Permit me to steal some space in AE Quarterly to reintroduce you to Antilles Economics. You may have been a subscriber of AE Quarterly since it was launched in 2017. Or you may have subscribed to our blog (which was started in 2014). Or you may be a client. But odds are, however, you do not know why we exist (because we never really explained it clearly). In 2019, we’re making some changes – more on that later – and to make it all make sense, we need to go back to the beginning.
We started consulting focused on national and regional development projects through our Impact Consulting business line. Our clients were mainly governments and development banks. The risks associated with bad decisions are so high in this area that it is normal and expected that they would seek better information, whether through collecting and collating what would become national statistics or embarking on in-depth research projects led by expert consultants. Information does not eliminate the risk of a bad decision, but it definitely reduces the probability of one. I also do not mean to suggest that we have great data in the region. We don’t. But our national and regional decision-makers have access to information that is so much better than what is available in the private sector that it is crippling our economic and social development.
At Antilles Economics we want to see the region reach its potential output. To achieve this we believe that the private sector must be equipped to lead, and they need insights to do so, which led to the development of our Insights Consulting business line. We consider this problem of insights as three-fold and have adapted our service offering to address it:
- Companies need insights, so we focus on unearthing them using a wide and ever-expanding range of tools, software and experts
- Companies make decisions based on insights, so we focus on helping to leverage them through strategic consulting
- Insights evolve (and sometimes become irrelevant) and companies must stay on top of this evolution, so we focus on strengthening companies’ monitoring and analytical capabilities
Insights are hidden in information. Sometimes that information is numerical. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes insights can be found in one information source. Sometimes it takes many. When we started to reach out to private companies to understand their needs, I was surprised to find that many did not know their market share, they had no idea who was buying their products, they advertised on media based on their own personal observations, they didn’t understand their sensitivity to economic developments, and the list goes on.
For us at AE, we see information as an investment into insights, and insights are assets to an organisation that can be leveraged like any other. We know that insights create value in much the same way that brands create value. These invisible assets are critical to competitive success, but it is always hard to demonstrate their value in the short-term when they appear on a profit and loss statement as an expense line.
Private sector leaders have explained that the research and data collection to create information were costly, and many times they just could not justify the expense. It’s hard to argue against the logic that basically says: if we are highly successful without this information, there’s no value to us in spending the extra money to collect it. I also could not deny that collecting, collating, analysing and presenting information is an expensive, time-consuming endeavour. Before we can unearth insights from information, we therefore have to surmount two real challenges that companies face with obtaining information in the first place:
- Reduce the cost of acquiring information
- Improve the relevance of the acquired information
So far in our history, we have focused on improving the relevance of the acquired information so that the limited budget companies have to spend on information gathering was not being wasted. We have therefore worked with companies that have the budget and the will to dedicate towards collecting information that would allow them to make the best decisions. We also used these experiences to try to understand how to reduce the cost of acquiring information. We have made the following conclusions:
- Customised information will always be more expensive to obtain than standardised information
- Sharing the cost of collecting and collating standardised information will reduce the expense incurred by any one company, and in turn the impact on the P&L
- All information is not equal, and should not be treated as such
- Sometimes companies need expertise from outside of their company to truly make sense of a situation (i.e. unearth an insight)
In 2019, for our clients in Barbados we are introducing a new service called AE Insider. AE Insider is an independent source of research, data and other insights developed specifically for decision-makers in the private sector. It will be accessible through a subscription that will provide the subscriber with access to data and analysis to understand the economic, marketing and customer experience landscape in Barbados, at a fraction of the cost of a customised research project. We believe that if companies spend a small, stable portion of their research budget on understanding and interpreting market developments, they could dedicate the remainder to topics that would help them to create a competitive advantage.
As a subscriber to AE Quarterly, you have an opportunity to subscribe to AE Insider before we launch later in the year for a reduced fee. If you’re interested, email Stacia at to learn more about the specific information we will be presenting in AE Insider as well as the subscription fees.