TechnologyAccounting SoftwareInformation Digest – The research essentials

Information Digest - The research essentials

Each month we will be perusing the most authoritative sources to give you a taste of articles, research and case studies relevant to your practice, and pointing you in the right direction for further information.

Will non-executive directors play a greater role in the determination of corporate strategy?

This paper reviews the function of the board of the UK public company, the board’s specific responsibility for strategic direction within that function and the role which can be played by the non-executive director in the processes involved in the board’s determination and implementation of strategy. If the profile of this role is to be raised, new procedures might have to be adopted for improving the recruitment and training of non-executive directors.

A critical support tool to Value-Based Management (VBM)

Based upon five case studies of best practice organisations and the authors’ practical experience, the paper provides a theoretical case for Value-Based Costing, a critical support tool for VBM. If VBC does become pervasive, the authors argue that it is unlikely to be within the domain of the management accountant but will become the staple of operation in wider management circles.

“Actionable knowledge” for organisational change at The Leicester Royal Infirmary NHS Trust

An excellent long-term case study for those with special interest in the area of business administration. The author, employed as a programme leader spent four years re-engineering the way in which the Leicester Royal Infirmary operated. The theory of “actionable knowledge” is explained in full.

Management team performance: people or process?

The ever-increasing focus on teams and teamworking as a response to the volatile and competitive business environment presents a major challenge for both managerial practitioners and researchers. Using research into senior level managerial teams, a model is presented which helps organisations to identify a strategy for focusing their team development effort and resolving this dilemma. The practical application of this research-based model is examined through the exploration of a specific case study.

Understanding the influences of co-operative/competitive motivation upon the management of strategic partnership

The increasing use of and importance of strategic collaboration as a means of competing in today’s global business environment has attracted much attention in recent years. However, striking the right partnership is still a considerable problem for some organisations. The author argues that problems might be reduced through a better understanding of the the factors influencing the partners when entering and operating within a partnership agreement.


Organising for empowerment: an interview with AES’s Roger Sant and Dennis Bakke

The topic of empowerment is receiving a lot of attention, but how many employees are truly empowered? At the global electricity giant AES, the answer is all 40,000 of them. In this very useful interview chairman Roger Sant and CEO Dennis Bakke reflect on their trials and triumphs in creating what they believe to be an exceptional company and discuss how the employee-run organisation works. Can other companies successfully adopt the mechanics of a shared system? To emulate it, you’ll have to understand it. This is a traditionally strong HBR article that outlines an organisation where the employees are organised into small teams that are responsible for operations and maintenance. The firm has also done away with a marketing department and an HR department in its aim to decentralise power. For the system to work, every person must become a well-rounded generalist – a mini-CEO. That, in turn, redefines the jobs of the people at headquarters.

Case study: Can this merger be saved?

A hypothetical case study is put before six experts who attempt to bring wide-ranging skills to bear on a single problem. In this article a fictional merger is described that at first brings great benefits to both organisations.

However, as time passes the cracks begin to show and the two merged organisations are at war. Mergers and acquisitions are a boom business for consultants at present. This article is a must for those who want to flex their analytical skills without having to risk a thing.


The Atlantic Century

Free of charge to web-surfers, we recommend that you access this article, print it out and keep it close by for reference. It is an excellent backgrounder for those who want a soup-to-nuts grasp of the latest influences on US and European businesses and economies. As a lengthy stretch of analysis written in an accessible, punchy and, as one would expect from Business Week, pithy way – it can’t really be beaten. The magazine seems to be carrying more of these analysis-led market overviews and all power to them. Consultants will find these overviews of much more use than weighty chunks of research that are difficult to carve up. Among the many tables and charts within this feature, you’ll find a graphical representation of what factors drive this new Atlantic economy, as well as a special focus on emerging markets.


Opinion: what is a chief knowledge officer?

To understand the role of the chief knowledge officer and the evolving practice of knowledge management, the author studied 20 CKOs in North America and Europe using face-to-face interviews, and a personality assessment questionnaire. All CKOs were incumbents, most having been on the job for less than two years.

