Over the last three decades there has been extensive research conducted in the area of strategic planning, in particular concerned with the potential benefits to companies in terms of improved performance and increased profits. However, it has only been since the mid-1970s that the role played by strategic information has been identified as a key factor in successful strategic planning. It has been claimed that the main challenge confronting managers in this increasingly complex world with a burgeoning information technology industry is the identification, selection and monitoring of information related to the strategic performance of the company.
The primary objectives of this study are as follows:
1. review the strategic planning process as discussed in the literature and implemented within organisations;
2. identify participants in the planning process and levels of the organisation involved;
3. review the nature of information required for strategic planning;
4. identify ways of integrating information systems and strategic planning; and
5. consider future trends in information technology planning.
Research methodology included firstly a literature search using international and Australian databases. Personal interviews were also conducted with management representatives of companies involved in strategic planning. The selection of companies was based upon industry groups where it was perceived that there had been substantial activity with regard to strategic planning. A group of consultants was also interviewed providing an 'outsiders' perspective of companies' strategic planning processes.
Throughout the study, it became evident that formal strategic planning follows a similar evolution in different companies. Further, while companies placed in competitive industries and complex environments are more concerned with analysis of external factors in their planning, smaller organisations with planning frameworks that are still evolving place greater emphasis upon the managerial skills of the CEO and Executive.
In terms of corporate planning responsibilities, it is apparent that the size of the organisation, planning style and complexity of environment influence participants in the planning process. Service organizations, generally with a collaborative approach to planning, also have a greater number of contributions from participants.
With regard to information sources and systems, an aggregation of internal, external and environmental sources of information is required by companies in order to fulfill strategic planning information needs. As the strategic planning process becomes environmental sources more sophisticated, external and become more important. Five information sources rate highly in most companies: superiors, accounting systems, personal contact with subordinates and inside reports.
In theory, the development of information systems should proceed simultaneously with the development of a strategic planning system. However, companies generally need to get their strategies right first with information technology being the second priority. And yet it has been proposed in a recent MIT study that managers of the 1990s will need to consider the interaction of all elements in the strategic triangle: strategy, business structure and information technology.