Mark McDonald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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A tool for assessing technology’s amplification of your strategy

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 8, 2012  |  4 Comments

Amplifying the enterprise is the theme for this year’s CIO agenda reflecting the expanding role of technology in the enterprise and its role in raising the power of enterprise strategies and performance.  The notion of technology as an enterprise amplifier goes beyond traditional notions of IT and the administration/automation of back office processes.  Technologies such as mobile, cloud, analytics and social provide executives with ways to transform the customer experience, products, channels, services and operations.

Having a theme is good, but putting that theme into action is much better.  This post offers a simple tool for assessing the degree to which technology amplifies the enterprise.  The tool is a simple matrix, shown below, consisting of four parts.

  • The business strategies your organization is pursuing.  These make up the row and column headers of the matrix.
  • The technologies your organization will use in executing these strategies.  These make up the diagonal cells, shown in black in the figure below.
  • The amplifiers that represent the direction and guidance needed to achieve the strategies.
  • The distortions representing decisions, approaches or direction that will detract from the strategy

These are organized into a matrix that provides a quick view on the connections between strategies, technologies, amplifiers and distortions.  This matrix is a little different in that it concentrates on the relationships between strategies rather than between strategy and technologies or projects.  This view is deliberate and helps highlight the interdependences among the various elements rather than trying to isolate one aspect against another.

Creating the matrix involves the following steps:

Start with the business strategies and use them to populate the row and column headings.  Because you are looking for business results, you need a matrix that takes strategies and compares them against other strategies. This is important as amplifying the enterprise involves achieving strategic objectives in combination rather than isolation, particularly in terms of the use of technologies like mobile, cloud, analytics and social.

Next put the key technologies into the diagonal cells to connect technologies with specific strategies. Focus on the technologies that you expect to have the greatest impact on the strategy.  Just the vital few so that it is easy to see why you are investing and paying attention to a particular technology.

Now in the white areas describe the amplifiers or the things you need to do to accelerate achieving both strategies. Remember amplification is strategy in combination, so what are the things you have to get right in order to achieve two strategies, particularly in the context of the technology.  Avoid listing the projects, programs or completion of tasks in these areas.  You already have ways to manage that and besides saying “complete the implementation of mobility solutions,” says nothing about the qualitative aspects of doing that right.

Next, in the red areas list the things you need to avoid, the actions, directions of mindsets that hold back results.  These are the distortions that hold back your strategy.  Focus on the things that inhibit the various strategy combinations.  Do not list ‘doing a poor job’ as a distortion as that is obvious.

Finally, look at the cell values and ask yourself if the amplifiers look right, the distortions capture the things you might get wrong and can you explain how the technologies contribute to the strategies, enhance the amplifiers and will eliminate the distortions.

The figure below provides a worked example of the tool based on the top three business strategies found in the 2012 CIO Survey.

Creating an enterprise amplifier involves more than building the right technology.  It requires executing the combination of strategies and technologies in the right way.  The information in the amplifiers cells seeks to capture that information as well as the distortions to avoid.  Taken together, this single simple matrix provides a way to look at the interaction among strategies, technologies, amplifiers and distortions that represent the interconnected nature and complexity of an operating enterprise.

I would suggest creating this tool as guidance for strategy planning, execution and ongoing management processes to keep everyone focused on the same result – amplifying the enterprise.


Category: 2012 Amplifying the Enterprise Strategic planning Strategy Tools     Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robert   February 8, 2012 at 7:45 am

    On the 2nd chart it appears that the legend has ‘Amplifiers’ and ‘Distortions’ reversed.

  • 2 Mark P. McDonald   February 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Robert, thank you so much for catching the error. I have updated the graphic in the blog post.


  • 3 Pearl Zhu   February 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    HI, Mark, thanks for clarifying: the theme for this year’s CIO agenda amplifying the enterprise via the technology drive of strategy: increase revenue growth, optimize customer experience and reduce operational cost.

    If complementing anything else, I would say, it’s about talent management: the employees’ productivity and satisfaction, if we envision the social business as next generation of organizational framework, the purpose is more about amplifying the human capability via better collaborative enterprise platform & tools for knowledge management, project management, and customer relationship management, yes, hopefully the end result is about the strategy links you listed above. thanks.

  • 4 Is IT isolated in your organization? Here are ten telltale signs in your IT strategy.   January 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

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