CKOs have two principal design competencies; they are technologists (able to understand which technologies can contribute to capturing, storing, exploring and sharing knowledge) and environmentalists (able to create social environments that stimulate and facilitate arranged and chance conversations or to develop events and processes to encourage deliberate knowledge creation and exchange). Breadth of career experience, familiarity with their organisations, and infectious enthusiasm for their mission are characteristics of the CKOs. Finding the right person for the job is at least as important as deciding to create the CKO role in the first place. Quote reprint 4022.

Brand management prognostications

Authors Berthon, Hulbert and Pitt examine the role of brands and how the ways in which brands are managed are changing. The authors review how brands aid the buyer and seller and, by focusing on the customer-oriented functions of brands, offer insight into how brand management is evolving.

The authors identify four factors which propel change in brand management; information technology, maturing consumer values, brand mimicry and brand extension, and the autonomy of retailers.

The authors then proceed to offer three scenarios for the future of brand management. The key lesson is that managers should focus on the dynamically evolving functional patterns of brands rather than the brands themselves.

Quote reprint 4024


No more barriers: an interview with DaimlerChrysler’s chairman

A free article available on the web. Most multinationals have one nationality but operate across boarders. DaimlerChrysler has two nationalities.

In a sense this gives the $143bn new entity enormous flexibility. It can shift investments and manufacturing to wherever conditions are most favourable. Jurgen Schrempp talks in detail about how the growing trend in transnational companies may spearhead the movement for world government.


A government-backed research project that aims to develop “visions of the future” looking at future needs. It is managed by the Office of Science and Technology within the Department of Trade & Industry.

The results of the Foresight process are being used by companies to reshape their business strategies and build sustained competitive advantage.

The world and UK economies and the IT industry

Although most of the data provided in this article dates from 1996, this still remains an incredibly useful piece of research. If you are looking to gain access to global figures for IT sales and a strong overview as to where the IT market stands, this research remains a little-known treasure trove.

The 34 chapters cover such areas as; IT sales by major producing country, IT infrastructure and use, IT production by major producing country, spending on IT by users, R&D in industry, R&D spending by individual commercial companies and R&D spending by academic institutions.

Global electronic retailing

This research, part of an ongoing programme, explores a market which it believes to be the biggest opportunity or threat to retailing today.

The research identifies specific initiatives to help overcome the barriers to the use of the information highway, to raise awareness of the issues and to develop the competitiveness of UK business.


Cost-justifying a data warehouse

This report analyses some of the intangible and tangible benefits that data warehouses can bring and provides a basis for estimating costs as part of a formal cost-benefit analysis. It also asserts that a data warehouse that isn’t designed to solve a specific, quantifiable business problem will either fail to be delivered or go stagnant through disuse.

This, alongside the wide range of Seybould reports, is a strongly researched and authoritative guide to one of the burning IT issues that consultants face. Expect to pay around #150 for each of the Seybould reports.


Anatomy of a failure: a fatally flawed data warehouse project

An ideal companion to the Seybould report above. Whereas Seybould takes a supportive view of the benefits that data warehousing brings to an organisation, CIO take a much more practical example of how things can go very wrong.

In the form of a case study, where the names have been changed to “protect the innocent” the free-of-charge feature stretches some eight pages and shows us a fine example of incompetence, misunderstanding and costs spiralling out of control.

The feature covers the unrealistic expectations that the company has in the first place and goes on to chronicle the tailspin that CloseCall Inc. experiences once the system is in place. Written in quite a jaunty style, it makes uncomfortable reading for consultants who might have forgotten to warn their clients about all the pitfalls they may experience.

In a Post-Mortem chapter, CIO draws a number of lessons that can be learnt from CloseCall’s disasters. Readers are told to expect to make major investment in the ongoing management of the data warehouse. As Wayne Eckerson, director of the Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse Service at the Patricia Seybould Group says, “Any parent knows birth pales in comparison to taking care of the kid every day”.


