The Long-Tail Strategy for IT Outsourcing

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 24 min 

No longer just a cost-saving measure, IT outsourcing has emerged as an important strategic tool for acquiring cutting-edge ideas. Many companies are expanding their portfolios of IT suppliers to include smaller, highly innovative companies. But this expansion increases the complexity of managing supplier portfolios. To take full advantage of the innovations that diverse suppliers provide, organizations need to reimagine their strategies to be dynamic, diversified, and still disciplined.

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How Well Does Your Company Integrate Demand and Supply?

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An online questionnaire by the authors of the MIT Sloan Management Review article “Integrating Supply and Demand” helps users assess how well their company's supply chains are helping meet product demand — and serve key customers. The self-assessment lets users rate their companies in five areas in the demand and supply integration spectrum: relevant value focus, integrated knowledge sharing, strategic resource allocation, integrated behavior, and capacity and demand balance.


Flourishing in the Face of Supply Chain Disruption

  • Research Highlight
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In a webinar, Joseph Fiksel and Keely Croxton of The Ohio State University explain how proactive managers create innovative, dynamic organizations that can prosper under any circumstances. “We define resilience as the capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change and uncertainty,” Fiskel said. Their research-based methodology identifies important supply chain vulnerabilities and sets priorities for strengthening capabilities.

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Secrets in the Age of Data

Secrets may be an unexpected casualty of increasing analytical prowess — just ask Volkswagen. Companies often have information they’d rather keep under wraps; sometimes it’s innocuous, like the timing of a new product launch, but other times it’s embarrassing details about unethical or even criminal behavior. But as data analytics becomes more broadly available, the chances of keeping secrets out of public view grow slimmer every day. Will this result in a change in how companies do business?

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Webinar: Flourishing in the Face of Supply Chain Disruption

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The webinar speakers explain how proactive managers create innovative, dynamic organizations that survive and prosper under any circumstances. They show how resilient enterprises adapt successfully to turbulence and design resilient assets, products and processes, highlighting companies that have improved shareholder value in turbulent times. And, they demonstrate a research-based methodology to identify important supply chain vulnerabilities and set priorities for strengthening capabilities.



How to Avoid Platform Traps

Many of today’s most successful technology businesses— including Apple, Facebook, and Uber — are built on a platform-based business model. But the increasing popularity of platform strategies masks a difficult truth: Such strategies are hard to execute well, and they are prone to several common pitfalls. Those platform traps include growth with no strategic focus, pursuing an intermediate approach between the mass market and a niche, and overlooking the value proposition of partners.

Image courtesy of Workspring.

Should Your Company Embrace Coworking?

Coworking spaces can open the door to serendipitous encounters that inspire innovation, new products, and different ways of thinking. The coworking movement developed to provide community and a collaborative working environment for independent and remote workers. Now some large, traditional companies are adopting certain aspects of coworking as part of their overall workplace strategies. They see sharing space as a way to tap into new ideas and to provide flexibility and autonomy to employees.


Preparing for Disruptions Through Early Detection

In an adaption from his new book The Power of Resilience, MIT’s Yossi Sheffi explains how companies are learning to more quickly detect unanticipated problems that can interfere with their global operations. Sheffi looks at how leading companies are using an array of detection and response techniques, from sensors to supply chain control towers. These tools are helping companies become more resilient to disruptions such as hurricanes, the discovery of product contamination, and political events.


How Customers View Self-Service Technologies

Consumers are not running away from self-service options — just poorly implemented ones. Managers often underestimate customer’s need for employee interaction during a self-service experience, as well as customer desires for convenience and for transaction speed. “These three areas have a tremendous impact on the implementation of a self-service technology,” write the authors, “and might explain why some self-service applications have received a lukewarm reception.”


Sharing Supply Chain Data in the Digital Era

Effectively managing and coordinating supply chains will increasingly require new approaches to data transparency and collaboration. Supply chains in coming years will become even more “networked” than they are today — with significant portions of strategic assets and core capabilities externally sourced and coordinated. Already, progressive companies are developing novel solutions to the dilemma of data transparency by using data “cleanrooms” and digital marketplaces.



The Power of Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty

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In an August 2015 webinar, MIT professor Yossi Sheffi, a renowned expert on supply chains, risk management, and resilience, shared insights and examples from his latest research and forthcoming new book, The Power of Resilience: How the Best Companies Manage the Unexpected. He offered insights on understanding and analyzing the types of risks companies face, as well as preparing for and coping with disruptions effectively.


Telling Data’s Story With Graphics

At the alcohol beverage company Constellation Brands, graphic presentations of data are making it easier for sales people to see how they’re performing. In an interview with MIT Sloan Management Review, Joseph D. Bruhin, the company’s CIO, says that measuring marketing and sales efforts is a particular challenge in the alcohol industry — but one that his team has come up with a solution to. “Visibility of data is a critical piece,” he says. “We came up with a solution that’s really driven predominantly by information technology.”


The Art of Managing Complex Collaborations

The only way to move forward on society's biggest challenges may be through consortiums. But it's not easy to assemble such groups or to keep them together. The experiences of The Biomarkers Consortium, a nine-year-old public-private partnership in the health industry, presents five lessons in managing these kinds of complex collaborations. These lessons are useful for anyone trying to build consensus to address broad societal challenges among multiple stakeholders with both common and divergent interests.


Innovating with Airborne Analytics

Hong Kong’s premier airline is using a blend of data and know-how to guide its daily operations. In an interview with MIT Sloan Management Review, Cathay Pacific CIO Joe Locandro describes how the airline uses analytics to make decisions that balance data with what it knows from the field. “Analytics will give you statistical spreads, give you training, but you still need to have this thing called experience and insight,” he says.

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Developing Effective Intellectual Property Partnerships

All too often, companies from emerging and established economies talk past each other when discussing intellectual property. The result is that often fail to consider all their options for a productive collaboration. The authors detail five ways that companies can structure such IP partnerships, and say that it’s important for a company to choose the one that’s the best fit for the project: "The choice of IP business models is a strategic decision, not merely a legal matter."



Integrating Supply and Demand

To compete in different strategic segments at the same time, companies need close coordination between the sales side of the company and supply chain operations. Just as importantly, joining the supply and demand sides of an enterprise presents an opportunity for efficiency and value creation. "A company may have an excellent sales and marketing team and a top-flight operations team and still deliver the wrong benefits to a customer," the authors note. This article includes an online questionnaire for assessing the current stage of your company’s demand and supply integration, with suggestions for how to improve.

Photo of LiquidSpace’s Jay Suites rental in New York City
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More Companies Are Cashing In on Underused Resources

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  • Read Time: 3 min 

Companies can participate in “collaborative consumption” through creative new approaches to defining and reusing their resources. So write Kurt Matzler, Viktoria Veider and Wolfgang Kathan, all of University of Innsbruck. For instance, LiquidSpace, based in Palo Alto, California, connects organizations that have unused office space with temporarily renters. It has been called the “Airbnb of work spaces” and is extending the idea of sharing unused capacities to companies that aren’t totally built around the collaborative model.


Are You Part of the Email Problem?

Over-reliance on email as a communication tool is sapping people of their time and energy. Author, speaker and consultant Phil Simon says there are better ways — and many new and better tools — to do things. "As consumers, it’s never been easier. Hundreds of millions of us use Dropbox, Facebook, Snapchat, texting, Skype, and other tools to communicate with each other," says Simon. "Why do we resist change at work?" Embracing new tools, he argues, will result in better communication and far less wasted time.

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From the Editor: Expecting the Unexpected in Project Management

If there’s one thing that’s certain about undertaking complex projects, it’s that not everything will work out exactly the way you planned. The Spring 2015 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review highlights project management, in “Reducing Unwelcome Surprises in Project Management,” “How Executive Sponsors Influence Project Success,” “What Successful Project Managers Do” and “Accelerating Projects by Encouraging Help.” In a nutshell, managers must expect the unexpected in projects.


How Executive Sponsors Influence Project Success

In each stage of a project's life cycle, two or three behaviors have significant impact on the project's likelihood for success. These behaviors, by the executive who is sponsoring the project, ensure effective partnerships with project managers and require a great deal of informal dialogue. They include setting performance goals, establishing priorities, ensuring quality and capturing lessons learned.

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