (vendors) to the end customer through distributors or retailers.

Supply-Chain-Structure

Research on supply chain management started as early as in the late 1950s, and research issues were centered around few key themes as described by the diagram below.

Supply-Chain-Key-Activities

Thus Effective Supply Chain Management encompasses the planning and management of all the ploys and strategies, including the implementation of the same, for improving the sourcing and procurement of a firm, conversion, demand creation and fulfillment, and all Logistics Management activities. Thus, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, who can be suppliers for the firm, third-party service providers, intermediaries, and as mentioned earlier, collaborating customers on the network.

Those who feel as though they have a strong understanding of the many relationships involved with supply chain management may be able to own a franchise like Quiznos or other restaurant franchises with their expertise. The act of owning and establishing a franchise or chain restaurant in one’s area is fairly complicated, but certainly not impossible. It is also an excellent way to gain an understanding of what goes into owning and managing a business. Those who are relatively new to some of the aforementioned concepts may also find that they would have an easier time managing a franchise that is already established versus managing a business from the ground up.

By the way, did you hear about Interlink Parcel Delivery? They are a part of the UK based Interlink Express. They offer an excellent courier service, based on effective management of the logistics value chain.

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P.S. Article inspired by the presentation of my friend and colleague, Dr. Priyal Singh

References:

  • Handfield, R. B., & Nichols, E. L. (1999). Introduction to supply chain management (Vol. 183). Upper Saddle River, NJ: prentice Hall.
  • Kar, A. K. (2009). Using Fuzzy Neural Networks and Analytic Hierarchy Process for Supplier Classification in e-Procurement.
  • Kar, A. K. (2014). Revisiting the supplier selection problem: An integrated approach for group decision support. Expert systems with applications, 41(6), 2762-2771.
  • Kar, A. K., & Pani, A. K. (2014a). How can a group of procurement experts select suppliers? An approach for group decision support. Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 27(4), 337-357.
  • Kar, A. K., & Pani, A. K. (2014b). Exploring the importance of different supplier selection criteria. Management Research Review, 37(1), 89-105.
  • Mentzer, J. T., DeWitt, W., Keebler, J. S., Min, S., Nix, N. W., Smith, C. D., & Zacharia, Z. G. (2001). Defining supply chain management. Journal of Business logistics, 22(2), 1-25.
  • Pani, A. K., & Kar, A. K. (2011, January). A study to compare relative importance of criteria for supplier evaluation in e-procurement. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2011 44th Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 1-8). IEEE.
  • Thomas, D. J., & Griffin, P. M. (1996). Coordinated supply chain management. European journal of operational research, 94(1), 1-15.

Why MBA

The question “Why a MBA” is one that haunts both MBA aspirants and recruiters. Today slowly MBA is becoming a fad which often delivers much less substance to the business and is mostly about the way the little that is delivered is packaged. The problem is that this issue is also getting recognized by aspiring students and recruiters alike. And a bigger problem is all aspirants face this daunting question during the selection interviews.

So why do so many people start running after the craze despite its apparent limitations unless its from a highly recognizes institute like the IIMs, XLRI, FMS, MDI and the likes?

 

There are many perceived benefits of a MBA program from the viewpoint of the aspirants.

  1. Switching career to some other Industry or function within the same firm.
  2. Starting ones own business venture.
  3. Progressing to a higher responsibility in the same industry or function.
  4. Joining a dream company (the hottest being banking, consulting and marketing roles amongst the top business schools)
  5. Faster growth within a stipulated time in the career track.
  6. Filthy Lucre (Dirty Money) and lots of it.

So what skills MBA aspirants already posses and what new skills are developed in the programme.

  • Technical knowledge – Developed within the programme
  • Analytical skills – Strengthened from a basic level
  • Client skills – Developed a bit, further developed during post-MBA work.
  • Leadership skills – Has to be present in the aspirant’s core.
  • Business skills – Developed during the course work.
  • Management skills – Refine, but has to be in the aspirant’s core.
  • Communication skills – Must be present in the core, but presentation skills are improved.
  • Relationship skills – Further refined.
  • Problem/Contingency handling skills: Extensively developed in the programme.
  • Smart thinking – Has to be present in the aspirant’s core.

So does this justify burning that hole in your pocket and getting burdened by that huge bank loan, unless you are actually doing it from a premier institute? Think before you take the leap and invest your future in less known business schools just for the heck of it.

e-Commerce and e-Business Strategies

While there are many e-commerce and e-business models which one needs to be aware of, the dynamics of business strategies change overnight with the adoption of e-commerce and m-commerce business models. The limitations of the more popular strategic frameworks like that of the Porter’s 5 forces model was realized very soon by the researchers in e-business strategy. The generic strategy framework was also somewhat limited in its applicability in pure e-business models.

In view of these changes, there began a serious contemplation of sustainable e-commerce and e-business models for business giants. What would be the mantra for success was long deliberated and various e-business and e-commerce models started getting wider acceptance.

With increased adoption of E-commerce, firms adopted Pure-Click and Brick and Click Business Models.

  • Pure-Click companies are those that have launched a website without any previous existence as a firm. Ex: AMAZON.com
  • Brick and Click companies are those existing companies that have added an online site for e-commerce but still maintains an offline business model.  Ex: futurebazaar.com

However it was noticed that many (as high as 84%) of the business models met with disastrous results and the companies blew up (bubble burst) within a couple of years of its inception. It was at this juncture that the value proposition of e-commerce models started getting scrutinized and the importance of the complete value chain for e-business models got its due importance.

It was realized that the complete value chain needs to be analyzed before a firm selects a business model for its operations.

 

e-commerce-models

The analysis of the core of a firm is crucial for success in this increasingly information age, where business models are attempting a quick fly off the sly to generate revenue and most of which are falling flat.

By the way, have you read our article on the Growth Strategies of Web Based New Generation Firms?

 

e-Commerce and e-Business Models

Electronic commerce, which is abbreviated popularly as e-commerce or eCommerce, is defined as the buying and selling of products or services over electronic media like the Internet or other Information Technology dependent networks. Sometimes e-commerce is also interchangeably used with the terminology e-business.

The amount of transactions and the volume of trade conducted via electronic commerce has grown exponentially with widespread adoption of the Internet and Internet based technologies. The use electronic commerce is done in applications related to electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems and automated data collection systems. Traditional electronic commerce used the World Wide Web or the internet and now is transcending the utilization of mobile platforms to optimize the application of ubiquitous computing. Very recently an emergent trend is foreseen that the Spoken Web will be the future media for electronic commerce.

The transaction wise representation of the various models of e-commerce or e-business is denoted by the following diagram.

e-business-modelsThe most singular uniform way the various e-business models can be viewed under is as follows:

It is crucial to note that the dynamics of business strategy is vastly affected by the application and adoption of web based technologies in the e-commerce domain.

Do read

Top B-Schools of India

The results for the top 30 B-Schools of India are out for the year 2011.
This time the study was conducted by Economic Times and ratified by a consulting major who collected a total of 253 responses across the 5 functional areas with 31 IT Heads, 38 Finance Head, 97 HR Head, 34 Production/Manufacturing Head was achieved. Finally a study that is ranking the institutes based on what the actual rank is, based on the performances of the students and not on the perceptions of MBA Wannabes, and hence a lot more accurate and relevant for MBA Wannabes.

Top-Business-Schools-of-India

Top Online Affiliate Marketing Programs

Affiliate marketing is a highly popular emergent marketing practice in which a business model rewards an affiliate marketer for each customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. More popular examples include rewards sites, where users are rewarded with cash or gifts, for the completion of an offer, and the referral of others to the site. The industry has four core players: the merchant (who is sometimes also known as ‘retailer’), the network (Affiliate marketers create this network), the publisher (also known as ‘the affiliate’), and the customer or consumer. The value creation is through a network where all the marketers benefits not only from his direct sales but also the sales of those affiliate marketers who joined the program under him.

Online or Internet based affiliate marketing overlaps with other Internet marketing methods to some degree, because most affiliates use regular advertising business models like CPM, CPC, CPI techniques. The techniques to gain the attention of the customer  include organic search engine optimization, paid search engine marketing, e-mail marketing, and in some sense display advertising. On the other hand, internet affiliate marketers sometimes use less orthodox techniques, such as publishing reviews of products or services offered by a partner.