Practical and detailed user profiles, hosted by the Cranfield School of Management

Consultancy case studies are notoriously difficult to get hold of. The consultants don’t want to breach client confidentiality and the clients are terrified that the smallest revelation will allow their rivals that all too valuable competitive edge.

The European Case Clearing House is an excellent resource for those who want to supplement theory with practicality. The case studies are culled from academic institutions such as the Harvard Business School and the Richard Ivey School of Business.

A full search engine is provided for users looking to garner case studies from around Europe. We were quite astounded when the search terms “ERP” and “Implementation” threw up 1,082 related documents. On this particular search, Rolls Royce, Taittinger,

J Sainsbury, Tottenham Hotspur, Texaco, Rank Xerox and EuroDisney were among the many companies which are happy for their details to go on show.

Membership is required to view some of the studies but a number of pricing options are available. Bookmark it.


Do you really need a human resources department?

Inc. Online argues the case for decentralised human resources functions within organisations that Jurgen Shrempp of DaimlerChrysler would fully sympathise with. Commercial Casework, a timber manufacturer, is used as the case study as the piece examines the way in which power is devolved throughout an organisation so that workers actively participate in the drawing up of bonus schemes. As MD Bill Palmer explains, “They learned a whole lot more about what it means to give and get a bonus. They took ownership of the process”.


The Consultant’s Own: a selection of research available from UK consulting firms

Chief executive officers of high tech growth companies adopted a more aggressive approach to financing in the last quarter of 1998. Compared to their non-tech counterparts they were more active in seeking external funding and exploring non-traditional financing. Details from Pete Collins at PricewaterhouseCoopers on +212-259 4469.

The telecommunications industry is on the verge of drastic change over the coming years. It is thought that the industry will evolve in four different ways with varying outcomes, from the emergence of global megacarriers to niche players. The report The 21st Century Communications Company: Managing The Dynamics Of Change is available from Dwight Allen at Deloitte Research on +202 955 4220 Businesses around Europe are facing unprecedented levels of change, competition and globalisation. The failure to deal with these challenges can have potentially disastrous consequences, affecting long-term success and survival. The survey The Reality of Risk Management – Views From Across Europe is available from Ernst & Young at

A global survey looking at chief information executives polled more than 1,000 in six major industries in 25 countries. The survey provides a snapshot of the present and a projection of what the IT industry will look like in two years’ time. The Deloitte Research survey is available from Simon Ford on +212 492 3791 or Knowledge Management – a research report looks at the varying aspects of knowledge management, using case studies and examples. It deals with the issues organisations have to deal with to support their business and how they can get the most out of the knowledge resources available to them. For details contact David Parlby at KPMG on 0171 311 1000.

Website of the month:

As organisations try ever harder to align themselves with their European neighbours, OneSource Information releases a new online service that successfully offers detailed snapshots of industries and companies flourishing in this theatre.

In the past the Internet has been viewed as a chaotic jumble of of badly indexed and inconsistent data, more likely to waste users’ time than add business value. The European Business Browser integrates information from a number of sources like Dun and Bradstreet, ICC and Hemington Scott, news providers (including Reuters) and company websites. By using a KeyID cross-referencing system Business Browser makes access to the relevant business information quick, simple and user-friendly. If we had one criticism it would be that the server access could be speeded up a little.

But the speed of connection suits companies such as American Express, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Oracle just fine. All these companies have invested considerable resources in order to ensure that key executives within their organisations have access to the site. OneSource claims to have over 100,000 users to its varied sites which include the UK Business Browser and the Global Business Browser. The site has won a number of awards from the trade press including Information Week US Best Product. The site holds information on 300,000 public and private companies across 19 European countries.

The site offers a wide range of services to subscribers including;

Real-time news

Company profiles

Detailed financials

Management structures

Ownership and subsidiaries

Industry comparatives

Market research

Trade press articles

We found that the trade press articles were not as comprehensive as they could be but that the other services on offer are well worth a look and are very likely to offer the information hungry consultant a treasure trove of information at the click of a mouse button. No additional software is required to view the site and a one-day trial is available for those who want to dip their toes before committing.

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