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Tech Manager—Developing a Strategic Plan, Part Two

Last month this space was used to introduce a simple strategic planning process using material developed by me and presented at Autodesk University 2010 and also posted on my caddmanager.com blog. We will finish up the topic this time around.

In brief, here is a basic process for Strategic Planning:

Step One: Look to the Past – where have we been – what got us here – what has worked – what has failed.

Step Two: Look at Now – what are we doing now – what are we doing that works – what needs to be addressed (think Start, Stop, Continue).

Step Three: Look Toward the Future – what could we do – where might we go – time to dream.

Step Four: Define your Goals – what can we rationally expect to achieve.

Step Five: Identify Initiatives/Actions – in general, how are we going to do it.

In Part One, we covered Steps One, Two, and Three. Here, we’ll cover Steps Four and Five, then wrap it up.

Step Four: Define your Goals

Take your list that was created in Step Three and pick the ones you want to focus on.

In Step Three you made a quick list of at least 20-30, then we started narrowing it down to five to seven ideas that might be the best. Now is the time to start looking deeper at the five to seven ideas you have.

If you have noticed, some of these steps start blending together. They overlap and you may go back and forth between them, filling in the blanks as you go. It is fine that they blend together as long as you stop at some point to make sure you have completed the actions for each step.

Step Four is also where you start looking at the firm’s overall goals and plans to see where your best efforts need to be. Get a copy of the firm’s strategic plan if it is available. Linking your goals to firm goals and aligning them will assist in moving them toward fruition.

The Product of Step Four:
Define the main goals you will want to reach. You can think of these as Focus Statements. They define the general targets you want to hit.

Example:

  • Get projects started in Revit
  • Develop a library of Details

You may think you just want to start at Step Four—don’t do it. Do not forget to do Steps One through Three, for they are the groundwork that bring your targets into focus. If you do not do the first three steps, you will just be striving after the issues of the moment and may undercut your long-term progress.

Though you may be tempted to start at Step Four, don’t assume you have a grasp on everything that needs to be done. You probably will not be surprised by most of what is on your short list, but the one or two ideas that flow out of the first three steps can change your priorities.

Step Four may happen really fast. But getting five to seven really brief goals with no defined dates and resources should be done so you do not just take the first three and dig in. Get all of them delineated. The list you have will lead right into Step Five. Get the full list done, then dig into each one.

Step Five: Identify Initiatives/Actions

Your Initiatives are the Action Plans you will take to meet your goals (the How and When). Now you can get down to the actionable definitions of what you are going to be doing. This is the time to add measurable targets, people, processes, resources, and timeframes.

Include specific, measurable objectives that have a due date.

Here are some examples:

1. BIM

  • Get four projects started in Revit by June 1, 2020.

2. Detail Library

  • Create a standard location for all Details in 30 days.
  • Develop a library of Details by adding 30 details per month—one per day.
  • Define a method for laying out a Detail Sheet in under 30 minutes by retrieving standard details via our intranet by May 30th.

You could hang some memorable name on your goals. For example, #2 above could be the 30-30-30 Plan.

You will further break these down into manageable and distributable chunks in the Project Management phase. This comes after all the strategic planning is done.

Business Alignment is something you may hear about at your firm or in general conversations about planning. Your main Tech initiatives, in terms of budget and resources, should be directly linked to business goals and objectives. This means that when you articulate your objectives, they should reflect the same targets as some of the business goals.

Here is what you might see…

Firm Goal: We will extend our ability to deliver project expertise by sharing staff among offices. Each project will be staffed with the best talent from different offices.

The reality and workflow of this goal means that office staff will be relocating between offices, sending project files back and forth, opening files from remote servers, and possibly storing files on laptops.

Non-technical staff might have some “not so good” tech ideas about how to achieve firm’s goals—efforts that compromise security, expose IP data, or bog down the processes. If you fight these issues, then you will have trouble getting things done. You could try to get them to not do some of these things, but the reality is they will happen in spite of you. You should try to manage these kinds of things no matter what and get others to agree that some data exchange and storage methods are not safe or effective. Let’s see how embracing the goal would work, and better yet, what we can do to enable it.

Here is what you might put forward…

Tech Goal: We will enable secure file sharing between offices by establishing guidelines for file transfer, remote file sharing, laptop storage, and backup requirements. To assist knowledge workers in traveling between offices, we will standardize folder structures and system setups so they can use any machine in any office and see the same setup.

By setting your goal in alignment with the ones the firm has, you stand a much better chance of getting them done. This does not mean you have to throw out all of the stuff you want to get done. It just means you need to rethink the focus of your efforts. If you find that everything you want to do does not even come close to what the firm wants done, then you will soon find yourself at odds with most of your coworkers.

Here is another example:

Firm Goal: We will reduce our project delivery time 10 percent by increasing our employee’s productivity.

Hidden in this goal is a wealth of opportunity. The CAD/BIM/CAM/CIM/Tech environment is primed for productivity and poised for enhancement. Here are a few goals that will support the firm’s efforts.

Tech Goal: We will customize our interface to provide 15 percent improvement in speed of the user’s processes by June 2020.
Tech Goal: We will create custom libraries that will alleviate the need for each project to create content, which will reduce production time for CAD files.
Tech Goal: We will unify the support folders on the server so every project can reuse existing project details that have been reviewed and approved.

These three are a good start. You can most likely think of several more.

By bringing your purposes in parallel with the company objectives, you will make it possible for others to rally around the efforts.

Where to start

Always Be Planning

  • Remember that strategic planning is an ongoing activity.
  • Don’t be afraid to change course.
  • Look at inside and outside influences that may change your perspectives.
  • Share your Strategic Plan with everyone.

The End Product of Strategic Planning

  • An agreed-upon vision for the future.
  • Goals to achieve—short- and long-term.
  • Action plans to achieve your objectives with details and due dates.

Get your hands on the firm’s strategic plan. Review it and formulate your tech objectives so they fall in step with that plan. Look for anything in the firm’s goals that is related to technology, productivity, time savings, design processes, saving money, standardization, or improvements. Start using the five steps to develop your plan. Start thinking like the top-level management and leaders of your firm.

Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning. As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996. Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.

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