While everyone is jumping the online marketing Bandwagon, it is crucial to know how to do things the proper way to optimize your success.

Some of the more popular affiliate marketing plans which an online marketer can look towards are as follows:

  1. Amazon.com offers the best kind of referral if you have a great online presence. You can potentially sell thousands of items and also selective items which suit the theme of your website and make 4% to 15% of the sales of books, electronic gadgets and what not.
  2. BBL Marketing media is another promising affiliate marketing platform which market online classified ads and take a percentage of the potential sales.
  3. Share sale is another top affiliate marketing opportunity if you like promoting technology based services.
  4. There are multiple software firms which offer a percentage cut if you can sell their product through affiliate marketing, especially which create social media software, like Twitter/Facbook marketing software like TweetAdder or FriendAdder.
  5. Many online services like website hosting services from GoDaddy are also a good opportunity for affiliate marketers. If you refer anyone to use these services, you will generate a decent cut of the sales.
  6. Last but not the least, there is the huge chain of affiliate marketing banking on Pay-per-Click and Pay-per-View on the posting of advertisements by the affiliate marketer. The most popular amongst them is  MyLikes and SponsoredTweets . In these programs you can make easy money by tweeting to our followers. Similar opportunities are also available if you post advertisements in your Facebook profiles.
  7. There are multiple opportunities to create sponsored posts in blogs and earn through that. One of the most popular website to do that is Pay-per-Post.

Hope these inputs helped you to kick-start your career as an affiliate marketer. Do let us know if you know of any more highly popular affiliate marketing programs.

By the way do you know how to create a successful viral marketing campaign using social media?

 

Business Cartoons – Impression Management

Impression management is crucial in a job. While it is important that you put across your ideas, talking too much without proper substance is also not recommended. Check out what happens when you talk too much without delivering substance.

The content has been removed by the editor due to copyright violation by Anton.Denzongpa@pastos.com!

Remember: The product of quantity and quality is constant. The constant value depends on the individual.

 

Michael Porter’s 5 forces model

Porter’s 5 forces model is one of the most recognized framework for the analysis of business strategy. Porter, the guru of modern day business strategy, used theoretical frameworks derived from Industrial Organization (IO) economics to derive five forces which determine the competitive intensity and therefore attractiveness of a market. This theoretical framework, based on 5 forces, describes the attributes of an attractive industry and thus suggests when opportunities will be greater, and threats less, in these of industries.

Attractiveness in this context refers to the overall industry profitability and also reflects upon the profitability of the firm under analysis. An “unattractive” industry is one where the combination of forces acts to drive down overall profitability. A very unattractive industry would be one approaching “pure competition”, from the perspective of pure industrial economics theory. It is important to note that this framework is not for the analysis of individual firms but for the analysis of the industry.

Despite its limitations in the technology enabled business era, Porter’s 5 forces model is still the leading framework for the analysis of industry attractiveness. The limitations of the Porter’s 5 forces model induced the introduction of the 6th Force, namely the Complementors.

This model comprises of an analysis dependent on 4 entities external to the firm and the fifth force: the Industry structure. These forces are defined as follows:

  1. The threat of the entry of new competitors: This encompasses the challenges surrounding if new competitors were to enter the same industry, how would the profitability be affected? This is measured by the indicators which are detailed subsequently and is a proxy measure for the degree of attractiveness of the industry. Factors couls be issues surrounding economies of scale, proprietory product differences, brand identity, switching costs for the customers, capital intensive nature of the industry, access to distribution channels, absolute cost advantages, government policy surrounding new entrants and potential retaliation or fallouts. Higher is the threats of entry of new competitors, lower is the industry attractiveness.
  2. The intensity of competitive rivalry: This is captured by a number of metrics like the growth rate of the industry, the ratio of cost structure to the value added, cost of over-capacity, degree of output differences among competitors, impact of brand and its conversion to sales, switching costs, concentration among the leading players (Herfindal Index), Information flow and complexity, diversity of competing businesses and exit barriers. Higher is the intensity, lower is the industry attractiveness.
  3. The threat of substitute products or services: This is captured to understand to what extent there is a possibility of the industry’s product or services being substituted by some other category of products or services. Factors which predominantly matter in this force are the relative price advantage of the substitutes, relative functional performance advantage of the substitute, switching costs of the customer for moving to the substitute and the customer’s propensity to substitute.
  4. The bargaining power of customers / buyers: This force tries to estimate the degree of bargaining of post-facto relationships that may be empowered due to the dynamics of the relationship. This could be captured through some metrics like the buyer’s concentration as compared to the Industry’s concentration, customer’s volume vs industry output, customer’s switching cost, price sensitivity, degree of product differences, buyer’s profits and decision maker’s incentives. Higher is the bargaining power of the customer, lower is the industry attractiveness.
  5. The bargaining power of suppliers: This force tries to explore the impact of the bargaining power of the industry’s suppliers and how much they can force the industry to share the benefits of value creation through this bargaining power. Factors are covered in terms of differentiation of inputs, switching cost of the suppliers, relationship specific investments required, presence of substitute inputs, supplier’s industry concentration, importance of volume to the suppliers, cost relative to the total purchases in the industry, impact of supplier’s inputs to overall cost structure or differentiation, threats of forward integration, and potential for backward integration. Higher is the bargaining power of the suppliers, lower is the industry attractiveness.

