I had the chance to sit next to a regional business librarian last night during a dinner and we had a long discussion about business research. I cued in on the fact that she did B2B research, notice that I said SHE DID THE RESEARCH! I always thought that librarians were talented and trained guides, but this lady would do research for you. We talked at length about the different data sets available for free, if you have a library card. All of which can be accessed from home. I am sure we were boring the rest of the table, but I found it quit fascinating. As a competitive analyst, we basically use the same tactics, techniques and procedures as research librarians. The methodology is the same; define the question, investigate, draw assumptions, challenge through more research, then form conclusions and finally report.
When it came to on-line tool sets, she was not as familiar with the vast array of databases one could tap to do business research. I started talking about my now hour and a half tutorial on the web and she pulled out a pad of paper and took notes, now that surprised me. I think sitting on all those resources on a daily basis got her into a rut of using certain resources in a certain order. We both concluded that research on private companies is the most challenging. Even using Hoovers or Duns and Bradstreet provided only clues to actual financials. I told her if I really wanted to know and had the time (that’s the catch–having the time) I would pull up contracts, look at award history, facility size, number of employees, etc.. and then I could derive a much finer grained level of detail.
At the end of about 2 hours, this is what I learned, systematic analysis is the same, whether you are a systems engineer, a competitive intelligence analyst or a business research librarian, systems analysis is the same.