AllBizOps Technical White Paper
Abstract: This paper presents a commercial Management Information System (MIS) capable of supporting multi-criteria decision-making. A computer-based Decision Support System (DSS) utilizes integrated MIS elements to assist decision making for B2B Market Research efforts. The MIS includes external and internal data sources imported into a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) designed to process and present analytical results while supporting business logic and knowledgebase rules. Analytical findings assist Market Research decisions studied for multiple commercial industries using fixed external data sources. Internal data taken from businesses participating in a Market Research effort vary based on goals and objectives defined by inputs to the Market Study. For example, the external data sources containing detailed business intelligence for all industries with assigned NAICS codes compared to internal data defining goals and objectives for a specific Market Study and industry NAICS code.
Management Information Systems (MIS) are computer-based Decision Support Systems (DSS) capable of analyzing business scenarios and present results in a way that helps to make management decisions (Nowduri, 2011). MIS systems provide and aggregate relevant data, executing business process logic and analytics required to support intelligent decision making more efficiently compared to manually completing the analysis. For example, a decision support system used for B2B Market Research can help business development professionals identify high-income potential target markets, growth industries, and market position. Competitor analysis and profit potential also help decision-making. Multiple target markets can be efficiently analyzed simultaneously, helping to define short and long-term marketing strategies that are essential for business growth.
A significant challenge of developing a B2B Marketing MIS is to present analytics that supports multi-criteria decisions. Prior studies determined that the dynamic nature of a business environment requires a robust decision-making process utilizing the same unique business development requirements (Alam 2014). Multi-criteria decision processes help make the best decisions according to the discretion of the decision-maker. Therefore, the design of a useful MIS needs to include business decision processes, supporting data, and analytics supporting flexible decision- making. Decision Support Systems used to make Marketing decisions require the collection and aggregation of data from thousands of sources, which complicates multi-criteria decision making. The more significant challenge is to develop a commercial DSS that can support multiple companies or Users with different business development goals while using the same external data-sets.
This paper presents the elements of a commercial Decision Support System that can support multi-user companies to complete online market research. The DSS assists businesses in making customized marketing decisions defined by a company’s marketing goals. Analysis results match a company’s internal data to relevant external industry and business intelligence information used to identify a business growth marketing strategy and development of a marketing plan.
Management Information Systems have evolved since the 1960s with the start of commercial use of distributed computing systems. Technology placed constraints on the type of information that could be stored, which required highly specialized skills of IT professionals who managed data for companies. Original MIS systems were only affordable to larger enterprises that could afford the high costs needed to employ an IT department. These systems used rigid hierarchical batch systems, and making changes to them was costly and time-consuming. During the 1980s, flexible real-time MISs moved from hierarchal to structured information, which utilized Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), allowing business users to gain access to information without a need for programming expertise. RDBMS evolved into a $40 billion annual data processing market (Kaur, Tiwari, 2014). MIS and computer-based DSS were then commonly adopted to help with business decision-making.
RDBMS has an essential role in the design of a computer-based DSS. RDBMS data is structured in database tables, which consists of rows that store DSS data. Database tables are joined by Primary and Foreign keys that allow quick retrieval of data from the RDBMS using structured queries (Singh, 2017). A commercial MIS can import data from thousands of sources into a database. Extracting data for analysis requires careful design and development of meta-data used to reference, categorize, and standardize data to implement business decision rules, as well as analyze, process, and present data to decision-makers. The State-of-the-art DSS is hosted on a scalable Cloud environment providing global access to users via internet connection protocols.
Advances in technology combined with vast amounts of external data available from multiple sources have made MIS and DSS systems affordable to Small and Medium-size companies to use as practical Market Research tools. To be successful, every business organization needs a DSS to track business activities and make informed decisions. Starting a new business is difficult, and entrepreneurs risk going out of business without understanding sustainability factors to be competitive in today’s business environment (Nowduri, Al-Dossary, 2012). For example, two key sustainability factors provided by a commercial DSS include the power of Suppliers to understand pricing and bargaining power decisions within a target market and the power of Buyers for pricing decisions when a target market has very few Buyers and a large number of Suppliers.
