What is the apparent value of strategic systems planning during turbulent times when technology shifts occur so frequently?
The occurrence of frequent technology shifts give companies a great opportunity to differentiate themselves by cost structure, product feature and service. This is especially true with regards to IT which McFarlan and Nolan (Para 8) state could be used to increase efficiencies and improve cost savings, to support incremental improvement of organizational structure, products, and services, and also to create strategic advantage through changing the rules of competition, extending customer value proposition, extending competitive scope and so on. In this light, it is prudent for organizations to maximize on the opportunities availed by today’s rapidly changing technologies. Strategic information systems and technology planning provides a framework that can help organizations recognize and harnessing these opportunities that are arising out of technology turbulence.
Strategic information systems and technology planning is valuable to organizations in such environments where the pace of doing business keeps going up because it reflects a convergence of both means and ends. As means, information systems have become so important to achieving business objectives that they have to be weighed as part of the process of selecting objectives, and not merely act as a means to accomplishing objectives already identified (Pollack 49). As ends, information systems can extend the customer value proposition through provision of new IT-based products and services (McFarlan and Nolan Para 9).
Specifically, the intended result of the strategic information systems planning process is to arrive at information systems (IS) strategy that comprises of the Information Strategy, the Information Technology Strategy, the Information Management Strategy and the Change Management and Implementation Strategy (Pollack 51). From each of this sub-sections of the IS strategy, the organization is better able to critically appraise the new technologies, identify those that match its business and organizational strategies and implement them. The ideal situation is that technology should not act as a constraint on a company’s current and emerging business strategy, rather it needs to enable and support them.
Further, regardless of the whether times are turbulent or not, in a rapidly changing technology landscape or not, the merits of strategic systems planning that an organization is bound to experience have been well documented by several authors such as Steiner. Some of these merits include application of the systems approach, introduction of new set of decision forces, creating channels of communication and creating a framework for making decision (Steiner 38). A good example of the value of evaluating the company using the systems approach is that it permits management to view the organization as a whole and not as a sum of parts. This way the organization can unearth the interrelationships of its different units and how new technologies will affect these interrelationships.
Finally, conducting strategic systems planning during turbulent times provides the company with an ability to iterate quickly around the loop: identify, adopt, measure and learn. When opportunities are presented by the technology shifts it is paramount for organizations to respond quickly in order to take advantage. As Pollack (50) states: “some rapid responses may be viewed later as failed experiments, but that may prove to be better than a lost opportunity.”
McFarlan, F. W, and Richard L Nolan. “Does IT Matter? An HBR Debate.” HBS Working Knowledge. 25 Aug. 2003. Web. 29 Jan. 2012.
Pollack, Thomas A. “Strategic Information Systems Planning.” ASCUE 2010 Proceedings. North Myrtle Beach, SC: ASCUE, 2010. 47-58. Print.
Steiner, George A. Strategic Planning. New York: The Free Press, 1979. Print.
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