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Developing International Information Databases

With the unification of Europe and the rapidly changing political and economic events worldwide, research executives are currently faced with the need for translated, synthesized and analyzed information from the various countries. This paper focuses on the development of new cost efficient systems to process this information, rather than utilizing older labor intensive methods.

 

With the unification of Europe and the rapidly changing political and economic events worldwide, research executives are currently faced with the need for translated, synthesized and analyzed information from the various countries within the European Economic Commission (EEC) and from other parts of the world. Under the new economic system of the EEC, several companies will plan to expand the marketing of their products and services. Consequently, they will have a need for the collection of published information as well as the need to collect quantitative data. During the 90s, senior management will seek answers to specific questions, such as "Is the Eastern Europe consumer ready for X,Y, or Z product?" rather than reading large market research reports which do not specifically answer their questions.

Within Europe, there are several obstacles to the collection of published information (e.g. from newspapers, the media and journals). Following a detailed discussion of these obstacles, this paper discusses a methodology for the scanning, synthesis, translation and analysis of published information. Within this methodology, the paper is organized into eight parts as follows.

  1. Obstacles to the collection of published information within the EEC and on a global basis
  2. The Solution: the need for ongoing tracking systems for published information
  3. How to define your published information needs
  4. Sources of international business intelligence
  5. Design of the database
  6. Internal staffing versus out-sourcing
  7. Determining the cost/benefits of the system
  8. Strategic importance of these systems to the unification of Europe

 

This paper concludes with a discussion of how international and European research managers will experience an increasing need for market trend, competitive intelligence and new product activity information as new trade agreements evolve within and outside of the European continent. The paper also includes a discussion of research needs for Eastern Europe. In summary, the paper focuses on the development of new cost efficient systems to process this information, rather than utilizing older labor intensive methods.

The paper provides readers with a "how to" develop these systems along with the specifics for costs and staffing.

 

1. OBSTACLES TO THE COLLECTION OF PUBLISHED INFORMATION WITHIN THE EEC AND ON A GLOBAL BASIS

During the past year, we have seen a dramatic change in worldwide political and economic events. With the eruption of the gulf crisis, the demise of communism and the subsequent liberation of several Eastern Bloc countries; the demand for access to credible worldwide busi-ness and political information has increased. European research professionals are now asking themselves: "How can I provide management with accurate and timely answers to their inter-national information requests?"

Each country within and outside of the EEC has a wealth of information, or business intelligence, which is reported in their daily newspapers, general business journals and various industry and market publications. The challenge is to capture this information on a timely basis, translate the information, and synthesize and digest the information which can be used for mar-ket intelligence or research briefs, newsletters or reports.

 

1.1.The Language Barrier

First and foremost, the research professional, regardless of the country in which they are located, will be faced with language barriers throughout the world. While English is becoming the accepted language for business throughout Western Europe, the research professional is faced with the challenge of capturing information from the following worldwide geographical regions:

  • USA and Canada
  • Western Europe (including Scandinavian countries)
  • Eastern Europe
  • USSR
  • Mexico, Latin America, South America
  • Middle East
  • Far East
  • Australia

 

Even within these geographical regions, the diversity of languages can be complex, such as in Western Europe. This challenges the research professional to either increase his or her knowledge and fluency in other foreign languages or to locate information providers and/or commercial database vendors who offer translated information. This paper will focus on a methodology from which the research professional can develop their own system to track international published sources. Lack of Commercial Databases which offer Business and Technical Information by Country or Geographical Region:

 

1.1.1. USA and Canada

The USA has a sophisticated, if not mature, market offering of business and technical commercial databases. Both Japan and Western Europe are rapidly following us with the recent development of commercial database offerings during the past three to five years. Fortunately for the USA and other English users, many of these databases are translated into English for access using English commands.

In Western Europe, some databases do exist in specific languages (e.g. German). As the software technology improves, we will expect that these databases will be able to be translated into the local language of the users. Various publishers of international directories are searching to locate the available local commercial databases available for access and it is anticipated that more of these global database directories will be published as the world moves toward a global economy.

 

1.1.2 Western Europe

Similar to the USA, Great Britain has a sophisticated market for commercial databases (both scientific and business). With the unification of Europe by 1992, however, the challenge is to develop databases which capture and report the local business and scientific information from each of the countries and then synthesize and digest the information into a structure which can offer the information as a Western European segment. Within the EEC, however, select countries use sophisticated information reporting systems along with commercial database offerings. The user, however, is faced with the obstacles of differing telecommunications systems and networks. As the unification progresses, data reporting standards and telecommu-nications access to local country databases will be necessary to enable the information profes-sional to search local database information. Both Reuters and Datastar currently have the largest systems or networks to deliver European technical and business information.

In spite of the rapid growth of Western European databases and distributors, a significant amount of business information still resides in local market research firms or in corporate libraries. For example, local branch offices and affiliates of large European companies gather business information and provide it on demand to local or international management or just simply file the information in file drawers. This type of local intelligence is typically in the local language and is collected by a research professional. The research professional is faced with the challenge of developing a system which can capture this information and develop customized databases from the material.

 

1.1.3 Eastern Europe/USSR

The situation is more pronounced in Eastern Europe and the USSR. I term these regions as "virgin" territory for database development. Whereas Western Europe has had a sophis-ticated structure for research and information reporting or publishing, Eastern Europe and the USSR have had to rely on state controlled agencies to gather and collect data (scientific and business). Despite this fact, local market research firms and state agencies have had some type of data reporting methodology even without the technology.

In some countries, these local "intelligence networks" are quite sophisticated and the challenge is to locate these firms and to develop a business relationship whereby the information can be automated and disseminated to worldwide users. Clearly, the development of databases from these countries will be slow as these countries are still undergoing economic and political changes. Until the reporting and publishing systems improve in several of these countries, the integrity of the published material will continue to be questioned.

 

1.1.4 Mexico, Central America, South America

Similar to Eastern Europe and the USSR, this region of the world has not had a sophis-ticated publishing or research network. While some government agencies collect and publish data, local business intelligence (e.g. industry, market and competitive data) is lacking. Once again, the challenge is to develop databases from credible sources. One of the best sources for local market intelligence is from the local affiliate or distribution offices in this region of the world. The challenge is to motivate the local offices to forward the information to a centralized library for input into the corporate intelligence system.

It is important that this region of the world does not possess the plethora of business publications such as in the USA or Western Europe from which to scan, research and abstract the material. Therefore, the research who requires information from Latin America will have to depend more on local intelligence gathering for input into their system.

 

1.1.5 Far East

As mentioned previously, Japan has the most sophisticated systems and commercial database products in the Far East. While they have been long time users of European and USA databases and reports, they have recently expanded the distribution of their databases (translated into English) to the USA and European Community. Other countries such as Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are making strides to develop commercial databases and open up distribution of other international databases into their country. Here again, much of the existing data is not in electronic format nor is it is published material. Similar to Eastern Europe, much of the valuable information is in the affiliate offices and local libraries. The challenge is to capture this information on a systematic basis and disseminate it throughout an organization.

Several large market research firms have valuable data in Australia. During recent years, Australia has made strides to use and disseminate electronic information. With the increased use of telecommunications technology, it is expected that the research professional will be able to locate strategic market information from this region of world either through electronic commer-cial databases or published global market intelligence directories.

 

1.1.6 Fragmentation of the Information


As we begin the 90s, research executives must be able to view their competition on a worldwide basis. Specifically, they must have rapid access to translated, digested and analyzed information. More importantly, the information must be credible. While Western Europe research executives have been gathering information and analyzing their own domestic markets over the past four decades, they are now faced with the fragmentation of published information on a worldwide basis.

We suggest that research professionals approach organizing their research information by geographical region, by industry, by market, by products and by competitors. While this may appear to be a simplistic approach, databases can be built which can systematically obtain the information from local affiliates and can detect "holes" in the data.

 

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