Many of the visitors to the MBendi website and subscribers to our E-mail news are corporate executives or the knowledge managers who provide these executives with the information they need to make decisions.

While the media regularly publish articles on how consumers and investors use the Internet and even on how the operational levels in companies are using B2B services to link up with suppliers and customers, very little has been written about how executives and managers are using the Internet as part of their decision making process.

In simple terms, there are five main steps to any executive decision: scan the environment and identify the opportunity; conduct a preliminary investigation; appoint a team; conduct a detailed feasibility; and implement the decision.

Where does the Internet fit in? The simple answer is “not well” right now. There are any number of E-mail news services and millions of websites out there. But they aren’t integrated to provide an efficient service to the decision maker and the quality of the information is often questionable.

In this section of our website we discuss how the Internet could be used in executive decision making and then describe how MBendi’s services are increasingly being used by executives in organizations large and small.

An executive once described MBendi as a “Virtual Corporate Planning Service” and that’s probably the closest description to what we do, not surprising since many of the founders of MBendi have their roots in strategy consulting, corporate planning, development of executive decision support systems and interaction with all the stakeholders involved in the strategic decision making process.

Top of Page Internet Communities
The diagram shows the major audiences using the Internet. The largest population by far is made up of consumers. This is the area where the first major growth in Internet usage took place and it continues to be the center of much media attention, particularly sites such as Yahoo, E-Bay, Amazon and Napster in the International arena, and M-Web, Africa Online and ABSA in the African market. Because entry barriers were relatively low and investor funds plentiful, it is also the area that has seen the greatest competition resulting in many company failures and investor disillusionment. Service provider revenues have been largely derived from advertising, online shopping, travel bookings, and gambling and other forms of paid entertainment. Although the consumer population is very large, the spending power per individual is limited.

The second wave of websites targeted the high net worth private investor and coincided with fundamental changes in the global investment infrastructure as exchanges and brokerages globalised and institutional investors became more active in conducting their own research and trading activities. Because of the cost of developing or licensing trading software and providing quality research to attract clients, the barriers to entry were higher than for consumer websites but the result was still a highly competitive arena of low margins, with free research often used as the carrot to investors. While the share indexes on the various exchanges climbed, these businesses showed a semblance of success, but this evaporated when share prices plummeted in 2000. Companies such as E-Trade and Charles Schwab remain the leaders in this arena, with exchanges playing catch-up in order to retain a central role in the distribution of prices and investor related information and in ensuring full market transparency.

The year 2000 also saw the rise – and fall – of Business to Business websites and extranets targeting the sales people and purchasing staff in the operations community within companies. The players included companies such as Chemex, Commerce One, Quadrem and Ariba. While major corporations were initially keen to sign up with marketplaces, the difficulty of any one marketplace in establishing a dominant position led corporations to have second thoughts about wholehearted participation with the result that all the major (and many minor) players face uncertain futures.

To date there have not been many Internet services aimed at managers in companies. The most effective of these have been websites provided by the World Bank and governments aimed at promoting international trade and investment. The Internet has also been extensively used to find new suppliers.

At the other end of the spectrum from the consumer is the executive decision maker in business or government. This group is very much the smallest Internet community, even when corporate advisors are included. However it is also the most influential, making decisions that completely dwarf those made by consumers in size, scope and value. To date, there have been very few Internet services aimed at this group. In the rest of this document, we have focus on this neglected area and how executives are using the net to identify, research and implement business opportunities.

Top of Page Executive Decision Making
The table below shows some of the major decisions made by executives in business and government. As organizations downsized during the 1990s, so internal professional, planning and analysis support staff were increasingly supplemented by outside consultants and the table also shows the external advisors typically involved in each decision.

Decision Acc Bank Legal Broker PR Mgmnt
Acquire a company X X X X
Analyse competitors X
Analyse market X
Appoint senior executives X
Benchmark one’s organization X
Build or close a facility X X X X
Change fiscal regime X X X
Communicate with stakeholders X X
Decide on Internet strategy X
Enter new country X X X X
Enter new market X X
Evaluate project X X X
Identify and evaluate acquisition target X X
Implement new government policy X
Introduce new government regulation X X
Introduce or close product line X X
List or delist company X X X X X X
Manage risk X X X
Participate in or exit joint venture X X X X X
Participate in project X X X X
Privatise or nationalize company X X X X X
Provide funding X X X X X
Respond to tender X X
Select new technology X
Set product pricing X
Start a company X X

The advisors shown have been categorized as:

Accounting firms such as Ernst and Young and KPMG, who now provide a much wider range of corporate advisory services
Merchant banks and providers of finance such as CDC Capital Partners and DBSA
Legal advisors such as Werksmans Attorneys and Cliffe, Dekker, Fuller, Moore Inc
Communications consultants such as McCann-Erickson

We have grouped a range of professional services under the heading of management consulting including risk management, executive recruitment, IT consulting, research of one sort or another, engineering and geological services and traditional management consulting.

