Remember back in 1994 when the big boom happened, and then the big bust! A funny thing has been happening lately, and it appears to be picking up speed, especially in the main stream. Now this may seem like old news, or you might even think, well DUH! I wrote a long while back I wrote a 2 part article that, everyone will eventually be an affiliate marketer of something, and part 2 is here – the future of business is an online business, and it’s easier than ever for anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection to beat the big guys. If you haven’t considered starting an online business, ask yourself one thing, how long will you be working at your current job (if not self-employed), even if you are forced into retirement, you’re probably going to need to continue generating revenue somehow.
Let’s say you’re 50 an older, what will you do if you suddenly find yourself out of work? This isn’t fear mongering, it’s real, and it’s becoming more and more common each passing day, are you prepared, is it even on your radar.
This morning I received an email from a firm pimping a series of eCommerce Tutorials to build an online store, this is the list in the email:
– Build a product catalog
– Create a shopping cart
– Manage product options
– Add checkout
– Learn about payments
– Compare gateways
– Learn about shipping
– Learn about hosting
Anyway, you get the idea. I would suggest these are not the items most people want to know how to do when just getting started, at least they shouldn’t be. Mostly because, and I’m generalizing so don’t get all out joint. Most people struggle more with what business to start, and want some kind of assurance the thing will make money and succeed. But those topics may help you, they aren’t the place to start in my humble opinion.
I like to do my grocery shopping early in the day, like 6AM early…not because I like mornings, but I like it when the store is dead slow : ) I happen to go down the magazine isle, I noticed a rag with big bold letters, and it said,”Step By Step – How To Setup An Online Business 2014″, this is a mainstream well know magazine to boot! Yes I opened it up and started to review it. Now, considering that I make my living online, I’m often curious about how mainstream views this Internet online business thingy, and I was also curious about what they were teaching. I don’t have the time and frankly I’m not convinced you sit here and read it all if I wrote it, but let’s just cover some points anyway.
The magazine broke it down into four areas, Planning, Building, Selling, and Marketing. I’m not going to go into details, there’s just far too many topics to cover for a blog post.
The Planning sub-section heading was, Start The Right Business and had 13 sub-topics from going into business to finding money. I have to admit I was surprised how much they covered, and how much I actually have used over the years teaching clients and in my workshops. One area that caught my attention was called, “Why An Internet Business”. You probably have your own reason’s but, the biggest reason is, you can reach billions of buyers from your bedroom, or wherever you want to work from.
This also had 13 sub-sections from finding a home for your business to creating an app for your business, the main heading was titled, “Create The Right Website”. This section was mostly about the technical stuff, should you use WordPress, where to host your site, good web design, registering domain names, getting your site written, video & sound, and creating an app for mobile devices.
Maximise Your Sales is the main Title for some 14 sub-sections. How to set up on eBay to making money from your own Amazon shop.
The sub Title, “Find New Customers”, I’ll admit everyone wants to know the answer, but most don’t want to do the work. This topic has 24 sub-sections, I told you there was lots of work, from an introduction to marketing to making your business thrive.
The reason I mention these two situations is because a new NORMAL has revealed itself, the second industrial age is now real, the second industrial age is you doing business online, we’re talking about it more, it’s being written about in almost all the mainstream magazines, and it has been taught online forever, the business landscape has changed! For years you have seen magazines convincing you to go into business for yourself (Bricks & Mortar), today, it’s about going into business for yourself online (Clicks & Pages). Where are you in this journey? If you need more information, the first thing to do is, sign-up for my Future Of Business updates on the right side bar, then take some time to read my blog, I’ve shared about this and much more.
Remember, the future of business is online!
This technically could be the last section of your plan, this is where you take a high level look at the plan and existing challenges that may hamper your ability to deliver on any said item. Depending on who and how I.T. decisions are made in your organization could literally dismantle your strategy on many levels. I wrote on this topic back June 2009, it’s called I.T. Decisions – Who Makes Them In Your Organization?
Once you’ve finished this section you can then do an Executive Summary for the purposes of presenting to your Executive Team and or Board of Directors. Here is a short hypothetical example of this section:
A one year planning and budgeting cycle creates significant difficulties for the I.T. Department to execute the early stages of this plan.
