Competitive Intelligence,Critical Thinking and Competitive Advantage have become the vital tools thatmake up the Leeds Beckett IT Strategy.
This report will critically analyse thecontribution of these tools and the effect they have on the success of the ITstrategy for the university.Competitive intelligence isdefined by Seena Sharp as “knowledge and foreknowledge about the entirebusiness environment that results in action” (Sharp, 2009). Whereas, Kahaner definescompetitive intelligence as “a systematic program for gathering and analysinginformation about your competitors’ activities and general business trends tofurther your own company’s goals” (Kahaner, 1998).
In Seena sharp’s definition shechose each word specifically for its meaning. She believes her definition isvital to achieving the best results when undertaking competitive intelligenceresearch. Knowledge in this context can referto the past, whereas foreknowledge points towards the future.
You must learnand understand knowledge in the past in order to use foreknowledge to connectto new information in the future. Foreknowledge looks forward for insight andestimates what is to come. The wordentire encompasses the wide range of components or factors that can impact abusiness. Looking at the entire business is necessary to understand thecompany’s industry or external contributing factors that can lead to success orfailure.
The difference between these twodefinitions of competitive intelligence is that Kahaner focuses solely on thegoals of the company and insists on a systematic approach which might mean thatthings are missed out when using the information to formulate a strategic plan,whereas Seena takes a more holistic view of looking at the business as a whole andtaking everything into consideration when analysis and using competitive intelligence.Sheena’s definition relates more towards a university because if management justlooked at the goals of the university and its competitors in isolation withouttaking into account the entire institution then it might produce a shortsighted strategic plan which could become risky and fail. Competitive intelligence can beused to improve and reduce the risks associated with strategic planning; whichcan benefit Leeds Beckett enormously. However, according to Susan E. Barrett,Historically, trying to put a “competitive intelligence infrastructure” inplace within a higher education institute has faced challenges and objectionsfrom both administrative and academic staff (Barrett, 2010). The reason thatcompetitive intelligence can benefit the university so much is because, Criticalintelligence methodologies can be used to analyse information that can helpwith making decisions and designing strategic plansNo commonly accepted definitionof critical thinking exists.
Edward M. Glaser definescritical thinking as “(1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in athoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’sexperiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and(3) some skill in applying those methods” (Glaser, 1941). Whereas Paul & Elder give a muchmore refined and straightforward definition of Critical thinking “criticalthinking is the art of analysing and evaluating thinking with a view toimproving it.” (Paul & Elder, 2009)These definitions show how differentacademics can interpret the meaning of critical thinking. Neither definition can be seen as the definitive,perhaps there will never be an agreed upon definition. The best way to gain anunderstand of critical thinking is to form your own opinion by reading avariety of definitions and applying critical thinking to situations such as theexample below.
Pearson produced a report,asking more than 400 HR professionals what skills their employees will need inthe next five years, critical thinking ranked the highest (Chartrand et al.,2013). Critical thinking skills are highly valued because according to theminiature guide to critical thinking a well-rounded critical thinker can thinkwith an open mind, seek out an alternative point of view, communicateeffectively with others to seek solutions to complex problems, and see possibleproblem that could arise in a project in advance (Paul & Elder, 2009). These skills are a major asset to LeedsBeckett because according to Nicole Fallon, in the long run the employees will notmake avoidable mistakes which need to be fixed therefore waste valuable time ormaking a decision that that gets rejected further up the management ladder. (Fallon,2014). Avoiding mistakes and time wasting will in turn save the universityvaluable money over time.
Another benefit for the university could be to employ”the elements of thought” see (appendix 2). By employing these elements, itallows staff to scrutinise, alter and fix conflicts, this in turn allows staffto become more adept at critical thinking while collaborating on creativesolutions to problems which benefit the university. In certain situations, it isimperative staff are excellent critical thinkers.
The blog business analystlearnings’ gives this example, an investor or someone else within theuniversity may require a resource or function to be included in the strategicplan that will not necessarily add any value to the university, they simplywish it to be included to aid their own convenience. Thinking critically allowsthe employee to establish an order for requirements starting with those thatadd value and finishing with that add little or no value to the business whichshould be given a significantly lower priority. (Anon, 2013) Critical thinkinghas played a vital role here by allowing the employee to see that there is a massivegap between what a client wants and what they actually need. Being criticalmeans separating the strategic plan up into added/optional functionality fromthe integral functions the system must perform.
