We have contacts in some of the world's most important business centers, and are able to introduce our clients to individuals who can help advance their objectives.
We've developed this 7-step process to make the most efficient use of your time and money:
This process adapts a recent manufacturing concept called "mass customization" for streamlining workflow. Andersen Windows uses it to produce a single, custom window for about the same amount of money per piece as if they produced thousands. We use it to acquire, assemble, analyze and interpret information specifically for you. This efficiency allows us to take the time to establish a collaborative relationship with you and to help you understand what you need to do to reach your specific business objectives, at a realistic, reasonable price. If you like, we'll also help you implement the recommendations.
Here's how the 7-step research process (and we) work with you.
Achieves mutual understanding, maximizes value
We draft an outline, describing what we've learned from discussions with you and propose a methodology and fee range, depending on several possible options. Once we agree to work together, we meet with you in person (or by telephone/conference call if necessary) to refine the proposal, which becomes the contract.
During the meeting, we:
You wouldn't want us to reinvent what you already have, or start digging a foundation when all you need is a new carpet. However, some information deteriorates with age, and we need to determine what's valuable and what could be disastrously misleading.
You need to focus your resources and attention on the ultimate goal of serving your customers better. The review of the assignment objectives keeps everyone on track.
Except for short, well-defined projects, contact and progress checks should be scheduled. If you wait until the final report, you may find out that you've ended up in Antarctica instead of at the North Pole. Open, on-going communication needs to be a two-way street, especially if you've uncovered information that would contribute to the fund of knowledge to be considered in making important decisions. We mail, fax, e-mail, telephone and even deliver interim updates on a regular basis.
Involve your staff in the work where available and practical. This saves you time and money; it also simplifies the implementation process when your people participate in the research process.
Generally, both "soft" (qualitative) information and "hard" data and analysis are important to provide the basis for good decision-making. Beware, however, of over-precision of results (e.g. reporting figures to the 5th decimal place when the accuracy warrants one decimal).
What are the measurable issues you want to understand better? How specifically do you want to measure them? It's a matter of measuring the right things as well as measuring things right. You don't want to pay for information that isn't useful. This preliminary discussion makes sure all defined factors are important to your ultimate objectives.
You shouldn't have to pay for a technical Ph.D. to do clerical work; we match the people to the work and tell you who will be doing which work on your project.
We believe it's important to establish a literature and database monitoring process throughout the duration of all client assignments. This accomplishes three important things: (1) information is completely up-to-date; (2) personal interviews are much more efficient because there is no wasted time covering the basics; (3) the research can be modified if significant new developments are discovered during the work process.
Our experience offers you rapid and systematic accumulation and updating of information from private and government sources. Using multiple sources is a way to check data reliability or determine its range. This process continues during the primary research and analysis phases.
"Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it" holds particularly true for background research. Reinventing the wheel wastes everyone's time, money and talent. We'd rather "stand on the shoulders of giants" to help you reach your goals. (Re-read Peter Drucker's earliest books to see what we mean). No need to go all the way back to the Jurassic, though.
Information needs to be well selected and well managed ... you'll drown in it otherwise. While recognizing that the "devil is in the details," we separate the wheat from the whole lot of chaff that's out there, identifying the data elements related to your decision needs.
Relevant information comes from many sources and appears in many different forms.
These are used as the basis for developing realistic recommendations.
Provides on-going research direction
Are you information rich and knowledge poor? Use ongoing qualitative (general) and quantitative (numbers) analysis of the data and information to guide you in making "course corrections" while keeping your eye on your ultimate objectives. We keep you informed and up-to-date throughout the course of our literature and data findings.
Start out with an idea of what you think the most likely outcome of the research might be. While some may argue that this will bias your investigation, that's simply not true unless you deliberately ignore indications and facts contrary to your initial premise. Basically, you want to prove or disprove that, for example, the overseas market for a your technology will grow faster than the domestic market over the next 5 years, that software package X is better suited to your inventory tracking needs than software package Y, or that insurance claims are down in one of your facilities because you installed better lighting there.
Let's say you need broader brush direction for important resource allocation decisions, e.g. the market for your proprietary technology or expertise is slowly eroding and you believe you can recoup your considerable investment in another market or even a totally new application. Even in this case, there are some premises you can make: is the technology likely to be superceded by something better, faster, cheaper (in which case, divest). Would emerging, growth markets such as eastern Europe or parts of the Pacific Rim be likely markets?
Sophisticated market databases now provide you the ability to "drill down" through the numbers to get as specific as the characteristics of a single individual or household. Other relational databases "slice and dice" the data to bring you information on hundreds (or even thousands) of different combinations of factors. We set up the data so that it can be queried and customized to your exact needs.
