Integrating Information Systems & Strategic Planning


The overall mission and foundation of business today, as it was yesterday and undoubtedly will be tomorrow, is to maximize customer service. Giving the customer what it wants, when it wants it and how it should be, nothing different yet a remaining challenge. With the expanded use of technology, there is an overabundance of data and a challenge to disseminate data into information.

It is almost daily that we read or hear of Information Systems (ERP) not fulfilling the expectations established at the time of acquisition. In fact, despite the most diligent efforts in defining requirements, evaluating options and selecting systems, the probability of higher than expected investments and/or system implementation and utilization issues are extremely high. Accepting the premise that the customer is the reason for a business to exist, justification, for the most part filters back to leveraging IS to be seen as an investment rather than an expense.

Improved Results (IR):

It is fair to assume that all participants in the implementation of technology are focused upon improved results for their individual and collective departments. The aggregate of these improved results should be focused on, and result in, improved results for the company as a whole. Specifically, a concise definition of measuring improved results as a positive gain in the implementation of technology. If there is nothing to gain, then there is obviously no reason to change.

For a significant number of businesses however, changes are dictated externally by competition, customers, and vendors and for publicly traded companies, possibly the shareholders. This external pressure, when coupled with potentially internal conflicting goals tends to increase anxiety levels and can further contribute to poor system selection and/or utilization. How often is it heard that if we don’t change, we will lose? The Internet and e-commerce are recent examples of technology forcing many businesses to react.

One of the ways businesses have tried to deal with change and the expected pressures is through strategic planning. When done correctly, and shared appropriately throughout the organization, the strategic plan becomes a roadmap and a source of reference throughout the year. By establishing a Target Operating Model (TOM) that reflects the strategic plan, the selection of the appropriate ERP can be measured against its alignment with the TOM along with value derived by the delivered applications.

Procedures & Policies:

It is assumed that the procedures and policies associated with a new system will be integrated as part of the implementation process. Vendors of technology and software will do their best to provide the appropriate operational training however are not generally in the business of assuring that the organizational infrastructure can absorb the change. That is left to the management and implementation team. Recognizing that a new system carries risk as well as rewards, the management team is functioning under its’ own level of pressure and may not be the best in soothing the concerns, issues and change being felt by the employees. The good intentions associated with the new system may indeed be counterproductive without the corresponding balancing of the attitudes, goals, objectives and concerns of the people that comprise the organization.

Implementing the Strategy:

Regardless of the status of the current information technology/ERP, that is utilizing an existing system or entering into the selection process of a new one, it is essential that the TOM and value to be derived are clearly defined. That is, just how will we as an organization measure the ERP value and, equally important, how will our customers measure us to decide if we are in fact successful in implementing our strategy. In addition to this measurement is the strategic plan. It must be reflective of where we want the business to be and how we will measure our success. Finally, the integration of technology and infrastructure are essential to maintaining the balance of maximizing customer service. We must place equal emphasis on understanding and implementing positive attitude as we are in implementing technology.

Defining and achieving improved results is critical to the on-going success of most businesses. To invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology and systems without recognizing that tools are only as good as the operator is a formula for disappointment. It has been said that the majority of systems that fail do so in that they do not meet management expectations. We invest significantly in the selection process we need to expand that investment into our most valuable resource, our people and their ability to generate value to our customers. 

David Shaffer, Business Advisor & Executive Coach

David assists companies from executive strategic planning through operational and business process improvement to the effective utilization of financial and organizational resources. He also supports Private Equity firms in due diligence activities extending from strategic planning into leadership development and CEO mentoring including value maximization for privately held companies. His range of company support includes start up through fortune 500.