Of Strategy, Decisions and Competitive Advantage: My SAE Experience

There is a wealth of learning, knowledge and experience which I have been equipped with from our Strategic Analysis and Evaluation course. On the content proper, I have effectively learned about the concrete ways in which its processes affect the way critical business decisions are made. The processes of industry analysis, business strategy analysis and strategy evaluation and recommendation were adequately discussed and presented in the course. We began with learning about giving meaning to products, markets, skills and competitors found within the industry. This required us to describe the domain of the industry; once the business has been understood and defined, we then determined the capabilities necessary for entry and participation into the segment. It also entailed analyzing competitors that are able to potently target the same market segments. Moreover, we have undertaken a thorough discussion of industry structural analysis. In describing the business structure, we studied the five-forces of competition, as follows: customer segments, competitors and their strategies, industry suppliers, barriers to change, and the substitution of products or services. Industry analysis also entailed analyzing the critical success factors that strongly influenced industry outcomes. I have also learned that the main goal of industry analysis is to determine the requirements and trends that influence the key success factors for the organizations. These factors include customer needs, competitive factors that must be addressed, regulations / industry standards in the business, the resource requirements needed to deliver competitive strategy, and other technical needs for gaining competitive advantage.

Another major learning has been the process of business strategy analysis in which we started by describing the strategic objectives and strategy of an organization. The organization’s strategic objectives control business strategy and determine the key success factors in the industry. These strategic goals frequently include the vision or mission for the business. These set out the direction and benchmarks for financial and market outcomes of the business. These are the more common strategic goals which were comprehensively covered in the course. Next, we learned how to define business strategy which includes a description of the following: customer targeting strategy and its requirements; the product line and the product positioning strategies for the market segment; identifying the technologies needed to deliver the product-market strategy; determining the strategic processes necessary to execute the product-market strategy; and spelling out the market access strategy. I have also learned about identifying internal capabilities and skills, which encompasses both product-related (R & D, time to market process, the manufacturing function, and the integrated supply chain process) and market related functions and processes (the distribution function, the market to collection process, the marketing function, and the customer service and satisfaction process). The delivery or execution of strategies are then measured and analyzed through the functional and operational capabilities of the company, and the resultant financial outcomes and competitive advantage in terms of market share.

For business strategy evaluation and recommendations, one other major learning was on the conduct of strategic evaluation or SWOT analysis whose scope includes both internal and external factors that exert influence on the firm’s business strategy. Internal evaluation is made on the basis of the organization’s functional and process capabilities. External assessments, on the other hand, are based on the critical factors that have been determined, particularly the opportunities and threats confronted by the organization. In addition, this process also involves a comparison of the industry’s key success factors and competitive resource requirements, and again the company’s internal capabilities and financial resources. Finally, I have also learned about the process of identifying critical issues and submitting recommendations. I realized that this necessitates the identification of the critical issues that the company must attend to, and the corresponding recommendations that may potentially address them – considering both modifications in product-market strategy and functional delivery or execution. The SWOT analysis leads to an understanding of the crucial issues that face a firm in sustaining or enhancing its competitive and financial performance. The synergy of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats must be ranked by priorities so that action can be planned practically and effectively. Since managers have time and resource constraints, it is necessary that actions be prioritized.   The main objective of these recommendations is to address the critical issues for management actions in both the short and the long term. Moreover, the intentions are to enhance the effectiveness of competitive strategies and the efficiency of their execution.

Apart from the classroom learning, I have learned much more about interaction management through my interaction with the class and with groups. Through concrete experiences, I have learned to work well with a team, synergize, and come up with the best possible output through a complementation of our abilities. I have made a deliberate effort at acknowledging the ideas of my classmates, wanting to maintain or enhance their self-esteem. When there are difficult tasks, I have tried to empathize with them. Also to ensure that we came up with more insightful ideas, I encouraged the sharing of feelings and ideas. This openness, I think, has effectively promoted a conducive atmosphere of continuous learning. I have also personally learned the value of teamwork; I have realized that an effective manager ought to possess strong interpersonal skills, relating effectively with all team members. In his critical role, he must know how to constantly motivate his team, and unleash each one’s full potential.

I have also realized the importance of data driven or empirical decisions. The course has taught me that all organizational decisions must be based on data, and meaningfully anchored to business strategy. In other words, all perspectives of the business – financials, best business practice, customer, and learning and growth, must all be woven into one, synchronized strategy. Thus, if I were to be a manager in the future, SAE has taught me to achieve this synchrony; all initiatives of the organization shall be evaluated in this light – that is, how it all links to overall business strategy. Given this approach, no initiative shall just come off the top of our heads, rather, they shall be meaningfully crafted in view of the firm’s overall strategic goals.

The usual challenges of difficulty of the task and time constraints were experienced during the SAE project work. This points out to the idea that I still need to improve on my project management and time management skills. However, I faced these objectively and tried to deliver the best possible output given these constraints. I feel that this down-to-earth practical attitude has helped me become successful in this and similar projects. Finally, I have realized the value of being able to apply classroom knowledge into practical or real-life situations. For instance, in becoming a manager in the future, I hope to draw from the valuable knowledge and experience I have gained from our Strategic Analysis and Evaluation course. As the course comes to an end, I walk out the classroom feeling elated and giddy, with a wide smile on my face…my future in business is waiting.

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