Business Research Essay

This essay has a total of 3213 words and 13 pages.


Business Research




Introduction and Overview
Businesses in today's economy often face challenges that are not readily apparent until,
more often than not, the costs of those challenges become critical. A businesses ability to
identify the fundamentals of these challenges and act accordingly to squelch the damage that has
been done while bouncing back is paramount to the businesses success. This paper will identify
three key areas in identifying and repairing the critical problems that can occur. More
importantly, this paper will also identify several fundamentals within the three areas. The paper
will examine some sub levels of (1) analysis, (2) cost, and (3) research. Additionally, this paper
will discuss the measures that several companies took in these areas to show special examples of
these principles in use.
Analysis
Within the scope of needs assessment and analysis there are many building blocks that
complete the full picture. One such block is comprised of the levels of analysis. And within the
levels of analysis there are three main points. These points as reported by Goldstien (1993);
McGehee and Thayer (1961); Moore and Dutton (1978); and Sleezer (1991) are (1) organization,
(2) job or task, and (3) individual or person (as cited by Holton). The following paragraphs will
discuss each of these three points by defining and demonstrating their context within analysis.
Organization
Holton (1996) suggests that the three-level approach to needs assessment suggests that
assessors should start by analyzing the organization to determine what results are not occurring
and should be, and what organizational factors are contributing to that condition. This could
easily be interpreted as examining the issue on a macro level to determine if the organization is
meeting its goals and objectives or not.
A good example of this level of analysis put to good use is demonstrated by Kmart in the
late 1950's. In a case study by Hartley (1997) Kmart and the two year analysis of their market
performed by Harry B. Cunningham (later President of Kmart). In this instance Cunningham
studied the overall market and competitors while analyzing the Krieger (Kmart) organization.
This needs assessment eventually led Krieger to change its approach to that of the discount genre
and the first Kmart was opened in 1962.
Though the company had experienced a 34 percent decrease in profits between 1958 and
1962, the new venture called Kmart was an immediate success (Hartley 1997). Kmart would
grow from 216 stores in 1968 to 1,366 stores in 1978.
Task
Task analysis, as stated by Dessler (1997), is a detailed study of a job to identify the skills
required so that an appropriate training program may be instituted. By analyzing the task, a
company can determine a variety of methodologies for hiring, training, and forecasted outcome
for the task being analyzed. Additionally, effective task analysis enables a company to
determine what tasks need to be performed, and gives it the ability to gauge whether or not the
necessary tasks are indeed being performed.
A classic example of this is demonstrated by a needs analysis performed for General
Motors (GM) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) on the task analysis level. According to
Finison and Szedlak (1997), GM and the UAW formed a needs analysis team to identify and
correct several challenges in a production facility. The focus in this case was in the "blanker
area" of a metal fabrication plant and served as a pilot to other programs which would follow.
After examining the issues through a needs analysis, the team determined that the focus of the
needs analysis would be on training (Finison 1997).
By focusing in this area, new training was provided for the production operators. Finison
and Szidlak (1997) also noted that costs were minimal because the course was already offered in-
house. The results were improved quality and a 30 percent reduction in scrap rate. The overall
value was a savings of over $500,000 in the first year alone among other ancillary benefits.
Individual
At the individual level of analysis, a firm is essentially taking the other side of the task
analysis. By this, as written by Holton (1996), the firm or assessor should study individuals to
determine who needs learning to accomplish those jobs tasks. According to Dessler (1997),
verifying that there is a performance deficiency and determining whether that deficiency should
be rectified through training or through some other means is the basis of performance analysis.
Again, a good example of the individual level of analysis is demonstrated in the
GM/UAW case. In this instance, not only was a training program instituted for the task level,
there was a significant amount of energy placed on assessing the needs of the individuals already
in place within this area. Finison and Szidlak (1997) demonstrate that GM and the UAW
immediately involved personnel from the "blanker area" to determine what skills were needed to
effectively promote increased production and decreased waste in this area. As stated earlier in