While some of the larger consulting groups have expertise that spans a range of services, the Internet also allows companies to build virtual consulting teams comprising individual experts from around the world. As we move ahead, we can expect to see increasing competition between traditional service providers, who can provide an integrated set of services, but are disadvantaged by greater overheads and bureaucracy, and these virtual teams with their greater individual expertise and flexibility, but lack of a credible corporate identity.

There are generally five steps to making and implementing any of these decisions:

Identify the opportunity
Conduct preliminary investigation
Find and appoint professional advisors
Conduct detailed research and planning
Implement the decision
In the next section, we have taken each of these steps and identified how the Internet could be used as part of the decision making process.

Using the Internet for Executive Decision Making
Identify the opportunity
From the early morning radio report to the late night television news bulletin, executives are overwhelmed with information delivered in newspapers, meetings, reports, journals, letters, lunches and dinners, E-mail and even SMS messages to a cell-phone. Much of it is duplicated or irrelevant to the spectrum of decisions being made of the executive.

The ideal is to provide a regular short, but focused, summary that keeps the executive abreast of the industries and economies relevant to the business, but which can be scanned in a matter of a couple of minutes.

There are any number of E-mail news services available which are able to deliver news summaries tailored to the interests of an executive. Some are better than others, with the main challenge being to find a service that is both comprehensive in its coverage yet selective enough to only deliver what the executive requires.

These services mostly deliver news summaries and some opinion, though written predominantly by journalists rather than by professionals in fields such as taxation, law, engineering, geology and mergers and acquisitions who one would expect to have a better grasp of the issue being discussed.

Conduct preliminary investigation
From time to time the attention of an executive will be drawn to a news item which hints at a potential business opportunity. It might be news of a change in tax regime, funding for a new project or the activities of a competitor; whatever it is, the executive invariably wishes to do a quick investigation, preferably while the topic is hot.

Most of the news services allow the subscriber to mouse-click on the item of interest and bring up a web page with the full article which allows some more immediate research. But then the trail often peters out and the executive is left to go to a search engine which brings up a list of possible web pages, most of which are not relevant.

The ideal would be to link from the E-mail news summary to the full news item and then through to a database of directly related information.

Find and appoint professional advisors
If as a result of this preliminary research, which could have taken anything from five minutes to an hour, the executive wants to take the process further, then one approach would be to use internal corporate planning and support staff. However these are becoming rarer in corporations as they downsize and restructure their headquarters staffing and often they do not have the specific skills needed for the investigation in hand.

This is the time to call in expert advisers to help take the project forward. The question often is who? Should it be the tried and tested consultants you know but who might not have the specialist skills? Or the consultants from the blue-chip multinational consulting firms? Or the smaller expert with the perfect skillset who is difficult to find? Or is there a database or special report out there which would save you having to pay for something to be researched for a second time?

Here, the executive using the Internet is better off using one of the website directories rather than a search engine. Even so, the search can be somewhat hit or miss.

Conduct detailed research and planning
The internet should not be under-estimated as a source of quality information to build a feasibility study. There is plenty of information on economies and companies, though the latter is often so focused on the investment community or selling products that it does not necessarily give the information typically sought by an executive and the research team.

Implement the decision
The Internet plays little or any role here other than as an excellent and cost-effective means to publicise transactions. The Internet can also be used to seek business partners and to advertise tenders.

MBendi’s Services for Executive Decision Makers
Here at MBendi we provide a service that is getting closer to the ideal and in this section we describe how it can be used for effective executive decision making. In the next section we will give you a hint of how some executives are already using our services.

Identify the opportunity
If you subscribe to one of our E-mail news services, such as African Business News, you can get a daily or weekly E-mail newsletter containing information related to the countries and industry sectors of direct interest to you. The newsletter contains company press releases, summaries or news items and, from time to time, professional commentary provided by any one of the service providers we work with. And, what’s best, you can scan it in a minute and stay up to date.

We also provide extensive information on conferences and other industry events so executives can plan to meet their peers and experts in the field in order to keep up to speed.

