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”

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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.

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.

Continue reading “Michael Porter’s 5 forces model”

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.

Generic Strategies for the Ultimate Competitive Advantage

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage” ~ Jack Welch

Today, the firms operate in an even more competitive industry dictated by an ever unparalleled dynamism. Jack Welch never said anything more meaningful. In current times, when change is the only thing that is constant, a firm’s ability to learn, and more importantly “unlearn and then relearn” creates the most important distinguishing factor for sustainable competitive advantage.

Michael Porter’s framework for competitive advantage probably explains few of the focus issues firms may keep in mind while formulating strategies at the top level.

However, this is the way to achieve sustainable competitive advantage and a firm’s top executive needs to understand the core to his firm, based on which he can take this call. However, due to the dynamism of the industry structure, he needs to continually analyze and re-evaluate his strategies, based on the core.

A firm probably has multiple dimensions of personality traits, talents, resources and skills, and hundreds of other characteristics, but what is it that when all the others are surgically removed distinguishes the character of the firm at the very core? This is essentially the key which needs to be leveraged successfully and innovated upon continually to attain that otherwise illusive competitive advantage.

So how does one recognize one’s core?

One may argue that achieving “customer loyalty” may be a step towards achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s not a secret that loyal customers are good for an organization or brand. You don’t see too many executives saying they don’t want more of them. But in spite of that what intrigues me is how few companies truly acknowledge, take care of and leverage those loyal customers in a way that measurably accelerates market share and recurring revenue while mitigating competitive risk and reducing sales & marketing costs. But in spite of  “customers” being a crucial focal point for business, it is required to recognize that in current times, the very nature of business is evolving. With the very definition of a firm’s role in an industry or even the definition of the industry under such a strict evolution, it is crucial to note that the very target customers are deemed to change in this dynamic market structure. So identifying and acquiring new customers, in spite of the spiraling costs of new customer acquisitions, may play a key role for sustenance.

Thus a firm’s source of resources for the “Ultimate Competitive Advantage” is much more than the sources of revenue. Smaller firms whose ability to learn and “unlearn and then relearn”have reaped the benefits in the past. The problem started after they grew to a certain size where they couldn’t stay so nimble on their feet, and faced competition from other firms, who were more adaptive to the dynamic industry structure.

Sometimes, one tends to think that probably a firm’s organization structure and the culture is the inherent and most important source of competitive advantage. But how can a firm leverage that to quantifiable profits since at the end of the day, business decisions are based on ROI figures and financial achievements. This is probably where a firm needs to rediscover itself.

How to build a Successful Business Model or a Business Plan?

Business Models are crucial for the success of an enterprise or even a startup. So what do you need to focus on while building up your business from scratch? A Business model or a Business Plan (B-Plan) helps you to plan this properly.

  • What are the firm’s core capabilities?
  • How does the firm deliver value to its clients? How does the network with its partners/collaborators (value chain) add to its core competencies. How does the value chain model collaborate with the firms current strategies?
  • What is the cost structure in the business vis-a-vis that of the firm?
  • How is the value proposition unique and sustainable in the long run?
  • How does the firm manage its distribution channels and relationships / liasons with the customers?
  • How is the targeted customer contacted, acquired and retained?
  • What are the sources of revenue and the structure of the same?
  • How does the vision/mission statement adhere with what the firm is doing now and what it is planning to do in the future.

EQ/PQ

Most people have a tough time dealing with politics and all sorts of mental pressures at the workplace in addition to personal tensions. This often creates friction with our peers unknowingly. One of the outcomes from the mental turmoils is creation of groups of so called friends and foes. One of the basic purposes of workplace friends is to listen to our sufferings, sympathize and bad mouth our foes. Further, these friends are also the people via whom all our personal and official details get leaked in office. In reality, it has very often turned out that the foes whom we hate so much and are always busy mentally abusing as the possible sources of all our troubles, are actually in same conditions as us, just they don’t get along with us.  Further, if we came across such foes at social places after quitting the organization, mostly they turn out to be much less of a monster than what we thought they were, although our ego prevents us from recognizing the same. Also the friends who seem to be the best of well wishers we can have, fade away from our life slowly and eventually after we quit. Thus, it is very important how we act and display our emotions at the work. What is really important is to maintain a “pleasant” relation with the strategic people . Now pleasant in no-way means being fake. Be earnest, help, share and liven up your collegues, maintain great rapport with the boss but always keep emotions out of it. Its best to disassociate the emotional side from the professional side for avoiding troubles.

How to choose a career

Everybody knows that skills are important for getting and keeping a job. Employers expect you to list relevant skills on your resume. They ask about your skills in interviews. And they expect you to develop skills on the job so that you will remain productive as new technologies and new work situations emerge.

But maybe you haven’t thought about how closely skills are related to job satisfaction. For example, let’s say you have enough communication skills to hold a certain job where these skills are used heavily, but you wouldn’t really enjoy using them. In that case, this job probably would be a bad choice for you. You need to identify a job that will use the skills that you do enjoy using.

There is an interesting tool freely available online to guide you for such a big decision making step: Its called a Job-Match Grid. This mentioned grid makes a match with the skills in you, with the drives in you, to a possible set of career choices. This ensures, even if you are good in a particular domain, but do not have a passion for the same, you don’t end up 10 years down the line as a dead bone, dried up emotionally, because although you have made a lot of progress in doing what you do well, it does not fulfill your emotional needs expected from the job.

