Leveraging technology is a key part of being strategically agile. Learn about how to infuse a digital-first mindset into your organization's strategic planning processes.
- We can all learn a lot from Silicon Valley companies about leveraging technology to be strategically agile. The key takeaway is be digital in every way possible. For years, my organization has brought groups from around the world to the San Francisco Bay Area to learn about Silicon Valley-style innovation. We visit startups and later-stage tech companies. Then we help visiting executives to understand the ways they can leverage those insights about strategic agility into their own organizations.
One of their first realizations is that in some ways high-tech companies have it relatively easy. Strategic agility is a lot easier to achieve when you're starting from scratch. Incumbent organizations have a range of legacy assets that can slow them down, such as internal processes, information technology, even their physical facilities. But that doesn't mean you can't be strategically agile. Then here are some of the learnings from Valley companies that you can use to infuse your organization's strategic planning processes.
Think digital first. Organizational leaders need to infuse a deep knowledge of technology into the strategic plan. If leveraging technology isn't one of the organization's core competencies today, it absolutely has to be tomorrow. Next, be data-driven. Tech companies typically use data to define their goals and to determine if they've achieved them. Don't let purely anecdotal evidence tell you you've succeeded. Leverage data to help you track on the strategies that are working and those that aren't.
You should also hire digital natives when you can, what we tend to call millennials, and upgrade your existing workers to become as digital as possible. Now that doesn't mean you have to teach everyone to code, but it does mean that workers need to be at ease with the regular use of technology in their work. Now it's also important to use the leanest infrastructure possible. Tech companies try to avoid owning assets, like large-scale computing systems, for as long as possible, instead leveraging outside resources, like Cloud computing.
And then finally, it's important to transform your technology function. Your IT department represents one of the organization's greatest potential assets, but it needs to be an enabler of strategic agility, not a function that limits it. This last part is especially important and especially hard. Back in the early 1990s, I was the editorial director of Network Computing Magazine, which talked frequently about the need for a strategic information technology function. It seems impossible we're still talking about the same thing as a goal 25 years later, but that's probably the best illustration of why it's so challenging to be strategically agile.
Your IT department is one of the few divisions that cuts across all your organization's departments. So how can you leverage technology if the organization's technology function isn't itself adaptive? I'll give you a couple of ideas for how this can be accomplished. Involve the IT department in the strategy development process right from beginning. Make them a key partner, not just for implementation, but for strategy design as well. Be sure to provide the IT department with the resources it needs to transition to the leanest possible infrastructure.
Now that may sound like a contradiction, it needs money to save money, but systems transformation can be expensive. You'll find the transition is worth the investment. And encourage your chief information officer to also function as a chief innovation officer. Set a high bar. Your CIO's key deliverables need to be directly tied to the top strategic goals of the organization. Now, of course, technology doesn't solve every strategic challenge of the organization.
But if you make your IT department itself as strategically agile as possible, it can significantly increase the overall organization's speed to innovation.
- Strategy and the pace of change
- Becoming an adaptive organization
- Aligning activities with strategic goals
- Embracing a culture of risk
- Modeling adaptive behavior
- Maintaining an adaptive organization
- Streamlining your processes and practices
- Remaining agile over time