MIS models are also used to support marketing decisions (Kotler, Keller, 2006). According to Kotler, “a marketing information system consists of four interrelated components – Internal Reports (Records) System, Marketing Research System, Marketing Intelligence System, and Marketing Decision Support System (MDSS).” The Internal records system provides all company internal data that are relevant to decision-makers. For example, internal records include past sales and purchase, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) reports, inventories, and receivable-payable information. The Marketing Intelligence System is a set of processes and sources of data used by decision-makers to keep informed about business development activities. The Market Research System are formal studies that gather information to solve a specific problem. The MDSS or Analytics System is used to process and analyze data to support final decision-making.
Guidelines for designing a computer-based DSS must capture business processes and data used to make decisions, be easy to use, and support multi-criteria business decisions. (Zmud, 1983). Business processes for conducting Market Research projects are segmented into three main groups, including Exploratory, Descriptive, and Causal Research (Sarstedt, Mooi, 2014). Exploratory research is used to make decisions about business development topics where an organization has little knowledge or expertise. Exploratory research can act as a starting point to a larger Market Research project and used to formulate a research initiative. Descriptive research is used to make decisions about somewhat defined topics and determine a Marketing Strategy to take forward. Identifying target markets, growth trends, market size, segments, and profitability are all examples of descriptive research outputs. Causal research is used to make decisions about the cause and effect of market variables and executed towards the end of a Market Research Project. Lab, field experiments, and market tests are examples of Causal Research and performed before initiating sales and marketing campaigns. Exploratory, Descriptive, and Causal Research use data from internal and external sources, which is gathered using Primary and Secondary Methods. Primary methods collect information using techniques such as online surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, and test results. Secondary methods gather data from external sources such as public sources, websites, or purchased information.
Elements of a Commercial Market Research MIS
Commercial MIS’s are available and usually used as Custom Off-the-Shelf software products licensed to businesses on a per User or Enterprise agreement. License agreements are expensive, often requiring customization and integration of data gathered from internal sources. Technology advances have paved the way for online MISs to be available as a cost-effective option compared to licensed products. Figure 1 presents an overview of the elements of a commercial MIS currently available as an online research platform to help with decision-making for Market Research Projects:
External Data represents both Primary and Secondary Research Data that is collected and imported into the MIS. External data is defined as follows:
- MIS business directory is detailed data collected for over twenty million businesses and government agencies registered to conduct business in the United States.
- The MIS industry directory is detailed information about all industries with a North American Industry Classification (NAICS) code
- MIS Knowledgebase is all business intelligence information, rules, and logic required by the MIS to help with multi-criteria decision-making. For example, Income, Expenditure, and Five- Year Spend Trends for all U.S. markets and government agencies is considered business intelligence information by the MIS.
The Marketing Intelligence System is an RDBMS used to store all information contained in the MIS and designed to support multi-criteria decision-making. All data imported into the MIS database is cleansed and standardized before importing from the External Data and Internal Records System sources. The database and definition of metadata provide high performance with consistent analytic results. The commercial MIS is scalable and capable of supporting thousands of simultaneous users. Since the MIS database combines External Data from thousands of sources with unique business data from specific Users, the MIS is robust, saving businesses time and cost compared to COTS MIS systems.
The Marketing Research System (MRS) is the analytics engine of the MIS and is used to apply business process logic and knowledgebase rules to MIS data. Using standardized data also allows the MRS to utilize non-linear optimization and Machine Learning Methods to assist with decision-making.
The Analytical System is used to process, analyze data, and present results to support decision-making. Most results are presented in easy to understand graphical format.
