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To understand the proper role of information systems one must examine what managers do and what information they need for decision making.
The chapter opens with a wide-ranging discussion of the functions of management, the various types and levels of decision that marketing managers must make. Clearly, information systems that claim to support managers cannot be built unless one understands what managers do and how they do it.
Such behavioural models stress that managers work at an unrelenting pace and at a high level of intensity.
Managers prefer speculation, hearsay, gossip in brief, current, up-to-date, although uncertain information.
Managers are involved in a complex and diverse web of contacts that together act as an information system.
Several studies have found that managers prefer verbal forms of communication to written forms. Despite the flood of work, the numerous deadlines, and the random order of crises, it has generally been found that successful managers appear to be able to control their own affairs. Mintzberg suggests that managerial activities fall into 3 categories: interpersonal, information processing and decision making. In the area of interpersonal roles, information systems are extremely limited and make only indirect contributions, acting largely as a communications aid in some of the newer office automation and communication-oriented applications. While information systems have made great contributions to organisations, until recently these contributions have been confined to narrow, transaction processing areas. Decision making is often seen as the centre of what managers do, something that engages most of a managers time. Strategic decision making: This level of decision making is concerned with deciding on the objectives, resources and policies of the organisation. For example, some years ago, a medium-sized food manufacturer in an East African country faced strategic decisions concerning its range of pasta products.
Management control decisions: Such decisions are concerned with how efficiently and effectively resources are utilised and how well operational units are performing. Operational control decisions: These involve making decisions about carrying out the " specific tasks set forth by strategic planners and management. The focus here is on how the enterprises should respond to day-to-day changes in the business environment. Within each of these levels, decision making can be classified as either structured or unstructured. The literature has described 4 stages in decision making: intelligence, design, choice and implementation. Intelligence involves identifying the problems in the organisation: why and where they occur with what effects. In practice, the stages of decision making do not necessarily follow a linear path from intelligence to design, choice and implementation. Thus, it can be seen that information system designers have to take into account the needs of managers at each stage of the decision making process. A marketing information system (MIS) is intended to bring together disparate items of data into a coherent body of information. Figure 9.1 illustrates the major components of an MIS, the environmental factors monitored by the system and the types of marketing decision which the MIS seeks to underpin. The explanation of this model of an MIS begins with a description of each of its four main constituent parts: the internal reporting systems, marketing research system, marketing intelligence system and marketing models. Internal reporting systems: All enterprises which have been in operation for any period of time nave a wealth of information.
The internal records that are of immediate value to marketing decisions are: orders received, stockholdings and sales invoices. By comparing orders received with invoices an enterprise can establish the extent to which it is providing an acceptable level of customer service. Marketing research systems: The general topic of marketing research has been the prime ' subject of the textbook and only a little more needs to be added here. Marketing intelligence systems: Whereas marketing research is focused, market intelligence is not. This describes the situation where a fairly limited and unstructured attempt is made to obtain information for a specific purpose. Marketing intelligence is the province of entrepreneurs and senior managers within an agribusiness.
Marketing models: Within the MIS there has to be the means of interpreting information in order to give direction to decision.
These and similar mathematical, statistical, econometric and financial models are the analytical subsystem of the MIS. Three levels of decision making can be distinguished from one another: strategic, control (or tactical) and operational.
A marketing information system has four components: the internal reporting system, the marketing research systems, the marketing intelligence system and marketing models. Marketing is a very important aspect of any business and no business can function smoothly without technological help. The biggest assistance that the marketing information system provides is that it helps the organization devise the correct marketing strategy that would help the organization to excel in the long-run. There are times when the marketing strategy of an organization is failing continuously and that puts the management in a fix. Sometimes the decision making itself is a problem for the management there the role of the marketing information system comes in and it make the job easier and simpler for the management. Moreover, the marketing information system provides the users with an organized collection of data. Effective analysis can be made with the help of the marketing information system and this can prevent a crisis situation.
A proper coordination of the processes can easily be maintained with the assistance of the marketing information system. As mentioned above the marketing information system has major benefits therefore, the organization needs to invest in having a well maintained marketing information system in the organization with experts who are dedicated to operating the system in the most efficient manner.
The best way to attain the maximum advantage from the marketing information system is by educating the employees to have a strong understanding about the system.
The benefits that have been mentioned earlier should convince any experienced or novice entrepreneur to have a marketing information system in his premises. This Bulletin discusses the agricultural marketing system used for three major commodities in Malaysia: palm oil, vegetables and fish. This paper reviews agricultural marketing information system for selected commodities in Malaysia.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing are an important part of the Malaysian economy, as evidenced by their significant contribution to the country's GDP and export earnings.
There are three major types of oil palm producers: independent smallholders, producers in the land development schemes, and private estates. The fishing industry is characterized by a distinct dualism between the small-scale and the large-scale commercial operators.
Malaysia is a net importer of vegetables, in spite of the policy emphasis since 1984 on developing production to meet domestic requirements. Characteristically, vegetables are pro-duced on small, scattered farms of less than 1.3 ha, using mainly traditional methods of farming (Low 1993). The agricultural information system paradigm provides a framework for discussing the agricultural marketing information process. Since both data and analysis are dependent on the conceptualization of reality, if the concept of reality or reality itself changes, the information system must change. As mentioned before, the purpose of data collection is to generate information, and the purpose of seeking information is to help managers in their decision-making. The center of the agricultural information system in Malaysia is the Ministry of Agriculture. The type of data collected varies according to the objectives of the particular institution.
