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Part IV – Where software meets strategy, the blended approach

Derek Heiss

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March 22, 2018

Business leaders looking for fast answers to their strategic problems often rush to make a choice, asking themselves: "Can software solve my problem or should I hire a strategy consultant?"

The answer is often both.

Just as the ocean has underwater shoals with a tendency to shift and change the flow of the water, the marketplace is ever-changing.

The best leaders know that they need to understand the market conditions today and also monitor for changes on an ongoing basis so they can adjust course when needed. In the consulting world, this is where software meets strategy.

A software solution operates for a company the way radar and sonar operate for a ship. As the ship progresses on its voyage, the radar monitors for anomalies that could present a threat and alerts the crew. The Captain and his crew can then call on their experts on the shore to get a better understanding of the threat and how it may impact their journey.

At Cipher, our radar system is Knowledge360® and the experts you would call on for more insight are the strategists on our consulting team.

As a competitive strategy and technology firm that offers a blended solution, we often respond to questions from existing and prospective clients on whether it makes sense to combine brain power with computing power to pack the most punch.

Because of our unique position and ability to explore this question, we have identified seven reasons why it makes sense to strike a balance between the two:

  1. Strategy Know-How: Adding another strategist and critical thinker to your team will make your organization stronger. ‘Iron sharpens iron’ is a time-old notion that is absolutely true when motivated and experienced people are given a seat at the table and are invited to take a critical look at what your organization is trying to accomplish. Refer to this post from earlier in this series to review a list of reasons why it would make sense to bring in a Strategy Consultant.
  2. Enhanced Competitive Intelligence: If Competitive Intelligence is something your organization suddenly needs to get a handle on or just never seems to have the bandwidth to keep up with, adding a team of CI professionals AND a tool simultaneously delivers a rapid influx of new insights to drive faster results
  3. Technology Familiarity: The strategy consultant that you bring to your team likely is already an expert user in the technology that you are also bring onboard, thereby adding a resource that can instantly proliferate knowledge and scale the platform across your team without any additional effort on your part
  4. Extra Manpower: Having a strategy consultant at your organization’s disposal adds flexibility to your team and avoids the task of having to constantly generate to-dos to justify a new person’s presence on the team. Assign tasks to your strategy consultant when needed and turn to your internal team or software solution when the need for extra assistance is not as strong
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  5. Negligible Learning Curve: Packaging a strategy consultant and a software solution together puts you in a position to effectively “push the on button” on a new resource right away, by-passing administrative hurdles, trainings, and additional idle time to start generating insights and impacting your business strategy without overcoming a steep learning curve
  6. Monitoring and Alerts: Oftentimes on a ship, the crew may assign a few sailors at all times as “lookouts” whose sole job is to literally “look out” into the distance to visually spot potential hazards and alert the captain. Most companies find it a challenge to assign a dedicated resource to do the same. You can consider the combined solution of software and strategy consultants as your lookout. When paired together, the strategy consultant will be able to leverage the datasets and analytic capabilities of the software solution to maintain a constant view on the market and competition, understand what changes may impact your strategy organizational strategy, and alert you when something hazardous appears on the horizon
  7. Cost Savings: The combined cost of a software solution and a strategy consultant to leverage the tool and support the mission of your team is, almost always, significantly less than the cost of just one additional full-time employee when factors like overheard and fringe benefits are considered. The on-demand nature of both the consultant and software effectively eliminates overhead, bringing you 100% utilization of the resources allocated

As many of our clients will attest, there will always be organizational constraints or obstacles that arise that limit choice or resources, but arming your organization with both a strategy consultant and a software solution undoubtedly provides the most value for your team. When you’re faced with an unexpected change in the market and you need to consult the experts to find out what happened and how this will impact your strategy, rather than questioning whether software or a consultant will get you the results you need, perhaps you should consider how bringing both into your organization can help now and throughout the journey ahead.
Read Part Five:  Making the Most of Your Strategy Consultant

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Derek Heiss
Derek Heiss

Derek Heiss is the Director of Cipher’s Consulting Practice and is specialized in competitive intelligence and market strategy consulting. Cipher is a consulting and technology firm, based in Annapolis, with a 20+ year track record of delivering solutions to the Fortune 500 and Global 1,000.

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