Strategic Planning: Technology, Communication, and Productivity Process Areas
Many process areas are important to understand and explore during your strategic planning process. These processes don’t stand on their own or exist without a process that tangibly produces results. However, highlighting the following three supporting areas makes every organization run a whole lot smoother.
Evaluate your technology
Technology (IT) in and of itself isn’t a strategy. Virtually everyone has access to the same technology, so technology can’t give you a competitive advantage. What you do with your technology is a different story. Figure out whether it makes you faster or slower. Technology should make every other process in your company run smoothly and more efficiently (if selected and implemented correctly). To evaluate your IT, consider the following two questions:
Do your IT systems improve the overall operational efficiency of your organization?
Does the technology platform let employees take the best care of your customers?
Not to oversimplify systems and decisions, which can be very complicated, but instead of getting caught up in the details, these questions help you look at the big picture. What’s the strategic decision you need to make in order to improve either your top or your bottom line? IT should be regarded as any other expense instead of a cost center. Is your IT yielding a return on investment (ROI)?
Examine your communication
Another big topic that plagues every organization (and every relationship) is communication. If you can get this right, you can retire tomorrow. That’s unlikely to happen, though, so the success of your strategic plan rests on your ability to communicate the plan to your employees. While you’re assessing your internal operations, assessing your communication methodology is an important area to review, too. As with the other areas in this section, good communication supports your core processes.
Some of the best corporate leaders in the world can tell you that you can’t over communicate. No one ever complains about being too informed. As with your strategic plan and any other critical initiative in your organization, follow these simple guidelines:
Make sure that your employees hear and understand your message completely. Having three key points to illustrate your message works the best.
Communicate the key message points again.
Repeat the message over and over again in different settings so everyone knows and is completely clear on your points.
Study your productivity
Improved productivity happens when you work smarter with the resources you have or get the same results in less time. Being busy isn’t necessarily being productive. Isn’t everyone busy? Who isn’t? And you may feel productive, but you’re only productive if you’re producing results that move the company forward.
Your time is a highly valuable asset to your organization, so use it wisely. High-value activities — those that are directly related to getting and servicing your business — are the ones that contribute to bottom-line results. Here are some examples of high-value activities:
Communicating with your clients
Making sales calls
Managing your employees who deliver your products and services
Producing your product or service
Serving your customers
Think about how much time you deal with e-mails that have nothing to do with customer communication, like spam. According to Nucleus Research, the average employee receives 21 spam messages each day. Spam costs U.S. corporations on average $712 per employee per year. Multiply that by the number of people in your company who have desk jobs. Ouch!
E-mail is a low-value activity. What a great way to waste time feeling productive. If you spend a total of two hours out of an eight-hour workday on e-mail, that’s 25 percent of your time. Unless that 25 percent of your time is producing at least 25 percent of your total income, it’s a low-value activity. Granted, e-mail can be a timesaver but is only a high-value activity when you’re communicating with your customers.
Chris is a sole proprietor who owns Amplitude, an organizational assessment and employee training company. In a day where she isn’t doing a full training session, she may write a proposal, go to lunch with a contact from a networking event, make some prospect calls, pay her bills, and organize her files. All these activities are important, yet only writing the proposal and making prospect calls directly brings in business.
Chris’s productivity improvement comes in making more prospecting calls and spending less time paying bills. In fact, she recently hired an assistant with the extra money she made from one additional sale.