One definition of a competitiveadvantage is: “is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumersgreater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefitsand service that justifies higher prices” (tutor2u, 2018). “There are over 150 universitiesin the UK” (Toone, 2014). The amount of universities has lead people to thequestion “do we have too many universities?” (Toone, 2014). Due to theever-increasing number of higher education institutions, it creates a verycompetitive market which creates demand for universities to gain competitiveadvantage in order to attract students. John S. Daniel states that universitiesare complex organizations; therefore, it is imperative that their overallcompetitive strategies are translated into specific steps, which can be takento achieve competitive advantage.
(Daniel, 1998).According to Michael Porter aneconomics academic there are two ways an organization can gain competitiveadvantage over its opposition, including “cost advantage” and “differentiationadvantage”. Cost advantage means a business provides the same goods andservices as its opponents, but for a cheaper price. Differentiation advantageis where a business offers better goods and services than its competitors(Porter, 1985). (Appendix 1).
According to Daniel, inMega-universities and Knowledge Media one of the ways universities can achievecompetitive advantage is through the incorporation of new technologies intotheir teaching (Daniel, 1996). The universities are hoping to achieve anadvantage on both the cost and differentiation fronts with technology.Technology can often cut costs drastically if utilised correctly. For example:the complete library database being available online allows students to accessit and anywhere in the world. This provides the flexibility to study at home whichsupports both regular and international students.
Furthermore, having digitalbooks means that student costs are drastically reduced because they do not haveto invest in a large number of books. Technology also allows the university toutilize differentiation advantage by creating USP’s (unique selling points)such as state of the art facilities like sorts science labs or computerforensics teaching rooms. As well as offering students products like the Leeds Beckett Virtual Learning Environment which allowsthe university to provide more courses than traditional teaching methods asthey can provide access to a number of online courses to be completed anywherewith an internet connection. In general, Universities acrossEngland and Wales are facing several operational and strategic challenges,including an increasingly competitive market which generated the need forsignificant efficiency savings. According to the Information Systems Strategyplan set out by Durham University, one way to make efficiency savings is toinvest in new initiatives and technology, and to make improvements to theuniversities information systems so they can be used much more efficiently (Durham,2011).
Recent research from the Butler Group suggests that “94% of organisationsview information as important to performance”. Regrettably, nearly 50% of those”have no clearly defined information strategy”. (Butler 2004),It is worth investing time and moneyinto creating an effective Information systems strategy as it can give a veryhigh return on your investment. According to Architecture and GovernanceMagazine, some Fortune 500 companies and government agencies have shown returnson their investment as large as 700% which is a very big monetary incentive toinvestment into an effective information systems strategy.According to a report produced by Monash university, thereare many obstacles facing Leeds Beckett University before it can even begin todevelop a comprehensive information systems strategy. Some of the possible problemsthat could arise are: complications regarding the kinds of information and theamount of data needed to build a successful information systems strategy.Because of the amount of data needed to start building the system, the lack of valuableinformation available for decision making could be drastically reduced.
(Treloar, 2005)According to a report produced by Monash university thereare some guidelines to understanding the development of any Information SystemsStrategy, a team at Monash university set out the following “InformationSystems Strategy principles” · “Corporate Importance”: Data is a valuableresource, and must be managed correctly. In general, university-wide data willbe managed centrally to avoid any conflict with data protection laws regardingthe sharing of personal data.· “User-Centeredness”: Information systems andservices should have the user and the tasks its must perform at its centre. Theend user should inform all aspects of the system and its design. If thecustomer/end-user is unable to navigate the system it will be completely obsoleteand unfit for purpose. · “Availability”: in an ideal world, all Informationwould be accessible to anybody who needs it.
However, that is not possiblebecause of data security rules and regulations as well as acceptable useguidelines. The best designers can do it make certain information available tothe correct people on any device.· “Staff and student involvement”: Throughout the differentstages of development and implementation of the information system strategyeverything should be as open, transparent and inclusive as possible. · “Productivity and efficiency”: Informationtravels though the university, it is important to regulate the way in whichinformation is managed. The strategies implemented to control the flow ofinformation should contribute to the productivity of members of the LeedsBeckett University community not hinder their productivity. (Treloar, 2005).These IT principles will support and enable theimplementation of the information management principles, as well as determinethe deployment of IT systems.