A detailed explanation of what these forces comprise of is provided in the diagrammatic representation of these 5 forces next.

The 5 forces model has been developed as a response to the SWOT analysis of competitiveness of firms, and has continued to remain the most popular framework in business strategy.

The individual dimensions of the 5 forces has been described in details in the diagrammatic representation of the five forces model. The individual scores on theses dimensions may be mapped to a 7 point Likert Scale. Likert scale basically is an ordered, one-dimensional scale from which respondents choose one option that best aligns with their view.The linguistic values for the same would be Very Strongly agree, Strongly agree, Tend to agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Tend to disagree, Strongly disagree and Very strongly disagree.

These responses on the Likert Scale can then mapped quantitatively to -3 to +3 on the extreme points. The mean of the score can be reconverted in the linguistic variables on the Likert Scale and then expressed as whether the particular force is Very Strong, Strong, Slightly strong, Neither strong nor weak,  Slightly weak, Weak, Very Weak.

Although the Porter’s Five forces model is very popular in terms of usage, one must be aware of the limitations of this framework. No framework can be comprehensively understood unless its limitations are understood as well.

By the way do you know what framework you should consider while deciding on a market entry strategy?

Top Online Strategy Games for Business Students

Strategy can be best understood through simulation games. What better training for a manager than to understand business strategy than to react to simulated market responses as provided by these games? Simulation games ensure that the attempted knowledge imparted in classrooms are driven to the core of the students to a stage where it is assimilated and can be implemented by the student, rather than staying at a superficial text-book knowledge level.

If you as an instructor or a student are still not sure how these strategy simulation games will help you, this article may interest you “From e-learning to games-based e-learning: using interactive technologies in teaching an IS course”, by Thomas M. Connolly, Mark Stansfield, published in journal, International Journal of Information Technology and Management, Volume 6 Issue 2-4, June 2007

  • Mike Bikes advanced strategic simulation game ensures learning whereby students form the management team of a Bicycle Manufacturing company making all the key functional decisions involving Price, Marketing, Distribution, Finance, Operations, HR, and R&D
  • In Industry Player (.) comby Tycoon Systems, students create and manage their own company. In real-time, they experience a multiplayer competition for market leadership and shareholder value within a simulation of real world economy.
  • Marketplace-live is an advanced simulation game students start a firm in the microcomputer industry. Students experience real time challenges in Marketing, Product Development, Accounting, Finance and Manufacturing Fundamentals, Financial Analysis, Business Partner Negotiations, Human Resource Management and e-Commerce.
  • The Price Strategy Simulator by Michael Bean ensures students get a feel of pricing strategies at war through a simulation of Price Wars amongst Hewlett-Packard / Compaq and Dell. IBM enters the competition and an excellent pricing strategy simulation learning is ensured.

Faculties and students who would be interested for more details on the use of Simulation games would be encourage to buy this book from Amazon “The Global Business Game: A Simulation in Strategic Management and International Business” by Joseph Wolfe. Now, using the Amazon banner in this website, Business-Fundas readers can avail of a special discount.

While most of the previously mentioned games were for Business School students, there are quite a few games which will develop the intellect of younger students. A few descriptions of the same are provided below.

