Book Review: Research on Main Street
Despite the fact that Marcy Phelps’ Research on Main Street is not necessarily written for a procurement audience, it offers invaluable advice as well as links to the resources required to carry that advice out. The idea of ‘local’ is not limited to the location of the researcher, but rather the information being sought. Another way of looking at it is point-point information, highly specific to a business need and detailed enough to motivate a decision.
The book itself is action-oriented, with a fair balance of advice on research techniques and processes and information on sources. The accompanying website, ResearchonMainStreet.com, provides updated links to all of the sources listed in the book and more.
From a procurement perspective, better market research skills can be applied in a number of ways:
- Identifying new or alternative suppliers of a product or service being sourced,
- Learning enough about a product or market to build a more effective RFx, and
- Validating the accuracy of information from suppliers.
Phelps’ chapter on ‘Avoiding Shady Characters’ makes perfectly clear the risks associated with not being appropriately critical of all third party information, whether it is from a supplier, a blogger or an analyst. Vetting the source as well as finding additional sources to corroborate or contradict the information in hand are both necessary steps. Phelps provides a grounded perspective on how to separate fact from opinion and what to do when the search results just aren’t relevant to the task at hand.
Not to be overlooked is the search for sources as well as information or answers. In some cases, as the author points out in her chapter on ‘Packing the Essentials’ the best source is a person. The value of a trusted colleague or member of a professional network should not be underestimated. Procurement professionals have always been hesitant to share too much information with people outside of the organization, holding fast to the belief that knowledge is power. There is still an advantage to be found in possessing critical information, but the risks associated with not taking steps to gain missing information are dangerously high.
The case examples from additional writers as well as clearly titled chapters and subsections makes the book a fast but interesting read. Although the goal is to enable researchers of all backgrounds and skill levels to locate and qualify granular information through web searches, the techniques and sources may be applied at all levels of business motivated research.
For more on the importance of market research to procurement, I recommend:
The Cottrill Research Blog, written by Jeanette Jones – a research professional with a specialization in procurement’s need for market intelligence-- Kelly Barner, Buyers Meeting Point
Webinar Notes: Leveraging Information to Develop Sound Risk Management Strategies, presented by IASTA, ISM, and Lexis Nexis (November 2013)
Market Driven Procurement: Bringing the Future into Focus, a Buyers Meeting blog Post based on the eSourcing Wiki
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