At what planning stage level does your company begin to engage IT for the inclusion of Managed IT services? Does this happen after company strategies are in place and operational plans developed? Is IT merely a support function to create tactical solutions in support of operational plans? If this seems familiar, you may benefit from considering involving IT much further upstream.
You can reap a ton of benefits by involving your IT partner at the onset of business strategy planning and summarizes some key IT partner characteristics that are necessary to leverage these benefits.
Strategic Planning Methodology
Strategy can have many definitions but generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources).
The Harvard Business Review provides an excellent discussion that describes different approaches firms use to set strategy. A graphic below provides help to explain the four approaches presented. Also included is a table that shows the results of scoring the different approaches.
While there is no clear ‘best’ approach that fits every situation, the collaborative model seems to produce generally good results. The collaborative approach scored especially well in terms of receiving good information and in the identification of alternatives. Both of these attributes are desirable for producing a sound and feasible strategy.
Collaborative Business Strategy Development
What is collaboration in business strategy development and what resources are employed? Simply put, collaboration in business strategy development is a process where inputs to support strategic decisions are solicited from outside the executive management team. These resources may include:
- Employees (especially department leads)
- Key third party service providers who have a significant impact on business workflow and efficiency
- People (third party or employees) who have wide-ranging experience formulating and carrying out business strategies
The benefits of using such resources to assist with the formulation of business strategy are numerous. A few of the major benefits that should be expected:
- Employee input will help the company gauge feasibility of implementation of the strategy, based on the employees’ detailed knowledge of business workflow in their areas of responsibility
- When it is evident that the adopted strategy includes employee input then employee engagement and support of the strategy is more likely to be achieved
- A third party service provider for business-critical functions, such as IT, can draw on a range of experiences from a wide customer base; a competent IT MSP can provide valuable insight into formulation of different strategies and help to assess feasibility of the different options considered; using the IT MSP in strategy formulation will help provide clarity and direction for the following tactical activities needed to support the adopted strategies.
IT Capabilities Needed to Provide Strategic Support
Not every IT service provider is equipped to provide critical support to business strategy development. Some IT MSPs simply do not have broad experience in business strategy development. Commonly, the IT MSP will become engaged after the client company has already agreed and approved its business strategy. In such scenarios, the IT MSP input is limited to the tactical deployment of solutions to support the business strategy.
The problem with this type of operating model is that the IT MSP is operating in reactionary mode. Its ability to shape and design IT systems (a critical business function) is limited.
Imagine an IT MSP that has the following capabilities.
- Solid understanding of business workflow, including detailed knowledge of accounting, finance, and operations
- A track record of delivering strategic business solutions AND accompanying fit for purpose IT solutions
Would you expect the employment of such a resource to deliver systems that incorporate proactive methodology, high system up-time, and low levels of business disruption? These are the results you should expect from the deployment of a strategically focused IT MSP with the requisite capabilities.
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