Strategic Planning in a Recovering Market (3 of 3)

October 12, 2010

Here are some of final insights from a NIWeek 2010 Alliance Day presentation given by Don Roberts, Exotek. He is a principal of a consulting and operations-support company focused solely on the systems integrator.

Objectives and Measures

The end result of good strategic planning is a set of goals considered critical to the future success of the organization. Each goal is accompanied by specific objectives clarifying what must be done and what is critical to success. Just as important, are defining the measures that will track the accomplishment of the objective? The measures should be:

  • Linked: Measurements communicate what is strategically important by linking back to your strategic objectives.
  • Repeatable: Measurements are continuous over time, allowing comparisons.
  • Leading: Measurements can be used for establishing targets, leading to future performance.
  • Accountable: Measurements are reliable, verifiable, and accurate.
  • Available: Measurements can be derived when they are needed.


  • Over the next six months, delivery times will decrease by 15% through more localized delivery centers.
  • By the year 2013, customer turnover will decline by 30% through newly created customer service representatives and pro-active customer maintenance procedures.
  • Un-billable time will get cut in half by cross training front line personnel and combining all four operating departments into one single service center.

Plans into Actions

As you put your plans into actions, determine who is the right person or team to accomplish these goals. Consider all people that influence change, including outside contributor or perhaps even a facilitator. Then, decide what the appropriate timing is. A major plan may take more than a year, but should have quarterly or monthly reviews.


Strategic Planning in a Recovering Market (2 of 3)

October 5, 2010

Last week, I shared some of the insights from a NIWeek 2010 Alliance Day presentation given by Don Roberts, Exotek. He is a principal of a consulting and operations-support company focused solely on the systems integrator. Continuing on, Don suggested some tools to assist in your strategic planning process.

Strategy maps put into focus the often-blurry line of sight between your corporate strategy and what your employees do every day

                                                – Kaplan and Norton

Strategic Maps and Balanced Scorecards

Strategic maps help communicate your corporate strategy. And, balanced scorecards are a way to measure your strategic progress. They typically focus your company strategy around the following areas:

  • Financial Perspective – How do you look against the financial objectives of the company’s owners
  • Customer Perspective – How do you look to your current and prospective customers?
  • Internal Business Perspective – What must you excel run an effective business?
  • Learning Perspective – What must you organization learn to improve your business?

These perspectives then help to layout both your strategic map and balanced scorecard. There are more details, then I could effectively cover in this blog, but there are lots of useful information available on-line. Don offered an example for an Alliance Partner.

Strategic Planning in a Recovering Market (1-3)

September 28, 2010

Many companies begin their annual planning process in Q4 of each year. So, I thought that I would pass along some of the insights of Don Roberts, Exotek. He is a principal of a consulting and operations-support company focused solely on the systems integrator. At NIWeek 2010, Don offered his advice on strategic planning as our market recovers.

More than 75% of the average company’s market value comes from intangible assets that traditional metrics don’t measure

                                -Kaplan and Norton HBR 2000

Strategic Planning

The primary goal of strategic planning is to build organizational focus and competency. It gives you the opportunity to balance short term pressures with your long term goals. You can also assess your market situation and react to the changing environment proactively. Then, you can establish organizational alignment.

Strategic planning also provides a recurring process whereby your organization makes choices:

  • Why do we exist?
  • What are our major goals?
  • What resources do we need for a successful future?
  • Who will be our customers?

But, strategic planning is not a way of making future decisions. You can’t create a blueprint of the future because there is no guarantee that things will not change. So, strategic planning should not be a long and drawn out process, but rather an efficient annual assessment of your business to make necessary course adjustments.

Getting Started

Don recommends beginning your strategic planning process, but clarifying:

  • Mission – Why do we exist
  • Core Values – What is important to us
  • Vision – What we want to be

He cautions that semantics not important. The real goal is develop a consensus on the fundamental aspects of your company that will govern your strategic decisions.

Next, consider your product and/or service offering. Review what you are currently selling from your customer’s perspective. Why are they buying from you? What is your competitive strategy? Is your offering valued by customers? Sustainable? Hard to match?

