Matthew W Ford
"The most valuable commodity I know of is information. Wouldn't you agree?"
--Gordon Gekko (Wall Street)
Information Resources (Updated 02/24/2007 06:43 PM)
Effective managers develop processes for obtaining information from their environments. Most students need lots of work in developing information resources. Part of the problem, ironically, has been massive strides in the effectiveness of search engines such as Google. Students tend to rely WAY too much on search engines. This can be a mistake for a number of reasons, including a) many website info sources highlighted by Google searches are chock full of subjective opinion (rather than balanced analysis) and not well respected, and b) many of the most respected, reliable information sources (magazines, journals, etc.) are not digitized or open for public access.
Since you will be using this information in analysis and decision-making processes, and will often need to cite your sources, you need to connect to information resources that are viewed as legitimate in the eyes of others.
On this page, I'll share what I do. Where do I go to obtain information related to business? Certainly not the only way but perhaps a data point for you as you craft your own info resource network.
General Business Magazines
As I've shared with some of you, making a commitment to routinely read a magazine or two that regularly reports business news and trends has made a HUGE difference in my professional development. For years, I've regularly read Business Week and Fortune because, in my view, they strike a nice balance of current news and forward looking trends. Most of these magazine digitize their content on a website in searchable format. Unfortunately, access to archives usually requires a subscription. The silver lining is that, as a student, you can usually subscribe to these uber cheap (here's a link to info to student subscription info for Fortune, for example). Am renewing my subscription thru this avenue myself.... General business magazines can be a great fundamental resource when doing research.
Business Week (magazine portion of website here). I like BW for its capacity to summarize an entire week of biz news. For me, way more efficient than reading the Wall Street Journal daily. Published weekly.
Fortune. If I had to pick one popular business magazine to read, it would prolly be this one. Since it's more forward-looking than BW, it provides better insight on future trends. Published every other week.
Economist. Published weekly in the UK. World view of the business world is MUCH different than what you'll find in US publications. Good for perspective.
Wall Street Journal. Classic business resource. Published daily. Personally, I find it too much to read daily and instead rely on other resources (e.g., Business Week) for a weekly summary. Still, WSJ citations are highly regarded, so get used to accessing it thru library data bases such as Lexis/Nexis (see Electronic Databases below).
Financial Times. Like the economist, published daily in the UK. Kind like a global WSJ. Like Economist, FT provides perspective not found in US publications.
Frankly, I'm not a real fan of newspapers as I feel most have strayed WAY too far away from objective news and fact reporting. Instead, they are chock full of biased editorial, often with seemingly political motives, and incapable of objective, balanced reporting. Nonetheless, many folks like to cite stuff from these sources. If you are so inclined, the big guys include New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune.
I have a strong interest in the interplay between finance and management. In my view, decision-makers are more effective when they possess financial market awareness. I spend considerable time chewing thru financial info each day.
Minyanville. Founded by my friend Todd Harrison on a vision to inform and educate, Minyanville is by far my preferred source for financial and market news. News and Views and Buzz and Banter provide me with a ton of market news and insight daily. Much of the news reported on the Buzz is sourced from well respected sources such as Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Reuters that I can click thru and follow. Essentially, my one stop shop for financial and market news daily. As some of you know, I'm deeply involved with the University of Minyanville section of the site (check out the UMV 100 series of lessons and Buzz Lite). Most of the site is open to public access (including most of the archives) although the Buzz is a premium product. Students can subscribe for a greatly reduced rate, and I can arrange a gratis look if you're interested.
StockCharts.com. Hard to get a feel for financial markets without graphs that show price behavior over time. These charts are often handy in analytical reports. StockCharts produces some of the best charts out there (here's a six month chart for General Electric) and, unless you need premium services, it's free.
Company financial reports. All public companies must file quarterly (10-Q) and annual (10-K) financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). You can obtain these reports thru a variety of sources such as a) company websites (see Dell's for example), b) Yahoo Finance (see Proctor & Gamble for example), c) EDGAR--the SEC's info repository.
Alternative asset classes. Alternative asset classes such as commodities (oil, wheat, copper, pork bellies, etc) and precious metals (gold and silver) are attracting interest. Why? For one, prices of commodities and gold are on the rise (higher prices attract a crowd). Also, these assets tend to have an inverse correlation to more 'conventional' asset class such as stock (see graphs here for an example). btw, an excellent (albeit lengthy) recent research report on gold can be found here. I frequent Kitco for current price info on gold, silver, commodities such as crude oil, and also currency exchange rates.
The government reports lots of economic data. Unfortunately, it's housed in different agencies. Here are some places I go:
Productivity in output per hour, Bureau of Labor Statistics (note the dinosaur icons on the right, particular the output per hour ones for manufacturing and for non farm business, are pretty handy). For those out there keeping score, these are 'partial factor productivities with respect to labor' reported as the percentage change year over year. Here's how I track the BLS productivity series.
Consumer Price Index, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Inventory to sales ratio, US Census Bureau
GDP, Bureau of Economic Analysis
International economic data, World Bank
FRED. This is the Federal Reserve Economic Data managed by the St Louis Fed. Big repository of economic data going back decades. You can only get graphs, though (not tables of numbers). Still can be useful. For example, check out this graph of M3 money supply (can you say inflation???).
Many times you'll have projects where it would be nice to have some info specifically tied to a particular industry or profession. Most industries and professions publish trade magazines at least monthly. You can search for them in the Steely Library journal list here. For example, if you're wondering if/where Steely has access to Quality Progress, the trade publication of the American Society for Quality, type it in and you'll find that QP is available in the ABI/Inform electronic database which can be accessed thru Steely (see Electronic Databases below).
Professors do a ton of business related research that gets published in academic journals. Most are written for academic peers rather than for practicing managers, so they can be difficult to understand (see this example from a 'well respected' author, for example ;-). Every now and then, however, you may want to venture into these journals to access findings from rigorous research. These are best accessed through searchable databases (see below). There are literally hundreds of titles out there. Here, let me share a few of my fave journals in disciplines I traffic in:
General management. Top tier: Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management, Strategic Management Journal. Lower tier: Mid-American Journal of Business, Journal of Change Management, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Management Inquiry.
Operations management. Journal of Operations Management, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Production & Operations Management, Quality Management Journal, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Management Science, Decision Sciences Journal.
Entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Journal of Small Business Management.
Finance and economics. Journal of Finance, American Economic Review, Journal of Behavioral Finance.
Practical orientation. Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, California Management Review, Interfaces, Business Horizons.
Many of the above sources can't be 'googled' because they are housed in proprietary databases. Did you know that you have access to many of these data bases thru Steely Library??? Here are some categories you might find useful:
Business specific. A ton of resources here, including many I've yet to use. Two I've used a lot are Business Source Premier (EBSCO) and ABI/Inform as they yield many full text articles. However, there are others. Looking for case studies on management practices such as supply chain or quality mgt? Then check out Business and Management Practices link. A ton of newpapers, magazines, and trade journals are available in Academic Search (Lexis/Nexis--get familiar with this one) and Business Dateline.
There are a treasure trove of these data bases at the library. I'd encourage you to wade thru them and find resources that work for you. These e-databases are truly an underappreciated resource by most students and faculty alike.
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