Unfolding plans 168 – I wouldn’t start from here

It’s an old joke when asked for directions to reply that ‘I wouldn’t have started form here’ yet it is a truism that we arrive where we are because of where we started from.  I am thinking of this in context of this year’s planning round.  We’ve started on our service plans which, while covering the coming three years, are most focussed on the work that we have to deliver over the twelve months starting in April.

Every year we come up with a list of project and initiatives and I am left wondering whether we have chosen these because they are what is needed or just because this is where we are starting from.  Do we do the things we have planned because they are right or rather build upon the base that we have?  If we could start again, with a clean sheet of virtual paper, would we come up with the same list?  I don’t mean exactly the same list but something that would be recognisably similar.

If the answer is yes then everything is fine.  If the answer is no however, this means that in effect we are investing our efforts into things that, given the choice, we wouldn’t do.  Perhaps we don’t have a choice and have a list of tasks ahead of us precisely because of where we are yet it might be a good idea to stop and think.

If we were to invest in our technology again, would we start from here?

Of course there are many things that we don’t have a choice over.  We’ve many systems that have been in place for years and have been developed over time.   They have been running their part of the organisation successfully and at the time the technologies we may wish to implement now had not been invented.  It would cost too much and take too much effort to start again.

Yet this is not true for everything that we have.  Areas such as the rise of social media and the improved interaction with customers that this offers are new territory and give us a chance to steer a different course.

The answer as always has to lie somewhere in the middle.  A good old compromise is required.  We can’t afford to start from scratch yet we must be cognisant of the direction in which we are travelling.  We need to get the balance right between maintaining what we have, while developing it so that it can continue to deliver value and implementing those technologies which will help us meet the needs of our future business.

So in essence I need to go back to the future.  I need to revisit the strategy that lays out our future requirements.  I need to check that what we are putting our money into will both continue to keep the organisation going and will fill the gaps we have identified in our architecture.  I need to keep our vision in mind while keeping our feet planted in reality.  I really have no choice but to start from here.

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