A number of ministries and institutions are involved in the agricultural marketing information system.
The two main institutions involved in marketing information for palm oil are PORLA and the KLCE. The major function of PORLA is to ensure efficient marketing for palm oil by means of market monitoring (licensing and registration), data collection and information dissemination.
PORLA collects data on prices, production, imports and exports, stocks and inventory levels of palm oil products. To provide information on the current supply situation of palm oil products, PORLA collects data on production and stock of fresh fruit bunches, processed palm oil, palm kernel cake and oil and oleo-chemical products.
To discover the import and export flow of palm oil products, PORLA collects data from Custom Declaration forms collected at five important ports. The major output produced by PORLA is market information on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Marketing information for the fish industry is the responsibility of the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (FDAM), better known by its Malay acronym, LKIM. FDAM has established 3 major modules a€” Integrated Accounting System, Marketing Information System and Fishermen's Institutions' Information Monitoring System. Before the MOS was formalized in 1991, FDAM had already implemented an informal version of the system from 1982 which collected data on landings, prices at landing points and wholesale and retail centers, and import and export figures. The main output is data on daily prices of fish at all market levels, which are distributed to the mass media, and to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs as well as the Ministry of Agriculture. Data entry and processing is handled by the computer unit of FDAM, which was established in 1991.
Poor planning: management staff were not able to identify the real needs of the users during the planning stage. FDAM hopes to establish an Integrated MIS (IMIS), integrating the Integrated Accounting System, Marketing Information System and Fishermen Institution Monitoring System. MIS in FAMA serves two major groups, the external agencies and the internal divisions of FAMA.
Currently, FAMA has a computer mainframe IBM 4331-L02 (which was acquired in 1982) and 84 PCs.
Secondly, FAMA has set up a database system called TELITA to provide a link between information supplier and user.
The functions of MIS in FAMA are shared by the Market Information Unit and the Computer Unit, both under the Corporate Planning Division. The funds allocated FAMA for information technology have increased from US$46,300 under the Second Malaysia Plan (1971-1975) to US$8.5 million under the Sixth Malaysia Plan (1995-2000).
In order to realize this new role, FAMA has outlined the future developments for its LAN and WAN.
Integrating the current system of LANs by means of PABX, fax, telephone and a Relational Database Management System with WAN.
To provide PCs for all FAMA's staff, giving them direct communication with each other by LANs, making possible workgroup computing and providing more effective communication. As for WAN, FAMA intends to upgrade its computerized system through its FAMA Network System (Appendix VI). It is hoped also that through WAN, information in the data bank at the Head Office will be shared with other agencies. We can now draw some general conclusions with respect to the agricultural marketing information system in Malaysia. The above discussion indicates that the three institutions studied have adequately defined their role and functions in marketing their respective commodities. While we must keep in mind that improving the information system is not entirely a measurement problem, there are obvious problems with respect to the hardware.
A more general concern related to computing power is the optimal mix of hardware, software, and personnel.
As discussed earlier, information is data that has been transformed to meet the needs of the user.
Secondly, most of the output produced by the agricultural information system involves a considerable time lag. Private participants in marketing rely more on their own business contacts for the timely, reliable and accurate data they need for operational purposes. Thirdly, the main users of the information system are the government agencies themselves, rather than the private sector.
Under the Sixth and Seventh Malaysia Plans, programs have been designed and funds allocated to improve the agricultural marketing information of these three institutions, as well as other institutions in the country. Secondly, any upgrading of the computer systems of the institutions implies that the relevant personnel have also to be upgraded in number, expertise and skill through appropriate training programs. There is no doubt that information is going to play an increasingly vital role in the more developed and technologically oriented economy of the future.
For many years, businesses have been talking about the need to develop systems to tie every aspect of marketing together from developing marketing communications through recording sales and providing after-sale customer service. Yes, there are bits and pieces here and there from social media analytics to CRM systems, but very few of these components are integrated to the extent they need to be. In addition to not seeing them in companies that I have studied and for which I have consulted, it is obvious from the ads and commercials that most companies run in the media.
Over many years, my students at USC continuously analyze ads and commercials of companies as part of their homework assignments. Further evidence is provided in marketing industry publications that complain about the lack of specific cradle-to-grave information that ties together marketing efforts with sales and profit results. In a perfect world, an MIS system would be created from the ground up and integrated with all of a business's systems and processes. Integrate these systems with company wide enterprise systems (if possible and not too costly). A good place to start is the business system that every business has - the Accounting system. If the accounting software is well designed and flexible, this information can be sorted in a variety of ways including by (1) Sales person, (2) Product, (3) SKU (stock-keeping-unit), (4) Division or Region, (5) Distribution channel, (6) Reseller, and (7) Season.
The information obtained from the accounting system is typically enterprise-wide and at a macro level. To capture and properly respond to this information, most marketers need to create a Marketing Information System that augments the macro information provided by their accounting systems. As shown above, marketers can collect a lot of the information on a Market Information Form (or its electronic equivalent).
A pad of these forms (or an electronic version) is provided to all the contact points including (1) Receptionists and secretaries that answer the phone, (2) Sales people, (3) Customer service people, (4) Repair people, (5) Personnel that respond to inquiries and complaints online and on social media, and (6) accounts receivable (since they often hear about complaints when they try to collect on late invoices). Leads are captured on a lead card or its electronic equivalent similar to the one shown above.
In addition to helping sales people follow up on leads and close business, smart marketers use lead card information for other Marketing Information System purposes, such as the Hot List and Promotion Effectiveness Report described below. As each sales person captures the promotion source for each lead on the Lead Card, the information automatically flows onto his or her Promotion Effectiveness Report similar to the example above. When compared to the costs of that promotion source, the marketing department can calculate the promotion effectiveness, or ROI, of each promotion.
The systems above (Market Information Form, Lead Card, Hot List and Promotion Effectiveness Report) typically capture information in real time and provide a lot of great information that help the marketing function do a more effective job and prove it to the CEO.
When some big holes remain that still need to be plugged, marketers will often do primary research, which is their own research.
Smart marketers also know that you will never plug all the holes in the information you would like to have. We must also understand how decisions are made and what kinds of decision problems can be supported by formal information systems. This then comprises the first half of the chapter whilst the second pan deals with the main components of a marketing information systems..
The classical model of what managers do, espoused by writers in the 1920's, such as Henry Fayol, whilst intuitively attractive in itself, is of limited value as an aid to information system design. More recently, the stress has been placed upon the behavioural aspects of management decision making. This is just as true for managers operating in the developing world as in the developed world.
They converse with customers, competitors, colleagues, peers, secretaries, government officials, and so forth. Verbal media are perceived to offer greater flexibility, require less effort and bring a faster response. To some extent, high-level managers are at the mercy of their subordinates, who bring to their attention crises and activities that must be attended to immediately. Managers act as the nerve centre for the organisation, receiving the latest, most concrete, most up-to-date information and redistributing it to those who need to know. These systems make a much larger contribution in the field of informational roles; large-scale MIS systems, office systems, and professional work stations that can enhance a manager's presentation of information are significant.
It is one of the areas that information systems have sought most of all to affect (with mixed success).
A major problem at this level of decision making is predicting the future of the organisation and its environment, and matching the characteristics of the organisation to the environment. Management control involves close interaction with those who are carrying out the tasks of the organisation; it takes place within the context of broad policies and objectives set out by strategic planners.
The manager (in this case the owner) has to decide between several alternative courses of action, including: selling of trucks, increasing promotional activity in an attempt to sell the spare carrying capacity, increasing unit carrying charges to cover the deficit, or seeking to switch to carrying products or produce with a higher unit value where the returns to transport costs may be correspondingly higher.
Determining which units or individuals in the organisation will carry out the task, establishing criteria of completion and resource utilisation, evaluating outputs - all of these tasks involve decisions about operational control.
In particular, this type of decision making focuses on adaptation of the marketing mix, e.g.
Unstructured decisions are those in which the decision maker must provide insights into the problem definition. In the past, most of the success in most information systems came in dealing with structured, operational, and management control decisions.
Suppose, for example, that the Operations Manager for the National Milling Corporation is faced with a decision as to whether to establish buying points in rural locations for the grain crop. This broad set of information gathering activities is required to inform managers how well the organisation is performing and where problems exist. This phase may require more intelligence to decide if a particular solution is appropriate.
Here a manager needs an information system which can estimate the costs, opportunities and consequences of each alternative problem solution. Here, managers can install a reporting system that delivers routine reports on the progress of a specific solution, some of the difficulties that arise, resource constraints, and possible remedial actions.
Consider again the problem of balancing the costs and benefits of establishing local buying points for the National Milling Corporation.
An MIS is, as will shortly be seen, more than raw data or information suitable for the purposes of decision making.
It is suggested that whilst the MIS varies in its degree of sophistication - with many in the industrialised countries being computerised and few in the developing countries being so - a fully fledged MIS should have these components, the methods (and technologies) of collection, storing, retrieving and processing data notwithstanding.
However, this information often remains under-utilised because it is compartmentalised, either in the form of an individual entrepreneur or in the functional departments of larger businesses. These are but a few of the internal records that can be used by marketing managers, but even this small set of records is capable of generating a great deal of information. In the same way, comparing stockholding records with orders received helps an enterprise ascertain whether its stocks are in line with current demand patterns. A marketing intelligence system is a set of procedures and data sources used by marketing managers to sift information from the environment that they can use in their decision making.
For instance, the manager may focus more on economic and business publications, broadcasts etc.


For example, the marketing manager of a firm considering entering the business of importing frozen fish from a neighbouring country may make informal inquiries as to prices and demand levels of frozen and fresh fish. It involves them in scanning newspaper trade magazines, business journals and reports, economic forecasts and other media. Enterprises with vision will also encourage intermediaries, such as collectors, retailers, traders and other middlemen to be proactive in conveying market intelligence back to them. A relatively modest investment in a desktop computer is enough to allow an enterprise to automate the analysis of its data. Research suggests that a manager continually addresses a large variety of tasks and is able to spend relatively brief periods on each of these. Gone are the days when people use to make marketing related decisions based on manual surveys. The marketing information system helps the management to identify those loopholes that are contributing to the failure so that timely rectifications can be made in the strategy and the management can make better business decisions. This is a major benefit for all big organizations because they have several processes running in parallel. If they feel that the system has encountered a technical issue then the operator of the system should be trained to take an immediate action so as to prevent significant losses that can occur due to this issue. This way any entrepreneur can plan a better future for his business and can think of a remedial measure for any unforeseen issue and bring about some major improvement in his marketing structure. It shows how the information system is related to the the type of production and marketing of each commodity.
It facilitates marketing decisions, regulates the competitive market processes and facilitates marketing mechanisms (Kohls 1990).
Agriculture is the second largest contributor to the GDP of Malaysia, accounting for 16.3% in 1992. Malaysia produced 53% of world output and accounted for 66.8% of world exports in 1992 (Oil World 1992).
The area under oil palm hectarage has exceeded that of rubber since 1989 (Malaysia, Ministry of Primary Industries 1990).
Besides FELDA, FELCRA and RISDA, other significant public institutions include the Palm Oil Registration and Licensing Authority (PORLA), the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM), and the Kuala Lumpur Commodity Exchange (KLCE). Small-scale fishermen do most of their fishing close to shore, make little use of specialized skills and are characterized by low productivity, a high incidence of poverty and limited market outlets. In fact, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, imports increased by an average of 5.6% every year. The Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) (1992) has indicated that annual per capita consumption of 53 types of vegetables has increased from 38 kg in 1982 to 53 kg in 1988. However there are some areas, mainly in the highlands, where there is a concentration of commercial production.
Before one embarks on establishing an information system, it is important to realize that information is not equivalent to data or statistics.
The demand for data usually comes from decision-makers faced with the need to make decisions regarding particular situations. It is widely accepted that the market for agricultural produce is constantly evolving and highly dynamic. The function of establishing the information system is entrusted to the Management Information Unit a€” a major unit in the Macro and Strategic Planning Division. As noted by the Ministry of Agriculture (1994a), each department and agency is developing its own database center. The KLCE, which was founded in 1980, aims at providing a hedging facility to redece price discovery function and hedging facility to reduce the risks to industry participants. Hence, establishing an information system is an integral function of PORLA in implementing its policy objectives.
It collects daily prices of crude palm oil (CPO), processed palm oil products (PPO), palm kernel oil (PKO) and palm kernel cake (PKC). The firms concerned are required to fill out standardized forms before the 14th of each month. Although this information system was planned as long ago as 1985, it was not implemented until 1991.
The first module was finalized in December 1992 for internal financial and administrative purposes. The introduction of MOS was aimed at improving data collection so that it could be integrated as one of the systems in the main Marketing Information System.
These complexes send daily information on the quantity and value of catches according to the type and size of fish.
Both Ministries are also provided with data on fish landings at the FDAM complexes, and on fish imports and exports.
Since the IT section of FDAM is still relatively new, it faces a number of organizational, management and implementation problems. The feasibility of the IMIS will be studied once the MIS, IAS and FIMS have been implemented successfully. Its MIS center was established in 1969, and concentrated on collecting data on marketing activities (Mukhtiar 1992). For internal purposes, MIS provides the information on the business performance and other activities of FAMA branches all over the country, and other data related to personnel and management. FAMA has also established its own Local Area Network, comprising a total of 28 micro computers connected to a computer server at the computer branch Ethernet. Firstly, FAMA provides a telephone answering service at its head and state offices for consumers.
The two units are instrumental in providing information to help FAMA in its planning decisions.
The amount spent on information technology has increased from 1.2% of development funds to a staggering 28% during this period. While maintaining its developmental role, it intends to commercialize some of its activities in order to be a self-financing institution.
As for the LAN, it intends to upgrade its capacity to provide services using voices, image and text. This integration is expected to establish an integrated desktop Computing Information System for Executives.
It intends to use the DATEC (public telephone service) to connect district offices with the FAMA state offices. Carbon Copy Plus will be used to integrate a voice response system of both a state and head office level.
Included in the data bank will be publications, for which customers will have to pay according to the computer time they utilize.
The above analysis suggests that there is a strong awareness in each institution of the important role of information systems in performing their tasks a€” be it for internal or external purposes. The agricultural marketing information system in each institution is designed to provide the policy makers who are the major users with the marketing information they need for policy decisions. One of the major problems cited by FDAM and FAMA is the difficulty of getting the data input. Ideal information is readily available, comprehensible, relevant, useful, timely, accurate and consistent. This is hardly surprising in view of the large number of products involved, the number of markets to be covered, and the sheer volume of input sources.
We have also observed that there are differences and disparities in sources of data, methods of data collection, processing and information dissemination. The above discussions suggest that a number of improvements have to be made to ensure a more effective system. Thirdly, the discrepancies in data collection methods and data bank systems have resulted in an inefficient exchange of data between related agencies involved in agriculture information.
With increasing specialization of the data collection and analysis functions, coordination and management of the information base is of critical importance. When is the last time you saw an ad or commercial that has a built in mechanism, or code, for the advertiser to track the success of the ad? As they have discovered, too many ads in various media (print, broadcast, and even online) have no such mechanisms. In such a world, every sale and lead could be traced back to the marketing effort that produced it.
They need a system that enables them to (1) make better decisions and (2) support those decisions with verifiable data. What information do businesses get from their accounting system that is useful to marketers? This is given to sales people to put in their sales notebooks so they can use the data to answer objections and close business (with the caveat of not disparaging competitors) and is fed into the company's new product development system so that new products can be designed to beat competitors. This information is organized by the marketing building blocks (1) corporate image, (2) positioning, (3) product, (4) pricing, (5) distribution, (6) promotion, and (6) marketing information system (yes we need to collect information as to how well our MIS strategies are working). Sales people use the lead card to follow up on a prospect's interest with the objective of closing the sale.
If you are selling to a business, most of the information you need is on your contact's business card. The products you typically sell should be pre-listed on the lead card so sales people can quickly check them off. This is your sales person's guestimate of how likely the prospect is to buy your product in the current period, which is usually this month. All promotion that you do should have a unique code so that when the lead is captured, you know what marketing activity generated the lead.
