JoAnn Hackos, PhD
In his article on strategic competencies in this issue, Vesa Purho describes the knowledge and skills that a skilled professional communicator should bring to the enterprise. First among these essential strategic competencies is “business intelligence.” Vesa argues that, as managers, we must be well informed about the businesses that our companies are in and the roles they play in their particular industries. Without such knowledge, we are more than likely to pursue a mistaken direction in our publications strategy, leaving our organization a candidate for downsizing, outsourcing, or outright elimination.
Five years ago at the first annual Best Practices conference, our conference theme focused on Geoffrey Moore’s influential study of marketing throughout the technology adoption life cycle, Crossing the Chasm (HarperBusiness, 1991). We asked publications and training managers to relate their information strategy to the positioning of their company’s products in the life cycle. I recall that one publications manager at a major West Coast company reported on a discussion with one of her product-marketing managers following the conference. She discovered that the marketing managers were well schooled in Moore’s model, using it to construct product strategies. By knowing where a particular product was in the life cycle, she could more effectively allocate resources.
Julie Bradbury, CIDM associate, also used an understanding of Moore to allocate resources. The publications organization decided that products initially intended for innovators and early adopters were unlikely to meet the criteria that required adequate revenues, a demand for training, and a demand for support that were the mainstays of an established and successful product. Allocating limited resources to unproven products could easily result in spending lots of money to support products that few purchased.
How much do you know about the strategies governing the actions and decisions in the companies you work for? Why do some corporate executives decide that outsourcing to an offshore, under-developed country is a good tactic? Why does a manager suddenly move a function from the US to Ireland or other location offering tax advantages or low wages? Why are some companies focused on product usability and strong information resources and others are not?
What are the latest management theories that lead to these sometimes puzzling corporate decisions? How should management theories affect the perspective that we, as managers, have on our roles and that of our organizations?
In their article, “Why Hard-Nosed Executives Should Care About Management Theory,” (Harvard Business Review, September 2003, pgs. 66-74) Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor discuss how management theories can lead business leaders down destructive paths. They point to companies that divided into multiple business units on the advice of management consultants who touted decentralization and autonomy. They note that at Lucent Technologies, the decision to decentralize proved disastrous since effective product development required the integration of various development groups around a unified product strategy. Only by re-centralizing has Lucent been able to restore some of its former market strength.
On the CIDM Web site, http://www.infomanagementcenter.com, we list a number of excellent management books that should be part of the professional book shelf of every publications manager. In the next issue of this e-Newsletter, we will highlight several important books that we believe will give you insight into the strategic and tactical decisions being made these days, for better or worse, by your corporate executives.