It's amazing what you can find by searching the web -- if you know how to look.
I've been heads-down for the past few weeks on a client project, a strategic market analysis for an international business services firm. I've been researching available public sources of sales and technology trends in a variety of markets and services.
One of several areas relevant to my research is "content management." It is fascinating to see the changes that are going on in this field when viewed through different perspectives -- the technology, the impacted industries and business processes, the relationship to document management, the role of user generated content and taxonomies, the trend towards more infrastructure level management of unstructured data, and the impacts -- still evolving -- of social networking, social computing, and social media.
Content management, relationship management, and expertise management are all becoming intertwined both in the public web and the private web. Figuring out where the boundaries are so you can make informed business decisions about R&D, product development, and sales management is a challenge.
I've been aggressively pursuing a variety of web based research options as well as purchasing research documents in a few key areas. Access to a Gartner subscription has been quite useful also, though with this source, you really have to know what you are looking for in order to make effective use of such a vast network of analysts, documents, and data.
Here are a couple of random observations about this process:
- It's amazing what you can find available on the web, but if you need to do market projections, you need to REALLY dig for the details that are most relevant to the trends you are tracking.
- If you are doing an analysis and projections regarding a new service area, be prepared to tie estimates in some defensible fashion to known or documented trend data (say, revenue growth over time for various defined markets). Often good trend data ain't free and many markets have multiple sources.
- Make sure to use blog specific search engines to locate market specific data points such as prices, expenditures, and revenue since bloggers sometimes relay data they have picked up at conferences and meetings that will be useful. (Conference blogging will have an impact on this.)
- Sometimes you just HAVE to do original research; not everything is available "for free" on the web.
- Sometimes it helps to use a search engine such as Clusty that automatically classifies retrieved links into a variety of categories you can then quickly scan through.
- Try Google "advanced search" to narrow your search to specific file types; you'll be amazed at the variety of data you can find in .ppt (PowerPoint) files left over from some commercial presentations and conferences.
- Some vendors are still making people "jump through hoops" to get to their "white papers." Some ad-encrusted portal sites and aggregators, for example, still require signups, passwords and, in at least one case, password or key controlled access to downloaded Adobe PDF documents.
This last item, for anyone who is active in blogging, social networking, or social media, is a real eye-opener. Some companies actually make it difficult to get access to their advertising literature. In one case I had to download and install a new version of Adobe Reader (a time consuming process) and then go through document level security to read the white paper. (I've managed a "cold call" prospecting operation myself so I know and appreciate why they do this.) In another case my email address was repeatedly rejected when I signed up for test account. I was told "free email addresses are not accepted" (I use a paid Yahoo! account).
Individually these types of delays are minor. When you are doing a wide-ranging project and you need to locate and comb through many documents to see if they might have the data points you're looking for, the delays and annoyances add up.
Again, we're talking about advertising and marketing literature here. Why make it harder for potential customers or business partners to find out about your products or services?