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A suite of robust and highly structured facilitation technique, method and tools that enables client organizations to develop prioritized measurable and actionable plans to bring about lasting strategic change

Strategic Facilitation Services

In 1990 Dr James Robertson recognized that there was a massive gap in the market in terms of a structured "engineering" approach to strategic planning or, as he prefers to refer to it, strategic analysis and design

After exposure to Professor Malcolm McDonald's Exmar methodology James extracted some key concepts and, over time, developed a Critical Issues approach to Strategic Analysis and Design

Together with this he developed a toolset in Excel -- the StratSnap and StratGap analysis tools and associated method and documentation

These tools and method provide a robust approach to structured strategic analysis running all the way through to structured strategic plans that can be traced all the way back to the initial executive workshops

Contact us for more information James@JamesARobertson.com

Components of the JAR&A StratSnap Strategic SnapShot Critical Issues Process

The process is a concise, high impact method designed to harvest maximum executive or management collaborative input in the shortest possible time using a structured numeric method and tool-set.

The following is an overview of the components of the StratSnap process:

1. Interviews
The one-on-one interviews with participants enable me to understand the business and enable me to connect with and form an initial relationship with delegates thereby ensuring that my facilitation is appropriately focused.

2. Setting the focus questions
If you ask the wrong question you will get the wrong answer – discussion to formulate the essential focus of the Critical Concerns process and subsequent processes is a vital part of the process.

3. Scene setting presentation
The initial presentation addresses some general concepts and principles and sets the scene for the workshop by creating context and summarizing my key findings from the interviews – this helps to stimulate creative thinking.

4. Critical Concerns
I always start the workshop with the "Critical Concerns Process", this gets issues of concern and frustration out on the table rather than having them vented later in the workshop and frequently results in outputs of strategic importance.  In some cases I may recommend ONLY doing a Critical Concerns process.

Critical Concerns is also a simple way of teaching delegates the process without having to think about more complex questions.

The Critical Concerns process takes about three hours with a group of about 7 delegates, it gets longer the more delegates there are because of the collaborative approach applied.

Subsequent processes take between one and a half and two hours each again depending on the number of delegates and subject to a clear mandate to move forward at best possible speed

5. Brainstorming
Delegates brainstorm all issues relating to the focus question without discussion and with “no wrong answers” or censorship.  This ensures that all possible thoughts are aired and all delegates are heard in a structured environment.

6. Each person privately determines their Critical Factors
Structured facilitation to assist all delegates to privately lift out their Critical Factors – ensures that all delegates have equal opportunity to contribute and that ALL points of view are harvested in a structured non-threatening manner.

7. Group synthesis of a single set of Critical Factors
The group is facilitated collaboratively to combine ALL inputs to the Critical Factors lists to arrive at a single set of umbrella statements which are then reduced to bullet points of a few words as headings which are carried forward in the graphs and tables.

This approach ensures that ALL voices are heard equally and the resulting factors are the combined work of the entire delegate group, this is a powerful team building mechanism.

8. Privately weight the factors
The group are taken through a structured process to weight the individual Critical Factors on a relative weight basis allocating 100% of importance over the total list of factors.  This again allows individual delegates to express their opinion without fear of being overridden or drowned out.

9. Group comment on the views of the Mountain
The weights are captured and view graphically and in tabular format highlighting the fact that there are ALWAYS different views around the table because people really DO see things differently.

This approach allows all points of view to be captured and made visible and provides a structured and non-threatening opportunity for delegates to express different views – it also makes it OK to have different views.

The weighting approach also allows the different viewpoints to be understood and taken into account in further planning – this also enables different parties to better understand the real and valid differences of priority around the boardroom table.



10. Executive override
It is real that there ARE different views of the mountain BUT it is highly inefficient for all parts of the organization to climb the mountain different ways – at the end of the weight discussion the sponsor of the workshop is given the opportunity to adopt either the numeric average weight OR to override with their own choice of weights.

The problem with the numeric average is that nobody owns it, accordingly I have concluded that it is preferable for the sponsor to take a view on priorities that the execution of the plan will be managed to – the sponsor MUST take ownership of the final weights.

11. Scoring
Scores are determined from 0 = could not be worse anywhere in the world to 10 = could not be better anywhere in the world.

Scores are determined for historic, current, forecast and objective – typically for a three year planning period unless a different period is agreed.

12. Discuss scores and trends
The scores are discussed and again may evidence different points of view, the historic, current and forecast values give a score trend which may indicate that delegates consider that the situation is improving, deteriorating or stable – in some cases this can be a very important indicator of action or direction.  Different knowledge and experience levels may be made visible in the scoring which can be a very valuable management tool.

13. Weighted gaps
Applying the weights to the scores yields weighted scores and examination of the forecast versus objective gives a measure of the need for improvement.  Application of weights can result in some factors that seem important fading into the background against those factors where the need for change is greatest.  This enables the group to prioritize actions flowing from the workshop.



14. StratGap Strategic Gap Analysis Process
The StratSnap process provides the inputs to the StratGap gap analysis process which is typically undertaken by a group of personnel one level down in the organizational hierarchy from those who undertake the initial ShapShots – this process allows the organization to translate the outputs of the SnapShot process into action plans with timelines and resource requirements determined.  There are further extensions to this process.

15. Next steps – the team for the next stage
Before closing the workshop the team agree next steps and particularly who the team is that will undertake the gap analysis process and be responsible for the practical execution of the resulting plans.

I hope that this outline has given some idea of what the StratSnap process comprises – it is a vital component of arriving at a structured, logical, results orientated, impact focused action plan.

Please email us for more information -- James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com


083 - Strategic Analysis and Design -- An Engineering Approach to Strategic Planning

A rigorous (engineering approach) to strategic planning using critical issues based analysis techniques and structured gap analysis techniques to develop a comprehensive and rigorous multi-year plan that is measurable and actionable and traceable back to the original analysis in order to produced high value outcomes, requires effective strategic facilitation

Download Strategic Analysis and Design -- An Engineering Approach to Strategic Planning -- pdf Slides in Adobe pdf format

Characteristics of the JAR&A StratSnap Strategic SnapShot Critical Issues Process

The following is an overview of the characteristics of the Stratsnap process:

1. Mature and proven
Mature process – derived from Professor Malcolm MacDonald’s ExMar process over more than ten years.  Method and tool stable for more than fifteen years and used in numerous workshops with diverse focus questions.

2. Collaborative, consensus building
The process works with a mixture of private and group work that is highly collaborative and leads to a high level of consensus and common understanding.

3. Expedited Information Harvesting
The method avoids general discussion – it focusses on Information Harvesting – systematically gathering information from delegates in a highly structured manner that enables a large range of information to be canvassed in a short period of time thereby ensuring optimum utilization of delegates time.

For this reason it is VITAL that a representative delegate group is present, absence of a key delegate can give rise to major problems with the plan later.

4. Graphical and numerical presentation
The tool makes use of numerical readings of importance and performance which are presented in a variety of graphs making interpretation of the data easy and facilitating development of understanding and insight into the underlying trends that are revealed by the process.  This facilitates quality decision making.

5. Critical Issues (Pareto) based
The method is Critical Issues based – it limits delegates to not more than seven factors and the entire facilitation method is geared to ensuring that delegates collaboratively lift out the Critical (Pareto) Issues.

The essential goal of the process is to facilitate the delegate group to lift out those action areas that will give rise to the greatest beneficial impact on the organization.

6. Views of the Mountain
The method makes use of the metaphor of “views of the mountain” to make it OK to express divergent views while at the same time creating the context to enable a consensus to be developed in terms of priorities for future action.  Discordant views are identified numerically where they occur.

7. Measures of performance
The scoring process provides a mechanism to measure performance and the facilitation is designed to minimize the divergence of scores that result from different knowledge and experience sets thereby ensuring maximum reliability in the scores.

The scores provide a concise and effective method of assessing the performance of the organization and identifying gaps to be closed in detailed planning flowing from the SnapShot process.

8. Gap measurements
The weighted gap measurements ensure that at the end of the process delegates are focused on the aspects that most urgently require attention and provides the foundation for the separate gap analysis workshop that is recommended as a follow-on to the SnapShot process – see separate documentation.

I hope that this outline has given some idea of the characteristics of the StratSnap process and gives some idea of why it is such a powerful and effective tool.

Contact me on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com for more information.

046 - Insourcing: Restructuring the I.T. Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness -- Armscor Case Study

Conference on Outsourcing Information Technology -- 18 March 1997

Insourcing: Restructuring the I.T. Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness

Armscor Case Study

By Mr Jof Nelson, I.T. Business Support Manager: Armscor and Dr James A Robertson PrEng


I.T. in business over the years has frequently raised expectations which have not been satisfied.  Frequently, organizations resort to restructuring the I.T. function in order to overcome management's dissatisfaction with the failure of I.T. to meet their expectations.  Robertson has over a number of years at conferences in South Africa, Munich, London and Tel Aviv reported that indications are that management of in excess of 70% of corporations are dissatisfied with the performance of their I.T. Departments.  At the same conferences, a diagnosis of the major factors has been presented and proposals made for addressing the "real issues".  In December 1995, the opportunity to test these concepts in practise arose when Differentiated Strategic Solutions was appointed by Armscor on open tender to develop the new Armscor I.T. Strategy.  Jof Nelson was the client Project Manager on the project.  This paper overviews the process that was adopted and reports on the results one year later.

The process involved a market focused strategic analysis of the I.T. environment at Armscor which gave rise to a user satisfaction rating of 42% in which it was found by the consultants that, while the Technology aspects of I.T. at Armscor were of a World Class standard, most of the soft issues identified by Robertson were not receiving adequate attention and this was the source of dissatisfaction.  A comprehensive Strategic gap analysis was undertaken and from this a detailed three year strategic action plan was developed.  Armscor have been engaged in the implementation of this plan since June 1996.

As a result of the I.T. Strategy, the Armscor I.T. Department has significantly refocused on business service and business effectiveness and significant improvements have been experienced.  The paper outlines some of the steps that have been taken and some of the benefits that are already being experienced.  It is concluded that the implementation of a market focused I.T. Strategy at Armscor has given rise to a situation where outsourcing is unlikely to be found necessary and where insourcing has been found viable.


The I.T. Strategy process applied in this particular case comprised the following major components:

a.    Executive Workshops

A total of five workshops were held with approximately 100 middle to senior managers.  In these workshops, the issues giving rise to I.T. underperformance were highlighted and a series of Critical Success Factor determinations for different aspects of I.T. were undertaken.  As a consequence of the market focused strategic analysis, it was determined that there was a considerable gap between the expectations of users and what was being delivered.  It was also established that the gap lay in areas not traditionally addressed by I.T. Departments.

b.   Systems and Technology Audit

A high level systems and technology audit was undertaken of all I.T. systems, processes, etc.  The conclusion reached was that there was little room for improvement and that the technical aspect of I.T. services was of a world class standard.  It was clear that the level of dissatisfaction expressed by users had very little to do with technology.  Accordingly, it was recommended that a number of technology projects should receive lower priorities than previously intended and the focus of the strategy project was directed at addressing the major shortcomings identified by the user workshops.  It was concluded that significant opportunities existed for improving user satisfaction without incurring major capital expenditure.

c.    Strategic Gap Analysis

Having determined that a strategic gap between actual and expected service levels existed in every I.T. service area, a series of workshops were held with I.T. management during which the detailed steps that could be taken to close the strategic gap were identified and documented.  Significant reference was made to the "real issues" identified by Robertson.

d.   Strategic Action Plan

Having determined the steps to close the strategic gap, an intensive series of workshops were held to develop the Strategic Action Plan.  This plan involved the systematic and iterative walkthrough of the gap actions in order to allocate responsibilities, time frames, required internal and external manpower requirements, capital expenditure implications and expected financial and service level benefits.  In the process of iteratively developing the plan with two alternative manpower scenarios, a high level of understanding of the implications of the plan was obtained thus resulting in a high level of plan ownership by the management team.  This resulted in a plan which, to date, has been implemented with no further external input.

e.  Implementation

The I.T. Management team have been involved with the implementation of the plan since mid 1996 and subsequent sections outline in more detail what has been done.


As a consequence of the I.T. Strategy Project at Armscor, the I.T. Department re-evaluated it's position and focus on a number of different fronts including:

a.    I.T. Position in Armscor

I.T. in Armscor is located in the Finance and Administration Division and will remain in this division for the foreseeable future.  As a consequence of this positioning, the I.T. Department had always regarded itself as purely a demand driven service provider rather than a partner with the business users.  The I.T. Strategy clearly identified that I.T. should seek to enter into a partnership relationship with the rest of the organization paying particular attention to it's role as a specialist advisor dedicated to identifying opportunities to add value to the core business operation.

b.    Type of Services Rendered

In the past Armscor I.T. concentrated on delivering services as requested.  A consequence of this approach was that projects were undertaken without consideration of the business benefit and in many cases, the nett effect was that the I.T. Department was perceived not to be adding value to the Corporation.   I.T. is now giving careful consideration to the business problem that requires solution and seeking to be proactive in identifying the business problem that the user is seeking to address and thereafter making recommendations as to the most appropriate value adding solution.  The possibility of a "do nothing" recommendation is now recognized.

c.     Tasks Performed by I.T.

I.T. previously provided technology services such as programming and technical support.  Today I.T. is seeking to be proactive in advising the business and understanding the business environment and business opportunities.  The medium term objective is to reach a point where I.T. identify business opportunities before the business user and assist the user to turn these opportunities into effective business solutions that truly add value to the stakeholders in Armscor.

d.    What are I.T. Starting to Do

I.T. are now starting to send staff to work with business users for a period in order to understand the business and the practical problems associated with using I.T. in the business context.  Recruitment is now focusing on personnel who have the ability to understand the business users and to communicate effectively with them.  Business users are being invited to spend time in I.T. in order to gain a better understanding of what I.T. has to offer and the practical constraints on introducing new solutions.  Business users are being actively involved in projects.

e.    What are I.T. Stopping

I.T. are actively seeking to stop thinking in a technology blinkered fashion and waiting for users to bring problems and requests to I.T.  I.T. is now actively approaching the business with possible solutions that will add value and with recommendations to eliminate value destroying use of I.T.

f.   How I.T. Should Do What They Must Do

I.T. are seeking to get away from the old, "conservative" I.T. Department approach and change to be more business benefit oriented with open communication with the business users.  The focus is on redefining the I.T. shop to be seen by the business users as value adding.

g.  Implement Business Case

I.T. are moving towards a model where projects are only undertaken if there is a clear business case to demonstrate that value will be added to the business by the project.  If a clear business case demonstrating value added cannot be developed and delivered, then projects are not undertaken.


After careful consideration of the impact of the I.T. Strategy on the I.T. Department, it became apparent that the old Department structure was no longer appropriate.  Accordingly, the Management Team undertook a detailed analysis of the existing structure and the structure that was appropriate to achieving the strategic objectives.  As a consequence, significant changes were implemented.

In particular, the department was restructured towards a business unit model with it's own administrative and financial sections.  The change in operational focus was also reflected by the introduction of a Business Support and marketing section.  The development section was refocused on the total system life cycle and a call desk was implemented in order to provide central liaison and communication irrespective of the service required.

Psychological testing was introduced in order to ensure that personnel were matched with different groups of users in order to minimize personality clashes resulting from incompatible personality styles and also to ensure that personnel were suited to their positions in terms of their natural personality preferences.


I.T. had always thought of themselves as purely a technology department.  As a result of the strategy, I.T. started to move towards thinking of themselves as business solution providers.  In particular:

a.     User Business Control

I.T. recognized the need to give the users control over the business direction of any project and to interact with them in order to determine exactly what the business problem and business objective were.

I.T. are also involving users in the project management of I.T. projects.  In this way, I.T. are able to draw on the extensive project management experience of the business users thus avoiding past suggestions that I.T. was doing a second rate project management job and ignoring the expertise of the business users.  As a consequence, business users are now gaining a much more realistic understanding of the realities of I.T. projects and are no longer making unreasonable demands in terms of deadlines and deliverables.  The user is now far more involved in establishing the project plan and in ensuring compliance.  The result is more realistic planning on both sides.

b.    Make it Fun

The more you know about anything the easier it is to contribute and give worthwhile input, this makes the work more enjoyable.  A job well done and well received is far more satisfying and enjoyable.  There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained to solving a user's problem before he realises that it exists.

c.   Understand the User's Problem

An I.T. person who understands the user's problem is able to offer meaningful solutions.  Many I.T. people spend much of their time trying to solve the technical problem they think the user has rather than understanding the business problem.  In many cases, the solution may not be a technical solution, changes in business process, implementation of better standards and many other business focused actions are often called for in order to solve a problem that was previously seen to be a technical problem.  A major benefit is that I.T. are no longer seen to be making the problem worse.


Flowing from the above, a fundamental paradigm shift is in process, the I.T. personnel are learning to STOP THINKING I.T. and START THINKING BUSINESS.  In order to do this, I.T. are starting to work with the users and learn business terms, the business of the business is the business of I.T.

I.T. personnel are participating in and managing non‑I.T. projects or subsets thereof such as the current BPR project.

Considerable emphasis is placed on encouraging and equipping I.T. staff to listen to users rather than telling business users how they should run the business.  As a direct result, I.T personnel are learning to speak the user's language.  The improved understanding is greatly reducing miscommunication and solving of non-existent problems giving rise to new problems that were not there in the first place.  End result : more satisfied users at lower overall cost, a WIN WIN situation.

The focus on becoming part of the business requires that I.T. stop trying to be different.  In the past, I.T. personnel tended to go out of their way to dress differently and behave differently.  There was a "them" and "us" mentality.  Today, that is being actively discouraged and the focus is on becoming an integral part of the business.  At the same time, by becoming part of the team, the I.T. staff are starting to get in behind the scenes in the business where the business of the business really happens.  This can only take place once I.T. has earned acceptance and respect as part of the team.


As indicated previously, a vital consequence of the new I.T. direction has been a recognition that the users have considerable expertise that is of value to I.T. and is necessary for a successful project outcome.  Flowing from this recognition, users are being invited to work in the I.T. Department and to run I.T. projects.  In those cases where the user has the necessary expertise, I.T. has even gone so far as to appoint the user as the chief system designer.  I.T. simply provide the necessary services to assist the user achieve his stated objective and advise as necessary.


The emphasis on becoming part of the business, improved communication and understanding has brought about a culture in which I.T. are now actively seeking to form relationships and even partnerships with the business community within the corporation.

By giving the users what they want in the way they want, it levels of user satisfaction are improving.  The number of satisfied users is steadily increasing.

In seeking to achieve user satisfaction, the I.T. department is seeking to reverse the normal I.T. tendency of over promising and under delivering.  Today the slogan is "under promise - over deliver".  I.T. staff are encouraged to be honest with users in terms of deadlines, problem understanding, lack of knowledge, etc.  Users value honest answers, the truth comes out eventually anyway.

At the same time, I.T. have recognized that there will be differences in opinion but that there is a responsibility on the part of I.T. to "sell the difference in opinion" where they can see pitfalls or uncertainties which the user does not recognize.

Working together with users to set deadlines and targets greatly improves the likelihood of achievable targets.


By stepping back from the situation and appointing outside specialists to evaluate the real needs of the internal markets, Armscor I.T. were confronted with a major gap in between the level of service that they thought they were delivering as compared to the user's opinion of the service.  

After the initial shock, the I.T. Department recognized that this presented a great opportunity for improvement and wholeheartedly committed themselves to developing the I.T. Strategy to a point where the action plan was sufficiently detailed for implementation.

The recognition of the need for user and market focus also caused I.T. to take their eyes off technology and place them on the business with a resulting reduction in technology spend and increase in efforts to understand the business and get to know the users.  The outcome to date has been a significant increase in the level of user satisfaction and a steady move towards I.T. being viewed as a business partner rather than technology freaks always seeking to spend money on new toys.

This has opened the way for the Armscor I.T. Department to deliver a quality, value adding service to the Corporation which is expected to largely eliminate debates about centralized versus decentralized I.T. as well as eliminating much of the pressure which might otherwise have built up for outsourcing.  The final outcome is expected to be a more integrated and effective business I.T. service than could be achieved by implementing an artificial commercial profit boundary between I.T. and the business which is the current trend with outsourcing.  The long term benefits of insourcing in this way are expected to be considerable.


Armscor is the main procurement and acquisition agency for the South African National Defence Force.  Armscor offers the SANDF a full range of procurement and acquisition services covering the full spectrum of concept development to final delivery of sophisticated custom weapons and defence systems.


Differentiated Strategic Solutions (dS2) is a firm of independent business informa­tion system specialists concentrating on offering I.T. and management consultancy services and bespoke system development on a project basis with a strong emphasis on strategic solutions and on creating and sustaining competitive advantage.  Through associates in The MaXus Group and other associated specialists they are able to provide a wide range of additional consulting and other services in support of the concepts outlined in this paper.  dS2 can be contacted on (011) 886-9863, fax 787-0132.


The permission of Armscor to publish this case study is acknowledged with thanks as is the contribution of the Armscor I.T. Management team to spent long hours on the Strategy development with fervour and commitment and who have taken the Strategic plan and run with it's implementation.


The contribution of our clients, associates and staff, without whom we would not have had the opportunity to evolve and develop these concepts is gratefully acknowledged.  The contribution of my partner and co-director, Ettienne du Preez is particularly acknowledged.

It is also dedicated to Ingrid and my children Alexandra and Struan and my parents, Angus and Thelma without whose support the knowledge shared in this paper would never have been acquired.


This work is dedicated to God our Father, His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit Who is the source of all wisdom, understanding and knowledge and the reason for our existence, without Whom this work would not be possible nor of any significance.  For The Lord is the God of Knowledge and by Him actions are weighed (1 Samuel 2:3).


44  Robertson, J A (1996) Use of IT to Create and Manage Market Driven Strategic Plans Presenta­tion to the Marketing Infor­mation Systems Confer­ence, Johannesburg, Sep­tember 1996.

41  Robertson, J A (1996) Why 70% of Corporations are Dissatisfied With I.T. : How to Avoid Dissatisfaction in Your Organization  Presentation to the Compuware Confer­ence, Tel Aviv, June 1996.

37  Robertson, J A (1995) The Reasons Why More Than 70% of Corporations Are Dissat­isfied With Their I.T. Investment : How Senior Management Can Respond Proactively to Overcome This Syndrome in Their Organizations Presentation to the Compuware/Uniface Executive Forum, Munich, Octo­ber 1995.

33  Robertson, J A (1995) Shaping the Future - Information Technology and Strategic Change  Presentation to the Strategic Planning Society Special Interests Group and the British Computer Society, London, September, 1995.

28  Robertson, J A (1995)  The Information Environment : Delivering Informa­tion Effectively  Keynote Address  Paper presented at the Annual Congress of the South African Institu­tion of Civil Engineers, Port Elizabeth, April 1995

14  Robertson, J A (1994)  A Market Focused Approach to Developing an Informa­tion Technology Strategy  Paper presented at Informa­tion Systems Manager Confer­ence, Johannesburg, March 1994.

12  Robertson J A (1993)  Differentiating between Strategic, Tactical and Operational Information Systems  Keynote Presentation to Com­puter Society of South Africa Strategic Information Delivery SIG, Johannesburg, July 1993.

7    Robertson J A (1992) Enhancing Information System Effectiveness : The Human Element  Paper presented at Executive Information Systems Conference.  Johannesburg, March 1992 and South African Institution of Civil Engineers Confer­ence May 1992.      


046 Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study -- by Jof Nelson and James Robertson from James Robertson

Download Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study -- Slides in Adobe pdf format

Download Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study -- White Paper in Adobe pdf format

Components of the JAR&A StratGap Strategic Gap Analysis Process

The following is an overview of the components of the StratGap process:

1. Based on weighted gap
The StratGap process builds on the weighted gap from the StratSnap process.

Generally a more senior group undertakes the StratSnap process and delegates the detailed planning of actions to close the gap to one of the team members plus senior members of staff designated at the end of the StratSnap workshop.

2. Private determination of Critical Projects
Delegates individually determine what they think are the most appropriate projects to close the selected gap – gaps are analyzed one Critical Factor at a time.

3. Group synthesis of critical projects
As with StratSnap the individual Critical Projects are captured and then synthesized into a single set of seven projects which are headlined and the headlines carried forward for planning purposes.

4. High level determination of time line and ownership
The headline time line and ownership of each project is determined together with the percentage of the gap that each project is expected to close.

5. High level allocation of resources
Resources are allocated across seven categories starting with Executives and Senior Managers – these two categories are frequently the invisible constraints on strategic and business change projects – a certain level of Executive input is generally vital and is generally the source of delays and compromises when it is not available at the required level.

This step in the process forces planners to think soberly about the level of executive input they require and if this is a constraint then formulate appropriate actions to relax the constraint by delaying certain projects or negotiating greater delegation.

6. Compilation of Strategic Action plan
Once all gaps have been processed in all SnapShots analyzed the entire suite of projects and plan actions are collated into a single StratAction plan for further analysis.

In general, as lower priority gaps and SnapShots are analyzed it is found increasingly that projects or plan actions already arrived at will also close these gaps.  Harmonization and grouping of these plan components enables the rationalization of the overall action plan.

The final plan can be traced back directly to the original SnapShot analysis.

Consolidated assessment of priorities, timelines and particularly Executive and Senior Management time result in reconsideration of deadlines and priorities limiting planned actions to that which can be done within the limitations of those resource constraints.

This is a powerful device for reducing the incidence of failed or overdue projects owing to inadequate resourcing.

7. Convert to Project Plan
Once the Strategic Action plan has been optimized the resulting projects are loaded into a Project Management software package and brought into execution mode.

I hope that this outline has given some idea of the components of the StratGap process and gives some idea of why it is such a powerful and effective tool.

Please contact me on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com for more information.

Characteristics of the JAR&A StratGap Strategic Gap Analysis Process

The following is an overview of the characteristics of the StratGap process:

1. Backward linking
The plan links back to the original Executive level Strategic Snapshot analysis so projects are directly derived from executive evaluation of issues and priorities.

2. Critical activities
The critical projects and plan actions approach drives out the activities and projects that will do the most to achieve the desired improvement on a ranked and prioritized basis.

3. Executive constraints
Pragmatic and practical assessment of executive and senior management constraints results in practical plans with realistic deadlines and delegation.

4. Systematic and structured method
The method provides a systematic and structured means of undertaking the high level conceptualization of projects and activities.

5. Mechanism for short to long term planning
Provides a mechanism for short, medium and long term planning in a way that is sustainable and achievable and if followed through will support a culture of continuous organizational improvement.

6. Drives to an integrated project plan
Drives through to an overall integrated holistic Strategic Action plan that takes account of high level considerations in a single worksheet.

I hope that this outline has given some idea of the characteristics of the StratGap process and gives some idea of why it is such a powerful and effective tool.

Please contact us on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com for more information.

Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual

The StratSnap toolset has been developed over 24 years and owes its conceptual origin to Professor Malcolm MacDonald's Exmar software

It is a very effective Critical Issues based Strategic Analysis tool that has a diversity of uses as discussed on the Strategy page

The spreadsheets are now over ten years old and need a significant refresh and may require tweaking with the latest versions of Excel

For that reason I am giving them away free on a NO warranty basis for you to try out and use as you see fit

I offer comprehensive facilitation using this tool with insight and technique refined over the 24 year period

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A redacted version of an actual manual for a JARandA Chart of Accounts for a small manufacturing company.  This manual gives a comprehensive picture of how the Chart of Accounts is structured, how the Cubic Business Model works and the reporting and other opportunities that the design provides

Dr James A Robertson PrEng The Business Information Systems Doctor

Business Systems NOT delivering?

Call the Business Systems Specialist

Dr. James Robinson

Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.

Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.

He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.

If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist

Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.

Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.

All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.

There HAS to be a better way!

This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control

We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website

We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues

Click here to read more about the Engineering Approach

By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT

This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.

Connect with James Robertson on LinkedIn

James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.

You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor

James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.

Book -- The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success

In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.

Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:

Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

SNw 050 The Real Issues in BIS: Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration

Strategic alignment, the alignment of system concept and solution architecture with the strategic essence of the organization, why it exists and how it thrives, such that the systems enable management and staff to do the right things well as determined by the customers of the organization together with the need for Precision Configuration the very exact development of data content to model the business, are discussed in this section
Cnf 053 Engineering Maintenance Management Methodology With Radical Rethink About Clinical Data Code Design

The current clinical data codes, ICD 10 and CPT 4 are exceptionally weak as information classification, management and analysis tools and massively inhibit the creation of clever clinical and medical software, there is a huge opportunity to redesign these codes and use the resulting intelligent codes to develop very sophisticated health management systems drawing on engineering maintenance management and other techniques in order to provide solutions for areas and countries with a limited number of healthcare practitioners
Std 014 Procurement: 06 System Procurement Bill of Services

The Bill of Services is directly comparable to the Bill of Materials on a Construction Project -- it is intended to list ALL the services that are required in order to execute the project and deliver the required business outcome
The Bill of Services is prepared by a person with considerable experience in the implementation of business information systems who is able to draft a comprehensive list.  This list may then be fine tuned by bidders to reflect their particular methods and approach
The Bill of Services is the basis on which the bid is priced and the basis on which the contractor is paid -- if it is NOT in the Bill of Services there is NO basis for a claim
Cnf 064 Engaging the Board in Strategic Information Technology Decisions

The Governance of Information Technology is fraught with difficulties and presents real challenges to the Board of Directors and particularly non-executive Directors to determine whether the organization is running this element prudently and effectively, this presentation discusses a number of factors to be taken into account in managing the technology

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Contact Us

You can contact us on

Email: James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com

LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/drjamesarobertsonerpdoctor

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.a.robertson.393

Mobile: +44 (0) 776-862-2875

Landline: +44 (0) 207-059-0007

Fax: +44 (0) 844 774 4580

Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website

Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles

ArticleTagCloud for Articles Published by James A Robertson and Associates

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Table of Contents


About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics

Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures

About the Engineering Approach

James Robertson's Value Add

Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution

Recognizing Business System Failure

The Critical Human Foundation

Old Software IS Viable

From South Africa

Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng

About Professor Malcolm McDonald

Table of Contents

About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing

Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics

Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson

Reference Articles

List of Articles

Article Catalogue

Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes

Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?

The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody

Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration

Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

IT Project Management

Pulse Measurement

CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement

No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes

Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™

The Pulse Measurement Workflow

The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement

Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations

What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?

Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years

Sample Pulse Measurement Reports


Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems

Strategic Essence: Overview

Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined

Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation

Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different

Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure

Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence

Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?

Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment

Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual

A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting

Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works

Robust Business Systems Procurement

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc

Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters

Procurement Documents

Guidance and Advisory Services

The Art of Project Leadership

Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital

The Business Simulation Laboratory

Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture

Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies

The JAR&A Cubic Business Model

Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal

The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration

Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask

Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration

092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013

088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa

026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf

018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf

011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng

Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering

Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations

Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment

The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual

Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples

Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software

Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References

Example General Ledger Manual

Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous

The RIGHT Approach

Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction

Standards for Custom Software Specification

What IS Software?

IT Effectiveness

Organizing Outlook

Critical Factors for I.T. Success

A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail

Case Studies examining Business Information System failures

The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle

The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict

Speaking and Training

Showcase of Conference Presentations

Most Viewed Presentations

Briefings and Seminars

Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results

The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success

Other Seminars

Conferences and Public Presentations

Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present

Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009

Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005

Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996

Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994

On-Line Seminars (Webinars)

Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars

Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited