Review of "The Shift Index 2009: Industry Metrics and Perspectives” ( Article)

I came across this report from Deloitte “The Shift Index 2009: Industry Metrics and Perspectives” (published November 4, 2009) that takes a deep dive look at Corporate performance across a broad group of industries including Aerospace& Defense, Financial Services Consumer Products and Retail, Technology, Media, Telecommunications, and Automotive. In spite of the vague and cryptic nature of the content, I think there is some real value in going through this (that is if you have the patience to digest a 208-page manuscript- someone should talk to the authors about the need to be succinct when producing content for web-publishing).

The key theme of this rather lengthy report is that Return on Assets across public companies is down 75 percent and corporate performance metrics currently utilized across businesses may not be appropriate.

The report then proposes that there is a “Big Shift” in underlying economic and behavioral trends the convergence of which is the fundamental driver of this performance erosion. The report then goes on to dissect how this so-called Big Shift is playing out across these different industries.

The report further proposes a “Shift Index” to quantify this phenomenon along three dimensions (quantified by 3 other indices- I suppose they need to make it complicated to sound sophisticated!):

Foundation Index: As defined by the report “The Foundation Index reflects new possibilities and challenges for business as a result of new technology capability and public policy shifts.” Put simply this is the infrastructure that has redefined business processes including digital infrastructure, and asynchronous and integration of geographically disparate resources that optimizes productivity. This metric is apparently evaluated at economy-level and therefore not analyzed by industry. Not sure why this would not differ across industries in an economy?

Flow Index: Defined by the report as “the Flow Index, is characterized by the increasing flows of capital, talent, and knowledge across geographic and institutional boundaries.” Translation- this basically builds on the Foundation Index- which is a more static perspective of resources. The Flow Index emphasizes the fact that Knowledge, Technology and other resources are in a constant state of flux and emphasizes the ability to constantly tap into evolving reservoirs of these resources to replenish current resources (not surprisingly- in the spirit of complicating concepts in pursuit of sophistication the report looks at two additional metrics within the Flow Index- Inter-firm Knowledge Flows and Worker Passion metrics).

Impact Index: If the descriptions on the previous two metrics were a bit vague, this one borders the esoteric. “…the Impact Index reflects how well companies are exploiting foundational improvements in the digital infrastructure by creating and sharing knowledge— and what impacts those changes are having on markets, firms, and individuals.” From my humble view-point, I think this is basically a measure of how well companies leverage their abilities around the previous two indices to create competitive advantage- I can buy that.

All in all I think there is some very useful information in this report, as to the effort required to go through this article to get to that information- to tweak a quote from a well-known movie “the juice may be just about worth the squeeze”. If you are looking for specific analysis for the industry vertical of your interest, I would recommend going through the corresponding section of the report- what I have summed up above should save you some time on the rest of the material.

Note: This is an independent and unsolicited review of publicly-available material and neither the writer of this commentary nor this website takes any credit or liability for the original material being reviewed in this commentary. Please use your judgment in considering this review.

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