In my day job I'm currently working on a Web Strategy for my company. I've created web strategies in the past and I enjoy doing them. At the previous company I worked for, a telecommunications multinational, I wrote a Web Strategy to merge the websites of the New Zealand and Australian offices. Unfortunately for me this was in the middle of a major downsizing, so part of the strategy was to hand over management of the websites to the larger Australian office (most other business units suffered the same fate). So I was in a sense falling on my own sword, along with many other New Zealanders at that company. Such is life in the corporate world! Anyway, this post is the beginning of a series on the subject of Web Strategy.
What better way to begin by asking the question: what does it mean to think strategically? Specifically I'm talking about IT strategy, and even more specifically Web Strategy. First let me give you an example of strategy from the IT arena.
In December 2002, I read an inspiring book by a master strategist in the field of IT - Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM from 1993 to 2002. The book was titled Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? and it's a must-read for anybody who fancies themselves as a strategist. Gerstner was a few levels above what my station is currently - his strategic focus was on the company as a whole, whereas mine is limited to the Web Presence of my company. But you can apply the principles he espouses in his book to any level of strategy.
Here is a summary of the brief notes I made during December 2002:
- Don't spend a lot of time on problem definition - focus on solutions and actions.
- Solve problems laterally.
- He [Gerstner] liked people who had "strong technical underpinnings" combined with an "uncanny ability to translate technical complexities into common language".
- His strategy to keep IBM together: "genuine problem solving, the ability to apply complex technologies to solve business challenges, and integration."
- "Fixing IBM was all about execution...I wanted - IBM needed - an enormous sense of urgency."
- IBM's "two forces" circa 1994:
1) "over time the IT industry would be services-led, not technology-led"
2) "networked model of computing that would replace the PC-dominated world of 1994."
- The Stack: (from bottom up) Systems / Middleware Software / Applications Software / Services
- Focus over breadth
- His kind of executive took personal ownership of and responsibility for end results --> they had to be drivers, detail-oriented, leading by example.
- [this is my favourite!] "The first task was to eradicate process itself...few rules, codes, or books of procedures. We started with a statement of principles."
- "I'm looking for people who make things happen, not who watch and debate things happening."
- From Analysis Paralysis to Make Decisions and Move Forward with Urgency (80/20).
- The fundamentals of successful enterprises and executives: focused, superb at execution, abound with personal leadership.
From these selected notes, we can glean that coming up with an IT Strategy involves setting high-level plans and principles to abide by. But let's define what a 'strategy' is more formally.
Here's a selection of definitions of the word 'strategy', via Google:
- An elaborate and systematic plan of action
- A framework guiding those choices that determine the nature and direction to attain the objective.
- An agreed-upon course of action and direction that helps manage the relationship between an organization and its environment.
- A general direction set for the organization and its various components to achieve a desired state in the future.
- Noun. Means to achieve an objective.
- A systematic plan of action to reach predefined goals.
- A plan or technique for achieving some end.
- A strategy is a series of planned and sequenced tasks to achieve a goal. Strategies must be clearly stated and be observable.
- A careful plan or method used to reach a goal.
- A long-range plan whose merit cannot be evaluated until sometime after those creating it have left the organization. (that last one from netfunny.com)
Of course no article on strategy would be complete without a reference to Sun Tze's The Art of War:
"All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved."
...and a reference to Napoleon:
"Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the later than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never."
That's an apt definition for the Age of the Internet! Incidentally, the title of this post, "Napolean's Glance", means the following:
"The term Napolean's glance comes from the early strategy literature. The word strategy entered the English language in 1810, as military scholars rushed to study the battles of Napolean Bonaparte, the most successful general in history. Over the next two centuries, the study of strategy spread to other fields, especially business. The first scholarly study of strategy, On War (1832) by Carl von Clausewitz, showed the key to Napolean's success to be coup d'oeil, which means "glance" in French. Today coup d'oeil is recognized as expert intuition: in a flash of insight, one draws on what worked in the past in a new combination to suit the present situation."
So with all of this general (ha ha, little joke) knowledge about strategy under your belts, let me now try and define what a Web Strategy is. For a business, a Web Strategy must be closely linked to the overall company strategy. So the first step in creating a Web Strategy is to review the company's overall strategic goals. Then you must determine how web technologies can be used to help achieve the company's goals. For this, you need to understand the Web medium and how to leverage the latest web technologies. (a side note: you will use the word "leverage" a lot when creating a Web Strategy. Also the word "synergy"). The next step is to review your existing website and other online activities, and compare these to competitors and industry benchmarks. Then go ahead and create your Web Strategy.
Well, it's not quite that straight forward! There are many other things involved in creating a Web Strategy - identifying stakeholders, defining requirements, doing SWOT analysis, drawing lots of Visio diagrams, leveraging IT jargon, etc. I will explore these more specific activities in future articles.