Discuss about the Monsanto IT Opportunities and Risks.
Monsanto is an American multinational agricultural biotechnology and agrochemical company. It is the leading producer of the Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide and genetically engineered seed in the world. Monsanto was among the first company to successfully conduct field trials on the genetically modified crops and the first to apply in agriculture the biotechnology business model through the use of the techniques developed by biotech drug companies (Hirschler & Kelland 2012). According to Hartwell and Martucci (2010), Monsanto has operations in different parts of the world like Asia, Africa, Canada, US, South America and Europe. The company employs approximately 26,100, and it’s headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. This paper will analyse the IT opportunities and the risks of Monsanto Company.
Monsanto IT Opportunities
According to Griffin (2007), the ability to discover company’s hidden opportunities can act as a source of competitive advantage. Organisation opportunities are the areas that a business can exploit to its advantage. A SWOT analysis is one of the tools used by companies to identify hidden opportunities from the external environment. The Monsanto IT opportunities include the following;
Turn Data into Food
According to Monsanto Company CIO James D. Swanson the company technology mission of “turning data into food” summarises the company’s future IT analysis about yielding digitally and creates numerous opportunities for the IT to facilitate the growth in the agronomy field. Over the years, Monsanto Company has had a strong historical research relating to genomic alteration and is currently in the process of accumulating their best combinations to ensure higher yield of the new varieties through the use of the existing genes. A number of opportunities are available to Monsanto Company from different IT platforms as the company seeks the collaboration of mobile devices, logistics, barcode scanners and RFID tags because these will create opportunities for the company to make historical advancement and optimise its operations in the agriculture industry through extensive research.
Monsanto Company continues with its innovation activities by concentrating on three preliminary steps which include; first, searching for new ideas and boosting its own IT system. Second, entering in strategic partnership with eligible organisations aimed at combining strengths to aid in the development of technology. Third, the company acquisition of appropriate technology, for example, Monsanto Company has recently acquired Climate Corporation a company leading in providing the local weather updates through climate analysis. It is the belief of Monsanto Company that every company should design its own vision in a way that it ensures the company keep speeding its pace and running for it. As such the company vision should not be attainable but rather should always be improvising. Such a vision helps the company to drive more close to innovation and think more broadly. The main focus of the company should be delivering value to its consumers and therefore, according to Monsanto Company innovation does not have to necessarily be in-house. Therefore, innovation can come from different sources. However, the company has a duty to the monitor the future implications of innovation to the company and ensure quick response in delivering value. Monsanto Company believes in being alert to new innovations across the globe. The company also explores new ideas from different sources and bring them together with the aim of building a stronger technology.
IT as a Brand of Monsanto
The Monsanto Company IT is a brand on its self and has been a source of the company competitive advantage. The company IT plays a significant role in research and continues to add value to the organisation. The main aim of the company IT is to enhance business productivity and revenue by creating efficiency as well as acting as a transformation agent for the organisation. The IT can be used by companies to introduce and use disruptive innovations to create new opportunities for the organisation. Monsanto Company can use IT to increase its sales volume and transform its whole business processes through automation and reduction of the company expenditure and the overall costs.
Sustainability Management through IT
In June 2014, Monsanto Company announced the selection of the Locus Technologies to provide comprehensive, integrated software to the company with the objective of creating a sustainable management and environment stewardship by use of the corporation facilities. Monsanto has adopted the Global Reporting Initiative framework which is a comprehensive reporting structure used widely around the world to effectively evaluate, communicate and build upon the company current sustainability efforts. Monsanto Company is a member of GRIG4 pioneer program, and to enable its transition to the new GRIG$ platform the company is using Locus enhanced data collection process. The company has already implemented the Locus award-winning EH&S and sustainability software platform to provide with enterprise tools to organise GRI reporting solution and indicator collection for its corporate sustainability. The adoption of this technology enables the company site personnel to enter GRI indicator data and produce reports for their sites. As such, the company personnel can produce aggregated data reports for the entire organisation for use in automation and preparation of their GRI reports.
According to Monsanto Company, digital technologies can be used to ensure more accurate inventory and timely information hence simplifying the retail seed business. As such, the adoption of the technologies can improve the level of professionalism seed dealers demonstrate to farmers, thus, enhancing trust because the farmers are aware that their seed dealer is aware of and have accurate inventory count and can provide them with the products they need whenever they need it. The digital technologies help trace and track products through the distribution channel and to the acre, thus, enabling seed sustainability and stewardship to protect business investments. Digital technology has the effect of creating confidence and trust in the bill given to them at retail.
Use of Online Platform through E-commerce
Monsanto Company has adopted the use of e-solutions to provide electronic solutions to match various businesses irrespective of their operations technical sophistication and size. Thus, the e-solutions provide a competitive electronic business tool to Deltapine, DEKALB and Asgrow seed dealers. The use of e-solutions provides the seed dealers with everything at their fingertips from seed ordering, invoicing, sales reporting and inventory management. Monsanto Company e-solutions tools include;
One, MyMonsanto- it is a transactional website which enables seed dealers, seed contract managers and crop protection distributors to gain access to sales, financial, order reports and seed stewardship tool along with links to other pertinent websites and document forms. The most frequently used feature of the MyMonsanto is the seed ordering which allows flexibility order management and order targeting.
