‘Tis the season to plan strategy

This time of year reminds us that humanity is divided into two groups: those who revel in making detailed preparations for big events and those who prefer the adrenaline-induced heart palpitations that come from waiting until the last minute. If you’ve ever used the phrase, “I do my best work under pressure!” guess which group you belong to. In any event, here’s a little something to think about during the holiday lull, or at least what passes for the holiday lull nowadays.

Sit back and take a big-picture look at your business strategy. Is it still the optimal path, given the changes to the industry and to your company? Strategies are all about overcoming challenges to meet objectives. When strategies fail, they need to be replaced. When they work well the challenges change, and new strategies are required. Think of this as the business equivalent of rebalancing your stock portfolio.

Then, look at your strategy from an ecosystem level. Because all of this is ultimately about meeting the needs of end users, I’d start there first. Is the right technology mix in place? Where were the rough spots along the migrations, and how can they be improved? Was post-sales support effective? If you’re a customer, you mostly need to look at this from your own perspective. If you’re a vendor or a channel partner, you’ll need to first look at this across the broad customer base, and then break it down into vertical markets or even to the individual customer level, depending on the circumstances.

At this point, it should become clearer how well your overall strategy is working. But don’t start contemplating changes yet. There’s more to come.

Next, look at how the different players interact. Where does communication need to be improved? How can technology be used to augment that improvement? Are there adequate links between the players at the appropriate levels of the organizations?

Then there’s business development. If that thought only brings to mind the excitement of winning new customers, give yourself a failing grade. You also have existing customers, my friend — and if you’re so focused on finding new customers that you’re not looking at long-term approaches to meet the needs of existing customers, they really ought to become someone else’s customers. A good business development plan pursues both.

Once you consider all the issues that fall under these basic categories, you’re about ready to look at areas such as improved cost containment. But you can’t really do that effectively until you’ve loaded the more customer-facing items into your brain and let them simmer for a while. When you’re finished with this process, the strength of your strategy and the potential changes should become much clearer.

Now is a great time to perform this exercise. A little advance planning can make a world of difference, and the start of a new year is right around the corner. Never mind if you operate on a fiscal year; a fresh start is more about psychology than about calendars. Or maybe it’s too early. Some of us, I’m told, do their best work under pressure.

Presti is research director of IDC’s Network Channels and Alliances service. He can be reached at [email protected]

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