IT is not an end in itself; rather, it should deliver benefits to you and your stakeholders. It is about support for processes and information flows. Creating and implementing strategies relies very heavily on communication, so it is no wonder that ICT can help us to create and deliver strategies. All strategies should be developed, communicated, implemented and have their success measured. Further, as an organisation becomes more complex with growth, the challenge of each phase increases. Fortunately, ICT can help you meet this challenge too.
Intuition has a part to play in strategy development but it should be tempered with data – ‘good decisions’ are merely luck without them. ICT can help you get the data you need, through:
- Internet research
- Selective data from market reports electronically and instantaneously
- Data analysis using analysis software
- On-line surveys
- In-house data from your own management systems such as CRM or accounting
2. Sharing information
Strategic decisions often require the involvement of others inside and outside the business. They need to share data and analysis to contribute. This might mean an email with an attachment or a global multimedia conference. Both are ICT solutions.
Many of the tools used to develop strategy, like portfolio matrices, can be produced using off-the-shelf software, saving time entering data and drawing complex graphics.
4. Configuration management
Eisenhower said “A plan is nothing; planning is everything.” Despite this, documents are inevitable. ICT can reduce time and risk with configuration management. Online systems allow changes to be captured from almost anywhere and tracked.
5. Communicating the Strategy
Strategies need to be communicated. Most of us have at some time failed to be engaged by the lifeless tome called a “Strategic Plan”. This is due, in part, to the complex message contained within – so multiple media may be required to reach everyone, since we absorb information differently. ICT offers cost-effective new channels including webcasts, newsletters, intranet and email. Another reason for the failure of the tome is a lack of buy-in. Webcasts allow personal delivery of the message with powerful implications for buy-in. You might even invite people to ‘read your lips.’
A strategy will change something in the business. This may involve new processes or changing old ones. For example, outsourcing for scalability will benefit from supply chain management and transparency. New software solutions to support such processes abound. An important warning here is to design the process and use ICT to support it. People deliver it and it will change. Don’t get stuck with an ICT solution that does not fit the process as it evolves.
Understanding achievement against strategic goals requires measuring performance. Balanced scorecards and Management Information Systems are tools for allowing management to view performance. Both can be more valuable and cost-effective when ICT is employed to implement them. What better tool is available to collect disparate data, summarise and display it?
Developing and delivering strategy requires data collection, data analysis, communication and measurement. ICT can add value and reduce costs in all of these areas.
ICT is not an end in itself. Strategy tasks and processes should be designed for people and made more valuable or cost-effective by ICT.