Bain: Unlocking ‘hidden assets’ is key to avoiding business extinction

A 10-year study by Bain & Co. finds that 75% of Fortune 500 companies “face the threat of extinction within a decade” unless they tap their “hidden assets … to redefine themselves.” What sort of hidden assets? Bain’s “Unstoppable Growth Study” study says:

  • hidden customer assets: customer segments and data that can prompt new products and businesses
  • hidden growth platforms: platforms that can be expanded or created for new product lines and business units
  • hidden capabilities: technologies, processes and expertise that can lead to a breakthrough product or service

“These hidden assets were central to 90% of the cases where companies successfully redefined their core businesses and their growth formulas. The assets were not themselves hidden, but their full potential had not been recognized by management,” Bain says.

Typical strategies that usually don’t work:

  • leaping to new hot markets
  • pursuing “big bang” transforming mergers
  • launching broad-based innovation programs

So where does the dreaded threat of “extinction” come from? The following megatrends:

  • Faster movement of information
  • Speed of capital formation
  • Emergence of China and India, and their disruptive impact
  • Reduced capital intensity among the most profitable new industries
  • Increasingly rapid movement of executives among companies
  • The rise and impact of private equity firms
  • Speed of overall technology cycles

Success stories — companies that stepped back from the brink by unlocking their hidden assets — include Apple (think: iPod) and Marvel Entertainment (think: “Spiderman” blockbuster movies). “Companies that seek growth solutions based on hidden assets are four to six times more likely to survive,” the study says.

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About the study:
Tracked the 500 largest U.S. public companies from 1995 through 2004 and assessed their financial performance and rate of change. More extensive 10-year before-and-after profiles were then developed for 50% of the remaining companies that didn’t go bankrupt or get acquired during that period. Also surveyed 240 global executives and developed case studies on 25 successful business redefinitions.

Related:
The book: Unstoppable: Finding Hidden Assets to Renew the Core and Fuel Profitable Growth, by Chris Zook (Harvard Business School Press, 2007).

‘Alpha-earning moms’ and stay-at-home dads may change household purchasing habits

If current demographic shifts continue, within a generation women may be the primary breadwinners in half of America’s households, notes Social Technologies LLC futurist John Cashman. These “alpha-earning moms” — along with the increasing number of stay-at-home dads — are growing market segments that will merit business attention, Cashman says.

  • Household duties will continue to realign. More men will carry primary responsibility for purchasing food, clothing, and other household items.
  • Men will be more involved in childcare and in purchasing products and services for their children.
  • As they explore these new gender roles, men’s preferences will be expressed in the types of products they buy. These could include more gadgetry and high-tech appliances for the home.

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Related: “Stay-at-Home Dads Forge New Identities, Roles,” The Washington Post, 17 June 2007

‘Meaning extraction’ software uncovers the themes and tone of market-research reports

Northern Light Group LLC, based in Cambridge, Mass., has launched MI Analyst, which the company calls “the first automated ‘meaning extraction’ application designed specifically for market intelligence and market research.” The software combs the text of market-research reports to identify key themes.

Excerpts from the press release:

“MI Analyst is more than a powerful search tool, it’s like another member of our team,” said Paul Robertson, Director of Global Market Research at Unisys Corp. “The system’s ability to identify key themes in market research reports and draw connections between companies, technologies, and market trends saves our market intelligence team many hours of analysis time and helps us identify developing business strategy issues much earlier than we might have otherwise.”

MI Analyst adds value by extracting meaning from search results, mining market research content for relevant competitive intelligence and market trends. For example, MI Analyst highlights threats and opportunities regarding products, market share, pricing, new technologies, marketing partnerships, and corporate strategy.

MI Analyst can read all the market intelligence reports and articles a company creates or licenses from third-party sources. The application then can tell the researcher what is in the documents, suggest what business issues they address, and direct the researcher to the documents that are most interesting based on their meaning rather than on their statistically-derived search relevance.

Moreover, the company claims the software can “discern the tone of content,” such as whether the report has a positive or negative sentiment about a company. Also, the software uses “entity extraction” to dig out details, including company names, job titles, business issues and government agencies.

Price & availability
The software is available immediately as an add-on to the vendor’s SinglePoint market-research portal, a hosted application. Unlimited enterprise-wide access to MI Analyst starts at $48,000/year — plus a one-time setup fee starting at $36,000 for customization for the client.

Blog Watch: Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends

One of the many blogs I monitor is Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends. Here’s my review:

Mission: “How new technologies are modifying our way of life”

Author: Roland Piquepaille, a computer consultant based in Paris; partner in the Savoir-Faire & Cie network; specializes in high-performance computing and visualization.

Pros: Wide range of raw material (he must read a lot of publications!). Identifies sources. Adds context and related links. Good RSS feed. Provides images/photos.

Cons: None.

Comment: If you’re in a hurry, the first paragraph (which shows up in the RSS feed) tells you mostly what you need to know.

Examples of gems I found there:

RFID tags spy on bartenders: Capton, a provider of liquor-monitoring technology, has developed the Beverage Tracker system (being tested at the Treasure Island hotel-casino in Las Vegas) which uses RFID tags to determine whether bartenders are overpouring or undercharging. It can save $90,000/year for an average bar.

The first world map of happiness: Built at the University of Leicester, the map shows you’ll be happier if you live in Denmark (rated No.1) or Switzerland (No.2) than in Zimbabwe (No.177) or Burundi (No.178).

A robot that paints like Jackson Pollock: Computer scientists at the Washington University in Saint-Louis built a robot that makes drip paintings like Jackson Pollock’s — who was also known as “Jack the Dripper.” The robot, dubbed ‘Action Jackson,’ can finish an ‘artwork’ in just minutes, like Jackson Pollock probably did. But the paintings by this robot can be bought for about $10, far from the whopping $140 million price paid last year for “No.5, 1948.”

‘People issues’ are getting hotter, but execs take a dim view of HR

A global survey of 531 business executives finds that 85% see “people issues” as vital to their businesses today, and that figure goes up to 88% over the next three to five years. The study was done by Deloitte Consulting and The Economist Intelligence Unit. The top “people issues” cited by the respondents:

  • leadership development
  • creating a high-performance culture
  • talent management
  • training

But there’s a real perception gap between business executives and HR leaders, says the study co-director Jeff Schwartz, in an interview with Workforce Management magazine. Schwartz says: “Even though they both see people issues as vital, the executives don’t see HR and HR leaders as driving the people agenda in business today. When you ask them how HR is doing, barely 4% describe their company’s HR as ‘world-class’ … and only 23% believe that HR currently plays a crucial role in strategy and operational results.”

Schwartz says HR folks need to spend more time helping the business succeed, and less time on the operational “dial tone of HR.” The good news is that 88% of the survey respondents expect that HR will indeed become a more strategic function in the next three to five years.