I guess I shouldn't be surprised to have seen this article on Monsanto's reaction to their failed bid to acquire Syngenta. Beyond the obvious gamesmanship from the leadership at Syngenta - which just showed how utterly out of their league the boys over in A building in St. Louis are - the fallout actually shows an even scarier picture of incompetence.
For over 5 years now, every time Monsanto is confronted with a commercial failure - from the loss of Roundup, to the biotech fumbles, to the seed business drop off - they start throwing around the Big Data phrase. At this point, it is kind of hilarious. The last time they went through this they bought Climate Corporation (paying nearly $1bn for a company that the vast majority of usage is free, and the remaining revenue is a minuscule piece of the >$10bn market it operates in).
What's even funnier is that their customers have said loudly and clearly over the last few years, that they are NOT interested in increased seed costs, no matter the perceived value and equally NOT interested in paying for new services on the farm. Farmers in the US - no matter their size - have been confronted with massive increases in costs over the last two decades - 3x increases in seed prices, 4x increases in fuel and 4.5x increase in Nitrogen. What they need are easy to use optimizations and business relationships that fit inside of their business model which lower risks based on weather and other environmental factors.
Monsanto has not figured out how to offer those. This latest Big Data push shows complete tone deafness.
You know, many people have massive issues with Monsanto because of their GMO products. I am not one of them - I truly believe that GMO, when produced in the properly regulated environments, with the highest quality of science, thoughtfully implemented and consumed will help our species grow and survive our current population explosion. My issues are with Monsanto as a business. Run with the basest and most tactical of thinking, with an internal corporate culture that is of modest effectiveness and out of date with current thinking and an ownership structure coupled directly to senior leadership, Monsanto flails around from one failed "strategy" to another with very little critical oversight.
I'm a big fan of first principles and going back to basics. I'd suggest to the leadership of Monsanto that they look up the definition of Strategy. The part in particular I'd ask them to think about is the goal - what is their tangible, quantifiable, goal or goals for this "strategy"? And then start to ask questions like, do you have (especially on the human capital side) the resources to execute on this? Do your customers want this? And can you execute powerfully in the next 12-24 months?
I think the history of the leadership team and major shareholders of Monsanto (which you should dig into if you're thinking of investing in them) show clearly how this "strategy" will go.