Next, you can define what you want to accomplish in the coming year.  These objectives can be hard or soft, but there can only be one set. Consider organizing them into four perspectives:

  • Financial
  • Customer
  • Internal Processes
  • Learning and Growth

Once your objectives are set, you can drive them into your annual operating plans. For instance, determine how these objectives translate into specific goals for your leaders and how they affect the personal development of your employees. How do your objectives impact the development plans for your products and services? And, what are your marketing and sales plans to capture business for those products and services.

CSIA Conference – A Great Event to Share Best Practices

April 29, 2009

I’m looking forward to attending the CSIA Conference, April 30 – May 2. It is always a great opportunity to learn more about best practices. I’m particularly looking forward to the “Survival and Growth in These Trying Times” presentation by Don Roberts from Exotek. If you are not familiar with CSIA (Control Systems Integrator’s Association), they are committed to the business development of system integration companies. And Exotek is a management-consulting firm focusing specifically on system integration companies.

A Little Reminiscing

I first heard of CSIA in the mid-1990s when National Instruments was making our first foray into the Industrial Automation industry with our BridgeVIEW (now LabVIEW DSC), Lookout, and our Distributed I/O products. I attend my first CSIA conference in 1996 with the sole purpose of finding potential NI integrators, but discovered a group of system integration managers that were willing to share their ideas about managing system integration companies successfully. Over the years, I’ve been an active participant and promoter of CSIA I’ve supported the development of CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks which provides performance standards in critical business areas. NI was the first company to endorse the CSIA audit, when we included it as part of our Select Partner qualification process.

Alliance Partners Contributions to CSIA

I’m proud to say that our NI Alliance Partners have made significant contributions to CSIA over the years. To date, over 30 NI Alliance Partners have joined CSIA. Over 20 have passed the audit, constituting nearly 1/4th of the 100 Certified CSIA members. And, I’d like to especially recognize Dean Streck from V I Engineering and Jim Campbell from Viewpoint Systems, who have just completed their tenure on the CSIA Executive Council. They have made substantial contributions to the organization including: Dean – leading the Best Practices committee and Jim – for his service at Treasurer and on the Insurance committee. Thanks for your efforts and being good representatives of NI and our Alliance Partners.

Question: Are you going to the CSIA conference? Or if you do, let us know what you thought of it.

Your Business Foundation – Part 4 – Annual Strategic Planning

April 22, 2009

The business plan becomes the basis for your strategic planning process. On an annual basis, you should:

  1. Review your business plan
    1. Revisit your mission and vision. Are you fulfilling your business purpose?
    2. Review your company performance. Are you meeting your objectives?
  2. Analyze your business. I recommend a SWOT analysis of each of the following areas.
    1. Markets – who are you serving? How well are you serving them?
    2. Assets – what are the most valuable assets? Are they being captured? Grown?
    3. Organization – are you structured to execute the business plans?
  3. Make plans accordingly.
    1. Set (or continue) directions and objectives.
    2. Just as important to determine what you aren’t going to do

 Note that you don’t have to work out every detail and step, just create a clear picture by which management can lead the company.

Get Away from the Office

When conducting your strategic planning, it is worth the formality of an annual meeting. It is your business, so it is important enough to take some time once a year to plan for its future. There is a huge difference between the daily management of your business and strategic planning. By getting away from the office, you can avoid the interruptions and distractions of your daily management responsibilities. It also creates a more open environment to have frank discussions about the business.

Another benefit of an annual meeting is that it provides the opportunity to make adjustments to the company’s plans and operations. It gives you the opportunity to say, ‘we met with the board, and have decided that ….’

Get an Outside Perspective

Speaking of ‘the board’, it also raises the issue of who should be involved in your annual strategic planning process. If the ownership resides completely within the current management of the company, than it is an excellent idea to involve external people. Note that it doesn’t necessarily involve ownership, just an outside perspective — someone who is not involved in the daily company operations to test your ideas. For one thing, it will keep you honest and force you to create and justify your business plans. You’ll have someone to challenge your assumptions and offer fresh perspective.

If you don’t have external ownership with a vested interest, here are some potential advisors:

  1. Vendor or customer – need to be careful about potential conflict of interest
  2. Perhaps, a business person in your community that you respect and admire. Don’t know one. Ask you banker.
  3. SCORE – Service Corps of Retired Executives
  4. Exotek – very knowledgeable about business, but more likely as a facilitator

Next, we’ll talk about putting your strategic plan into action.