NEXT SUB-SECTION: Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined >>>
1. "Strategy" widely abused and seldom understood
I continue to encounter sub-optimal Integrated 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 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.
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 are 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
Michel Robert defines "strategic driving force" and asserts that every
organization has a single driving force that will seldom or never
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
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
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 just about every systems implementation I
have seen, just about every management consulting intervention, focuses
on operational "me too" stuff and gets in the way of the essence and
therefore the competitiveness of the organization.
As mentioned above, an essential element of strategic essence is
differentiation -- that which enables the organization to compete and
thrive. Without differentiation we do not have customers.
When an organization cripples that which differentiates it, it loses
customers, when it enhances it, refines it, takes it to the next level,
customers flock through its doors.
The absence of understanding of these factors is what makes most
integrated business information system projects frustrating to
Understanding and applying strategic essence is the great opportunity
for any organization embarking on a business improvement project
today. It is also the opportunity for any organization whose
systems and operating procedures are slowing it down and getting in its
Introduce strategic essence thinking and methods into everything that
you do, refocus your efforts and your investment and you will be
surprised at what you can accomplish.
5. The essence is different
Fundamentally the strategic essence is different.
Strategic essence thinking is a total turnaround on traditional systems implementation thinking.
One of the things that floors me every time I come across it is why
otherwise intelligent executives select business information system
software on the basis of what their competitors are doing!
Exactly the same approach applies to appointing any firm of
management consultants for any form of business "improvement" focus on the
essence, lead from the front and do not abdicate to "IT" or anyone else.
An Integrated Business Information System implementation is probably
the most far reaching business improvement project you will ever embark
on. Done right it can add huge strategic value. Done wrong
it can put you out of business.
6. The essence should be comprehensively communicated
The strategic essence of your organization should be comprehensively
documented and communicated. Every member of staff, right down to
the person who cleans the corridors, should know the essence of the
organization and how it affects their role. In the early days you
might go so far as to put up posters, put a banner on the wall facing
the desk of ever executive and manager, talk about it constantly until
it is totally known and totally understood. Just doing that will
improve the competitiveness, effectiveness and profitability of your
organization. That is if profit is your motive, IF you are a "not
for profit" or a Government organization, the strategic essence is every
bit as important in delivering whatever service it is that you deliver.
7. The essence should be the point of departure for EVERY project
By now I hope that it is apparent to you that the strategic essence is
the point of departure for every business improvement project.
If you cannot clearly define how a business system procurement, or much
more mundane project will strengthen the essence of the business, do
not do it!
Remember Malcolm McDonald's massively important definition "if you do
the right things well your organization WILL thrive". The essence
IS the right things, operations is about doing the essence of the
business very well indeed.
Make your people more effective in terms of the strategic essence of the business and the REST will FOLLOW!
8. Enhancing the essence should be the focus of every project
Every step of the way, focus on the essence.
In every decision, ask yourself if you will be enhancing the essence.
Once you are focussed on the essence, sterile debates about what
aspects of the business should be "BPR'd" fall away. In fact, the
whole concept of "Business Process Re-engineering" will fall away.
Incidentally, how do you "re-engineer" something that was not
engineered in the first place? I am an engineer and I have to say
that I regard the whole concept of "Business Process Re-engineering" to
be an entirely inappropriate use of the word "engineering"!
The essence is not about process or workflow, it is about doing
the things that are central to the way the business works better and
better and better and, IF there is workflow involved, optimize the
workflow. Note that the way to optimize workflow is not to spend
thousands of Pounds / Dollars / Euros / ... on "as is" process mapping --
what a lovely way for consultants to make money and a total waste of
client money! "We are going to build a new bridge and demolish the
old bridge so we will document the way the old bridge works in minute
Focus on the essence!
9. One size fits all cannot work
By now I hope that you realise that choosing a business systems product
on the basis of what your competitors are doing is a big mistake.
Choosing a system just because it is the "best of breed" for your
industry is an even bigger mistake unless, of course, you are the
defining player in your industry in which case you are clearly not doing
the essence well.
The same applies to your choice of consultants and the type of business improvement projects you undertake.
Understand your essence and then go out and carefully head-hunt the
firm that aligns with your essence, the firm with the essential cultural
fit, the firm whose service promise aligns with your service promise,
the firm that specializes in optimizing the products or services that
constitute the essence of your business.
The above is a summary of a much more detailed article, please email me if you would like a copy of the full article.
I also have a video on strategic planning techniques, email me for the link.
I hope that I have challenged you to think differently about your organization and its systems.
I would welcome the opportunity to assist your organization to put any
and all of the principles discussed in this article into practice in
order to assist your organization to thrive.
I offer a one day intervention through to assist you to lift our the
essence of your organization, please email me should you require
information. I also offer a comprehensive strategic planning
service to engineering standards.
Dr James A Robertson, PrEng
Business Systems NOT delivering?
Call the Business Systems Specialist
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
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
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.
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:
A rigorous (engineering approach) to strategic planning using critical issues based analysis techniques and structured gap analysis techniques to develop a comprehensive and rigorous multi-year plan that is measurable and actionable and traceable back to the original analysis in order to produced high value outcomes, requires effective strategic facilitation
There is a more detailed version of this document at the end of this page for larger projects with a more detailed procurement process
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James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.
You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor
James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.
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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
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
List of Articles
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
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
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
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 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?
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
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