To qualify for the Hot List, a Hot lead should have at least a 25% chance of closing in the current period (each company should decide their own minimum threshold for Hot).
If the dollar amount proposed is10,000 and the % chance of closing is "guestimated" to be 50%, the expected value would be $5,000. The sales manager helps sales people to close Hot leads by coaching them on how best to answer the Objections in column 8 of the Hot List. The sales manager helps to insure that the sum of Expected Values equals, or exceeds, each sales person's quota for the month. Every time a sales person gives a presentation or makes a sale from a lead, that information is recorded on the Promotion Effectiveness Report.
Since totals for leads, presentations, and sales are available in the MIS by sales person, the sales manager can automatically compute the batting average of each sales person and determine the number of leads and presentations each one needs to make his or her sales quota. Common forms of primary research include surveys, focus groups, experiments, and various forms of crowd sourcing.
Behavioural models are based on empirical evidence showing that managers are less systematic, less reflective, more reactive and less well organised than the classical model projects managers to be. The nature of the pressures may be different but there is no evidence that they are any less intense. In one sense, managers operate a network of contacts throughout the organisation and the environment. Communication is the work of the manager, and he or she uses whatever tools are available to be an effective communicator. Nevertheless, successful managers are those who can control the activities that they choose to get involved in on a day-to-day basis. In the area of decision making, only recently have decision support systems and microcomputer-based systems begun to make important contributions. Decision making can be divided into 3 types: strategic, management control and operations control. This process generally involves a small group of high-level managers who deal with very complex, non-routine problems. However, the company was suffering recurrent problems with the poor quality of durum wheat it was able to obtain resulting in a finished product that was too brittle.
They are novel, important, and non-routine, and there is no well-understood procedure for making them. However, in more recent times, exciting applications are occurring in the management and strategic planning areas, where problems are either semi-structured or are totally unstructured. It soon becomes apparent that the decisions are likely to be made over a period of time, have several influences, use many sources of information and have to go through several stages.
Management information systems that deliver a wide variety of detailed information can be useful, especially if they are designed to report exceptions. Here, more carefully specified and directed information activities and capabilities focused on specific designs are required. The information system required at this stage is likely to be fairly complex, possibly also fairly large, because of the detailed analytic models required to calculate the outcomes of the various alternatives. Table 9.1 illustrates the stages in decision making and the general type of information required at each stage.
At any point in the decision making process it may be necessary to loop back to a previous stage. That is, information is usually categorised according to its nature so that there are, for example, financial, production, manpower, marketing, stockholding and logistical data. That is, the enterprise which commissions these studies does so to solve a perceived marketing problem. In addition it involves management in talking to producers, suppliers and customers, as well as to competitors.
Given the nature of the work, managers tend to rely upon information that is timely and verbal (because this can be assimilated quickly), even if this is likely to be less accurate then more formal and complex information systems.
MIS has less to contribute in the case of a manager's informational role than for the other two. Technology has made the job a lot easier and it is far easier to make the business related decisions. Generally, existing systems benefit government agencies and large-scale producers and dealers.
Market information is vital to minimize information gaps and uncertainties that exist in the agricultural sector of a developing economy such as that of Malaysia.
Palm oil is chosen to represent the agricultural export sector, while both fish and vegetables represent the food sector. Agricultural exports are also the country's second largest foreign exchange earner, accounting for 17.4% of total earnings in the same year (manufacturing contributes more than 60%). Palm oil is currently the second most important vegetable oil in the world, accounting for 14.5% of the world production of 17 major oils and fats. Palm oil contributed 5.2% of the country's foreign exchange earnings in 1992 - the third most important source of foreign exchange earning, after petroleum and timber products. Land development schemes are projects introduced by the government to resettle landless farmers on new land as producers of export crops such as palm oil or rubber. PORLA's function is mainly to monitor the market situation, through registration and licensing. The fish passes through the hands of assemblers, wholesalers and retailers before reaching the final consumer. This figure, however, is relatively low compared to consumption levels in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea (94 kg) and in Western Europe and North America (145-188 kg) (Moon 1989).
There are more than 50 commercial varieties of vegetables, including both highland and lowland types.
Farmers normally sell their produce on a consignment basis to a wholesaler or his agent or collectors.
The system begins with some understanding of the problem (reality) a€” in other words, we must answer the question of what the problem is that we are trying to solve. However, to be useful, data need to be interpreted or evaluated through statistical and economic analyses, and hence transformed into information which can easily be used by decision-makers. If to begin with, the concept is not an accurate representation of the reality, increasingly sophisticated statistical analysis of the measurements will not lead to a better understanding of the reality. This is even more the case in developing countries where significant structural changes are occurring.
However, to leave data collection to the statisticians, and blame data problems on statisticians, is not justifiable.
Most books on management indicate that upper level management, is responsible for directing the organizations future course. This Division is responsible for coordinating the collection and compilation of statistical data to support the planning process of the Ministry. This paper gives a brief review of the agricultural marketing information system for the three commodities discussed earlier a€” palm oil, fish and vegetables. It publishes prices of futures contracts a€” for spot and distant months a€” nationwide through various media. Prices collected are based on the contracts traded, which have to be registered with PORLA within 24 hours after the contracts are signed. Currently, there are 275 palm oil mills, 38 refineries, 15 oleo-chemical firms, 50 palm kernel cake processing plants and 35 bulking installations firms which supply the required data. This information is sent to Bernama, Reuters, other government agencies and also made available to the public by telex, fax and telephone. It is designed to help FDAM in its decision-making to ensure the growth and development of the fisheries sector (LKIM 1994).