  • In a world of online simulation games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than the flexing of the cerebrum, there is a deep need to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/gaming system. One such game is the ROMper Room, where focus is more on intellectual stimulation.
  • Some basic Strategy and Time Management online games are also available at freeworldgroup website. These games are meant for those who are attempting to enhance their personal development skills and time management skills although they may seem redundant to graduate management students.

Information Technology and Information Systems

People often use the terms Information Technology and Information Systems interchangeably, although both the terminologies have established identities of their own. However it is crucial for every professional and individual to understand the subtle differences that defines the individuality of these disciplines.

Information Systems (IS) is a discipline bridging the business field and the well-defined computer science field (popularly called information technology) that has been evolving since it was coined in the early 1970s.An information systems discipline therefore is supported by the theoretical foundations of management social science, information theories and information technology such that students of the discipline have unique opportunity to explore the academics of various business models as well as related algorithmic processes within a computer science discipline. Typically, information systems include people, business procedures or processes, data, software, and hardware that are used to gather and analyze digital information. Specifically Information Systems are the intersection that people and organizations use to collect, filter, process, create, & distribute data (computing) through its business processes, and implemented by its human capital.

While Information Technology (IT) typically is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of digitized information, often represented technically as “Data” through electronics-based media built upon the disciplines of computing and telecommunications. The terminology was first coined in a 1958 by Leavitt and Whisler who defined it as “the new technology that does not yet have a single established name. We shall call it information technology.” Essentially, in its raw form, it comprises of Hardware, Software, the platforms to support both, communication networks and protocols.

It is crucial to understand that while “Information Technology” is a huge discipline with an identity of its own, it essentially is a subset of the discipline “Information Systems”, although the latter evolved much later. The discipline of Information Systems specifically studies the intersection of Business Processes (which may or may not be technology enabled), People (who will be part of the business processes and will use information technology) and Information Technology.

Hope this clarifies your thoughts. Do let me know what you think or would like to discuss further,

Marketing Plan – Blueprint for Marketing Strategy

Today when so much investments are dependent on the outcome of a marketing plan, the same needs to be scrutinized very deeply so as to minimize the risks of non-performance. One such way is to ensure the proper implementation using a marketing strategy plan or a blue-print of implementation for your strategy. So what is a marketing strategy plan?

Basically, it encompasses all the activities in details that needs to be done to ensure that a campaign is successful.

  • For a marketing plan to be successful, the primary importance is understanding whether its adherence to the main marketing mix (4 Ps) is done in a well planned manner. If your objective is to deliver a service, then the 7Ps of Services Marketing needs to be checked out for planned adherence.
  • If you are focusing on extensive usage of technology, are you having ample focus on how you are leveraging the usage of technology vis-a-vis the competencies within your team? Did you take care of the Basics of Digital Marketing Strategy?
  • Have you given the implementation a thought? Is there a structured sequential blueprint to your Marketing Plan which you are planning to operationalize?
  • What is the targeted returns you are expecting from your campaign? Do a cost vis-a-vis outcome-benefit break up for the entire blue-print stage wise. Does each stage commensurate the Expected Returns on Investments (ROI) figures?
  • Last, not the least, does it go hand in hand with the internal competencies of the team that will be implementing your strategy? A great strategy may fall flat without due importance given to the implementation and the competencies of the team.

Do let us know if you need any clarification. Hope you enjoyed reading our articles. By the way, do check out PrintmeIt.com, they create wonderful flyers and brochures which you can you for your advertising campaigns.

Did you read these related articles? They have drawn a lot of attention from readers of similar articles as this one and had been shared extensively in professional networks like LinkedIn.

Jobs and Careers in Marketing

Marketing Management is a discipline focused on the practical application of marketing techniques and the management of a firm’s marketing resources and activities for the purpose of creating a demand for the firm’s products for selling the same.

The term “marketing” as it is known now, was coined in the early 1930s by the American Marketing Association presidential address. While manufacturing was then the focus in business, a subsequent need was recognized to sell what was getting manufactured more efficiently in existing markets. While marketing management as a discipline of research and application has seen waves of changes in key strategic inclination and focus, the core has somewhat remained unchanged.

