The Times have improved the way they report the scores with separate tabs for each round. They are still not ideal in various ways – not least in that the 4th round results aren’t up yet – but I have spent too much time this week staring at spreadsheets and daring them to blink to comment on scoring this week. Shane has sent me the aggregated scores and I’ll send them to anyone playing the game who emails me at astrea_gw at yahoo dot co dot uk.
Fantasy CEO or Fantasy Marketing?
It occurred to me this week to wonder if this is a game of Fantasy CEO we are playing, or is it Fantasy Market Research?
The analysis you go through and decisions you make in Marketing and Finance are relatively detailed compared with what you do in Production. It is also glaringly obvious that IT is taken for granted. Now I find this interesting. This implies Marketing, Production and Finance strategies matter but that IT strategy is irrelevant, that it is not a business activity even. I live and work in IT so I find that rather depressing, and wonder if it’s a home truth.
There could be any number of reasons for this. Maybe business studies teachers and management lecturers don’t understand IT. Maybe market analysis can be simplified in a way that production can’t. Maybe MSI’s main customers in business schools are more interested in Marketing than in IT, Production, Engineering and the other Techie stuff. In fairness the Times haven’t enabled the Total Quality Management and concepts around production could be worked through there.
In the late1990s, the netgeist started claiming that IT strategy is the strategy: this can be argued very strongly in the case of companies like Amazon and eBay, and it is often forgotten that decisions around IT were a sub-plot in Enron’s final chapter. I get my veggies online from an organic farm and the rest of my groceries are delivered by Tescos which shows the wide range of businesses who have moved into on-line sales. So I buy into the idea that IT strategy is the strategy, but I’ll admit that I’m biased.
A lot of IT decisions seem doctrinal anyway: some advocate getting all your software and hardware from one vendor such as, say, IBM, to pick the one remaining candidate at random. In theory everything works together and it’s the vendor’s problem if it doesn’t. Others believe you should cherry pick the best and then mix and match, getting your HR software here and your Financial software there and stitch it all together. Some believe in “off the shelf” and others believe in “bespoke”. Yes, in some circumstances one approach is better than others but you get my drift.
It is tempting to come to the judgemental conclusion that we are losing our manufacturing edge in the West because our business studies classes and business schools focus on Marketing at the expense of Production and we are turning into a hemisphere of shop-keepers. I think it’s got more to do with sweatshops and containerised shipping myself, but losing our expertise in Production does not help. We should be automating and manufacturing locally even if the factories are run by half a dozen people and we won’t be able to do that if all we know is how to spend a promo budget.
All of this is irrelevant to the Round 4 Annual Report, but having spent the first couple of weeks thinking how complicated and detailed the simulation is, I thought it worth noting some of its limitations.
Well I was rather cocky when I pressed the “submit” button on Friday, but I’m feeling a lot less smug now I’ve got my reports for this round. I’m still pants at forecasting it seems – so much so that failed to predict how much cash I’d need and ended the round needing an emergency loan. Having been overly cautious in the first three rounds, I wasn’t cautious enough this round and I significantly over-estimated how many of my main Low Tech widgets I’d sell. How annoyed am I?
I thought I’d pushed through a barrier this week. When I looked at the pro forma balanced scorecard I found that my predicted score was much better than before, based on sensible decisions on forecasts I had worked out rather painstakingly. It is frustrating to find I am actually less skilled at the process of analysis and decision-making than before. I think it’s not just poor forecasting though, I think it is poor contingency planning too. Hey ho.
So what else have I learned so far?
I think I’ve finally realised that the advice about forecasting is just that – advice. I was trying to follow it as a process and getting frustrated with the vagueness of it all. Once I realised that they describe an art not a science I felt happier. Mind you it’s an art I obviously haven’t mastered. In real life I’d like to think it’s nearer a science, otherwise how can I possibly take people who work in Marketing seriously?
I’m getting more comfortable using the tool itself, which makes using it quicker and slicker.
More usefully, I’m getting a more intuitive understanding of the balanced scorecard, (see previous post) and beginning to understand the pros and cons of the different ways of financing a company.
Or at least I thought I was doing all these things until I got this rounds results. Still, I’m buggered if I’m letting one bad round put me off. It’s worrying that I am going to be so extremely pushed for time over the next two weeks.
Next week I plan to email some of the visitors to this site and asking them how they play the game – how long they spend on it, how much relevent experience they already have, how much is new, stuff like that. If I get any replies I’ll pull out some extracts and publish them here, though possibly not until the week after next depending on other commitments and time.