this paper, those objectives were met early on in the overall process.
Cost
Cost Analysis is a type of analysis many businesses use to determine what costs are
associated in a particular project in conjunction with the benefits that will be derived from it. As
put by Marrelli (1996), cost analysis consists of two approaches: cost-benefit analysis (CBA), for
evaluating benefits; and cost-effectiveness analysis, for evaluating results. A third point covered
will be Return on Investment Analysis (ROI). Additionally, this paper will demonstrate several
uses of these fundamental principles of Cost Analysis.
Cost-Benefit Analysis
What is Cost-Benefit Analysis, or "CBA?" As stated by Erekson, Shaha and Swenson
(1996), CBA's purpose is to weigh expected costs in relation to anticipated benefits,
opportunities, or improvements in effectiveness. Essentially this means that if an organization
were to initiate a project, it would first investigate the costs associated with it, then would
proceed if the benefits actually outweighed the costs associated with it.
A good example of the use of CBA is demonstrated in a case within the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA). This is a case where the EPA uses "benefit-cost analysis" to aid in
setting policy for acts pertaining to environmental protection. According to Farrow and Toman
(1999), the EPA has developed a strategic plan as a part of its GPRA (Government Performance
and Results Act) program, in which benefit-cost analysis has its own chapter. In this case, the
EPA examines a reduction in the risk of premature death as one of the principal benefits of many
of their environmental measures (Farrow & Toman 1999).
Cost Effective Analysis
Another part of cost analysis is cost-effective analysis (CEA). CEA, as defined by
Goldston (1998), provides a means for identifying the most effective use of limited resources to
assist decision-makers about whether a specific program or an alternative one is worth the
investment of resources when compared to other uses to which the same resources could be
allocated.
Often the medical and biotech industry utilizes the methods of CEA to determine the
feasibility of certain programs or prevention methods. The National Center for Environmental
Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, utilized a CEA to find the cost effectiveness
of general and targeted strategies for residential radon testing and mitigation in the United States
(Ford et al 1999). In this case, the study modeled a decision tree of five possible alternatives.
After careful analysis, it was concluded that other means should be explored. As stated by Ford,
"these data suggest possible alternatives to current recommendations." The study concluded that
the costs were too great to mount an effective campaign.
Return on Investment (ROI)
The final factor being examined is the Return on Investment (ROI). This is where the
accountable returns are gauged to determine if the proposed program is worthwhile. According
to Dué (1996), the ROI method is simple to use, but it does not take into account the time value
of money or the risk of not receiving the benefits required from the system. Because of this,
many organizations are attempting to utilize new technologies to give businesses the tools
necessary to better forecast ROI.
For instance, according to Blankenhorn (1999), DoubleClick, Inc., a web based
marketing network has put forth a program that enables a company to forecast its online
marketing ROI. It is their focus in this area to develop a suite of products that are driven on the
premise of ROI. This enables an advertiser to use the Internet medium to build a stronger
advertising base while enhancing their ROI.
Research
The final category is research; research is paramount to the success of any program,
campaign or organizational change process. It has even been said that "a problem well-defined
is a problem half-solved" (Erekson et al). Three key elements within research techniques are (1)
personal interviews, (2) focus groups, and (3) test marketing. And again, as shown in the past
two sections, there will be company examples showing where these practices have been used
effectively in an organizational setting.
Personal Interviews
Phillip Kotler states that personal interviewing can take two forms, arranged interviews
and intercept interviews. Arranged interviews are just that, interviews that are arranged with a
person or groups of people fitting a certain profile. Intercept interviews are generally interviews
held at random where people are stopped, perhaps in a mall or workplace and asked questions.
Overall, though, the internal workings of the process remain the same.
Interviews are generally conducted with a specific audience, and the questions are
generally open-ended. However, Newsom, Turk, and Kruckeberg state that this type of research
required highly trained interviewers and skilled analysis. By asking open-ended questions, the
interviewer has an opportunity to follow up each answer with a more probing question while not
contributing bias to the answers. Newsom sites an example of an organization trying to
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