Where do I start my research? (Part 1)

March 8, 2013

 Let’s say you’ve figured out what you data you need to find. Now what?

Before you start off digging for particular piece of data, stop and think about the data as if it were a commodity or product. By that, I mean think of it is something that is created, stored, transported, modified, distributed, and secured. The goal here is to understand how the particular data you are trying to obtain goes through its life-cycle. Your goal at this stage is not to figure out where you can get it, it is to figure out where it is. From there, you can figure out whether and how you can get it.

Let me be a little more specific with an example. Let’s say you decided to figure out your competitor’s costs for producing a competitive product. And also let’s assume that the competitor owns its own plant that produces this particular product. Knowing the cost of labor that plant could help you understand the actual costs embedded in that product.

This is not to ignore the cost of the building, but that is often an easier matter to work on, so I will cover later.

Back to labor costs. If our competitor’s factory is typical, it will have relatively standard wage and salary scales that apply to the people working there. So make that data your target.

That data is probably created by and stored at the human resources office at the factory and also at the human resources office at headquarters. The information is distributed to management at both locations. In addition, the employees know their particular wage or salary and probably have a pretty good idea of what relative scale applying to their job and their possible next position is. In addition, if the plant is unionized, the local will have full information on the wages.

So now we’ve identified the following as potential sources of this data: human resource offices, and the people that work there, as well as the people formerly worked there, plus current and former employees, and union representatives.

But it does not stop there. Depending on local labor conditions and agreements, the plant may post jobs with specifics on the wage or salary ranges in local newspapers, with local job centers, or state job training programs. In addition, if the plant is using state or local funds for job training, the contract may provide that the training covers the creation of jobs with certain minimum wage requirements. Each of these give you an insight into the issue of labor costs.

So locating this data is a matter first of determining its path and then only then determining where you have the best chance of getting some or even part of this data to accomplish your task. Only then should you begin to attack the problem of getting the data – now that you know where is likely to be.

2 Comments on “Where do I start my research? (Part 1)”

  1. […] Continuing on this subject, recently, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the federal regulator of securities markets, finally entered the modern world. The SEC indicated, in a case involving Netflix, that public companies could make significant announcements on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. […]

  2. […] the discussion of where to start research, I want to expand […]

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