The Marketing Information System, which was finalized in 1992, is designed to provide relevant information for FDAM's marketing division to use in implementing its marketing policies.
Each submodule was designed to provide FDAM with information on the relevant policy objectives of the sub-module.
Under the new MOS, the same type of data is collected a€” daily prices (wholesale and retail), landings by type of boat at the various FDAM landing complexes, and fish imports and exports. FDAM also publishes monthly reports on the current fish market situation in Malaysia, which is distributed to government agencies and private traders.
Since then, its MIS has evolved into one of Malaysia's leading marketing information systems, and is considered to play a major role in helping FAMA realizes its goal as a development agency for the marketing of horticultural produce, food and agroindustrial products through market development. Agricultural marketing information is the most important contribution to external agencies. A total of 10 micro computers are connected to a computer server located in the Finance Department. Data collected are mainly daily prices of selected commodities, collected by staff of FAMA's branches in all the states in Malaysia. The major output produced is prices at a national and state level, supplies and market potential (Appendix IV). In terms of personnel, a total of 250 staff are currently employed to implement the marketing information service, with a total salary expenditure of more than US$800,000 per annum.
With this shift in objectives, marketing information will play an even greater role in the decision-making process.
Each FAMA state office will have dial-up access to receive and send information from the FAMA head office.
FAMA's WAN will also be linked with the International Network Corporation (INC), for international users.
For instance, a significant amount of resources are devoted to maintaining each organization's own information system.
FAMA, for instance, has long recognized the structural inefficiency of the vegetable market.
The PDP machine currently in use is simply obsolete, and cannot handle PORLA's computing needs. If the software is more user-friendly, and the skills of users of the data system enhanced, the burden of the computer centers can be somewhat reduced, as can the problem of ensuring that the data is relevant and useful. An examination of the output published by the three institutions reveals a number of points. Most of those involved agree that the information is not timely with regard to day-to-day operational requirements.
All this information is used to support the planning processes of the main user, the Ministry of Agriculture.


Firstly, there is a need to establish a user committee, to determine what information is required by the various types of users from the private and public sectors. As recommended by the institutions themselves, there is a need to centralize all information services under a central database at the Ministry of Agriculture. The primary way a CMO can prove his or her worth is to collect the data on the return the company is realizing on its marketing investment. The objective is to turn the negative into a positive and build a stronger relationship with the offended party. In addition to notes of all contacts, there are four main pieces of information that should be captured on the lead card. For additional information you need, your lead card should be designed so you can add it with minimal effort. Because the degree of interest is also called "buying temperature" the metaphor for degree of interest that is often is used is Hot for the most interested leads, Warm for the next most interested leads, and Cool for the least interested.
This lead source should automatically update another MIS report called the Promotion Effectiveness report.
If the expected values are lower than a sales person's quota, the sales manager can encourage the sales person do whatever is necessary to get more Hot leads on the Hot List so that the sum of Expected Values equals or exceeds the quota.
The MIS system automatically adds up the total number of the leads, presentations, and sales company-wide for each promotion source. In this way, the sales manager and the company marketers systematically work together to insure that (1) plan goals are met and (2) the money invested in promotion is not wasted (the ads and promotions that are effective will be repeated and the ones that aren't will be discontinued).
Marketers can simply type in search terms in a search window and browse the Internet for any data related to those search terms.
The model also emphasises that the activities of managers is characterised by variety, fragmentation and brevity. By developing their own long-term commitments, their own information channels, and their own networks, senior managers can control their personal agendas. Lastly, managers act as a liaison between various levels of the organisation and, within each level, among levels of the management team.
Moreover, unit costs were shooting up due to increasingly frequent breakdowns in the ageing equipment used in pasta production.
In contrast, structured decisions are repetitive, routine, and involve a definite procedure for handling them so that they do not have to be treated each time as if they were new. It is worth considering the question of how, if at all, information systems could assist in making such a decision. For instance, consider a commercial organisation marketing a large number of different products and product variations.
For example, one may have reached stage 3 and all but decided that having considered the alternatives of setting up no local buying points, local buying points in all regions, districts or villages, the government decides to increase the amounts held in the strategic grain reserve.
Often the entrepreneur, or various personnel working in the functional departments holding these pieces of data, do not see how it could help decision makers in other functional areas. In many cases, data is collected in a purposeful way to address a well-defined problem (or a problem which can be defined and solved within the course of the study). Strategic decisions have implications for changing the structure of an organisation and therefore the MIS must provide information which is precise and accurate. Small-scale farmers receive little benefit, although they are the targets of most agricultural development plans in Malaysia.
It is much needed by farmers in planning production and marketing, and equally needed by other market participants in arriving at optimal trading decisions.
The paper begins with a brief overview of the economic role of agriculture in Malaysia, with a special emphasis on these three selected commodities. In addition, the agricultural sector is the largest source of employment, currently employing 25.9% of the labor force (Bank Negara 1992).
One main agency entrusted with this scheme is the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), which is also involved in the marketing of the produce.
However, with the current increases in household income, we can expect that domestic consumption will continue to increase. Raw data must be given form and meaning through analysis and interpretation to generate information that will be useful to decision-makers (Bonnen 1975).
For the data to be useful to the analyst, it must be based on the same set of theoretical concepts and, ideally, the same set of definitions used to operationalize the concept through the measured variables. The problems faced vary over time, and this requires similar adjustments in the information system.