- Hardware and software have to be upgraded or replaced regularly, either to take advantage of newer technologies or reduce maintenance fees. However, sometimes an upgrade would make long term sense but cannot be done because it is too large for a one year budget. This has resulted in a series of sub-optimal short term purchasing decisions being made.
- Recent budget cuts have forced a multi-year upgrade schedule to be differed resulting in perpetually out-of-date technology.
- Many projects take longer than one year to complete and require both tools and personnel at the start-up stage, but will not see significant results until the subsequent year.
- A new service is anticipated to be required by a department in a future year but the department lacks sufficient budget or approval to such an expenditure; however, there might be sufficient lead time for IT to prepare the infrastructure; does IT ” risk it ” and build the infrastructure anyway?
That’s just snippet of what you might put in this Planning Observations section, I suggest you pull your top three together to ensure you are covering the critical issues. You’ll want your IT leaders to be in the loop especially if you are seeking additional budget and it gets rejected, they may be able to assist you with other creative ways to turn the rejection around.
This section may answer some question but will also bring out more, consider it an opportunity to think tank with your team. The S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) gives a quick reference to things that may or may not be real, but are possibilities. The accumulation of all these steps builds a road map, an understanding, and makes it possible to explain or describe where you are going in a short concise way, and makes it obvious what you are planning to do in the coming month’s and or years.
Keep in mind there is no wrong or right answer here, you are merely compiling and observing your organizations current status. This is just one step on the journey, one step in building a business case, and one more step in assessing what services and changes are needed to support your organizations business requirements. The basics rarely change, only the technology does, and of course there is always a list of nice to haves, documenting everything helps you filter what’s important and what is not.
Again, this list will be different…it should be as technology and business needs change. Here is an example:
1. Minimal Core Infrastructure (name your application here)
2. New, enthusiastic team
1. 85% of staff are new to the organization
2. Unable to meet the expectations (Can’t move fast enough to please everyone)
3. Network instability
4. Lack of integration of core applications
1. Social Media Networks
2. Open Source
1. Inability to compete for qualified skilled people
2. Security – hacking, spam etc.
3. Inadequate budget
4. Little control over vendor products or direction
5. Little control over technologies
This is just an example of what your S.W.O.T. might look like, pull your team together and ask all the tough questions, make an exhaustive list and then pick the top 5 from each of the 4 areas in your SWOT.
This is the prime definition taken from the Wikipedia site on SWOT Analysis:
SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective. The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a convention at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using data from Fortune 500 companies.
Until next time
We are at the observation or Analysis part of our I.T. Strategic Plan, this area can have many or a few sections, I am listing possible categories or subsections for you to review and consider, and then I will look at each one separately. In this section we will look at the following:
2. Key Success Factors
3. Core Competencies
4. S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
5. Possible Interrelationships
6. Budget Alignments
7. Planning Observations
These may be the same for you or you may have different categories but you get the idea, all of these mini-descriptions I have been laying out for you, are a framework to work from. The first one we’ll look at today is Markets, we need to determine who your supporting and or selling to internally and externally.
Depending on how your organization is structured will determine who is who. For example, if your organization has an HQ (Headquarters), multiple businesses under one umbrella, Field staff and customers, you will need to identify who they are and what they do from an access point of view. Each market will require levels of access and different types of information, it could be sales reports, personal data and or customer’s wish to track & see there purchase history.
One market would be internal HQ staff, another would be field staff, if you have multiple companies or offices with multiple databases you would have to break those independent units down. Documentation becomes critical here because you must know exactly what they need, access points, security, data requirements and so on. As you can see this can be a very laborious pile of work, that’s where your work earlier with department heads and subject matter experts pays off. You would already have a requirements document and a wish list, that would be your starting point to map out the details.
Identifying your markets means you most likely understand all the different complex levels of need. For example, HQ staff will want quick access to the seamless information, e.g. a full 360 degree look at a customer, maybe their personal data or a staff member. Field staff who are stretched for time and resources want strong productivity tools. To be able access financial documents and other required reports. This could also serve as clear evidence that you are indeed providing for and supporting staff in the field. Your I.T. Plan can solve a number of technical challenges but it can also restore or maintain confidence in HQ for those who do not work in the Mother Ship. By providing multiple levels of service and support, is the best PR money can buy, provide the best service and all will speak highly of you and your team.
Next I’ll look at the Key Success Factors section.