The significant role information plays in the success of industry and its participants continues to dominate academic debate, with the growing volume of multidisciplinary literature demonstrating the complexity of not only defining but accessing relevant information. No one clear interpretation of the term industry information exists with the variables of country, language, sector, purpose, etc., determining the context of what is looked for and where and how it can be located. What is clear, however, is that information has and will continue to be a vital asset among a manager’s skills. For the purpose of this essay, industry information will reflect, as E. Ozgen and R. A. Baron write, “the idea that information plays a crucial role in opportunity recognition … to identify opportunities for viable new ventures, entrepreneurs must somehow perceive, gather, interpret, and apply information about specific industries, technologies, markets, government policies, and other factors.”
Traditional sources of industry information represented by company reports, market research, country, and sector analysis have now been usurped by the digital era, with estimates that by 2011 the digital universe will be 10 times the size it was in 2006. For examples from the digital era, a look at United Kingdom–based industry/business information in the form of information products may be useful. A wide range of industry information sources can be accessed through national, regional, academic, and private library holdings. The sources covered are primarily electronic sources and identify a cross-section of industry information sources from the innovation/ ideas phase through to development and marketing:
- COBRA (Complete Business Reference Advisor) database: An encyclopedia covering information relating to start-up, running, and management of a small business, together with examples.
- Business-in-a-box Web site: A free start-up business guide covering such areas as staffing, finance, protecting your ideas, etc.
- Business Link Web site: Sponsored by the DTI Small Business Service: supported through local agencies, providing information, advice, guides, and networking.
- National Federation of Enterprise Agencies: Independent, nonprofit service to advise prestart and small businesses.
- Startups.co.uk: Contains business planning, finance, etc., together with newsletter and networking facilities for start-ups.
The following sample, using the advertising industry as an example, demonstrates only a small cross-section of the range and content of sources available relating to competitors, suppliers, market evaluation, etc. Within each respective industry sector (pharmaceuticals, retailing, etc.) a similar range of targeted resources can be identified.
- Advertisers Annual (Hollis Publishing): Listing of United Kingdom agencies ordered by location, sector, associations, and sources.
- BRAD Monthly Guide to Advertising Media (EMAP Group): Monthly listing of advertising media in the United Kingdom, new and existing media sources, arranged by sector.
- Advertising Statistics Yearbook (World Advertising Research Center): Covers sales and marketing data for print, radio, and television media in the United Kingdom.
- Business Ratio Report: Advertising Agencies (Key Note Publications): United Kingdom industry overview, profiling over 120 companies relating to finance, league tables, employee growth, etc.
- The European Marketing Pocket Book (World Advertising Research Center): Covers 33 countries including demographics, economic indicators, advertising expenditure.
- Ad Forum Web site: Resources relating to worldwide advertising.
- Advertising Association: Federation of trade bodies covering advertising and promotion activities in the United Kingdom.
Another useful category of industry information sources are market research databases such as the following:
- AMADEUS: Approximately 1.5 million company profiles covering 32 European countries. The searches can be made across countries to include key financial and contact information and lists can be created.
- Business Insights: Provides market research and analysis of several key sectors including healthcare, financial services, energy, telecommunications, high technology as well as consumer markets such as food and drink.
- FAME: Detailed financial data for 2.5 million companies in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Expert searching allows for the creation of company lists that can be sorted by turnover, postal code, and other search variables.
- Key Note: Provides full text access to over a
1,000 reports covering 30 industry sectors such as information technology and food and drink.
- Kompass Worldwide: Covers detailed product and service descriptions of over 1.9 million companies in 70 countries. This represents a key source for manufacturers and suppliers.
- Mintel: Coverage relates to a wide range of consumer and lifestyle markets in the United Kingdom.
What is becoming obvious is that today’s contemporary manager still needs additional resources to complement such electronic sources as those identified above. E. Ozgen and R. A. Baron discuss the need to recognize peer support and social networking and suggest that three further sources of key industry information can be found in the nonstandard social sources of mentors, information industry networks, and participation in profession forums.
Understanding and using industry information is essential for survival in today’s information economy, yet to attempt to be aware of and be able to use all formal and informal, internal and external information sources is unrealistic. L. Orna argues that to understand what you need, you have to establish
a “meeting place for minds,” in the form of an electronic information product shaped by its users, and arrived at through a co-operative investigation of what’s really going on.
Sources of industry information are available, dependent on locality and time spent to identify where and how to access them, but to use them effectively, the key is knowing what the individual and their organization want and why.
- H. Davenport and L. Prusak, Information Ecology: Master the Information and Knowledge Environment (Oxford University Press, 1997);
- Diebold, “Information Resources Management (IRM)? New Directions in Management,” Infosystems (v.26/10), 1979);
- Li Feng, The Geography of Business Information (Wiley, 1995);
- Foster, “Business Information Survey,” Business Information Review (v.25/13, 2008);
- F. Gantz, “The Drivers and Exploding Digital Universe,” IDC White Paper (2008);
- D. Johnson, “Information Seeking: An Organisational Dilemma,” Quorum (1996);
- C. Laudon and J. P. Laudon, Information Systems and the Internet. A Problem Solving Approach (Dryden Press, 1998);
- Orna, “No Business Without Information Products: How They Can Add—and Subtract—Value,” Business Information Review (v.23, 2006);
- Ozgen and R. A. Baron “Social Sources of Information in Opportunity Recognition: Effects of Mentors, Industry Networks, and Professional Forums,” Journal of Business Venturing (v.22/2, 2007).
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