Mapping the Corporate Genome

Scientists around the world have been working collaboratively over the past few years to map the human genome.  Understanding the full genome and more about our genetic code might prove to unlock valuable information about the treatment and prevention of diseases.  Much like humans have a genetic code that defines their gender, eye color, hair color and skin color, corporations also have a similar type of genetic code.  Most CEOs attempt to define their genetic code by the core values, mission and vision they define and preach to their employees.  But there is much more to corporate genome than just those beliefs.  A corporate genome defines how a company does business including everything from the types of employees they hire to the way they interact with their suppliers.

Corporate genetics are important to a variety of stakeholders.  CEOs often want to emulate or replicate the DNA of their most successful rivals.  As a result, there are numerous analysts, consultants and business school professors who have researched the genetics of great companies.  In recent years there has been a great deal of focus on understanding the qualities that have made Apple, Facebook, Google and so successful.  Looking back over a 20-year period companies such as Dell, Walmart, Toyota and Disney have been focal points for this type of analysis.

Corporate genetics are important to stockholders as well.  Professional investment managers who are attempting to put together portfolios of stocks which will yield the highest returns.  These investment managers will study the “fundamentals” of a company’s balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statements as well as other qualitative information reported in public filings.  The goal of many of these research efforts is to identify characteristics that differentiate the winners from the losers.  Investment managers can then make decisions on which securities to purchase based upon the genetic makeup of the various firms.

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Prospective employees seek to understand corporate genetics as well.  Prospective employees want to understand the company’s culture, beliefs and operating procedures before deciding whether the company is a good match for their own work style and philosophy.  Executive recruiters seeking to fill critical management positions would also benefit from understanding corporate DNA.  These search professionals often spend significant time trying to understand the culture and personality of a company in order to place the best candidates in new roles.

Human resource departments also invest time trying to understand what profiles drive the top performers within their organizations.  They trend data on educational background and prior work experience to identify the common success characteristics of over-achievers on their teams.

Last, but not least, corporate genetics are important to suppliers attempting to sell their goods and services to buyers within the organization.  The better a sales representative at a vendor can understand their prospect the better they can position their solutions to meet the buyer’s needs.  A buyer’s needs include not only the requirements for the products for they want to purchase, but also how they want to do business.

So who is mapping the corporate genome you might ask?  There are a number of companies devoted to understanding and documenting corporate genetics.  These firms aggregate information about companies then resell the packaged information to third parties.  Examples include Dun & Bradstreet and Experian which started with profiling the creditworthiness of firms, then expanded into a wider array of business information services related to marketing and supply chain.  Moodys, Fitch and S&P are the primary ratings agencies that study the financial profiles of companies to assess their ability to repay debt.  Hoovers and SalesQuest gather executive contact data useful for sales and marketing efforts.  LinkedIn has begun to collect information on the common characteristics of registered employees for each company.  And there are many more.

The data and insights gleaned from each of these organizations could be aggregated to start to map a corporate genome.  But ideally you would gather much more information:

  • What is the attitude towards customer experience?  How does the company manage its multiple support channels?
  • What are the personality traits and management philosophies of their executive leadership?
  • How does the company deliver innovation?  What role do its suppliers play in product development?
  • What types of employees does the company hire?  How do its compensation and benefit programs work towards retaining talent?
  • What approach does the company take to its supply chain?  How extensively does it collaborate with customers and suppliers?

In my next post I will propose some ideas on how we can map the supply chain aspects of the corporate genome using the information available in B2B e-commerce technologies.


OpenText is the leader in Enterprise Information Management (EIM). Our EIM products enable businesses to grow faster, lower operational costs, and reduce information governance and security risks by improving business insight, impact and process speed.

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