The success of any business organization depends on the ability of management to identify a viable strategic business management plan. Strategic management in business entails drafting, evaluating, and implementing specific steps that would help the business attain its long- term objectives (Afuah, 1998, p. 120). In addition, the business in question gains a competitive advantage in the market. Accordingly, the specification of a business entity’s mission, vision and objectives rests with its management. A sound management team ensures that a business develops policies and plans that will effectively help it attain its objectives. This also facilitates the identification of the resources necessary for the achievement of the set objectives and by extension, an adequate allocation of the same. Strategic management as one of the levels is responsible of directing all the operations of a business. It helps in accessing business competitors and in the identification of the necessary strategies to met competition. An affective strategic management plan requires that the organization in question identifies and implements management strategies aligned with their business goals (Afuah, 1998, p. 123). This insight into strategic management endeavors to explore some of the elements of strategic management and their implications in an organizational environment.
To discuss strategic analysis one must also discuss the related topic of strategic analysis. Strategic analysis has numerous definitions by numerous authors as well as its relationship to strategic management. Strategic analysis and strategic management can have various definitions and management perceptions based on the enterprise involved (Vaitkevičius, 2006). These enterprises are very diverse in structure, although some are so small that they consist of a single employee, while others may have thousands of employees across the globe with various foreign markets and business plans to match each country’s laws for workers rights. This widespread opportunity for organizations creates the need for diversifying strategic analysis as a context of strategic management (Vaitkevičius, 2006).
According to Johnson (1993, p. 85), strategic management refers to analysis of all organization activities. Teare (1998) took this foundational attitude of strategic analysis and differentiated three primary elements of strategic analysis that provide objective information and strategic management to strategists (Vaitkevičius, 2006). These three elements include an organization’s external and internal environments and the shareholders’ culture and expectations of that organization for their investment return. Teare (1998) distinguishes between strategic analysis, strategic alternatives, and strategy implementation as three strategic components of organizations (Teare, 1998). Strategic alternatives consist of the choice of the most feasible potential actions through evaluation and selection. Strategic implementation is the plan for selecting a strategy and managing any changes required in that strategy in an organization. Teare’s definition of strategic analysis is the knowledge of the strategic position in an organization (Teare, 1998).
Steps in strategic management
To develop an effective strategic management plan that will lead to a company gaining a competitive advantage in the market while reducing its operational costs, there is a need for business operators to explore various crucial steps in the development of strategic management. The first step in strategic management development is the analysis of the organization’s external and internal environment (Squidoo, 2010, para. 4). Managers are usually required to analyze critically their organization’s strengths and weaknesses and identify some of the barriers that hinder a smooth running of the organization. It is also important to identify some of the underlying opportunities for the organization to develop a strategy that will make good use of these opportunities. This way, the organization is in a position to make strategic decisions that will strike a balance between the available business abilities and opportunities. Some of the internal environment considered includes employees’ relation with their employers, interaction between employees, manager interaction with managers from other departments and management interaction with business shareholders (Agarwal & Sambamurthy, 2002, p. 16). These relationships prove valuable because they provide a friendly environment, in the process enhancing the overall productivity of an organization. Organizational leaders should make it standard to create these employee manager relations to ensure the positive environment increases production as well.
External environment considered include customers, creditors, suppliers, and business competitors. Various considerations need to be made for the effective analysis of business external environment. These include examining the relationship between the business, its customers, and suppliers. The importance of a sound relationship between a business entity and its creditors is that the two parties involved hopes to win the trust of each other. Analyzing some of the strengths that business competitors have over business can help in ensuring that the business develops a strategy that will improve its strength to overcome competition (Chandler, 1962, p. 35). To formulate its competitive strategy, a business needs to understand all its competitors, how they operate and what their strengths are in the market.
When evaluating the external and internal environment of a business operators concurrently set business objectives. The attainment of the objectives of a business entity depends on a given timeframe. Some objectives may be long-term whereas others are short-term. The underlying vision and mission of a business depends on the long-term objectives that the management has identified (Shashank, 2009, para. 2). This facilitates the determination of how the business shall be in the future. At this step, the management of a business establishes their mission statement. A business identifies all its functions as well as the roles played by its various stakeholders. This is with a view to achieving the established business objectives. As a result, all the various stakeholders in a business entity get to know of their individual roles. This is important for an effective implementation of the strategic plans of a business (All business.com, 2009, para. 2-5). An effective mission statement helps in eliminating deadlocks usually experienced during the normal operations of a business. The entire business objectives are also stated at this step. This helps in ensuring that the business mission and responsibilities assigned to each stakeholder works toward the attainment of the entire objectives of a business.
Stating of the entire business objectives should be done in a manner suggestive of the existence of a strategic plan toward their attainment (Allison & Kaye, 2005, p. 25). This will help in devising a strategic plan that will assist in the attainment of these objectives. The management may decide to continue using the existing system of operations while altering some of the methods when formulating strategy to follow. Alternatively, it may decide to introduce a new system of operations. Those responsible for assigning tasks within the organization need to ensure that they have assigned all the responsibilities to serious members within the organization. When such a process is closely monitored, this helps in the determination of its effectiveness. Additionally, one is in a position to identify areas that require modification (Allison & Kaye, 2005, p. 25).
After evaluating the situation of a business, the business operators can then focus on the available options for strategic development. One may use varied templates to come up with the most viable option for strategy formulation. For one to consider using a specific strategy development option, this depends on the input of the various stakeholders. Since a business is usually faced with numerous problems that it has to address, there is a need therefore to develop strategies to overcome these challenges. However, priority should be on the most urgent challenges facing a business. This requires the team responsible for strategy development to look for the most relevant tool for the development of strategies to address all the problems facing a business (Stephen, 2004, pp. 214-234).
After identifying the strengths, weaknesses, internal and external environment as well as competitors of the business and formulated a management strategy, it is imperative for the business to conduct a strategy evaluation to determine if it will be viable for the business. When a business entity conducts a Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, this aids in the identification of the changes that requires implementation. When evaluating the effectiveness of a business strategy, there are various key considerations that are made. These include determining the suitability, feasibility, and acceptability of the strategy to the business (Andersson, Cegrell, Kam-Hoong and Haglind, 2001, pp. 321-350). In determining the suitability of the strategy, managers need to explore if the formulated strategy will be able to address all the needs of the business. It is important to ensure that the adopted strategy helps the business reduce its operational costs and at the same time, improve its profit. The main aim of developing a management strategy is to help the business improve on its profit, gain competitive advantage in the market, and cut down on operational costs (Bakos & Treacy, 1986, p. 105). Adopting a strategy that will not help a business meet these needs will lead to the business operating at a loss. Depending on the environmental factors of the business, it is important to come up with a strategy that will help the business meet all the environmental problems affecting it. One needs to evaluate if the strategy will enhance the interaction between employees and customers, if there will be a sound relationship between managers from the different departments as well as if there will be a favorable relation between the managers and the shareholders. The strategy need to favor and improve the relationship between the business and its creditors and suppliers, besides improving the competing power of such a business in the face of competition. It is not worth introducing a strategy that does not meet these issues in a business (Bakos & Treacy, 1986, pp. 107-119).
Some strategies may be hard to implement in a business. For this reason, feasibility evaluation of strategies to be implemented becomes necessary. An evaluation can be done by determining if the business will be in a position to provide all the resources required in the implementation of its strategy. These resources include time, people, funding as well as information. Some strategies may require a business to have many employees because of the activities required its implementation. The business may not be in a position to provide this number of employees. The presence of skilled human resource could be beneficial while implementing some strategies. A business entity could either organize a training program for its employees or recruit human resources with skills. However, this may only occur following a successful evaluation of the feasibility strategy. Determining the amount of money required for implementation of a business management strategy can help in eliminating financial constraints that a business may experience while implementing its strategy (Barczak, 1995, pp. 224-234). Tools that can be used to evaluate the feasibility of a business management strategy include cash flow, forecasting, break-even analysis and resource deployment analysis.
By performing a cash flow analysis, the business can be able to determine the amount of money the strategy is bringing to the business as well as amount being spent by the business in implementing the strategy. This is done over a specific period. For the strategy to be feasible, it has to have higher rate of return than what the business is using in its implementation. Based on how a business entity is expected to work, a business operator is in a position to forecast on strategy implications. Although the forecast may not be effective, it can help in ascertaining if the strategy will enhance business performance. A break-even analysis can facilitate the determination of the performance of the strategy in the business. In some instances, an adapted strategy may not have any effect in the business. The business may not make any profit and at the same time, may not incur any loss by implementing the strategy (Bergeron, Raymond & Rivard, 2001, pp. 125-142). Such a strategy cannot be feasible for a business as the main aim of developing the strategy is to improve business profit and reduce operation cost.
Evaluating the acceptability of a business strategy entails determining if the strategy will be able to meet all shareholders’ demands. A strategy that does not address all shareholders’ demands will not be accepted when brought to the business (Spry, 1997, para. 3).The strategy also needs to be acceptable by employees for it to be productive. Employees will not receive well a strategy that leads to them working under pressure or one that may alter their working conditions. This can lead to employees failing to comply with all its requirements rendering it unproductive to the business. Acceptability of the strategy will depend on its returns, risks as well as stakeholders reaction. Every stakeholder in the business will have different expectations regarding returns from the adapted strategy. For the shareholders, they would expect the adapted strategy to increase business income (Bushman, 2007, para. 4-6). Failure of the strategy to show positive changes with respect to business revenue would lead to shareholders not accepting the strategy. It is the aim of every employee to see that his or her career improves as he or she continues working with a given organization. They also expect their working conditions to improve. When a business adapts a new management strategy, every employee expects that the strategy will help improve their working conditions and at the same time, help improve his or her career. When a strategy fails to meet the expectation of the employees, there results dissatisfaction on their part. Consequently, this could result in a lack of implementation of the strategy in question. For a business management strategy to be accepted by shareholders, they usually evaluate its effects in case it fails to succeed when adapted. In case failure of the strategy would plunge the business into risk, the strategy will not be accepted by shareholders (Chan, 2002, pp. 97-112).
Before embarking on implementing a management strategy, it is imperative for the business management team to communicate their strategy to employees. Employees are therefore expected to undertake strategy implementation. Communicating the strategy to employees would ensure that they are not caught in a surprise concerning its implementation. They will also be able to identify the various hardships that may face during its implementation in advance helping the management team make the necessary changes. Effective communication of the strategy to employees will also facilitate in ensuring that all employees have clear understanding of strategies target. This will help them coordinate toward achieving the goal (Schwenk & Molloy,1995, pp. 134-145).
Once the people responsible of developing business management strategy have evaluated its feasibility, suitability, and acceptability, the next step is strategy implementation. Here the strategy is put into practice. In strategy implementation, there are numerous activities that take place. In this stage the identification of the methods, steps, and procedures to be followed during the implementation of a strategy is done. Strategy implementation is the act of putting into action all the established strategies in bid to attain organization objectives (Cooper, & Zmud, 1990, p. 120). The various activities of a business strategy are divided on the basis of the urgency involved. Business owners start by first determining the strategies that requires to be performed (Cooper, & Zmud, 1990, pp. 123-139). In this case, priority is given to those strategies that address the most urgent needs of the business. It is imperative for the business to first deal with worst problems that hamper its performance. Once these problems have all been addressed, then the business can shift to less serious problems. To facilitate in effective implementation of strategies, it is imperative that persons formulating the strategy come up with implementation methods as they continue developing the strategies. For instance, the training team is required to identify the most ideal training techniques for their workforce. This will ensure that the business has been able to provide all the necessary materials for the training. Identifying sources of fund for the strategy in advance will facilitate in determining if the strategy will be feasible (Coulter, 2005, p. 236).
When implementing the strategy, management team checks if employees have reached to a consensus in following the laid down steps in strategy implementation. It also checks if the strategy has facilitated in improving coordination between the various departments within the business. Here the management team plans on human capital. They ensure that they have assigned competent people to every stage of strategy implementation. Business can use balanced scorecard method to supervise strategy implementation (David, 1989, p. 144).