To know more about the Job-Match Grid, check out the ebook “100 fastest growing careers” by Michael Farr, or mail me to get a complementary copy of the same.

100 Fastest Growing Careers

All of us want a great career. For someone who is about to take the big leap into the unknown, an intriguing question that torments his mind is what prospects does the future hold for him in the particular career track? What are his growth prospects and is it just a job for him or will it provide truly a career worth pursuing?

A recent research by Michael Farr has attempted to find out the top 100 fastest growing career paths. The figure below lists them out.

Maybe this should help before you think about a career choice, or decide to run the rat race. Do let me know what you feel about this.

Why should you have a Corporate Social Network

Often, there is very little to differentiate between the winners and the “not-winners” in the race for corporate seniority in the industry. What creates that illusive competitive advantage for those who actually succeed. In most cases, it is not capabilities to deliver the goods that count but the winner’s socializing capability. So what benefits does a Corporate Social Network brings to a professional?

  1. Personal Branding: did you know that each member of a social network adds about U$ 80-U $ 100 to the brand value? Your depth of “intimacy” with your contacts in your corporate social network will determine this added value to your personal brand. In short, if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are on your contact list in Linked-In, it helps to increase your personal branding.
  2. Relationships Based Organization: Today, when in a big firm, everything is standardized, we are moving into a relationship based management to deliver that inch extra. Generally, contacts with different types of stakeholders are kept in databases but, they are not organized in groups and segmented in order to build long term relationships. The same is true to all contacts of all employees that there are spread among various social networks.
  3. Knowledge sharing: Corporate social networking is one of the most popular and easiest ways of facilitating knowledge sharing, either by posting articles, wikis or by acting as a simple repository of several files as text editors, spreadsheets, presentations, etc..
  4. New leadership identification: It helps to strengthen group activity, and thus it is paramount to nominate a team of group leaders. This leadership must be naturally stimulated. The company will be able to observe styles and attitudes of each professional and reward them fairly whenever they create real value.
  5. Transparent relationship: By the time the company organizes all its stakeholders, starting by its internal collaborators, clients, suppliers in several specific groups, it opens a very strong and positive relationship channel with all of them creating the possibility that each stakeholder bring their respective relationships to the same business environment.
  6. Active & identified communication: the company starts offering to everyone an environment, in which, the communication can flow both ways actively in an identified and transparent manner. Company will know with whom it is talking to, what is being discussed and what the concrete results are because the platform itself documents all exchanged ideas.
  7. Market test: instead of spending a fortune in market research, how about having your own and qualified sample, make an in-house test and have a more reliable and real time result?
  8. Stakeholders loyalty: It is to be recognizes that there is a challenge to overcome by the time the company is exposing more. However, by facing and solving problems directly and by finding intelligent and creative solutions involving each stakeholder specifically, the company will consolidate its brand before the market and will attract the best opportunities besides making all stakeholders loyal and having them bringing new businesses to the organization. This is only possible if managers have a corporate social network which is not only wide but also deep across organizational hierarchies.
  9. Central, global & local management: Corporate social networking is all set to evolve to a central relationship point among all with several modules like payment gateway, web-conferences, mobile solutions,  CRM, reducing tremendously the operational costs of new business search and allowing the global  reach by having strong presence on the Internet while reinforcing its local presence.
  10. Lock-in effect: Considering that in general, people are fairly resistant to changes and that everyone competes for time and attention of the superiors in an organizational hierarchy, the one, who is better poised to affect their decisions will have conditions to create a a lock-in effect hence nullifying competition from co-workers.

How to Launch a Successful Product

“A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one”.

Henry Ford never said anything wiser. But essentially what is a good product or a bad product.

Technically a product may be great, but it may not meet the requirements of its target segment. Understanding the gap which no products available in the market is fulfilling is one short yet simple strategy to create a good product, and more importantly, a successful brand.

So how should companies go about it? Consumer focused market research is the only solution. So how to go about the same?

  1. First do an exploratory study to gauge the needs which your target segment may be facing which are yet to be met with.
  2. Then do an internal analysis to match the firm competencies vis-a-vis the gap faced by the target segment, to propose few product types with hypothetical specifications.
  3. Do a in-depth interview to review if the proposed product types meet the needs of the segment, or if at all, they are needed. Many products fail because they do not address any market needs.
  4. Do a conjoint analysis and/or a factor analysis to determine specifically what is required by the target segment.
  5. Go back to verify if the same matches with the internal competencies of the firm, and do a feasibility study for the proposed project.

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business

Henry Ford never said something more meaningful. A business has more implications on the society and environment in which it functions. Its not only the philanthropic activities which matter but activities like “Go Green” paves the way for a sustainable development and a better future for generations to come.

Understanding what an organizations Corporate Social Responsibility may be, may turn out not just an attempt for brand building in the long run, but a survival strategy, in the changing era of government intervention and policing.

CSR policies today, more than ever function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby organizations would monitor and ensure its support to law, ethical standards and even international norms or expectations. Consequently, today organizations are embracing responsibility for the impact of its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere, just to ensure a humanitarian face towards the ecology within which they thrive. Furthermore, CSR-focused businesses would proactively promote the public interest  by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminating practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. Essentially, CSR is the deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and the honoring of a triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.

Today, CSR is not just a thing that companies may choose to do, but it is gradually turning out to be strategic inclination of major MNCs getting positioned for a better future. Today it has become a key component while evaluating a brand value and its recall value. Considering this take by the MNCs, can even the smaller and medium sized enterprises neglect whatever CSR is possible, in their disposition?