Results: Environmental Consulting Case Study
An Environmental Consulting Company initiated a Market Research Project to identify Target Markets, Marketing Strategy, and potential customers with the highest income and growth potential. The project included a Competitor and Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat (SWOT) analysis. Inputs to the Internal Records System included the company’s NAICS code, annual revenue, number of employees, geographic location, services offered, and a capability statement. The MIS generated analytic results, shown in Figures 2 through 5, that assisted decisions made to achieve the goals and objectives of the project. The MIS also created lists of potential customers as candidates to participate in Primary Market Research tasks such as surveys and focus group studies. Analytic results and data presented by the MIS are flexible, allowing decision-makers to choose Target Markets before initiating Descriptive and Causal Research activities. The MIS conducted comparative Target Market studies using the same inputs. The comparative analysis is possible because the External Data and Metadata used is standardized across all industry NAICS codes. The following are analysis results provided by MRIS used to make decisions:
- Income, potential profit, and how a company will perform is highly dependent on industries that buy goods and services. The MIS provided analytics about industries that have the highest income and growth potential. Growth industries are the best target markets for further research.
- Industry analysis determines a company’s market position relative to other businesses that produce similar products or services. The MIS provided competitor analysis information and identified product and services target pricing.
- The MIS identified potential customers, location, demographics, and average client size for high-potential target markets which is a valuable input to finalize a marketing strategy and plan for operations costs.
- The MIS helped understand the Power of Supplier’s positions essential to understand pricing and bargaining power within a target market and the demand for goods or services sold.
- The bargaining power of Buyers is dominant when a target market has very few buyers and a large number of suppliers. The MIS helped understand the availability of substitute products, supplier costs, and target-markets with few Buyers that supply many customers.
- The MIS helped identify success criteria to identify risks, strengths, and weaknesses that help understand whether a business can be successful within a target market. The MIS provided the information needed to complete a SWOT analysis that will lower risks and increase success factors for a target market.
- Decisions about a Marketing Strategy are crucial to reach out to sales prospects and convert them into customers. The Marketing Strategy defines a company’s value proposition and critical brand messaging to initiate sales campaigns. The MIS provided the information needed for an effective Marketing Strategy, including advertising decisions and sales promotions based on the target market needs.
- Market surveys are essential to obtain direct feedback from current and potential customers. The MIS provided a business directory that identified lists of sales prospects to initiate Descriptive and Causal Research activities and keep a sales pipeline funnel full.
The MIS provided a list of industries and Markets that provide income to Environmental Consulting companies. Total industry sector income and expenditures are listed as $44 and $15 billion (USD), respectively, with five-year, spend trends that show a 2% growth for this sector. The bar chart details income and expenditures for all Markets that achieve income from this sector listed in $USD millions. The MIS also details the current activity of Market leaders within this sector with location and contact information for Market leaders.
The MIS provided a bar chart detailing income growth ($USD Million) for all markets that purchase and sell goods and services within this sector. The top-ten growth markets are assumed to be market leaders. Lower growth markets are assumed to be market contributors essential to the supply chain for the sector.
The MIS provided tables listing the number of companies registered to do business distributed by U.S. geographic region and state. Business counts are included for both purchasing companies and suppliers to the target markets. The MIS business directory provides detailed business intelligence for each company including size, number of employees, address, goods and services sold, annual income, number of employees, NAICS codes.
The MIS provides details about supplier expenditure spending used for competitor and SWOT analysis.
A commercial MIS was presented with the functionality to support multi-criteria decision making using an online computer-based DSS. A case study utilized inputs taken from an Internal Records System and External Data Source. Standardizing data and meta-data definitions before the DSS executed business logic and rules proved the MIS is flexible enough to support Market Research projects for multiple business types. Analytical results of the Market Research project included decisions made to identify a Marketing Strategy, identify target markets with high-income potential, complete a SWOT analysis and identify lists of potential customers to initiate Descriptive and Causal Research activities.
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