Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Elements of Competitive Databases

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Elements of Competitive Databases

Article excerpt

Timely, accurate, and useful information is, perhaps, the single most important key element that ensures potential competitiveness in the business world today. Without good information, corporate leaders would be blind to the future needs and directions of their companies. Strategic planning would be impossible and day-to-day operations would become highly inefficient. The more useful, timely, and accurate information becomes, the better corporate leaders can act upon it to help their companies remain competitive.

However, vital information is often late, it is often incomplete, and it is usually overwhelming. As electric utilities begin the ordeal of deregulation, timely, accurate, and useful information will be critical. Existing electric utilities will begin to look at mergers and acquisitions and new utilities will be formed as they attempt to take advantage of a new ways of conducting the business of generating, transmitting, and distributing electric power.

During the past year alone there have been at least five major mergers or acquisitions in the electric utility industry as these utilities strive to grow and become more competitive. Rural electric cooperatives are experiencing some of this IOU M&A activity, as some systems have been or are the targets of takeovers or takeover threats.

As the nation's largest electric utility network, rural cooperatives have strength in numbers but each cooperative must be individually prepared for the new realities of electric utility deregulation. Each cooperative must know not only itself and its likely competition, but also the rest of the co-op world. By understanding its own membership better, each cooperative will be better positioned to market new initiatives to serve its membership more effectively. By knowing the competition's strategies and goals, a cooperative can be better prepared to win the competitive battles that will emerge. Finally, each cooperative can glean efficiencies by studying the practices of other cooperatives and, in turn, can help other cooperatives become more efficient. All of these issues will be important to the future competitiveness of every cooperative.

While nothing discussed thus far is radical or new, several difficult problems exist in obtaining needed information. First, one must determine what information will be required to support management decisions. This is the most important task as it requires management to sufficiently define the problems that lay ahead to determine what information is needed.

Second, one must determine where this information can be obtained. Some information is available at the cooperative but most will have to be obtained from other sources.

Third, information is not found, rather it is created. More often than not, "information" is found to be only "data." Raw data must be transformed before it becomes useful information and there is a vast amount of data in myriad forms on every utility in the country, electric and otherwise. Thus, one is faced with not only determining in advance the information one requires for decision making purposes, but also where to locate it and how to turn raw data into a usable product. This is no small task and it will be vital in a competitive environment. Fortunately, every cooperative has the building blocks it needs to begin constructing a competitive database and help is at hand for much of the rest that it will require.


Survey the Membership

Before strategic or operational planning can effectively take place it is necessary to understand the current state of the business. This includes not only an appreciation of management and director desires and intent but also the perceptions, needs, and desires of co-op members and employees. These perceptions, needs, and desires cannot be assumed to be known by management or the board of directors and must be objectively measured. Most cooperatives have undertaken steps to accomplish this task. …

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