At the Annual Members Meeting of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets, there was considerable discussion of the new competencies that were going to be required of U.S. manufacturing firms.
This was not surprising, given the meeting’s focus on the most significant emerging challenges that businesses were likely to face. And, given the breadth of participants from industry and academia, it’s not surprising that perspectives and recommendations varied widely.
One manufacturing CMO noted in a discussion that his job had evolved to include a significant amount of “teaching new tricks to old dogs.” Another speaker offered the viewpoint that “If you find that you need to climb trees, hire some squirrels rather than trying to retrain the horses.” Animal analogies aside, my guess is that most of our firms will have to do some of both in the next few years to respond to those emerging challenges.
One of the areas in which new competencies are almost certain to be required involves the many initiatives that go under the umbrella heading “Big Data.”
In earlier IndustryWeek articles, I reported on some success stories involving manufacturing firms that had identified growth opportunities involving the newly-available wealth of data resources and suggested some approaches to thinking about such opportunities that drew upon the experiences of the information industry itself.
That industry provides many lessons that can guide both strategy and competency development, regardless of whether the approach to the latter involves retraining old dogs and horses or recruiting from the squirrel population.
Perhaps the most important concept builds upon a key foundation of information theory, namely that the way to measure the value of information is by quantifying the change in the quality of relevant decisions made with and without it.
Investments in Big Data initiatives, like any other investment, need to be focused on contributions that make a difference.
If the same decisions would be made with or without the information, it has no value. If a different decision, with a higher payoff, can be made as a result of having the information, then the payoff is real and you have a benchmark as to the level of investment that could be made in getting the information while still yielding a positive return.
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