Close cooperation between those responsible for data collection and those who use the data is crucial. Upper level measurement is primarily required for strategic planning, and setting long-term goals and plans.
The sources of these data are varied and widespread, and include six other Ministries (for instance the Department of Statistics in the Prime Minister's Department ) and 36 departments and agencies under the Ministry of Agriculture.
The development of many independent database centers has given rise to a number of problems. In view of its efficiency in information system and the minimal participation by the smallholders in hedging, further discussion on KLCE is omitted here. Relatively more emphasis is given to the role of information in its marketing function, as the nature of fish marketing requires it to do so. The Fishermen's Institu-tions' Information Monitoring System monitors the membership and activities of the Fishermen's Associations. For instance, the market operation module is aimed at collecting and processing data concerning the operational aspects of the fish market at all levels a€” landing, wholesale, retail, import and exports. A standard form is used by the complex managers, who have to fax it to the FDAM head office daily. The market will be developed by means of increasing the demand, determining the supply and developing marketing chains. The data collected and distributed are mainly daily, monthly and annual prices of selected commodities, quantities of imports and exports, and general information on production and consumption for selected commodities.
FAMA's branches send this data to the FAMA state office, by either telex or telephone, three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).
The role of marketing information in the new system will be to inform producers about market demand (domestic and external), and dealers and consumers about the supply status and other market developments which are significant to their decision-making (Mukhtiar 1992).
The database at head office will still be updated three times a week, but a new batch program will be developed to update the data in the PCs at a state level.
This is not surprising, as any organization has to keep its house in order first, so to speak, before it can concentrate on supplying services (in this case information) to external organizations.
Hence, PORLA is able to collect comprehensive data on the current status of business and the market situation, from a farm to an export level. The other major issue concerning the hardware is the problem of obsolescence, which requires institutions to weigh the alternatives of leasing vs buying a machine. First, what they are providing is basically data output a€” in other words data which has been summarized in a more concise form, rather than being processed or analyzed to produce information. As one of the requirements of centralized data base management, the institutions involved must be encouraged to practise open system interconnection, to make possible the sharing of information. 753) points out that the information base should be viewed as a capital stock that requires increasingly greater investment over time. Paper presented at the Agricultural Information Technology Symposium organized by the Ministry of Agriculture. Paper presented at the International Symposium and Workshop on Commercial Production of Fruits and Vegetables, organized by IILP and UPM.
If CEOs and other executives believed that marketing worked efficiently and effectively, they would not look at marketing as a cost item but an investment on which they would realize a return.
Skilled customer service personnel would quickly turn all negatives into positives, and skilled marketing communicators would create content that incorporated the testimonials.
The way companies handle complaints can mean the difference between success and failure in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Copies are also given to sales people so they can put them in their sales notebooks and use them to impress prospects and close business. The sales quotas of all the sales people should sum to the "measurable goal" of the Marketing Plan. Furthermore, marketers can set up "alerts." That is, search terms can be entered into a search engine so that the search engine's crawlers will continually search for anything that contains those search terms and send you an email when it finds them. There is simply not enough time for managers to get deeply involved in a wide range of issues.
The company faced the decision whether to make a very large investment in new machinery or to accept the offer of another manufacturer of pasta products, in a neighbouring country, that it should supply the various pasta products and the local company put its own brand name on the packs. To arrive at some answer, it is helpful to break down decision making into its component parts. Management will want to know, at frequent intervals, whether sales targets are being achieved. Similarly, decision makers can fail to appreciate how information from other functional areas might help them and therefore do not request it. The other form of marketing research centres not around a specific marketing problem but is an attempt to continuously monitor the marketing environment. Control decisions deal with broad policy issues and operational decisions concern the management of the organisation's marketing mix. This marketing information system is an essential need in all major organizations and they make their decision in the light of the information provided by the marketing information system. In conclusion, the paper discusses the nature of an ideal information system, and the problems encountered in trying to achieve this. The agricultural sector in Malaysia is beset with a high degree of uncertainty due to the nature and structure of the production sector, organization of the marketing system and natural hazards.
Other land development agencies are FELCRA (Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority) and RISDA (Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority).
For instance, FELDA buys and sells fresh fruit bunches at the farm level, processes them into processed palm oil, and sells this to either local or foreign manufacturers. The late 1980s saw a rapid increase in catches as a result of technological development a€” better fishing techniques, replacement of fiber nets by synthetic ones, use of larger and more powerful vessels and rapid adoption of trawling gear. In other words, the producers do not have a say in the pricing decision, which is made at the major wholesale center or terminal markets in large cities. Theoretical concepts are operationalized through suitably defined empirical variables and hence measured. The results of analysis and interpretation produce information needed by the decision makers. Middle level management is involved in control and in shorter term planning, tactical planning, or finding the best way to get the job done. There are also around 30 agricultural associations, trade associations and chambers of commerce in Malaysia which collect and provide agricultural information for their members. There is a lack of data unity, which makes direct data exchange between institutions impossible. The framework for FDAM's marketing information is governed by its marketing objective, that is to ensure the dynamic development of the marketing sector.
The same procedure is applied to wholesale and retail fish marketing centers, for the reporting of daily prices. The role of MIS is to provide and process data and information to help FAMA in its planning decisions. These data are summarized in a predefined fax form which is then faxed to FAMA's head office, also three times a week (on the same days).
