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Winter 2014
Volume 55, Issue # 2

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From the Editor: Decision Making in the Digital Age

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 1 min 

Business executives today have access to far more data than any previous generation, and that transforms the way business decisions are made. The Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report investigating how, even with plenty of data, making wise decisions about topics like strategy can be challenging. No matter how much data we collect and analyze, our perspectives are still colored by human foibles.

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Raising the Bar With Analytics

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 10 min 

More than half of managers surveyed strongly agree that their organizations need to step up analytics use, according to a 2013 global survey by MIT SMR and SAS Institute. In addition, survey data suggests that in companies where analytics has improved the ability to innovate, managers are more likely to share data with partners and suppliers.

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Thriving in a Big Data World

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 11 min 

Words have become data; the physical states of our machinery have become data; our physical locations have become data; and even our interactions with each other have become data. Three recent books offer expert perspectives on the increasing power and importance of analytics.

Image courtesy of Walmart

Should You Outsource Analytics?

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 15 min 

Outsourcing analytics activities can offer benefits, but it requires a carefully constructed relationship between the company and the business process organization (BPO). Customers must be careful not to lose their expertise or their core intellectual property. Research suggests that companies with superior analytics capabilities will approach outsourcing differently than companies that are analytically challenged.

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Overheard at MIT

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 2 min 

“Big Data in Manufacturing” was the theme of a daylong conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in November 2013 and sponsored by the MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation and the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics. But the speakers’ insights weren’t restricted to manufacturing.

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What’s Your Information Footprint?

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 5 min 

Wealth once was measured by the amount of land, employees or equipment you had. Today we are on the cusp of a period in which another factor is an indicator of potential wealth: how much information you have. Information has the potential to be a valuable asset, and a new framework, dubbed “the information footprint,” presents a way for companies to assess their information assets and the opportunities it gives them for new value creation.

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Free Article

The Problem With Online Ratings

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 17 min 

Studies show that online ratings are one of the most trusted sources in e-commerce decisions. But research suggests that these ratings are systematically biased and easily manipulated. The heart of the problem lies with herd instincts — natural human impulses characterized by a lack of individual decision making — that cause us to think and act in the same way as other people around us.

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Stories That Deliver Business Insights

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 23 min 

Companies are gaining value from ethnography, the in-person study of how people actually use a product or service. Through its attention to the details of people’s lives, ethnography can be a powerful tool to help executives gain insights into their markets. Ethnographic stories can also be indispensable in helping executives rethink their assumptions about what customers care about and about overall strategic direction.

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Rewriting the Playbook for Corporate Partnerships

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 21 min 

In fast-changing markets, some companies are developing flexible, adaptive strategic partnerships to leverage the resources of both customers and suppliers. Incentive arrangements focus partners on joint value creation, and companies are sharing information extensively to solve problems together. These partnerships make the most sense when the product or service is of strategic importance to the customer, when the vendor has superior expertise and when there is uncertainty in the relationship.

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Strategic Decisions for Multisided Platforms

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 24 min 

Some of the fastest growing businesses in recent years — companies such as Facebook, eBay and LinkedIn — are “multisided platforms” that enable interactions between two or more sets of participants. The spectacular success of some of these MSPs has caught the attention of many entrepreneurs and investors. But building a multisided platform business requires savvy decisions on everything from design to governance to pricing.

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Why Customer Participation Matters

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 22 min 

These days, many businesses are focused on increasing customers’ positive word of mouth. But emphasizing customer participation — such as providing feedback or suggestions — may be a more important vehicle for generating valuable repeat business. As one COO said, “Levels of feedback is a way we identify our most profitable customers. Those that bother to write to us do care. And they do spend money with us.”

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The Real Savings From IT Outsourcing

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 3 min 

Research suggests that outsourcing IT can help reduce sales expenses and general and administrative costs, which are often four to five times IT costs. Managers need to take a balanced approach to their investments in internal systems and outsourcing to reap greater benefits in terms of cost savings. Analyzing the impact of outsourcing on non-IT costs and formulating strategies for maximizing the savings on these expenses can help companies get the most out of outsourcing spending.

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How to Position Your Innovation in the Marketplace

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 10 min 

Should a new product or service launch at the high end of the market and move downward or at the low end and move up? In truth, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for entering the market, but a new research-based framework helps identify the best strategy for a particular product or service. The two key questions to ask: Is the basic functionality of the new offering better or worse than that of existing competitive products? And how groundbreaking are the novel attributes of the new product?

Image courtesy of Adriana Cisneros

The Art of Strategic Renewal

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 9 min 

What does it take to transform an organization before a crisis hits? How can leaders initiate major transformations proactively? The key often lies in strategic renewal — a set of practices that can guide leaders into a new era of innovation by building strategy, experimentation and execution into the day-to-day fabric of the organization. It’s not easy: leaders find it much easier to resist change than to embrace it.

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The Discipline of Creativity

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 11 min 

Managers can’t afford to rely on haphazard, hit-or-miss approaches to idea generation. Ideas must fit with an organization’s strategy or take it in a new, purposeful direction, and they must solve real problems for stakeholders. A new seven-step process for idea generation is designed to help managers understand their problems deeply, generate tangible ideas for solutions and translate those ideas into action.

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Free Article

Acquisitions That Make Your Company Smarter

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 9 min 

It’s challenging to successfully integrate any acquired company. It’s even more complicated when you purchase a business for its knowledge. From Pfizer Inc.’s acquisition of Icagen Inc. to Walt Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, knowledge-based acquisitions are focused on acquiring new knowledge — related to product features, customer needs, processes or technologies — and depend on assimilating the two companies’ expertise. Included: a sidebar on “Six Steps for Smoother Knowledge Transfer.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user Stuck in Customs.

The Power of a Good Logo

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 7 min 

The authors’ research found that corporate logos that express a brand’s symbolic, functional or sensory benefits, have a significant positive effect on customer commitment to a brand — and thereby a significant impact on company performance in terms of revenues and profits. The research also indicated that separate visual symbols used as logos tend to be more effective than brand names at creating a sense of emotional connection with consumers.