Managing Information To Support Strategic Planning

Managing Information To Support Strategic Planning

Managing Information To Support Strategic Planning
Establishing An Information Management Policy, by: acknowledging the importance of​ information to​ the strategic planning process and to​ the operational performance of​ the organisation; implementing an​ information management policy that will ensure a​ continuous flow of​ appropriate information to​ all levels of​ the organisation; allocating responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of​ the policy to​ an​ executive level manager; allocating level-specific responsibilities for the maintenance of​ the information flow.
Implementing an​ information management policy that is​ robust and rigorous is​ essential, not only at​ the strategic, corporate levels, but operationally as​ well .​
In the case of​ strategic planning, the quality of​ the information gathered, the channels used to​ distribute that information laterally and vertically throughout the organisation, and the interpretation of​ the information gathered, is​ vital .​
Without a​ sound foundation, the policy and its procedures, the information that is​ fed into the strategic planning process will be flawed, in​ parts at​ least .​
This will, inevitably, be damaging to​ the chances of​ the chosen strategies being successful.
Identify Information Needs, by: discussing information needs with the strategic planning team; using scenario building techniques to​ identify potentially differing information needs; identifying information needs of​ partners and key stakeholders who will be involved in​ the planning process; forecasting information needs for the strategic planning process; forecasting post-implementation information needs; reviewing existing information, channels and flows and identifying gaps and inadequacies; drawing up a​ list of​ information needs .​
This is​ another crucial early stage in​ the use of​ information in​ the strategic planning process .​
The leader(s) and other members of​ the planning team must be clear about their information needs .​
Whilst at​ this stage it​ is​ not possible to​ identify all the specific details, it​ is​ essential to​ draw up a​ list of​ categories of​ information that will lead to​ sufficient information being gathered .​
For example, one of​ the categories will be information on forecast changes in​ the external environment, another will be information on current and predicted competitor behaviour, another may be information on potential manpower resources, and so on .​
For public sector organisations one of​ the categories will be predicted government actions, such as​ in​ the setting of​ financial targets or​ other performance indicators .​
The role of​ the planning team is​ to​ ensure that their needs are understood and satisfied .​
Establish Effective Gathering Methods, by: evaluating methods of​ information gathering currently used in​ the organisation; evaluating methods of​ information gathering not currently used in​ the organisation; selecting an​ appropriate range of​ methods for use in​ the strategic planning process; selecting individuals and teams to​ carry out the information gathering activities; providing training, financial and physical resources, to​ support the information gathering activity; implementing a​ monitoring and control procedure to​ ensure the process continues to​ be productive .​
There is​ a​ range of​ well established methods used internally by organisations, and well established commercial companies, that will provide the required information .​
In both cases, the methods used in​ gathering information must be appropriate and effective, in​ terms of​ being cost-effective and in​ terms of​ the quality of​ information gathered .​
In addition, particularly in​ the case of​ the commercial providers, the methods should be ethically sound .​
Whilst information gathered through unethical methods may not directly damage the strategic planning process, damage may well be caused to​ the reputation of​ the receiving organisation, and this may well then damage the chances of​ the strategies being successful .​
Obtain Required Information, by: obtaining primary and secondary objective information from internal sources and external providers; obtaining subjective information from analytical techniques such as​ PEST and SWOT analysis; obtaining subjective information from Competitor Analysis techniques.
Validating Information Obtained, by: vetting the quality of​ all sources and providers of​ information; testing the validity of​ information received; replacing unsafe information or​ at​ least acknowledging the weaknesses in​ it​ and highlighting this when it​ is​ used in​ the planning process .​
It is​ critical that the information used in​ the strategic planning process is​ valid .​
Plans based, even in​ part, on inaccurate, invalid, or​ in​ any way inappropriate, information, are inherently flawed and will almost certainly fail in​ part or​ totally .​
Internal sources of​ information, and the process of​ gathering that information, must be rigorously checked on a​ regular basis .​
External providers of​ information, such as​ commercial companies that carry out surveys or​ other information gathering activities, must be treated in​ the same way as​ other suppliers, in​ that they must be vetted for appropriate expertise and experience, for their operational quality levels, for financial standing, as​ well as​ for their ability to​ understand and interpret the needs of​ the purchasing organisation .​
Regarding the analytical techniques used, there are a​ huge range of​ tools and techniques that can be used to​ analyse information .​
The techniques mentioned above are named because they are common ones, familiar to​ most senior managers .​
There are many other proven methods, and these should be evaluated and used where appropriate .​
It is​ however, important to​ be aware that the quality of​ the output, the findings, from these analytical techniques are dependent on the skills of​ those using them and the interpretation, the conclusions, made by the analysers, and then by the end users.
Apply Outcomes To Strategic Planning Process, by: interpreting and applying the findings to​ the deliberations and decision making activity; regularly reviewing the validity of​ information and interpretations used, during the process; refreshing the information and interpretations as​ necessary .​
Using the information in​ the decision making activity, in​ building up the strategic plan, must be seen as​ a​ continuous process and one that must be monitored and controlled .​
If, for example, information is​ gathered and interpreted at​ the start of​ the planning process, and is​ only applied at​ a​ later stage (some annual strategic planning processes can last for many months) then the validity, the currency, of​ that information and its interpretation, must be challenged and if​ necessary discarded and replaced.
Review Effectiveness Of Process, by: carrying out regular audits on the effectiveness of​ the methods, tools and techniques, used in​ the information gathering process; carrying out regular audits on the relevance, accuracy, and value of​ information used in​ the planning process; regularly reviewing the value of​ the information inputs as​ part of​ the strategic planning review sessions; taking corrective action where necessary .​
The whole information gathering process must be reviewed on a​ regular basis .​
Ideally this should be an​ agenda item on all the scheduled strategic level team meetings .​
An additional review should take place before each distinct strategic planning process starts .​
In addition, the Information Management Policy itself must be reviewed and refreshed annually .​
To rely on outdated, inappropriate, invalid, information gathering processes would be highly damaging to​ the chances of​ future success.
Establish Future Information Needs, by: implementing a​ continuous development approach to​ information gathering, whereby the information needs of​ the organisation, at​ strategic and operational levels are continuously assessed and action instigated to​ satisfy those needs .​
In today’s fast changing world of​ business the strategic planning process is​ one that is​ repeated at​ least annually, often more frequently to​ the point where for many organisations it​ is​ now a​ continuous process .​
Satisfying future information needs cannot be carried out as​ a​ discrete pre-planning activity .​
Information gathering must be continuous, and therefore future information needs must be identified on a​ regular basis, and these needs must then be satisfied by the information gatherers .​
In this way the planners have access to​ the necessary information as​ and when they need it.
In Summary: High quality information is​ critical to​ the success of​ the strategic plans of​ any organisation .​
All other factors can be in​ place, but if​ the information is​ flawed in​ any way, then success is​ much less likely .​
If success is​ achieved it​ may well be at​ a​ high cost .​
High quality information must be acknowledged as​ one of​ the organisation’s top priorities .​
Adopting a​ continuous development and improvement approach to​ the information gathering and interpretation process is​ essential .​
a​ complimentary approach that should be implemented in​ parallel with this is​ that of​ Knowledge Management .​
This relatively new approach is​ in​ response to​ the recognition of​ the increasing importance of​ identifying and gathering the internally generated information and the accumulated knowledge held within the organisation, and making effective use of​ these .​
The leader(s) of​ the strategic planning activity should combine the established principles of​ continuous development and improvement with the techniques of​ knowledge management, and build this into the strategies of​ the organisation .​
In this way the organisation is​ generating a​ continuous flow of​ high quality information, and making the most effective use of​ that information to​ support its chosen strategies.

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