Introduction

Audience: This short research guide was created for students in BUS 478 (and other courses) who sometimes get assignments about analysing the strategic positions of companies.

Goal: My main focus with this guide is to lead you to a few key databases that are highly likely to be useful for your assignments, as well as to help you understand what types of information might and might not be published. 

There are, of course, many other databases, and no single resource is perfect. I've provided links to other relevant guides, each full of additional sources you could try. Explore further if the first sources don't have what you need!

News

   Businesses and their environment are constantly changing, and any strategic perspective on a company is, by definition, looking forward into a world that is largely unknown.

Many of the sources on this page look backward at what a company has already done. To analyse a firm's strategic position and recommend adjustments, you must also check news sources for a sense of what is changing today and in the near future.

 

   Screen capture of the title slide of video: Actions vs Words: Understanding a Company's Strategies Using News Sources.Start with Factiva to search in thousands of news publications at once, including many business-focused ones such as the Wall Street Journal.

Watch this short video to learn more about the role that news articles play in researching company strategies. Note that the video includes some useful Factiva search tips – be sure to watch all the way to the end!

This blog post also mentions one of the main Factiva search tips: the use of pre-developed "Factiva Expert Searches" to find news about strategic and competitive intelligence topics such as M&A activity and product announcements.

For more on the value of news as a powerful business information source, and to learn about additional great news sources, check out this blog post.

Company information

   Your assigned companies will all be publicly traded firms, which makes it much easier to find at least some published information about them.

Nevertheless, you will inevitably encounter cases where the information you want (e.g., sales of a specific brand from a company with thousands of products) is not available. Remember that you can often make inferences and estimates based on information about the industry, key competitors, and market & consumer trends.

Not everything you hope to find will be stated explicitly!

 

   Start with S&P Capital IQ to find financial data, lists of subsidiaries and products, M&A activity, strategic alliances, and much more about both companies and industries. This screen capture will give you a better sense of the range of information available in "CapIQ."

You'll need to register for an S&P Capital IQ Account before accessing the database. See this post for details.

You may also want to watch some videos as well as browse the guides and tips in S&P's Academic Resource Center  to learn more about the database.

For additional sources with company financials and profiles, see my Company Information research guide.

Industry overviews

   Understanding the industrial context of a company – the major competitors, demand drivers, barriers to entry, degree of consolidation, etc. – is important if you want to understand and affect the position of a company within that industry. 

 

   Start with IBISWorld Industry Reports for reports on a broad range of industries in Canada, the USA, and China. For example: Commercial Banking in the US.

Be sure to also explore the Canada and US Business Environment Profiles in IBISWorld. These profiles provide insight into the key drivers that have a material affect on the performance of many industries. Topics covered range from exchange rates to obesity to weather conditions.

Read this blog post for more on IBISWorld via the SFU Library.

For additional sources of this sort, see my research guide to Industry Surveys.

Market analysis & data

   Detailed information on the sales of specific products is very valuable to companies. As a result, it's often either not published, or only available for a high price. 
 
Fortunately, some market research firms sell their data and analysis to academic institutions at a discounted price (see below), but you should still expect to have to work with broader or related information in many cases: even the best marketing databases don't cover every topic.

 

   Start with Passport for information on the markets of FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods) & consumer services in many countries. 

Passport includes data on market sizes, brand shares, distribution methods, and much more. Also search for reports (analysis) on key consumer trends and on company strategies.

   Check Frost & Sullivan for analysis of the markets for emerging technologies. See this blog post for more on F&S. Note that the rules on downloading PDFs from F&S have been changed; you should now have access to PDF versions of most reports in the database.

For more market data/analysis sources, try my Market Research and International Market Research guides.

Miscellaneous 

   No database will cover everything, which means that there are always going to be gaps.

In most such cases, you will need to gather related information on the industry, competitors, trends, etc., then use that information as the foundation for assumptions and estimates. Sometimes, though, even that related information can be difficult to find.

If you are having trouble filling some of your information gaps, try the database below...

 

   Statista: A portal that integrates statistics from thousands of sources.

You can think of Statista as sort of a Google search engine focused on useful statistics, but without the many irrelevant hits and ads!

And, like Google, it can be great at unearthing odd stats that you can't find elsewhere. For instance, if you were searching for market size data for toasters, the closest our Passport database would offer is "small kitchen appliances," but Statista finds toaster sales data in multiple countries and displays it in pre-formatted charts. 

Always follow Statista's links through to the original sources in case they offer additional useful information. For example, this Statista chart on toaster sales in the US came from page 48 of this industry magazine.

Statista can also often help you quantify trends (e.g., fintech) or gather deep data on company-specific sales (e.g., Under Armour) or on product types (e.g., sportswear).

Want to learn more about Statista? Here are the many blog posts in which I've mentioned it!

  Help

You are not alone! Here's a 5-step process to follow if you get stuck.
  1. Re-read your assignment to be sure you understand your instructor's expectations.
  2. Refresh your understanding of this sort of secondary research by watching this short video: Secondary Research for Business Decisions: Foundations for Estimates 
  3. Check for Help functions in each database. 
  4. Use our AskAway chat reference service to ask a librarian questions about research resources and strategies.
  5. Email me with details on what you are hoping to find and where you've been searching, and I'll try to suggest alternative ways to approach the problem. Note that this approach may involve a meeting (online), so may take a few days to arrange. Be sure to try the steps above first.

I hope these tips help.  Good luck with your research!

-- Mark
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Mark Bodnar
Business & Economics Librarian
mbodnar@sfu.ca