Creating The Scaffold For A Strategy

P1000583I was discussing how we develop a strategy yesterday and the topic turned to the need for a structure or scaffold around which a strategy would be built.  I’ve long believed that when you create a document you should carefully create the contents list first and as you jot down that structure you will quickly change your mind and start moving things around, adding new content etc.  In our discussion we started with the idea of a contents list for strategy document, but it’s too linear a way to think about strategy, scaffolding works better as a metaphor because it’s multi-dimensional.

I work in end user computing, so the strategy we were discussing related to that.  We quickly jotted down the dimensions of the strategy but this post refines the approach little and builds on a an earlier post, whilst only providing a rough sketch of the content (so as not to give anything away)

Developing a strategy that’s resilient to uncertainty (which is key) requires consideration of multiple inter-related dimensions and the likelihood of various scenarios within them.  The ones I like to use are:

  1. Strategic themes
  2. The strategic directions of our key partners
  3. The needs of our existing and target customers
  4. The needs of common customer segments
  5. The required focus of our services in each phase of the lifecycle
  6. The required focus of our services in each layer of the value cake

I’ve broken each of these dimensions down into more detail

Strategic themes

Although I listed it first the strategic themes really emerge after consideration of the other areas of the strategy. These themes need to capture the essence of how the strategy will differentiate us in the market.  The themes will of course be useful in marketing, but they have another very useful purpose when captured early in the lifecycle.  As the strategy is realised everyone involved in delivering it needs to innovate to strengthen these areas of differentiation, the whole business needs to get behind them and make them real. 

Microsoft used the “fast and fluid” themes when they developed Windows 8 and although it didn’t go very well, they provide a good illustration.  I’m thinking of themes along the lines of:

  1. Rapid, low risk implementation
  2. Personalised services tuned to the needs of different types of user segments
  3. Value centric approach delivering low customer Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and high Total Value of Ownership (TVO)

The high level pitch might then be “we deliver rapid, personalised business value”.  Although these are not the real themes, hopefully you get the idea how such simple statements, fully realised could make a big difference to success.  

The strategic directions of our key partners

The strategic directions of our partners are of course important to us, but the key factor we need to work through is that we will have multiple partners, with overlapping and conflicting strategies.  We need to find the complementary subsets of these strategies and then fill the gaps that are left with our own value and/or with additional niche partners. 

Often even strategic partners won’t reveal their strategies to us to the level of detail that we need, so we need to become expert at prediction based on product roadmaps, past behaviours and the myriad other clues that we pick up through our sensing networks.

The needs of our existing and target customers

Many people will start by identifying the evolving customer needs by industry vertical (financial services, manufacturing …) but that’s not my preference.  I think that as an infrastructure provider we need to focus on identifying common needs across industry verticals.  This means we need a more generic segmentation model, considering needs that arise from:

  1. complexity (multi-national, multiple business units, decentralised IT budgets, frequent acquisitions)
  2. attitude to cost (focussed on direct cost, total cost or total value)
  3. scale (number of employees, users, locations, countries, office sizes)
  4. regulatory and security needs
  5. composition (e.g. mix of task, process, knowledge workers …)

We might then identify 2-3 tiers of service for each area.  Lets take for example complexity. 

  1. We might have a low complexity set of service options designed for customers who need only a single language, have a fairly homogeneous business with standard, centrally provisioned services.
  2. A mid complexity service options designed for customers with multiple languages, a fairly homogeneous business with standard, centrally provisioned services.
  3. We might choose not to target high complexity customers at all

We can then model any target industry segment in terms of which tiers it matches, for example our strategy might lead us to focus on financial services customers who have medium complexity, a focus on TCO reduction, medium-large scale, high regulatory and security needs and mainly knowledge workers.  We would know exactly which services options were associated with such customers and as such the price point we could deliver at.

The needs of common user segments

Of course customers are made up of people and these people don’t all have the same needs.  Again many people will start by identifying the evolving needs of particular user segments (knowledge workers, managers, task workers) but I don’t like that approach.  Similarly to the approach described for customers I like a more generic segmentation model.  We might for example model users evolving needs in terms of their:

  1. Mobility type (deskbound, mobile within a building, highly mobile, deskless …)
  2. Work type (knowledge, task, process, creative, management …)
  3. Collaboration type (synchronous, asynchronous …)
  4. Device type (workstation, desktop, laptop, tablet …)
  5. Desktop type (local, remote shared, remote pooled, remote assigned …)

This allows us to look at for example deskless, process workers and how their needs are evolving towards wearable devices integrated with eye wear.

We can also model any particular user in terms of their combination of these factors, I for example am a highly mobile worker, who performs mainly knowledge work, collaborates synchronously and asynchronously, and uses a desktop, laptop and tablet all running a local desktop.

Places types are also another important business segment that have highly differentiated services, but I won’t go into them here.

The maturity of our services in each phase of the lifecycle

Whilst the focus of any strategy should be on customers and users, it’s important to also look internally within the business to benchmark our services in terms of their maturity against the need.  For example we might need to strengthen our assessment services, but defocus our traditional infrastructure management services as these move to the cloud.

The maturity of our services in each layer of the value cake

Similarly when we look at the layer cake of how we add value we might need to move emphasis away from the base layer of server operations, and move emphasis to high value layers like reducing a customers TCO or helping them maximise their TVO.

You can follow my blog on twitter @steveiswriting, follow my reading @steveisreading and follow me @steverichards

The photo today is of Filey Bay on a lovely calm day, but just look at those clouds!  A strategy needs to be resilient to the uncertainties we face in the real world, it could be quite stormy in a few ‘hours’ time.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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