As it appeared in the Daily Nation on April 4th, 2017
Research is widely used in business. Smart companies obtain different kinds of data and analyze it in order to make informed decisions. Some business leaders that I have interacted with here in Kenya are quite familiar with research. They recognize its benefits and are therefore making good use of it. However, many others in business are unaware of the benefits that their businesses could get from carrying out research or using readily available data at their disposal. This is despite the fact that research is one of the areas that most college graduates have gone through during their school years.
There are different kinds of business research. Most of the data obtained during research may be from secondary sources or primary data may be collected directly using techniques such as surveys. Financial information, customer or consumer feedback, industry data, competitor data and data regarding a country’s demographics or economic outlook form the bulk of the data used in business. Research teams within organizations, research agencies outsourced to carry out research and even management teams continue to look out for data that would improve businesses performance. Some companies such as those in the pharmaceutical and food manufacturing industries are very well known for making good use of research. Service industries such as retailers, financial services providers and airlines also carry out significant amounts of research and use the data at their disposal to inform decisions.
Today more than ever before, data analytics and the use of market intelligence has made inroads across almost all industries especially in the developed world. Many smart companies have an organized and systematic effort to collect useful data and to interpret it to inform business decisions. A focus area in market research is consumer behaviour. In particular, emphasis has been on what consumers need, how they feel, their preferences their spending habits among others. Market research is important because besides decision making it helps to understand consumers and the industry at large.
It has been exciting being part of an initiative to urge the academia and the industry in Kenya to work together in research. This is because a disconnect between academic research and industry research exists. Many students and scholars at universities are not helping solve industry problems. Collaboration with industry in research is possible and is evident in many top universities across the globe. By moving beyond basic research that increases knowledge to applied research that solves specific problems or that results to introduction of new products and new processes, we can find solutions to some of the problems we face today. In the developed world researchers at the universities and industries, having been working hand in hand for decades. Whilst we are making a step in the right direction, making the most out of research into the future will depend on whether college students take research more seriously. It is unfortunate that entrepreneurs have set up shop to assist university students write research projects. By so doing students fail to interact closely with research and to apply it later in their career life.
Getting better is every business owner’s and business leader’s desire. I believe we can work together and move our businesses a notch higher by use of applied research.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy