Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined

"Strategy" is a widely used, widely abused and little understood term.   This article offers a robust definition of strategy as the "essence of the organization and how it thrives"

Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems: Part 1 Strategy Defined

1.  "Strategy" widely abused and seldom understood


I continue to encounter sub-optimal Business Information System implementations.  I sit through big brand and not so big brand system vendor and implementer presentations, sift through their marketing material and visit their websites.  The word "strategy"  is scattered all over the place but frequently in absolutely inappropriate contexts.

If one reads the context of every place that the word"strategy" occurs, one must conclude that there is no single, coherent, consistent, congruent definition of the word.  To some it is wheeling and dealing, to others it is a plan or a way of doing things, to others it is an important sounding word to impress people.  The result being that strategy is, in fact, a widely discounted word.  Very few people agree what strategy is, very few people know how to determine strategy, let alone do strategy, whatever that means.

When it comes to business software I am not sure that I have ever seen the word "strategy" used correctly.  Michael Porter says that technology is never strategy, it is what people do with technology that is strategic!

2. The Essence of the organization and how it thrives

What is "strategy"?

Back in 1990 I wrote a paper for a conference on the importance of aligning business information systems with strategy, and then found that I could not define strategy.  So I started to research the definition of strategy.

Professor Malcolm McDonald says "strategy is doing the right things, viewed from the perspective of the customer" and "tactics is doing things right, viewed from the perspective of the customer".  He goes on to say that if an organization "does the right things well, it will thrive", if it does them not so well, it will "survive" and if it does the wrong things, it will "die" it is simply a mater of how quickly.  The better the organization does the wrong things the faster it will die!  That definition has stuck with me and forms the basis of my corporate logo.

Michel Robert defines "strategic driving force"  and asserts that every organization has a single driving force that will seldom if ever change.  If one gets in the way of that driving force, one will compromise and damage the organization.  If one enhances it, the organization will thrive.

Professor Michael Porter asserts that "differentiation" is the " essence" of strategy.

All three of these authorities significantly influenced my thinking to the point where I concluded that"strategy is the essence of the organization and how it thrives" It is what is unique, that which differentiates the organization, what makes it stand out so that it attracts and retains customers.

It is that essential something that has brought the organization this far and will propel it into the future.  It is the right things that cause your customers to buy from you.  It is the fundamental element that, if you damage it, you will destroy the organization and if you do it right the organization will thrive.

Strategic Essence is unique to every organization.

3. Underpin and enhance the essence

The interesting thing about this definition is that when I interview an executive team, individually, one on one, and ask "what is your strategy?" frequently their replies are all over the place.

When I ask them "what is the essence of your organization and how does it thrive?" they frown, they think, they scratch their heads, but, eventually, after thinking aloud, the final result of the individual interviews will generally be a fairly consistent view of the Strategic Essence of their organization.

Once you understand the concept of Strategic Essence, you begin to understand that this should be the reason you invest in new systems.  It should guide and direct the procurement and implementation of new systems and business improvement projects because the concept of the essence embraces the very core of what makes the organization successful.

This Strategic Essence originated intuitively from the founders recognizing a market need and filling it.  It embraces differentiation and competitiveness.  Organizations thrive because they are different and yet most systems implementations, focuses on operational "me too" stuff and gets in the way of the essence and therefore the competitiveness of the organization.

Some years ago I undertook a short diagnostic investigation, something that I call a "Pulse Measurement", into a systems implementation that had been stalled for nearly a year.  The client was in the Freight Forwarding and Clearing business, and they were in the process of implementing a "best of breed", "industry leader" software package -- the "obvious" choice.

I interviewed the executive team, one on one and, by the end of the first day I had established that their market was the 10% of customers who were very time sensitive, and that they had differentiated themselves with very tight response times and a service promise which amounted to "if we promise you delivery by a certain date and time and the clearance is delayed we will make good your loss".  They never had to make a payment and they had a portfolio of very satisfied and very loyal customers.

There was major tension with the software company which was also managing the implementation.  The second day of the investigation I phoned the owner of the software firm in another country and quickly established that his Strategic Essence was to be the dominant software provider in the field globally, which meant, of necessity, that he was focussed on the 90% of the market where service levels and response times were not such an issue.

There was a fundamental strategic misalignment.  I met with the executive who had briefed me and explained what I had discovered.  He took one look at me and exclaimed "of course! the lights have just gone on!"  That single discovery fully explained the tensions, the frustration, the lack of commitment to service, the entire "sorry saga" of a project that had run for eighteen months and caused nothing but heartache and frustration.

That is the power of understanding the Strategic Essence of an organization.  On the strength of that one piece of information, which delivered a massive "AHA" to the man in charge, the project was summarily terminated the same day!

I was then engaged to assist the client to select the most suitable software.  Together with my client, we visited three software companies.  At the third presentation the chief executive of the small niche player, unprompted, said "we are committed to service, in fact, we are so committed to service that if you miss a deadline as a consequence of a problem with our software we will reimburse you your losses".

I am sure you can understand that no further evaluation of software was necessary, at that presentation we ascertained that the software met the basic needs of the business but much more importantly, we had found a supplier whose strategic focus was strongly aligned with that of my client.  The software went in without difficulty.

It is not always that simple but failing to ensure alignment at the level of the Strategic Essence will alwaysgive rise to problems, and alignment with the Strategic Essence will always greatly improve the probability of a successful outcome.

To follow

4. Differentiation

5. The essence IS different

6. The essence should be comprehensively communicated

7. The essence should be the point of departure for every project

8. Enhancing the essence should be the focus of every project

9. One size fits all cannot work

Conclusion

I hope that this article has provided a different perspective on the relationship between systems and strategy.

I would welcome the opportunity to assist your organization to put the principles discussed in this article into practice to assist your organization to thrive.

The above is an extract from a longer article which you will receive in instalments. Please email me if you would like the full article immediately.

I offer a one day intervention through a series of one hour interviews with your management team to assist you to lift out the essence of your organization, please email me should you require information.

I also offer a comprehensive strategic planning service to engineering standards.

Yours faithfully,

 

Dr James A Robertson, PrEng


Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

SNw 038 The future of ERP -- 50 years on

This article examines where ERP and Business Information Systems will be in fifty years time
Std 024 The ART of Strategic Business Information System Project Leadership

The general tendency is to think in terms of Project Management for business information systems projects and the reality of many business information systems Project Managers is that they are administrators rather than strategic leaders.  This article discusses the role of the Strategic Business Information Systems Project Leader as effectively an interim executive who reports directly to the Chief Executive and acts as an advisor, agent and proxy for the CEO in managing the entire integrated business information systems project to achieve a high value business outcome

Web 02 Executive Custody -- What IS it and how do you get it?

The Executive Custody of Business Information Systems projects is absolutely critical, this video provides a detailed discussion of why this is so and what measures are necessary to achieve executive custody
Std 018 Procurement: 09 Table of Contents of Submission

The Table of Contents of the Tender Submission is prescribed in detail in order to ensure that different bids can be lined up against one another and accurately compared
Cnf 062 How To Ensure That Software Assets Deliver

Key factors giving rise to business information system investment failure and critical components of ensuring a successful outcome with particular emphasis on executive custody and managing the factors causing failure and the critical factors for success
Std 022 Procurement: 13 Skeleton Agreement

This is a broad framework for a contract.  The exact contract will need to be drafted by your organization's legal advisors based on the legal jurisdiction in which your organization operates

Dr James A Robertson PrEng The Business Information Systems Doctor

Business Systems NOT delivering?

Call the Business Systems Specialist

Dr. James Robinson

Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.

Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.

He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.

If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com

Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.

Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.

All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.

There HAS to be a better way!

This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control

We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website

We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues

Click here to read more about the Engineering Approach

By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT

This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.

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Book -- The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success

In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.

Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:


Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Std 025 The Engineering Approach to Business Information Systems Defined

Throughout this website I make reference to The Engineering Approach.  The Engineering Approach is central to who I am and the way I think about projects.  It was core to my original intention in 1989 "to bring the disciplines of Engineering to the IT Industry".  This article provides an overview of my understanding of The Engineering Approach 25 years on
SNw 044 Robust Procurement: Part 1 -- Introduction

An overview of a robust business information systems procurement method designed to ensure that a robust and enforceable contract is entered into before a project commences
Std 016 Procurement: 08 Bid Adjudication Score Sheet

The Bid Adjudication Score Sheet is a set of weighted factors designed to focus the adjudication team on those requirements that are CRITICAL to the success of the project measured in terms of Business Outcome.  Factors are determined in close consultation with the client Chief Executive and Executive Team

Subscribe to our Newsletter

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Connect with James Robertson on LinkedIn

James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.

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James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.

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Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website

Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles

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Table of Contents

Home

About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics

Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures

About the Engineering Approach

James Robertson's Value Add

Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution

Recognizing Business System Failure

The Critical Human Foundation

Old Software IS Viable

From South Africa

Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng

About Professor Malcolm McDonald

Table of Contents

About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing

Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics

Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson

Reference Articles

List of Articles

Article Catalogue

Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes

Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?

The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody

Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration

Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

IT Project Management

Pulse Measurement

CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement

No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes

Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™

The Pulse Measurement Workflow

The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement

Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations

What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?

Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years

Sample Pulse Measurement Reports

Strategy

Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems

Strategic Essence: Overview

Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined

Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation

Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different

Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure

Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence

Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?

Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment

Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual

A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting

Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works

Robust Business Systems Procurement

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc

Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters

Procurement Documents

Guidance and Advisory Services

The Art of Project Leadership

Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital

The Business Simulation Laboratory

Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture

Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies

The JAR&A Cubic Business Model

Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal

The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration

Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask

Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration

092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013

088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa

026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf

018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf

011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng

Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering

Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations

Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment

The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual

Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples

Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software

Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References

Example General Ledger Manual

Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous

The RIGHT Approach

Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction

Standards for Custom Software Specification

What IS Software?

IT Effectiveness

Organizing Outlook

Critical Factors for I.T. Success

A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail

Case Studies examining Business Information System failures

The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle

The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict

Speaking and Training

Showcase of Conference Presentations

Most Viewed Presentations

Briefings and Seminars

Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results

The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success

Other Seminars

Conferences and Public Presentations

Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present

Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009

Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005

Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996

Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994

On-Line Seminars (Webinars)

Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars

Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited