Business research is the systematic gathering of data, which, once analysed, can provide useful insights to facilitate profitable decision-making by organisations. With better, and more reliable data, decision-making tends to be quicker and or a higher quality. Furthermore, it can assist organisations in allowing them a greater and deeper understanding of the market place in which they operate. Whilst it is obvious that it should be undertaken, the reality is that it is carried out less frequently than it should. In today’s business world, time is particularly short. One of the casualties of this is detailed research as resources tend to be devoted to core activities.
There are a number of different areas of research, and I outline six of them below.
MARKET SECTOR RESEARCH
Successful businesses need to have a thorough understanding of the markets in which they operate. Such an understanding allows them to sell effectively by targeting customers. Furthermore, it allows companies to compete with other suppliers. Finally, it allows companies to identify new opportunities. There are a number of questions which can be addressed, but these are outside the scope of this article. General trends can be ascertained using published market information, and more detailed information can be gleaned from internal records.
There are a number of objectives of industry research, including:
· Understanding the industry structure, competition and levels of industry profitability;
· The assessment of an industry’s attractiveness;
· The identification of key success factors;
· To forecast future profitability;
· To deduce strategies to improve profitability.
This covers a wide range of issues, including image and positioning, objectives and commitment, current and past strategies, organisation and culture, cost structure, exit barriers, strengths and weaknesses, size, growth, profitability, financial performance, and products and services marketed and sold.
It is worthwhile considering who your competitors are. Direct competition includes businesses in the same business. Businesses similar to yours are indirect competition.
This is broadly similar to competitor analysis in both the issues considered and the models used. The emphasis, however, is not on the competition, but on other organisations. Such organisations might include potential partners, investors, advisors, suppliers or customers.
BUSINESS TOPIC RESEARCH
Often businesses want to understand a specific subject r topic better. Examples of questions include:
· What types of… exist?
· What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
· What does… mean?
· How does the… framework/model work?
· What are the alternatives to… ?
ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL RESEARCH
This research subset analyses the following areas:
· Current, historic and forecast economic data;
· The strengths and weaknesses in the economy;
· Activities and sectors which are growing, shrinking, or stagnating;
· How economies, markets and businesses act and behave;
· Where and why businesses locate where they do;
· Who and what is driving economic growth.
This latter research is particularly useful if organisations are planning new products, new markets or new geographic regions.