Competitive Intelligence


Developing useful plans offer requires knowing as much as possible about what competitors are doing or are planning to do. Competitive intelligence is a systematic way to obtain  and analyze public information about competitors. Although this sounds a lot like legalized spying, it’s become much more popular over the past few years.

There are a variety of techniques to find out what competitors are doing. They include keeping track of competitors by having specialists visit their facilities, and hiring their workers and questioning their suppliers and customers.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Conducting an Interview


Have a plan and follow it. You should devise and use a plan to guide the interview. Significant areas to cover include the candidate’s:

  • College experiences
  • Work experiences
  • Goals and ambitions
  • Reactions to job you are interviewing for
  • Self assessments (by the candidate of his or her strengths and weaknesses)
  • Outside activities

Follow your plan. Start with an open-ended questions for each topic—such as, “Could you tell me about what you did when you were in high school?” keep in mind that you are trying to elicit information about four main traits—intelligence, motivation, personality, and knowledge and experience. You can then accumulate the information as the person answers. You can follow up on particular areas that you want to pursue by asking questions like, “Could you elaborate on that, please?

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Market-driven Manager


  1. Creates customer focus throughout the business.
  2. Listens to the customer.
  3. Defines and nurtures his distinctive competence.
  4. Defines marketing as market intelligence.
  5. Targets customers precisely.
  6. Manages for profitability, not sales volume.
  7. Makes customer value the guiding star.
  8. Lets the customer define quality.
  9. Measures and manages customer expectations.
  10. Builds customer relationships and loyalty.
  11. Defines the business as a service business.
  12. Commits to continuous improvement.
  13. Manages culture along with strategy.
  14. Grows with partners and alliances.
  15. Destroys marketing bureaucracy.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Implementing the Sales Program


As with any kind of management, implementing a sales program involves motivating and directing the behavior of other people—the members of the sales force. To be effective, the sales manager must understand why the people in his or her sales force behave the way they do. Then policies and procedures can be designed to direct their behavior toward the desired objectives.

The model of the activities involved in implementing a sales program suggests that five factors influence a sales rep’s job behavior and performance:

  1. Environmental variables: Regardless of how highly motivated or competent salespeople are, their ability to achieve a particular level of job performance is influenced—and sometimes constrained—by environmental factors. The ability to reach a given sales volume, for instance, can be affected by such things as the market demand for the product being sold, the number and aggressiveness of competitors, and the health of the economy. Similarly other elements of a firm’s marketing mix, such as the quality of its products and the effectiveness of its advertising, can affect a salesperson’s ability to reach a high level of sales performance.
  2. Role perceptions: To perform adequately, a salesperson must understand what the job entails and how it is supposed to be performed. The activities and behaviors associated with a particular job are defined largely by the expectations and demands of other people, both inside and outside the organization. Thus, a salesperson’s job (or role) is defined by the expectations and desires of the customers, sales manager, other company executives, and family members. The salesperson’s ability to do the job well is partly determined by how clearly the sales rep understands those role expectations. Also, the salesperson may sometimes face conflicting demands, as when customer wants a lower price but company management refuses to negotiate. The salesperson’s ability to resolve such conflicts helps determine success or failure on the job.
  3. Aptitude: A salesperson’s ability to perform the activities of the job is also influenced by the individual’s personal characteristics, such as personality traits, intelligence, and analytical ability. No matter how hard they try, some people are never successful at selling because they do not have the aptitude for the job. Of course, different kinds of sales jobs involve different tasks and activities, so a person with certain characteristics may be unsuited for one selling job but tremendously successful at another one.
  4. Skill levels: Evan when salespeople have the aptitude to do their jobs and an understanding of what they are expected to do, they must have the skills necessary to carry out the required tasks.
  5. Motivation level: A salesperson cannot achieve a high level of job performance unless motivated to expend the necessary effort. A person’s motivation is determined by the kind of rewards expected for achieving a given level of performance and by the perceived attractiveness of those anticipated rewards.

A sales manager can use several policies and procedures to influence the aptitude, skill levels, role perceptions, and motivation of the sales force. Implementing a sales program involves designing those policies and procedures so that the job behavior and performance of each salesperson are shaped and directed toward the specified objectives and performance levels.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Lectures, Line of Sight

Expertise


Whaereas intelligence is a feature attributable to most people, expertise is a scarcer commodity. This scarcity gives expertise its value and makes attempting to capture expertise worthwhile. The skills needed to process a company’s payroll would not, for example, be considered expertise. Although it may make sense to program this task, the ability to process payroll is not rare. Certain areas of expertise have more practical value than others. For example, expertise in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics may be scarce but is of less practical value than expertise in strategic management or auditing.

 The difficulty in acquiring expertise is what usually contributes to its scarcity. Expertise must be obtained from some source (e.g., an expert). Most companies make use of expertise either by acquiring it temporarily in the form of consultants or by sending a seasoned employee from site to site.

 One of the problem in defining expertise is understanding exactly what knowledge the expert has acquired and how it can be used. Expertise can be the ability to interpet Egyptian hieroglyphics, diagnose certain diseases, or formulate a strategic plan. For computers to perform specific tasks, they must be programmed to stimulate features of expertise. The goal of an expert systems development poject is to understand and embed scarce expertise in the computer program and use it to solve specific problems.

