Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

SymStrategy methodology for strategy development for SMEs

In fast-moving markets, the customer (usually the managing director of an SME) has to make strategic decisions more often than in relatively stable industries. These decisions are usually taken in an individual, peace-meal process, in which the managing director (who is also often the owner) decides on his own and with the advice given by the management team.

Taking strategic decisions depends on various factors (e.g. management experience etc.). In SMEs, however, taking wrong decisions can quickly put an end to a company. Due to the SMEs limited resources, investment decisions for a specific option often imply a significant reduction of budget for other investments. Strategic decisions therefore need to be grounded in reasonable assumptions, taking into account the external environment as well as a firm's internal conditions. To date, the managerial decision process has several deficits that do not correspond with today's management requirements, that is increasingly complex (e.g. more and more networked, based on humans and their capabilities, …) and requires a conscious consideration. The essential problem for SME is that they rarely spend time on strategic issues, they are permanently under time pressure and tend to neglect the activities needed to come up with quick decisions (e.g. collect relevant information, determine success factors, etc.) Many managers therefore get help from external parties to support the managers until he can take a decision.

SymStrategy, a methodology for strategy development within SMEs addresses the afore mentioned problems and therefore offers a framework that takes all the relevant information and transforms it into a meaningful picture of the business, strengthens the importance of the strategic decision-making process into something that is done on a regular basis as well as aligns the management team and if well implemented and communicated, the whole organization. The value for the user of SymStrategy is evident. It leads to better decisions, speeds up the decision-making process, makes decisions traceable and easy to monitor, makes decisions easy to communicate and finally makes decisions easy to implement.

From a market point of view, the following can be mentioned: due to the countless number of SME, it is hard to tell how big the market is in terms of number of companies that need consultancy in this area. However, one can roughly estimate the potential from the number of consultancies that exist offering similar services. In Germany alone, there are approx. 30.000 companies and individuals offering consulting services (Switzerland approx. 3000), doing just about everything from IT, HR, Change Management etc. and - of course - also strategic management. The consulting market has grown excessively during the last years. Due to the different types of consulting, the growth rate can hardly be generalized but the market still seems to grow or to stagnate on a relatively high level.

Market segmentation for the SymStrategy can be done in different ways. The target group has been defined at the very beginning of the project: High-Tech and Service-oriented SMEs, start-ups or modular units of bigger companies. In addition, the segmentations is determined by the size of the organization, its adherence to an information and knowledge intensive industry, its life-cycle stage, the life-cycle stage of the market and the integration into networks. The appropriate market segment is, where these areas overlap.

The dissemination and exploitation of SymStrategy will take place through three major streams:
1. SymStrategy consulting services:

The pure methodology of SymStrategy requires an appropriate service. Therefore, a service in terms of workshops offered to the customers will be provided: the usage of the whole suite of SymStrategy Methods for a complete strategy roundup and setting of strategic direction (2 days in the 'light' version for smaller companies, up to one week for 'full' version in bigger companies), alternatively the usage of one specific SymStrategy part (e.g. assessment of a specific pre-defined situation) for a customer (1-2 days).
2. SymStrategy open source community:
In order to distribute and disseminate the SymStrategy methodology as wide as possible, an open source community will be launched in the beginning of March 2005. An appropriate IT platform will support this activity in order to provide the results for free download as well as to allow getting feedback from the users in order to improve and optimise the current status of the product.
3. SymStrategy education and training:

The findings and experiences along the SymStrategy development and application process will be transferred through universities, multipliers and other organisations (e.g. teaching students, etc.) as well as dedicated training courses and seminars for industrial practitioners.

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Fraunhofer IAO, Competence Center R&D Management
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