How to Uncover Strategic Challenges and Opportunities

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Strategic Advantage

Strategic Advantage

A successful organization starts out with the main question “What do we want to achieve?” and then “What do we want to provide?” Creating strategy is driven by a business’ vision, mission, and goals, along with its key competencies, and the competitive industry with which it has to contend.

To uncover strategic challenges and opportunities, you need to learn the dynamics of an organization. The best way to do this is by answering strategic questions.

  • What are the key capabilities and resources required to execute and achieve the strategic goals?

Reviews of organizational resources, both human and financial, are used to prioritize which organizational goals and objectives will be targeted. Strategies are then developed to target those goals and objectives. Linking strategies to goals and objectives ensures the organization does not engage in activity traps: feel good activities that will not lead to desired changes. Once a strategy is defined then performance measurements and indicators are put in place to track progress and impact of the changes all through the change life-cycles.

  • What are the key things the organization must do to execute the business strategy?

Situation – Evaluate the current situation and how it came about.
Vision – Define goals and objectives for long-term and short-term visions.
Roadmap – Map out possible routes to achieve those goals and objectives.
Design – Draw out the desired target architecture.
Gap Analyse – Analyse the current situation – Base Architecture – and make gap analyses.
Planning – What specific actions must be taken to close the gap between the current and the desired situation?
Execution – What resources are required to execute those activities?

  • What are the most valuable outcomes of the organization?

There are four main business outcomes we need to consider, one often connected with another.
Financial: generated revenue, sales, profit
Reputation / Brand Equity: likelihood of purchase, minimum effect of a crisis, established credibility of products
Employees / Internal Publics: Employee satisfaction and engagement, low legal costs, transparency, high commitment, good communication
Public Policy: public awareness

Before we can measure the value of those outcomes, we need to answer four questions:
Whom is the organisation seeking to affect?
What about them is the organization seeking to affect?
How much must they be affected to be successful?
By when does this effect need to occur?

  • What are the major forces driving changes in the organization?

Are those forces enabling the organization to achieve the strategic goals, instead of individual or departmental goals?

To find out what the forces are which drive changes within the organization, you should look into the following factors:

Globalization: The increase in overseas production of goods and services, the increasing consumer demands in emerging markets worldwide, and the declining barriers to international trade aided by rapidly changing technology are some examples of globalization forces.

Technology Changes: The Internet has revolutionized the way in which information is exchanged, communication facilitated and commerce conducted. Technology is rapidly changing and effective actions demands more knowledge in these areas in order for companies to manage their resources and develop, maintain or keep their competitive edge.

Knowledge Management: Knowledge workers comprise a company’s intellectual capital and are made up of creative people with novel ideas and problem-solving skills. Managing its knowledge assets can give a company a competitive edge as it effectively utilizes the expertise, skills, intellect, and relationships of members of the organization.

Cross-boundaries Collaboration: An important part of knowledge management is effectively managing organization-wide collaboration. Use of appropriate technology and applications such as a virtual private networks; VoIP, e-mail, social networking websites, and even company-sponsored blogs can facilitate communication between an organization and its stakeholders, and help in different types of internal and external collaborative processes. An example of a tool that can be used in cross-boundaries collaboration might be an easily accessible online database that provides a central source of information to employees, customers or suppliers.

  • What conditions have the most disruptive impact on the organization?

When analysing the organization’s business for the purpose of improving resiliency and continuity, it is necessary to identify and assess the likely impact on the organization from potential disruptive events. Also known as business impact analysis, this risk based process is often considered to be a rather daunting procedure as it often involves making a subjective assessment on disruptive events where the severity can range from minimal to catastrophic.

  • How sustainable is the organization’s market position?

And does the organization has a business model to achieve and support their market position?

Sustainable competitive advantage is the focal point of any organization strategy. It allows the maintenance and improvement of the enterprise’s competitive position in the market. It is an advantage that enables business to survive against its competition over a long period of time.
Competition is a key feature in the economy. Customers want their services and products quicker, cheaper and more customized than ever before.
The quantitative and qualitative shift in competition requires organizational changes on an unprecedented scale. Distinctive capabilities and resources are the basis of your competitive advantage.

The options for growth and specific operational questions will uncover gaps between strategic imperatives and current capabilities.  Once you have those questions answered you can work on designing solutions to match the strategic imperatives.

Regine Deleu

Author: Regine Deleu

Regine is an Enterprise Strategic Advisor & Lead Enterprise Architect working for the New Zealand Government on the Transformation Mobilisation Programme for All-of-Government. She has more than 20 years working experience spanning Enterprise, Solution and Technical Architecture, Project Management, and Software Engineering. Regine is also a TOGAF Review Board member, and Advisory Board member at the Strategy and Enterprise Architecture Society.

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