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THE EXTENT TO WHICH MANAGERS’ STRATEGIC INTELLIGENCE PRACTICES PREDICT DECISION-MAKING FOR LONG-TERM COMPETITIVENESS IN CASSAVA FLOUR RETAILING IN CROSS RIVER STATE
1.1 Background of the Study
The lifeblood of any organization is the information it generates about its operating environment. The test of organizational longevity is how it uses the information generated to produce needed intelligence to facilitate long-term decision-making. One of the keys to achieving the foregoing could be to embrace managers’ strategic intelligence practices (SIPs).
Managers’ SIPs are competition-driven practices that involve information gathering and analysis, interpretation, and speculative consideration of future developments, patterns, risks and opportunities through the exercise of human judgment (McDowell, 2016). Managers’ SIPs are continuing operations and interacting structure of people, equipment, and procedures to gather, sort, analyze and distribute pertinent, timely and accurate information pertaining to competitors, suppliers, customers, technology, government, the organization itself and business environment for use by decision makers to improve planning, implementation and control of business operations (Tan and Ahmed, 2017). Strategic intelligence practices signify the creation and transformation of information from publicly available and non-proprietary sources into competitive intelligence that can be used on a continuing basis to assist senior managers in their proactive actions.
Strategic intelligence (SI) actions focus strictly on supporting strategic decision-making by monitoring significant events: past, present and future events. In short, SI is the practice of producing needed intelligence of strategic value in an actionable form to facilitate long-term decision-making. Viewed from this perspective, SI is identified as a practice and a product. As a practice, it is the set of ethical methods for collecting, developing, analyzing and disseminating actionable information that can affect the plans, decisions and operations of the various units of an organization. As a product, SI refers to information about the present and future behaviour of competitors, customers, suppliers, technologies, government, market and the general business environment. Strategic intelligence practices consist of the aggregation of the various types of intelligences, among which are: competitor intelligence, customer intelligence, risks intelligence, economic intelligence, regulatory intelligence, human resource intelligence, financial resource intelligence and technology intelligence.
Competitors Intelligence Practices (CIPs) refer to managers competitor-specific actions of gathering information, interpreting data, informing stake holders and requesting feedback to understand the competitor’s abilities and weaknesses so that they can predict the future performance of rivals (McGonagleandVella, 2016).An important input of good business plans is knowledge of the competitors, not only their current operations but also probable future trends. Every retail shop needs competitor intelligence (CI) to investigate the activities of competitors and assess the impact of any strategic shifts in consumer preferences, market growth, and segmental attractiveness which will provide intelligence that could help guide managers towards decision making for long-term competitiveness. Competitors intelligence is needed to stay competitive, but surviving and thriving in the ever-changing, highly competitive and predictably uncertain business environment is unthinkable without consideration of customer intelligence.
Customer Intelligence Practices (CIPs) are actions that enable a company to identify demographic data pertaining to the customer’s age, gender, location, income, and buying behaviour. These intelligence practices picture the present and future needs of customers as well as the newly creative opportunities in marketing and distribution and shows the major changes that occur (Gabber, 2017). Most businesses are now on a mission to become more customer-centric. The emphasis is shifting from transactions, processes, products, and channels to the ultimate source of immediate and long term profitability of the customers,this change is driven by intensified competition (Gabber, 2017). Generating intelligence pertaining to customer buying behavior is a practice that leverages the capabilities of managers in the context of customer relationship management. With most retail shops and product lifecycle operating under constant risks, threat of rapid innovation and change, risk intelligence practices holds the key to establishing transient competitive advantage.
Risk Intelligence Practices (RIPs) are defensive activities embarked upon by an organization to gather information that will successfully identify uncertainties in the workplace(Bowen, 2015). Risk intelligence practices include actions taken by an organization in the provision of safety devices, ensuring strict compliance to safety standards, taking insurance policies, maintaining reasonable cash reserves, engaging in ethical transactions, promoting goodwill and so on. Many small enterprises are facing increasingly diversified challenges and complicated risks in the activities of production, operation, management and decision-making. Risk-related challenges emanate from constant invention of new technologies, competitors and other elements within the business environment and they impose a lot of threats on the enterprises. Many small enterprises barely survive. Knowing where vulnerabilities lie and making conscious decisions about which ones to accept and which to mitigate is a function of risk intelligence practices. Organizations operate in an information economy in which their success depends to a large extent on knowledge about global economies. A necessary response for survival in a knowledge-driven economy is Economic Intelligence Practices (EIPs).
Economic Intelligence Practicesare formalized operations of research, collection and procession of the information and of distributing useful knowledge for strategic management within the competitive environment (Cohen, 2014). In an economy in which competition and performance are translated by the ability to control and manage the information and knowledge relating to opportunities and the threats, the economic intelligence provide the enablers by which managers can actively monitor the external environment in order to identify the opportunities and the threats that affects the organization’s life, as well as reaching decisions in compliance with legal and ethical limits to influence practices and build resilience to economic competition in the changing regulatory environment.