Conduct preliminary investigation
But that’s just the start. From time to time, the subscribing executive will spot a potential nugget in their E-mail newsletter. A quick click of the mouse and they can see the full news item on the MBendi website and with just one more click, they can get a list of related pages on the MBendi website with background information to investigate the nugget further.

For many people, including researchers at some of the leading merchant banks, this related information on the MBendi website is good enough to provide the core of the detailed feasibility. However, being somewhat modest about the quality of our information, we would always recommend that you contact MBendi or one of the service providers we work with to assist in the detailed study and implementation phases.

Find and appoint professional advisors
If you scan your eye down our client list or search through our organization database, you will see that MBendi has access to a wide range of professional service providers. These service providers range from blue-chip multinationals to one-man centres of expertise. We try to ensure that decision makers can find the right service providers from our pages of background information quickly by providing details of case studies and expert summaries written by our clients.

Incidentally, we notice that executives quite naturally prefer to phone the managing director or senior partner of a service provider rather than send an E-mail to the unknown company “webmaster” listed on a website. This often makes it difficult for service providers to measure the effectiveness of their websites, so if you’re an executive phoning in, tell the service provider you found them on the Net!

Conduct detailed research and planning
The MBendi website and those of several of our clients provide a rich information resource that can be used as part of the detailed research.

Implement the decision
MBendi provides a range of services that can be used during the implementation phase. These arrange from using our Business Opportunities section to advertise for business partners; Employment Space to find new professional staff from the hundreds of thousands of people who use our website each month; to advertising tenders on our Tenders Space. From our analysis of our website traffic, we believe that the greatest use made of the resource is to find partners, be they investors, customers, suppliers or JV partners.

So, we, with the help of our clients, are getting closer to the support system needed by busy executives and their planning assistants.

Examples of Executives using MBendi’s Services
Here are some examples, gleaned from MBendi statistics files and anecdotal evidence, of executives who have used MBendi’s Internet services for decision making purposes:

Mining Company – entering African Country:

A major North American mining company, having taken over a smaller company with a highly prospective project in Africa, used the MBendi website to investigate how to conduct business in the African country where the project was located. Having accessed MBendi’s page on the country, it then viewed the advertorial provided by one of our clients and E-mailed the client asking how the client could provide assistance to the proposed new mining operation.

Chemical Company – takeover of African company:

A large international chemical company used the MBendi website in order to gain information on a JSE listed African chemical company, the sectors in which it operated and its competitors’ activities. Not long after using the MBendi website, it acquired the African company.

Merchant Banks / Law firms – feasibility studies:

Each year MBendi is invited to present a paper or chair sessions at UNCTAD’s conference on investing in the African energy sector. This conference is usually well-attended by African energy ministers and representatives of energy companies. Senior executives from merchant banks and law firms in Europe and the USA who attend these meetings and introduce themselves to MBendi speakers clearly use the MBendi website as a key reference source in preparing feasibility studies for projects, privatisations and African investments.

Two merchant banks recently confirmed that they use the MBendi website extensively for background research on projects in the resources industry, particularly in Africa.

Drilling Company – African business plan:

The newly appointed head of the African arm of an American offshore drilling company prepared his business plan from the MBendi website. He was able to identify countries in which to operate; target potential clients; understand the regimes; and select professional service providers in each country.

Major International Finance Agency – shortlist suppliers:

MBendi was recently approached by the agency to prepare a short-list of telecommunications suppliers to support the agency’s 30 African offices. MBendi did this by advertising the opportunity on the website, in the monthly MBendi E-mail newsletter and in an E-mail sent to all the IT companies on the MBendi website. Working with African research partners, Whitehouse & Associates, who also had a database of potential suppliers, a short-list of interested suppliers was drawn up in a short time. Client feedback indicates the project met its needs.

Mining executive – identifying opportunities:

A senior mining executive in a large mining company subscribes to MBendi’s E-mail Mining News, has reported finding the news quickly keeps him in touch with what is going on in the industry around the world each day, while the ability to click on an item for more information is very useful for topside investigations of potential opportunities triggered by the news. A senior geologist based in the USA subscribes to MBendi’s E-mail mining news and clicks through to the site on average once every two days.

Getting Started
The best way to get started on the path to using MBendi for effective executive decision making is to subscribe to one of our E-mail news services.

Shaun Bakamoso

Greetings. I'm Shaun Bakamoso, and I'm thrilled to be your guide through the dynamic world of business news in South Africa here at With a passion for staying informed and a keen interest in the ever-evolving landscape of business, I've dedicated myself to providing you with timely, insightful, and comprehensive coverage of the latest developments impacting the South African economy. / Instagram