Examination of strategy effectiveness
Once a strategy has been implemented, there is a need to conduct an analysis of its effectiveness to the business entity in question. This facilitates in making alterations in the strategy to meet problems not yet addressed by the strategy. The way a strategy has been implemented, along with the effect it has on a business are evaluated at this point. One determines if the set deadlines in strategy implementation has been kept to and if implementation steps available are working as per the business expectations. One determines if the strategy has met the established objectives. This helps to reduce operational problems within the business, hence improving business productivity. A case in which the management of an organization identifies that the available implementation methods do not meet the set deadlines, they can modify the entire strategy. In case implementation process is not working appropriately or the strategy is not attaining its main objective, they can do an overhaul of the entire strategy or modify some of its implementation methods to make it effective (David, 2009, pp. 67-85). The evaluation of how effective a business strategy is done by both the management and employees.
The two stakeholders are capable of looking at the strategy in different perspectives. During the day- to- day implementation of the strategy, employees may identify implementation problems in areas that the management may not be in a position to identify.
Strategic management is an on-going process. As the business continues recording outcomes from the strategy in every level of its operation, their effects are accessed and modifications made to ensure that the strategy effectively help in attaining business objectives. Change of business strategy is necessary if at all it has to meet its operational needs. A business can modify its underlying strategies or come up with new strategies (Demirhan, Jacob & Raghunathan, 2006, pp. 321-350).
Impacts of strategic information technology management
The need for most business organizations to align their business operations with the established strategies has led to them investing in information technology. These businesses are using strategic information technology management to promote changes in managing their manufacturing processes, customer relations, supply chain management as well as procurement activities. They are also using the technology to improve their competitive advantage. Through the technology, business organizations can gather information regarding different methods of operations used by other similar businesses, analyze their effectiveness and determine if they can be viable if implemented in their businesses. This has led to many businesses coming up with new strategies to help them adapt new operations methods to improve their competitive advantage (Ferhan, 2004, pp. 83-84).
Information technology helps business organization in conducting SWOT analysis of its competitors. This helps it identify some of the weaknesses of their competing business and devise strategies to capitalize on these weaknesses. The business is also able to identify its weaknesses thus being able to work on them. For business to be competitive in the market, it needs to ensure customer satisfaction. Businesses can receive feedback from their customers on areas that need to be improved through use of information technology. This helps it come up with strategies to help it address these areas. As a result, business organizations can improve customers’ satisfaction making them gain competitive advantage. Effective performance within the business depends on good communication between employees, managers from different departments as well as managers and shareholders (Foong, 2007, para. 2-5). This cannot be achieved if the business has not established an effective communication strategy. Strategic information technology management facilitates in developing good communication mechanisms within a business. It ensures that there is accurate and timely flow of information between different departments in the business.
Information technology supplies business management team with information to do with innovative ways of improving working conditions within the business as well as services provided by employees. Introducing new methods of operations within a business leads to employee satisfaction and motivation. Consequently, relationship between employees, and their employers improve. As productivity of any business depend on employee input (Galliers, Leidner & Baker, 1999, pp. 143-158). Employees’ satisfaction leads to improvement in business productivity. The technology helps business organizations in formulating new strategies that help them introduce new methods of providing customer services. Information technology helps business organizations in coming up with new strategies for responding to customer demand. These are strategies to facilitate in reduction of delivery time taken by the business. In return, the business improves customer satisfaction leading to improvement in business profit.
Challenges in strategic information technology management
To establish why most business organizations have not been able to use strategic information technology management in their businesses, numerous research studies have been conducted. This is despite the effectiveness of strategic information technology management in improving business management strategy as well as business productivity (Kono, 1994, pp. 85-97). Some of the researches have stated that the top management in business organizations fails to understand the potential the technology has, whereas others fear to use it because of rapid changes in technology. Some managers argue that a well managed business organization can be able to come up with a viable strategy without relying on information technology. This has led to most organizations failing to use the technology. For a business to fully use strategic information technology management, it has to have full understanding of how to install, implement, manage, and adapt to the strategic information system. One of the problems that results in this technology not being effective in business organizations is leaving this responsibility to the top management in the organization (Lorenzen, 2006, pp. 22-29).