Regulatory Intelligence Practices (RIPs) encompass the activities related to the gathering, monitoring and analyzing regulatory information from various internal and external sources before disseminating filtered data, supplemented by expert interpretation and comment to appropriate company personnel by various means (Udonno, 2016). Regulatory intelligence is at the heart of every well-informed regulatory decision, and is integral to maximizing competitive advantage in business management. Over the last 20 years, there have been a number of key events that have raised fundamental questions today about the way in which firms should operate. Events such as periodical fluctuations in economic conditions, and failure by many leading firms to engage in responsible ethical behaviour and fulfill expected social obligations, have dramatically changed perceptions about the appropriateness of many current business practices, and the way business should contribute to the society in which it operates. The foregoing clearly highlights the need for RIPs, the application of which has become an obligation for business operators. Every business is man by people. Operating in today’s world of business is not possible without sustainable competitive intelligence in human resource.
Human Resource Intelligence Practices (HRIPs) encompass the activities related to the analysis of information concerning decision making on human resources such as the rewards and benefits, personnel relations, selections, recruitments, and the statuses of work force in the competitive environment (Booker, 2018). At the heart of every successful business are the people who make things happen. Human capital is its most valuable resource which provides the solid foundation needed to build sustained competitive advantage that is difficult for competitors to replicate. The changes in the business environment with increasing globalization, changing demographics of the workforce, increased focus on profitability through growth, technological changes, and mobility of labour have led to increased importance of HRIPs. Sound competitive HRIPs enables managers to take decisions on new and innovative ways to attract and retain a top-notch workforce, and motivate them to perform to the advantage of their organizations. However, the ability to hire, motivate and retain a top-notch workforce depends in part on managers’ financial resource intelligence practices.
Financial Resource Intelligence Practices (FRIPs) are part of competitive intelligence that supports the gathering of information about the financial affairs of entities of interest to understand their nature and capabilities, and predict their intentions. Financial resource intelligence practices include integrating and analyzing financial information, predicting, budgeting, simulating, and managing risk which plays a key role in the organization strategic planning (Aaker, 2016). Enterprise decisions regarding financial capital for all units within it and subsequent actions flow from their understanding of financial resource information and the surroundings in which they operate. In order to facilitate economic and financial sustainability, organizational personnel need to be financially intelligent. This is necessary because if employees, managers and leaders of all businesses understand financial information and how financial success is measured with support from technology-based intelligence, they will make decisions and take action based on an understanding of the financial impact of those decisions. Technology Intelligence Practices (TIPs) encompass the activities related to the acquisition, analysis and communication of relevant information on technological trends to support technological and more general decisions of the company (Lichtenthaler, 2014). Many businesses rely on technology to help them operate on a daily basis. From laptop computers with internet capabilities to printers, online file storage and web-based applications, technological advances impact businesses across various industries. Many firms now have formal technical intelligence programs to gather, analyze and use technology-based information to watch their competitors, to track emerging trends in technological development and to anticipate significant technology-based changes. Sound competitive technical intelligence enables managers to identify where technology can deliver a competitive advantage that can have a vital influence on corporate profitability and long-term health.
In the context of this study, SIPs are identified as what managers of Cassava Flour (CF)retail outlets need to do in order to know their business environment to enable them to gain insight into its present processes, anticipate and manage change for the future, design appropriate strategies that will create business value for customers, and make informed decisions to improve profitability and resilience in the foreseeable future. Without SIPs, it is believed that it would be difficult for employees to make correct decisions to remain resilient in the face of competition. The value of SIPs can therefore be seen through the improvement of the capabilities of managers and workers to learn about potential changes within their business environment which could require the rethinking of business processes and practices relevant to Cassava Flour retailing.
Cassava Flour retailing is a common feature of most retail shops where all the activities involved in selling the merchandise are undertaken to deliver the product to those who intend to use it on the one hand and return on investment to stakeholders on the other hand. Cassava Flour is one of the cheapest cassava root products sold in retail outlets in Cross River State. Cross River offers a potentially massive consumer market, but the opportunities are not without high risks and a challenging business environment characterized by never-ending competition as in other parts of the country.
In Nigeria today, business environments are characterized by continuous changes arising from competition, new entrants, substitute products, advances in technology, as well as fast shortening product life cycle. Unexpected changes and disruptive events have always been a major issue of concern for businesses. Such environmental perturbations incur abrupt changes to business organizations in terms of asset damages, operational interruptions, increased costs as well as declining revenue and growth. It is therefore critical for businesses to identify such risks, reduce their vulnerability to threats and, effectively build their resilience to business-induced physical challenges. This will also enable them to effectively absorb, develop situation-specific responses to, and ultimately engage in transformative activities that can mitigate against potential threats to their very survival. Managers’ SIPs are the enablers by which managers can foster the competitive capacity of their firm to enable it overcome survival threats and actually secure its longevity and prosperity under a complicated, uncertain, and volatile environment.
Making good decisions is key to surviving and being successful in the world of business. Strategic intelligence practices (SIPs) aim to assist decision making through providing information on the business environment. The foregoing suggests that intelligence activities are key input variables in decision making. Decision making requires that managers are aware of their surrounding environment and its effects on their business operations. It is crucial to promptly detect opportunities and threats brought about by emerging trends in order to deal with them appropriately. What makes this important, however, is that business environments are characterized by continuous changes arising from never-ending competition. It is against this background that this study is carried out.