IMBOK domains - Business strategy


Most organisations try to work with some kind of strategy that guides and gives direction to their efforts, although the quality of typical organisation strategies varies widely.

A business strategy is usually the product of senior management deliberations, but do senior managers really understand what is going on in the business? Sometimes (often, even?) they do not. And, how can we persuade people to act upon a strategy when it is decided and agreed? Developing strategies can be great fun: interesting meetings, challenging arguments, time with consultants, fully expensed weekends away from the office and away from home. At the end of the day, a handsome document with a refined analysis and clear targets for everyone to work to ... but implementing strategies can be a nightmare: people worry about how it will affect them and they do not want to understand how it is dependent on their efforts to deliver some of the components of a strategy. Strategy formulation is easy; strategy implementation is often extremely difficult.


Related research: Strategic beginnings

Earl, M.J. (1993) Experiences in strategic information systems planning. MIS Quarterly, pp.1-24.

This article is frequently cited, and although it is old now I am shameless in the way that I refer to this kind of seminal work that actually brings us timeless messages. Earl looks critically at 27 organisations that were willing to share their experiences with strategic information systems planning, and he identifies five generic approaches: Business-Led, Method-driven, Administrative, Technological and Organizational (you will have to go read the article to see the details, it is quite widely available in the usual places). He concludes that the organisational approach is the most effective, essentially that means the whole organisation taking responsibility, working together, and avoiding the sort of methodological paralysis that sometimes ensues. Today, we would say that the trick is to 'hang loose ...'

Related research: Have we grown up yet?

Luftman, J. (2000) Assessing Business-IT alignment maturity. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 4 (Article 14), pp.1–51.

This is a classic 'maturity model' (there are many of them) that goes into very useful detail about the stages of maturity that organisations need to go through in their efforts to align business and IT strategies. As we continue to face new challenges from the social web, from endless technology advancement, and from globalisation of everything, Luftman’s ideas need to be kept in mind as a means of constantly keep ourselves alert to our ability to deal with these things.

Related research: What managers should do

Yayla, A. & Hu, Q. (2009) Antecedents and drivers of IT-Business Strategic Alignment: Empirical validation of a theoretical model. In: Proc 17th European Conference on Information Systems. Verona Italy.

Yayla and Hu conclude that business and IT managers need to do certain things to get things working properly: Business managers should reconsider strategising processes and keep integration of planning as one of their primary goals; they should seek opportunities to increase their level of communication with IT managers and negotiate the responsibilities of IT and business units. IT executives should be more proactive so as to increase the visibility of their unit's success and make sure that they deliver on their promises.

This sounds obvious, but it does not hurt to be reminded from time to time.

Related research: Getting a grip on a flood of information

Chen, H., Chiang, R.H. & Storey, V.C. (2012) Business intelligence and analytics: from big data to big impact. MIS Quarterly, 36 (4), pp.1165-1188.

Hsinchun Chen and colleagues identify three eras within which the world has become awash with information: The first is a data-structured era based on conventional database resources; the second is web-based and acknowledges the availability of vast amounts of business information as well as blogs and social networking sites; the third is perhaps still just on the horizon, where mobile equipment, tags and sensors of all kinds are beginning to originate data that relates to the "Internet of things". They point out that in the third era data is (or will be) "location-aware", "person-centred" and "context-relevant". This long paper is actually a preamble to a special issue of MISQ but it is well worth a read if you feel uninformed about big data, business intelligence and business analytics. The papers that follow in the special issue cover marketing, customer satisfaction, strategic decision making, banking and fraud.