Introduction to Strategic Consulting, why is it necessary?
Strategic consulting emphasizes more on corporate strategy and is a branch of management consulting. Strategic consulting is concerned with the future of business and the impact it will have on its structure and overall operations. Strategic consulting is concerned with, whether the business should be expanded or not, or what new products or services should be introduced or if any services and products need to be revamped or stopped. This is how we can define Strategic consulting.
With the advent of various technologies like IoT, Industrial IoT, Mobility, Big data, Cloud Computing etc., the business landscape has drastically changed. And, so has strategic consulting. Strategic IT consulting has become a part of Strategic Consulting. Businesses today need to be on their toes to take advantages of such technologies and stay competitive. Strategic IT consulting should be aligned with organizational goals because it forms an integral part while defining the business strategy. So basically, these IT strategies need to be outlined in such a way that they are growth-driven.
What do we do at SFL for Strategic IT consulting?
We at Sunflower Lab have a team of experts who are into Strategic Consulting. We look at the company’s history and after understanding various aspects of their business viz. their competitors, employees, work structure and operations as well as their IT systems, we provide comprehensive IT solutions for their business which are growth-driven and progressive, and which will benefit the company in short as well as long term. For IT strategic consulting, following needs to be done:
1. Project conception and initiation
This phase is where the project is conceptualized and defined at a broader level. Research is carried out to decide whether the project is feasible or not and whether the project should be undertaken. Feasibility testing is done in this phase. Once feasibility testing is completed, project initiation document is created. It is also known as project charter or “Statement of Work” which outlines the purpose and requirements of a project. Once the project charter is approved, the discovery and planning phase begins.
2. Discovery and Planning
The discovery phase is very important for any project. Many managers make a mistake of omitting this phase and regret it later. In this phase, we work along with the team of the company and make an effort to establish the expectations of the project. This is where the problem statement is carried out and the requirements, expected solutions, and achievements are outlined. It is sort of a blueprint or a project story which will help in defining the goals, budget etc. Discovery phase can be looked at as a first sprint because this is where all the stakeholders and strategic consultants will know if they are on the same page with each other. It is about increasing the chances of success and reducing the chances of failure and limiting the risk.
The planning phase is where the planning activities are carried out which includes defining the scope of the project, defining the work breakdown in detail, defining a communication plan, budgeting, scheduling, planning resource allocation, planning the kick-off meeting and defining the staffing needs etc. It is an important phase because it ensures project completion on time and in the stipulated budget.
3. Requirement gathering
Requirement gathering is a process of gathering a list of all the requirements (viz. business requirements, user requirements, system or software requirements etc.) from various stakeholders viz. customers, users, vendors IT staff etc. It is done to define the problem or find a solution to the problem. Requirement gathering is done in the initial collaboration stage post which wireframes are developed. Requirement gathering can be done by various methods like using questionnaires, brainstorming, and interviews with top executives of the business, use cases and scenarios, prototyping etc. It is an important phase without which one should not move to the next phase.
4. Current state assessment vs. Future state assessment with Gap analysis
With the help of Gap analysis, the comparison is carried out between the actual performance and expected or required performance of a company. Gap analysis can help assess the current state of the company vs. the future state of the company. It also helps in understanding the generally expected performance of the company as per the industrial standards. Once the company’s performance is understood, the current performance can be compared to the benchmark or the expected future performance. The analysis includes assessing the current capabilities, information systems or software applications; resources etc. of the company and identify the gaps in them.
In IT and software development, the gap analysis can help document which functions and services have been accidentally eliminated or need to be developed, or which systems need to be upgraded or replaced. It also helps in defining the future objectives of the business, as well as business and IT strategies and the action plan required to achieve these objectives.
5. Preparing an IT Roadmap & Kick-off meeting
Preparing a strategic IT Roadmap is an important part of Strategic consulting. It defines the deliverables and major initiatives required to achieve the future state for a company. The IT roadmap also defines the technological architecture and its components which include hardware, software, IT infrastructure as well as the support & maintenance required. The scope of an IT Roadmap includes various things like:
- Organizational design: It identifies the skill gaps in employees and defines the staffing needs and skills required in employees to achieve the target.
- Applications portfolio: It defines the technical architecture like the hardware and software or OS, communication platforms, ERP, CRM etc. which will be used to achieve targeted future state.
- Service management and IT Best Practices: IT Roadmap helps in defining the types of IT services and the work groups required to deliver those services. This roadmap also helps in defining the best IT practices to be used within the organization for IT operations, governance, security and risk management, development and innovation. Without a set of best practices and IT roadmap, no organization will succeed to achieve its desired future state or objectives.
- Once the IT Roadmap is defined, we hold a project kick-off meeting. We bring the team together to define their goals and tasks. Once the goals are defined, the tasks are assigned to the team and we move on to the next phase which is execution & control.
6. Execution & control
After defining the goals and allocating the tasks, strategy execution takes place. Strategy execution is an important step because, if this step is not carried out properly, there will be consequences which might need to be reprimanded. So the strategy execution needs to be controlled and monitored. The company will require a strategy control system to measure the performance of tasks being executed. When tasks & progress is monitored, it leads to effective strategy execution and control. Monitoring and controlling can be done through progress reports and by setting benchmarks. This leads to the achievement of targeted results and one can also know about the deviations from the benchmarks. This phase is known as change management.
7. Change management & reporting the progress
The change management plans will define the roles and activities and also help in controlling the changes during the execution and control phase. A change management plan is important because it helps in keeping a tab on the effect of changes on the project during the phase of execution and control. It helps in controlling the cost, scope, quality, overrun in the schedules etc.
Progress reporting needs to be planned and it should be done at specific intervals. Progress reports can be prepared weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, bi-monthly and yearly. It depends on the type of goals set and the tasks being performed. Major goals which will affect the business both in the short and long-term should be reported on a regular basis viz. monthly. This can be done with the help of a dashboard so that we know if the business is performing as per the defined goals or if there is any deviation.
So to say, with all the above steps, an additional support & maintenance is also necessary for all the software and applications being used by a business as per its IT Roadmap. A regular support & maintenance activity will ensure the upkeep and health of the applications and software being used along with regular bug fixes and upgrades, which is very important for any business to gain a competitive edge in the market. So to conclude, Strategic IT Consulting or Strategy Consulting forms a very important part of any business and we at Sunflower Lab will be glad to help your business go through these changes efficiently.
Ronak Patel is the Co-founder & CEO at Sunflower Lab. He’s an entrepreneur, thought leader, and a problem solver. With more than 17 years of experience in the IT industry, he’s made it to a point where he can be called as a generalist who can contribute and lead in any technical discipline. For years he has led the Sunflower team to thrive on the challenging – the seemingly impossible tasks.