Your market share, even in a narrow niche, isn't likely to be 100%. How high is high enough? What level of environmental contamination is acceptable? At what point does measurement or the cost of incremental improvement start increasing exponentially?
This is where some patterns begin to emerge: the greatest influences, the trend upward or downward. Contradictions become apparent: can they be reconciled? which resources should we contact to help support or disprove an important issue?
Once the majority of the secondary resources have been identified and examined, we assess the extent of the information obtained, advancement toward the milestones and begin drafting an outline of the final report, which serves as a basis for one or more interim reports, as needed. We design all reports to be immediately-usable and actionable, and review them with you.
Study carefully all reports you receive from us or any other outside contractors you may use. You might have internal or external information that could contribute greatly to helping reach your objectives. Recently-hired personnel can be particularly valuable sources of new information.
Although the interview guide (if there is one) may be structured, it is never rigid. Its dual purpose is to assure that all important issues are covered and to respect the time of the person being interviewed.
It's usually a good idea to incorporate some "known" information obtained from your literature search into a person-to-person (or even group) interview. This helps to: establish your credibility; allow the respondent to provide his or her deeper insights into an issue; and paves the way for getting new, unpublished information.
Government sources are frequently heavy on statistics and spell out the letter of the law; industry sources, on the other hand, are particularly good for learning the dynamics and impact of the factors being examined.
Talking with corporate executives yields a different set of responses than those you'd obtain from research engineers or plant managers. It's important to match the issues with those you're interviewing.
Where possible, use trade shows, seminars and other occasions when your interview resources are likely to congregate. You'll save a ton of time, money and the frustrations of the dreaded game of telephone tag.
Organizes research results, develops report design
What does all this information we've painstakingly gathered mean? What are the numbers really saying? How shall we query the data? How many levels of WHY? should we ask?
The purpose of everything we've done is to fulfill your objectives. Likewise, all the relevant information gathered, analyzed and presented have the same purpose. You won't have to wade through reams of data (that's what the appendix is for) or "filler" to quickly grasp the situation and practical courses of action.
We tailor standard analytical and graphing programs to your specific information needs.
Different perspectives of the same information can be subject to diverse interpretation (using statistics to support or "prove" opposing viewpoints is a favorite political pastime). It's important to look carefully at what is or isn't included in any table or graph and the conclusions drawn from them.
You will know all the assumptions we've made, so if your factors are different from ours, you can make appropriate adjustments to both the analysis and conclusions. To illustrate important concepts and issues more clearly, we frequently design our own diagrams.
We keep you informed of the major results, conclusions and important content as we assemble the final report and presentation. Because of the ongoing communication between us, there will be no surprise revelations for which you might not be prepared. (However, we can't change the results to match someone's expectations...although we've been asked to do this more than once).
It's particularly important to discuss the final results with your staff in advance of the formal presentation, especially when these results do not mesh with their expectations. Although you've likely been communicating regularly, they might be entirely unprepared for hard evidence of underperformance or misjudgment. This preview will allow your staff time to prepare a response and positive action plan to address the situation.
We think it's an important consultant responsibility to educate as well as inform. Every consulting project can and should expand your organization's skills and capability, even if you should decide that it's more practical or efficient to continue using an outside resource. As we noted in the methodology section of Step 1, when you and your staff get involved, we all win.
Colorful visual detail, especially graphs, charts, diagrams, and bullet points help convey our report's message "at a glance." However, we don't skimp on narrative unless you explicitly request a skeletal outline. If the report will be used predominantly by non-English speaking people, we compress the text and make liberal use of icons and other visuals.
Most of the time, we cover the critical issues of the one-paragraph abstract and 2-3 page executive summary in a 15-minute introductory presentation Discussion of specific details depends entirely upon your requirements and may last a full day (and occasionally longer).
Managers all struggle over balancing long and short term objectives. The assumptions we made yesterday may no longer hold tomorrow. Full disclosure of our assumptions gives your staff the information they need to make intelligent decisions now and if (when) those assumptions are no longer valid.
What does all of this research cost? As little as several hundred dollars to get some quick answers, up to well in the six figures for comprehensive studies for large clients. It all depends on you and your particular needs and preferences.
For example, we sometimes fax or e-mail reports. For some of our existing clients, reports or presentations are not required at all, and informal communications suffice when there are urgent needs that require immediate attention.
Questions or comments? Please let us know by signing our guestbook or contacting us by phone, fax, mail or e-mail. Thanks. We appreciate your interest.
Technology Management Associates, Inc.
(312) 984-5050 firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 1996-2000, Technology Management Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.