Conclusion: Organisations source and procure research and advisory services for a range of reasons. The benefits of access to external research and advisory can vary widely from organisation to organisation. Today’s business and technology environment is changing in more radical and rapid ways. Organisations that fully access and embed the information and advice available from research and advisory services can enhance the problem identification and solving process, ensure staff are incorporating a broad range of information into their thinking and systematically include changing environmental information at strategic, tactical and operational decision making levels. Research and advisory can also be used to improve staff analysis and presentation skills.
Observations: Many Australian organisations recognise the need to procure and access business and ICT research advisory services to ensure that current and emerging trends, issues and opportunities are considered and incorporated into future looking strategies and tactical plans. However, a number of approaches can be incorporated in a more systematic manner within organisations to maximise the benefits of research and advisory.
Business cases & proposals: One of the most common applications of industry research is in the development of business cases and proposals. Business cases may be produced to support a business change which incorporates business process, business information systems and/or a change to technology products or services such as devices, storage, data or processing services.
Business case presentation and proposals should always include a section or notation on how input information was identified, collected and considered as part of the preparation process. Staff responsible for the preparation and presentation of business cases and proposals should be able to discuss the approach and analysis they have undertaken, which provides an opportunity to assess not only the options provided but the comprehensiveness of the analysis to conclude a final list of options.
Watching briefs: Most organisations have strategic governance groups whose mandates include the responsibility of overseeing the development of business improvement investment plans, approving ICT strategic plans that support the strategic objectives of the organisation and oversight of the identification and management of significant risks and issues. Additional responsibility may include the establishment and support of an organisational innovation framework and the consideration of emerging technology and processes that may provide competitive advantage or a significant benefit to the organisation.
Many of these strategic governance groups meet on a monthly basis and agendas can be focused on the prioritised projects, risks and a number of tactical issues. Watching briefs on emerging trends, issues and vendor movements in technology markets which are available from research and advisory can ensure that ongoing visibility is maintained. This differs from the general practice of having a discussion about an issue and then requesting be an architecture or strategy and planning group to prepare a paper on the issue.
Staff presentations: Staff in both business operational areas and within the ICT and technology areas are focused on the day to day issues which are ongoing and can consume all focus and attention. Disruption caused by market maturity and emerging trends is having a significant impact on operational staff. Many are concerned about their future opportunities and how they will have opportunities to develop new skills and capabilities. In addition, staff are sometimes only called on to present when they have a specific issue or project to be communicated. Information gathering, analysis and communication skills are often some of the areas in which management feel that staff are not appropriately skilled and experienced.
Business and ICT research and advisory information can be made available to staff as part of a skills development opportunity. Staff can be encouraged to source the information, consider the implications for the organisation, prepare a short summary presentation and deliver the presentation to an audience.
Such a skills development opportunity is evidenced in encouraging staff to be seekers of knowledge and information and not just recipients. It inspires them to identify and consider emerging trends, market changes and potential issues and opportunities.
In addition, syntheses of information into a cohesive proposition and preparing a presentation to a wider audience are skills that are often lacking but are important and relevant to staff regardless of their position in the organisation and have the benefit of being portable as staff move from position to position.
Staff can be encouraged to collaborate on the preparation and presentation of information derived from research and advisory services. Presentations provide an opportunity to practise communication. In addition, inviting stakeholders from other business areas can encourage relationships and collaboration across the organisation over and above the formal reporting business lines.
Next Steps: Ensure that high utilisation is made of business and ICT research and advisory services. If this has been a challenge in an organisation in the past then a number of actions can assist including:
- Review strategic governance meeting agendas and terms of reference to ensure that there is an explicit focus and agenda item that includes emerging trends, issues and opportunities and market changes as a watching brief or summary in a proactive approach rather than reacting to items that are raised by attendees.
- Review the business case and proposal process and procedures within your organisation. Ensure that the method, source and currency of research and advisory information are explicitly stated and are comprehensive in terms of supporting well considered and informed decision making.
- Incorporate a review of research and advisory information by staff within the ICT area and in collaboration with relevant business areas. Encourage staff to source the information, consider the implications for the organisation, prepare a short summary presentation and deliver the presentation to an audience.