 The first question that must be answered concerns where to find the required expertise. The time spent answering this question, acquiring the relevant knowledge, and then encoding it in a program constitutes the bulk of the development effort.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Structure, Roles, and Rules


What sort of structure would help the team function innovatively? The purpose of any structure is to make sure that certain essential tasks, especially repetitive tasks, get done. Structure need not be incompatible with creativity if it realeases time and energy for creative work rather than blocking creativity with excessive rules, specialization, centralization, etc. What, therefore, needs to be done is to make an inventory of tasks that must be performed more or less repitively, and allocate these tasks to individuals within or outside the team.

 However, the roles of team members should not be defined only in terms of these tasks;  there are only minimum elements of their roles. It is important to define roles broadly and not too strictly. Some ambiguity helps interaction and role clarification, not by the leader but by the situation. Indeed, it heps to have versatile team members, i.e., persons who can double for others should the need arise. Periodic interchange of roles within the team can help develop this verstality. Researchers have indicated some specific roles in innovative teams beyond those for effective teams. The creative scientist/engineer/idea man is one role. The entrepreneur (vis-à-vis the outer world) and the intrapreneur (vis-à-vis the team members) are further roles. The entrepreneur seeks new missions for the group. The intrapreneur seeks new activities within the broad mission for group members. The protector-defender-sponsor is a fourth role, whose function is to get the team the resources it needs for innovative work from the larger system of which it may be a part, and also to defend the team from external pressures or attacks. The gatekeeper is a fifth role, that of bringing to the team essential market, technical, or political intelligence from outside that can become the basis for meaningful divergent thinking. These roles need not be played by different individuals. The important point is that they should get played.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Knowledge Engineering


In the traditional approach to systems design, a system analyst, together with the ultimate end-users, or clients, for the project, will complete a functional specification of the system. At that point, the project is essentially in the hands of professional project management and programming staff, because that group possesses the knowledge and skill required to deliver the agreed upon features and functions. In the development of knowledge systems, this is simply not the case. Following the specification of function, a new problem arises. This is because it is not an algorithm that is being developed but knowledge that is being encoded for machine use.

 

The immediate problem is that traditional applications developers do not have sufficient knowledge of the applications area to complete the project from the starting point of a functional specification. This information generally exists in a variety of forms, depending on the application area. In some cases an individual or group of individuals may uniquely possess the relevant knowledge. In other cases, the knowledge may exist in the form of published materials like manuals or textbooks. In still other cases, the knowledge does not presently exist at all, and must be created and developed along with the system itself. This is an extremely difficult circumstance. Further compounding this problem is a critical factor: Regardless of the form in which the knowledge currently exists, it is not in a form that is ready for use by a knowledge system. Someone must decide what knowledge is relevant and desirable for inclusion, acquire the knowledge, and represent it in a form suitable for a knowledge system to apply. In all but trivial applications the task of representing the knowledge requires not only coding individual “chunks” of knowledge, but also organizing and structuring these individual components.

 

Historically, owing to the remoteness and enigmatic quality of artificial intelligence technologies, the person doing the actual systems development and the “expert,” or source of knowledge, were not the same. The availability of tools, in place of enigmatic technologies, has had an impact on reducing this problem. Even if one can imagine the case in which the “expert” whose knowledge is to be modeled is also an “expert” with the use of artificial intelligence development tools, there still remains a sizable problem.

 

In case where knowledge resides with some practitioner or expert, it does not exist explicitly as a series of IF …THEN rules, ready to be encoded. Most practitioners and experts find it difficult to explain explicitly what they are doing while solving problems. They are not cognizant of the underlying rules they are applying. Their expertise has been developed from numerous experiences and involves highly developed pattern recognition skills and heuristics.

 

In the case where the knowledge to be included is contained in text material like manuals, regulations, procedures, and the like, the information is still not in a form ready for inclusion in an expert system. It must be remembered that one of the most often cited advantages of expert systems is that they make explicit the knowledge that is most often implicit and unavailable for review, evaluation, dissemination, and modification. The task of making knowledge both explicit and available for systems application is that of knowledge engineering. Most literature on the development and application of knowledge systems has identified the need for individuals skilled in knowledge engineering as a critical factor to widespread use of technology.

 

Knowledge engineering involves acquiring, representing, and coding knowledge. The representation and coding aspects of systems development have been greatly impacted by these newly available tools. The speed with which prototyping can be accomplished has also helped reduce some of the difficulty in acquiring or refining knowledge. The knowledge engineer now finds it much less costly in time and effort to represent, code, and test early approaches to systems development, providing a more efficient feedback loop. This feedback loop is critical in the development of knowledge systems. The end-user/client for the project is, by nature, going to be much more involved in the systems design process. The “programmer” often is incapable of deciding if the system is behaving properly, owing to a lack of fundamental knowledge about the application area. This is simply not as strong a factor, where the programmer is capable of evaluating the accuracy and efficiency of algorithms. When the product is actionable knowledge rather than algorithms, the ability to evaluate project progress shifts to the end-user/client. This creates the increased emphasis on the feedback loop.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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