Two, SeedTrack- it's a proprietary software targeting Asgrow and DEKALB seed dealers only and not the retailers selling other crop inputs or multiple brands. The SeedTrack has various business tools like inventory management with a delivery notification, seed ordering, invoicing, customer quotes as well as delivery receipts for the customers. The use of E-connectivity increases operational efficiency through the use of proven approach in the transmission of information electronically between the company and diverse retail partner systems. The service targets the retailers using accounting software systems that support multiple service and crop input. Some of the benefits of using the service include a timely exchange of critical business information, enhanced accuracy, reduction in the need for manual inventory and a single point of data submission in retailer’s system.
According to the September 2015 Computer Business Review reports, Monsanto Company is in planning to enter the Big Data market with its focus on agriculture. The report further reveals that the company has in the recent months been meeting a large number of Tech start-up with the plans of acquiring some of them. Monsanto Company plans on offering hardware and software tools that use data to help boost the crops yields such as intelligent seed choices and data soil chemistry. Monsanto shift highlights a growing trend by market specific companies to offer dedicated services. Customers prefer these solutions rather than the general analytics platform that are not specifically designed to suit their needs.
In October 2014, St. Louis Business Journal reported that Monsanto Company will in the next two years invest over $20 million with the aim of accelerating its plant breeding program. The journal further claimed that the money would be used in developing integrated technology centres in Indiana, Illinois, Nerbraska, Minnesota, Maryland and Lowa. According to Monsanto, in an effort to speed the breeding pace the centres will combine breeding research with the predictive analytics and data science. In an interview, Mike Graham said that the data collected over the years by Monsanto in genetic research and field trials could be used to help researchers predict the performance of hybrid and inbred lines in the unwavering company search for a higher-yielding seed. Graham further claimed that the data could be used by the company to improve its efficiency and act as a source of its competitive edge in the industry. In a statement, Monsanto VP of the global plant breeding, Sam Eathington claimed that the company was at a unique inflexion point in plant breeding evolution where predictive analytics and data science will help in unlocking the previously untapped plant genetics potential.
Risk of IT at Monsanto
In the argument of Kreitner (2009), risks are can either be internal or external threats or anything that is likely to adversely affect business. The organisation success over the long run depends on the management ability to identify the risks facing the business and their ability to develop appropriate strategies to address those risks. Piercy and Giles (2009) claim that the failure of the business management to implement appropriate strategies to address the risks facing a business could impact negatively on its profitability and competitiveness. A SWOT analysis could be used to help identify the risks facing an organisation. Monsanto IT risks include the following;
IT Culture Conflict
Over the years, Swanson has been on a mission trying to change the organisation IT culture at Merck. Merck largely relies on the internal employees to develop the systems they need whereas Johnson and Johnson, a former employer, tend to buy more than they build. He doesn’t believe that there is a good reason to build from scratch. In his view, the market has mature products that meet the company needs and thus, no need to build from scratch.
In September 2015, Computer Business Review reported that the company is facing a formidable competition. Accenture offers Connected Crop Solutions and Precision Agriculture Service, and the market is flooded with start-ups. For example, according to the article, Agrilyst offers to greenhouse grower’s online platform for data analytics.
Cyber security is one of the challenges facing Monsanto. WSJ in 2015 reported that the company had invested huge resources in cyber security as the farming business grows more data centric, with algorithm-driven planting and satellite-steered tractors services expanding across the US Farm Belt. According to CTO Robert Fraley, the industry is still new to it. He further claimed that the company was consulting with cyber security experts and the government as its shores up its defences given the strength and frequency of the cyber attacks. However, he claimed that we are living in a world where will never be 100% effective.
In the recent years, Monsanto has become a huge target by environmentalist protesters and critics who fear the health risks and implications of the Genetically Modified Organisms. A study conducted in January 2015, found that Soybean workers were exposed to the agrochemicals like glyphosate, which is one of the Monsanto main components in the production of “Roundup” herbicide while other biocides suffered from cell damage and elevated DNA. The study which was published in Genetic Toxicology/ Mutation Research and the Environmental Mutagenesis journal involved 127 people among them 81 were exposed to biocides while working in Brazillian Soybean industry and 46 non-exposed persons were in a controlled group.
According to researcher Danieli Benedetti and his team, the exposed group exhibited damaged DNA and elevated level of cellular apoptosis. The study concluded that the genetically-modified soybeans used in the state of Rio Grande do Sul has toxic ramifications for the workers especially those used in the city of Espumoso. The genetically modified seeds produced by multinational agribusiness conglomerates like Monsanto are developed to withstand drenching by glyphosate and other biocides with the aim of terminating weed nuisances, fungus and insects. According to studies, glyphosate is associated with the fatal kidney disease which has affected poor farming regions globally.
The United States has approved Monsanto new genetically modified cotton and soybeans designed to withstand a dominant biocide that fights weed resistance developed due to the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide. Monsanto Company has faced numerous legal battles. It is reported that the company lost approximately $156 million as a result of a legal settlement in an environmental legal case. Activists from five continents around the globe organised a resistance under the “March against Monsanto” which comprised of 52 nations, in May 2014.
The company continues to witness more protests against it. In the recent times, more than 120 organisations have joined the annual “ We are Fed Up” demonstrations focusing on the increased importation of the American farming practises like chemical meat treatment, genetic modification and the frequent animal antibiotic injections as a result of the implementation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. In a statement, Monsanto said it would not try to increase approved Genetically Modified crops in Europe due to consistent pushback.
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