Most businesses dont have core competence in risk analysis

Written by Saikat Neogi | Updated: Dec 6 2009, 02:34am hrs
Christopher C Doyle, India head of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a B2B intelligence arm of The Economist Group, says risk analysis and forecasting help businesses validate assumptions and ensure that decisions are taken based on facts.In an interview to FEs Saikat Neogi, he talks about analytics, power of innovation and new challenges for businesses. Excerpts:

What are your key areas of research and what kind of analytics are most sought after by Indian companies

Our core service provides business enterprises with data and analysis on the business environment, risk analysis and forecasts, which help businesses understand their environments better and help them make more informed business decisions. This research can be delivered in two ways. First, through reports that are updated monthly, which cover over 200 countries and six key industries. Clients can subscribe to them for access to data and analysis on an annual basis. Second, through research which has been commissioned by clients specific to their business and customised to their needs.

How do you customise your analytics for divergent needs of client companies

For example, there was this Indian company interested in expanding into Africa, but had not decided on the country. We suggested to them that they use our country reports to narrow down the choice of countries to a final shortlist of three to five countries, and we would then do a customised research project for each of these shortlisted countries to help them interpret trends critical to their business, understand current and future risks impacting their business and make forecasts that would enable them to decide on which country or countries they should enter into. In addition, we do research for thought leadership, which enables our clients to position their brands as thought leaders in a particular space and helps them associate their brands with our brand as well as with cutting edge research on topics that are critical for business. Finally, we organise and provide content for high level conferences aimed at C- suite executives, CEOs and the government, seeking to add value through debate and discussion on business critical issues.

How can Indian companies strike a balance between short-term risk management and long-term growth plans in these tough times

It is important for companies to gain better visibility of their operations. This can be achieved through better and frequent internal reporting (sales, cash flow, inventory etc), changing or strengthening internal controls and processes, ensuring forward looking analysis and transparency in internal reporting, strong communication lines between business lines and functions, rigorous market intelligence tools and processes. Companies can also seek independent, third party expertise to understand potential risks. These measures will enable companies to establish robust risk management systems, which will complement long-term growth strategies and establish a balance between entrepreneurial risk-taking and prudent management.

How much do analytics help in crucial corporate decision making process and how much of it is happening in Indian companies

Every decision, whether tactical or strategic, has to be underpinned by assumptions about the current and future business environment, factors impacting the business and business risks. Without a rigorous analysis of data and a deep understanding of trends in the business environment and risks confronting the business, it is possible to make assumptions that may not be tenable over a period of time. Most businesses do not have a core competence in either risk analysis or forecasting, which puts them at risk in taking decisions that may not have been validated rigorously.

How has the role of a business leader changed after the global financial crisis and what are going to be long-term challenges and opportunities

Many businesses worldwide have lost a few years of growth as a result of the global economic crisis, which has set them back to levels of a few years ago. The recovery in most parts of the world, especially in western countries, is expected to be gradual, which means that it will take time to recover lost ground. In this scenario, business leaders will need to focus more on risk, transparency within organisations, communication, talent management and streamlining processes and operations internally. Externally, they will need to focus on development of new products and services, and innovation and identification of new markets for growth. In some cases, the business model may need to change; in other cases a strategy to diversify risk and pursue growth may be required.