So what draws most of the marketing professionals to this discipline?

  1. First, it is theoretically very easy. The technicalities are somewhat lesser than many other super-hyped fields like Finance or Technology
  2. A lot depends on the quick thinking of the marketer. Understanding and having a good business acumen is an added bonus.
  3. The careers and jobs are promising yet offer dynamic changes to every professional, suitable to satisfy a broad variety of needs. Not everyone is cut-out for every job. Understanding job requirements as a fit with one’s personality type is a must for the sustained growth of every professional.
  4. It offers choices for career shifts industry wise and role wise, must for every professional, if one faces a mid career crisis.
  5. Last, and most excitingly, it offers a track to reach the coveted “CEO” position in the organization. Most top executives have a background in marketing, if not all.

So what roles do traditional marketing roles get you into?

Jobs in marketing can vary a lot. However, besides traditional paths in sales and marketing, there are many other roles in marketing, a list of which is prepared below:

  1. Business Development in Information Technology and Services companies (like jobs in IBM, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon)
  2. Market Research institutions ( e.g. like jobs in AC Nielson, IMRB )
  3. Consumer goods manufacturing institutions in marketing, sales, branding, strategy (higher in the organization) like jobs in Unilever, Procter & Gamble or in jobs in the FMCG sector.
  4. Consumer durables manufacturing companies in marketing, sales, branding, strategy (higher in the organization) like jobs in Sony, Apple, Toshiba
  5. Product management and even in development in research labs (like jobs in 3M)
  6. Need recognition of markets yet to be created (like jobs in MR divisions in MNCs like Tata Group, 3M)
  7. Retail chain management (both marketing, sales and supply chain functions are sometimes merged) like jobs in Wallmart, K-Mart, Reliance Fresh.
  8. Social sector and NGOs. Even social marketing is a major concern in current fast paced societies.
  9. Internet marketing service professional: You may start marketing websites as a SEO expert.
  10. Affiliate marketing professional: Create your own chain of hierarchy and get the benefits of the sales from it. E.G. Make money from tweeting and making friends join you in the same using MyLikes

I hope the choices helped you out in your search for a career in marketing. By the way, do you know about the top career choices trending globally now?  Choosing a career which won’t stagnate too soon is extremely crucial for sustainable professional growth.

http://www.business-fundas.com/2010/100-fastest-growing-careers/

The 8 Ps of Services Marketing

Services are radically different from products and need to be marketed very differently. So the classical 4 P structure of the Marketing Mix needs to be modified suitably to incorporate the 8 Ps for services marketing, which was previously known as the 7 Ps only.

Services can range from financial services provided by the banks to technology services provided by the IT company or hospitality services provided by hotels and restaurants or even a blog where an author provides a service (information presentation, interesting reading etc) to his audience. Services marketing are dominated by the 7 Ps of marketing namely Product, Price,  Place, Promotion, People, Process and Physical evidence.

To know more in details about the classical 7 Ps of services marketing do visit our article on The 7 Ps of services marketing

While everyone knows about the 7 Ps of services marketing, the 8th P of Services Marketing has emerged in research very recently. The 8th P is Productivity and Quality.

In integral services management, improving productivity is a requisite in cost management; but quality, as defined by the customer, is essential for a service to differentiate itself from other providers.

It has been recognized that overall profitability of a firm may be greatly impacted by focusing on not only at the top-line by improving sales but also focusing on the bottom-line by lowering over-all cost of delivering services. In services management, often the variable costs are a lot more than fixed costs, and so incremental costs, if managed properly can have a huge impact on productivity. So for services, a firm may greatly benefit through proper re-engineering of processes and remodeling the same if required to improve productivity at each stage.

It has also been established in research that process improvements deliver better standardization and hence better quality in services. Quality perception is a crucial differentiating factor on services management and for long term sustainability of the same. Business Process Remodeling can lead to major process efficiency improvements which again can impact overall quality as is actually delivered by the firm and is also perceived by the customers / clientele .

8-Ps

Do let us know if you liked our article or if you have any questions.

By the way, have you read our article on the 4 P’s on Social Marketing?

Also did you read our article on the The 4 P’s of Marketing – The Marketing Mix strategies from which the 7 P Marketing Mix theory actually evolves?