Monday, August 25, 2003

Sifting through tons of data for useful information

Monday, August 25, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Sifting through tons of data for useful information

Author Richard Pas­cale warns that when the world around you changes, maintaining your equilibrium is a threat to your future existence. There is a need to continuously do strategic thinking and rethinking part of which is scanning your internal and external business environment.

Previously, in our Journey on Entrepreneurship, we brainstormed on your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats or what we call SWOT, in and around your internal and external environments. Are you overwhelmed by so much data? What do you do with all these valuable information? You actually only need just enough data to make good decisions toward where you want to bring your business in the short-, mid- and long-term horizon.

First, you convert those data into useful information. Pass them through a sifter to separate what is important from what is noise. What are your filters?

If you are a big company, you probably need to focus on strategic and corporate issues. But let your functional or geographical units you are presently structured do the subsequent downstream planning. Thus, you need to identify your priorities in the areas of organization development and change, market leadership, competition, competitive positioning and measure of customer satisfaction.

If you are a small company, you will probably do better to focus on innovation and creativity to overcome the tendency to think day-to-day. Keep an eye on unproductive organizational elements like people, costs, systems and resources. Being small means you have limited resources that you need to maximize. Being small does not mean to have small ideas. You need to watch out for improving profitability of your existing business, penetrating new or other markets and sourcing new funding.

If you are a rapidly growing company, sift through issues that will help you consolidate or increase market share and gain competitive advantage in your present and target market segments. It will also help to further analyze your operations, cost and quality to stay in business in the long haul. Sharpen your analyses for issues on broadening your market base, developing new products, expanding distribution. Is there a window for you to open your business to franchising?

If you have been in business for quite a while and now feeling comfortable and smug, what is your situation analysis telling you? Are you a mature and stable industry? What are the contribution and profit margins of individual products or operational areas in your company? Are your facts and figures showing you organizational incompetence, complacency and lethargy? Where can you be more efficient and make more money? What is competition doing?

If you are a troubled company, there is no time to lose in over analysis. Focus on management, leadership processes and styles for telltale signs of poor management. Zero in immediately on your operations, financials, products and services, people and marketplace problems. At the same time be sure to be very clear about future targets and objectives. Ask yourself what are your organizational strengths that you could capitalize on to assert your competitive presence in the market?

If you are a family company, you can be any of the above companies. Your problem, though, is the nature of your being a family corporation. This might hamper you from doing a real, honest-to-goodness business analysis because your organization might be internally oriented, paternalistic, dominated from the top. Your thinkers probably presented you with a sanitized SWOT analysis to please or to protect you. You may not have the mechanism to allow flow of information from below because of your "ever loyal and protective" cordon sanitaire or your army of AVPs (alalay ng vice president), FOBs (friends of the boss), COBs (children of the boss), FOSOB (friends of the sons/daughters of the boss) and others. You may also be slow in bringing in outside people and ideas that are "contrary" to your internal culture. My advise to you is that before you even say think or plan, hire professional operations persons first. You can continue to be chairman or chief executive officer anytime.

Garen Staglin of Staglin Family vineyard reminds you that when you're in your car looking straight ahead, you miss a whole lot of the beauty of the valley.

1st Congreso Internacional 2003 Panama. Do you know that you could travel from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in eight leisurely hours? Join us at the ASTD Global Network Panama Conference and Expo on September 17 to 19, 2003, at the Hotel Riande Continental, Panama City, Panama. Conference languages are both Spanish and English. Speakers from Africa, Australia, India, the Philippines, United States, Europe and Central and South American countries will truly give this conference an international perspective. This columnist will be speaking on the topic "Leadership and Develop­ment." For details and brochures, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332.

Call 7890 or 027890. This is the 24-hour hotline to report erring or abusive drivers of taxis, FXs, buses, jeepneys and tricycles. I assure you the men and women manning this government service are doing their job well.

Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and helps companies develop and implement strategies and plans. She could be reached at

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