Manage Your Information Effectively
How to stay competitive by managing information
Matthew Rekers, M.B.A.
George Rekers, Ph.D., M.B.A.
We are in the information age. Countless quantities of information lie at our fingertips. If we could only harness this information, we would be able to solve many more of our business problems.
H. G. Wells observed,
“An immense and ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today; knowledge that would probably suffice to solve all the mighty difficulties of our age, but it is dispersed and unorganized. We need a sort of mental clearinghouse for the mind: a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared.”1
Your company needs an Information Technology (IT) system to serve as that “mental clearinghouse” to help you manage your information effectively.
Solectron, a company that manufactures cell phones, computer devices, and memory chips, realized the need for implementing a state-of-the-art IT system to manage information effectively. Solectron decided to outsource their IT operations to IBM in order to free up their own time and resources. Although they have outsourced their IT operations, Solectron makes sure that each of their employees has a basic knowledge about how the system effects their own department. An executive with Solectron, Bernard Mathaisel, explained, “We’re going to have to build knowledge communities with military precision, beginning with a skills assessment of every person in the company, followed by instructor-led training and online courseware.” By outsourcing the IT function, Solectron executives believe that they will be able to focus on using the information from the system.2
The ability to manage information effectively helps your company strategically position itself in your industry. A fine-tuned information system can serve as a valuable tool. It can equip executives to recognize and take action on strategic opportunities such as:
- further developing existing products,
- creating barriers to entry by potential competitors,
- changing the basis of competition,
- changing the balance of supply relationships, and
- changing organizational objectives.
Additional benefits occur in operations, such as:
- increasing efficiency,
- reducing costs,
- increasing delivery speed,
- reducing excessive clerical work,
- creating greater flexibility,
- providing information on a more timely basis,
- making decisions on real-time data,
- achieving better insight into product development, and
- facilitating much better harmonization.
To stay competitive in your industry, your company must manage its information effectively.
Walgreens innovated a great way to do this. This drug store chain’s information system makes it possible to walk into any Walgreens store and get your prescription filled, because each store is linked to a central system that can be accessed by any Walgreens store. Walgreens has risen to the highest level in that its information system has become one of its most powerful competitive advantages.3
At the highest level, a company effectively uses its information system throughout the entire company. The right information is delivered in the most convenient, user-friendly way to the right people at the right time. If the information system is not considered part of the company’s core competence, then the Management Information Systems (MIS) and Information Technology (IT) operations are outsourced for maximal effectiveness.
Solectron Corporation outsourced their IT function to IBM’s Global Services for more than 50 facilities and subsidiaries. The 10-year contract was one of the largest ever awarded to a service company at $1.8 billion.
Corporate Vice President, Bernard Mathaisel said that Solectron had little choice but to rely on outside IT help: With an annual growth rate of 50 percent and revenue expected to reach more than $20 billion in fiscal year 2001, outsourcing was a necessity. “In a world of limited talent resources, there was no way to sustain both our rapid business growth and support our diverse IT operations,” he explained.
Many companies such as Cisco, Household Finance, and Avon have outsourced their IT function and are using real-time data analysis tools from Verilytics. Verilytics helps these companies take real time information and make it useful to decision-makers within the company.
In 1971, Louis and Tom Borders started a bookstore they called Borders. The brothers wanted to offer a larger variety of books in their store and knew that the only way they could do this would be if they could turn inventory more quickly. So the brothers created an inventory-tracking system that made it easy for the salesclerks to find out what was on the shelves and what was on order. This management information system was so effective that the company started selling it to other bookstores and this became their primary business. It was only later that they opened more bookstores all over the country.4
At the highest level, the company’s information system is fine-tuned and effectively manages information that is useful for decision-making. Not only is the relevant information delivered to the right users at the right time, but also it is delivered in the most convenient way possible. This requires regular communication among your employees who share relevant information openly across departments.