The problem of making information technology facilitate in strategy formulation in business organizations does not solely lay on the failure of the top management in business management to be willing to adopt the technology or lack of knowledge by the management team. All the information support system as well as the underlying infrastructure plays a vital role in helping business management formulate its business strategies. These tools may not be effective until they are altered to function in a way that aligns to business objectives (Louise, Michel, & Vincent, 2005, pp. 2-11). This includes redesigning the available management information system to gather the required information for strategy formulation. Coming up with strategic information technology management system within a business is not an easy task. In today’s competitive business environment, every business wants to establish a strategic information system that caters for all its strategic demands. These include being able to meet all business goals and increasing business competitive advantage in the market. The development of a strategic information system for a business facilitates in cutting down on its operation cost. This is in addition to but coming up with strategic information technology management that will help it improve its performance (Martha & Sunro, 1993, p. 45).
The process of coming up with a strategic information system is difficult and in most cases, business organizations are not able to do it. The system requires the organization to come up with methods of collecting information with respect to performance of the business strategy. The system also affects the period required by an organization in coming up with its operations plan. Current and future business needs influence development of strategy rather than increased in employee needs. Increase in time needed for organizations to develop a strategic information system makes it hard for the system to be effective because it is hard for management team to remember all the required system considerations (Molz, 1988, p. 97).
Another challenge associated with the adaption of information technology in developing business strategies is the complexity of the functionalities of information system. The system entails large-scale computing, information interchange as well as research to identify the upcoming technologies with respect to business operation (Noel, 1983, p. 285). This requires business organizations to incur expenses in developing infrastructure that will be able to support all these functionalities. This is in order for the organization to share effectively information among its departments and respond effectively to changes implemented on business strategies. Another problem arises concerning aligning information technology strategies with the business strategies. It requires organizations to balance their internal and external environment to align business strategies with information technology strategies (Palmer & Markus, 2000, pp. 241-259). Managing to align information technology with business strategies helps in improving business performance as well as gaining competitive advantage.
The formulation of business strategies and roles is on the basis of the existing organizational structure. In addition, a company’s organization structure determines the manner in which communication takes place within organization and how work is coordinated between various departments available within such a business. Introducing strategic information technology management within a business requires the business to adjust as well as modify some of the features of its organizational structure. This is to help the organization formulate strategies to accommodate coordination, innovation as well as resource distribution within the business (Patrick & Suzanne, 1993, p. 73).
The Success of any business organization depends on the viability of its strategy. Most of business management teams fail to succeed in their operations because establishment of poor management strategy. Before and after implementing a business strategy, there are various stages that the management needs to follow to ensure that the strategy will be productive for the business. These steps are situation evaluation, strategy formulation, strategy evaluation, implementation, and maintenance Situation evaluation helps the management clearly understand internal and external environments of their business (Rajiv, Robert & Mo, 1993, pp. 20-32).They can identify strength and weakness of their business as well as that of their competitors. This enables them to come up with a strategy that will not overwhelm their business but will capitalize on weaknesses of their competitors. After the management has clearly understood the situation of their business, they embark on coming up with a strategy to cater for the identified problems. Evaluation of the established strategy is important to determine if it will be effective for the business. Some of the considerations made when evaluating business strategy include the suitability of the strategy, its acceptability, and feasibility. Before the implementation of a strategy, all stakeholders in the business have to accept it (Rampur, 2009, para. 4).
Once accepted, the strategy then passes to the implementation phase in which all stakeholders is assigned different responsibilities. This phase requires the management team to ensure that it has assigned serious persons to different responsibilities due to the need for close examination of the strategy to determine its effect on the business and identify areas that require to be modified. After implementation, it is imperative for the business management team to evaluate the effects of the strategy in the business so as to make the necessary changes (Sabherwal & Kirs, 1994, pp. 301-330). The use of strategic information technology management in business has numerous benefits. The technology helps the business in coming up with new strategies in service provision, it introduces new innovation strategies in the business as well as enhancing communication and relation between employees and their managers, managers from different departments within the business and managers and the shareholders (Sarah, 2010, para. 7).
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