Saturday, May 14, 2011

Opportunities and Constraints of On-line Information

Cross Cultural Strategy in International Business Competitive Intelligence (3)

The advancement of technology has had some very positive effects on this industry. The communication superhighway or the Internet, apart from reshaping the business environment, is providing benefits to CI practitioners. The Internet not only makes it easier to obtain quality secondary and some primary information as well as providing value to existing products or services; it also helps in the development of competitive business intelligence cross culturally (Emery and Tian 2003, Graef 1997, Tian and Emery 2002). Another use of the Internet is what termed as “collaborative intelligence”. This refers to the process where CI professionals are teamed up with colleagues in other divisions to leverage the firm’s intellectual capital by helping design and publish “knowledge bases”. At the same time, it is a way of identifying and developing ways to overcome hurdles to information sharing and collaboration. Educating senior executives about the Internet, and authoring “learning modules” to help other employees learn information-seeking skills is another function of collaborative intelligence program (Calof 1997).

The problem with the Internet is the difficulty of determining the quality of the source, especially when such sources are only available cross culturally. Criticisms include those relating to standards for citing and classifying publications by subject, date, and origin; none of these practices are well established or enforced on the Internet. Another problem we are concerned in our practice is that over 90% of the information in the Internet is in English. This is an indication that the internet still has not being completely embraced/utilized extensively by the rest of the world (Tian and Emery 2002). In practice, it is unlikely that CI professionals alone could locate useful information for CI purpose, the collaboration between CI professionals and translators is necessary; this in turn increases the cost for conducting CI through the Internet. On the other hand, due to technological problems, many languages are not supported in the Internet yet; this limitation makes it difficult to dig out more specific information pertaining to foreign competitors.

Accordingly, we also need to conduct international CI by using other information channels. In fact, our experiences indicate that public and/or university libraries contain extensive amount of information. Books provide insights to the psyche of corporations as well as thought process of key-decision makers. In addition, magazines and periodicals can provide details on competitor’s actions. Trade journals, local and international newspapers also provide relevant and detailed information. We should not forget personal contacts for sources of international information. Relevant facts can also be gathered from the organisation’s own sales force, customers, trade shows and distributors.

Once the CI unit has collected, evaluated and analysed the raw data it needs to disseminate the information to the decision-maker. However, in most cases a comprehensive study also requires primary information, which may include surveys, interviews, observations, and word of mouth. In practice, after obtaining data from inexpensive secondary sources, the firm is in a better position to conduct field studies to acquire true details. After obtaining secondary information and detailed primary data, a firm has a holistic perspective, which can provide an advantageous lead. We suggest that CI practitioners establish strategic alliance cross-national and cross-cultural boundaries, so that the necessary information and in-depth analyses can be obtained when needed.

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To be continued.


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