FDAM's Integrated Accounting System module is basically monitoring its own financial and accounting system. To assess the market prospects for a particular commodity, FAMA has also embarked on a number of studies on market potential and forecasts. For the other two commodities, data collection tends to be a demanding exercise in terms of both the funding and the personnel required. The applications are written in COBOL, and whatever data generated cannot be downloaded to PCs for use by the Economics Division, the main user of the data.
They also have to measure the relative advantage of buying a commercially available software package or writing their own programs. For instance, FDAM gives the prices and quantities sold at various market levels in its monthly reports, with minimum analysis of the data.
While some feel that the task is impossible, others feel that the possibility should be explored of linking and networking, what are currently separate activities.
An important user group that needs to be emphasized is the producers, in particular the smallholders and fishermen who do not yet get much direct benefit from the information system. A feasibility study of the viability of establishing such a database system is recommended. There are so many other sites, which marketers frequent, that provide a wealth of information. If you are collecting the information discussed in this post, you will have the information you need to make better marketing decisions. The attention of managers increase rapidly from one issue to another, with very little pattern.
The decision is strategic since the decision has implications for the resource base of the enterprise, i.e.
Another scenario would be that having implemented a decision one quickly receives feedback indicating that it is not proving effective. These monitoring or tracking exercises are continuous marketing research studies, often involving panels of farmers, consumers or distributors from which the same data is collected at regular intervals. Production is characterized by a large number of small, scattered farms and marketing is still unorganized, with too many middlemen handling small quantities of agricultural produce.
This is subsequently followed by a description of the agricultural marketing information system for each of the three commodities. KLCE provides the price discovery center, as well as a hedging mechanism to market players in their attends to minimize price risk. The acquisition of more extensive fishing grounds under the EEZ Declaration in 1980, and the subsequent development of the deep-sea fishery industry, also contributed to higher fish catches. At these terminal markets, substantial quantities of vegetables converge for redistribution in other urban centers.
Data, which are measured representations of these variables, are then collected and used in the analytical framework (or model) to test its predictions concerning the reality. Low level management is generally responsible for overseeing the operations of the organization.
Variations in the methods of maintaining the databases also hinder the efficient exchange of information. The strategies identified to achieve this objective are market monitoring, trade promotion, and monitoring the landing of fish at the FDAM landing complexes by Fishermen's Associations. The complex management portion of the Marketing Information System sub module is concerned with the management of the FDAM's landing complexes. PORLA, in its bid to ensure healthy competition in the palm oil industry, has designed a standardized form to be filled out by those applying for a license, asking for details on their current state of business. Fish and vegetables both include dozens of species and varieties sold on the market, although the structures of the industries are very different.
PORLA does produce market reviews of the palm oil industry, but with little statistical or economic analysis of the forecasted supply and demand, policy impact analysis and so on. The use of the Joint Advanced Research Integrated Networking Project (JARING), under the auspices of the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic Systems (MIMOS), is an obvious possibility. It is suggested that research be carried out to determine the information needs of this group, as well as of private firms, and to identify a suitable communication system to relay market information to them effectively. Just a few examples include: Media Post, Marketing Sherpa, Brand Channel, Hoovers, the CIA World Factbook, and ClickZ. Whilst the ad hoc study and continuous marketing research differs in the orientation, yet they are both proactive. Within such a structure, market information is deemed necessary to provide the right signal to participants.
Currently, private estates account for about 45% of the area planted in oil palm, land settlement schemes 46%, and independent smallholders 9% (PORLA 1992). Catches have increased from 198,377 mt in 1965 to 747,000 mt in 1989 (an increase of almost 300%). These wholesale markets tend to have a marked influence on the prices received by farmers and paid by consumers (Low 1993).
In short, there are three steps in producing data: conceptualization, operationalization and measurement. Since the kinds of decisions to be made are different, it is not surprising that the information needs of these levels of management are different.
These data are stored and processed to produce market price reports on a daily, monthly and annual basis.
In the case of FAMA, two of the four information systems, Financial Position Information and Personnel and Management Information, deal with FAMA's operational aspects. In short, the institutions are correctly performing their role in solving the marketing problems of their respective sectors. An Agribusiness Information and Consultancy Centre (AGINFOR) has also been proposed recently. Their needs have to be identified and understood, so that the system is designed accordingly. You just need to get sufficient information to stay ahead of your competitors and keep updated on your ever-changing marketplace.
Research suggests that a manager's day is characterised by a large number of tasks with only small periods of time devoted to each individual task. The implications of strategic decisions extend over many years, often as much as ten to fifteen years. However, there are many benefits of the marketing information system that will convince you why you should be opting for it. In fact, the existence and transmission of complete and accurate marketing information is the key to achieving both operational and pricing efficiency in the marketing system (Beal 1966).
A plantation firm not only has its own production farms, but also milling and processing plants. There is a greater need for information external to the organization as we go up the management scale. Hence, there is a need to coordinate and integrate all these information systems into a single comprehensive central database under the Ministry of Agriculture. This point is not meant as a criticism but rather to stress the fact that this is a necessary developmental phase for the organization. One of the major problems of establishing an system open to all institutions is that some agencies are still employing proprietary computer systems (a total of 8 out of 13 agencies are using such system). Hence, raw materials are easily absorbed into their mills and refineries, before the processed products are sold to domestic users or foreign manufacturers.
The need for a longer time scale, and a greater degree of summarization of the information, is evident for higher level management. A more pertinent question concerns the optimal amount of resources to devote to internal operational aspects. Nevertheless, irrespective of the level, for the information to be of any use it must be available, comprehensible, relevant, useful, timely, reliable, accurate and consistent.



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