Technology Forecasting and Strategic Planning


During the weeks before the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, there were many meetings of the National Security Council. The story made the rounds of the staff and later appeared in print about one of the meetings that took place just before the situation was made public. General Curtis LeMay, a high-ranking Air Force officer previously in attendance, was missing. One of the President’s aides was concerned and asked, ‘‘Where’s General LeMay?’’ The President ignored the aide and continued with his opening remarks, but after a minute or so, believing the General’s presence to be critically important, the aide persisted with an interruption: ‘‘Excuse me, Mr. President, General LeMay isn’t here, shouldn’t we wait for him?’’ At this point Kennedy is said to have stopped, removed his glasses, looked straight at the aide, and said, ‘‘No. We don’t want him here. We’re here to decide whether or not we want to bomb Cuba. If we decide we want to bomb Cuba, we’ll put Curtis in the lead airplane, but we don’t want him helping us make that decision.’’ This story is sometimes used to illustrate the difference between strategy and tactics. The strategy involved deciding what to do. However it’s likely the act of excluding the General was a tactic aimed a keeping minds open and forcing a war council to consider one or more alternatives and forge a strategy or two to get the missiles removed from the Caribbean island.
In the late 1960s, the Radio Corporation of America changed its corporate name to simply RCA and went on an acquisition spree buying Cornet Carpets, Banquet Foods, and Hertz Enterprises. Many saw this jokingly as changing the meaning of the company name to ‘‘rugs, chickens, and automobiles.’’ Later, after struggling for several years to compete with IBM in mainframe computer design and manufacturing, the company decided to exit the business. After the decision was finally made and formally announced, an observer noted, ‘‘Strategic planning at RCA consisted solely of deciding what to do after lunch.’’

CONTEXT OF TECHNOLOGY FORECASTING AND STRATEGIC PLANNING

Why should something like technology forecasting and long-range strategic planning be part of communications (cost) management? Because communications is the lifeblood of any organization, and if the blood gets clogged, slows down, or stops, the organization will cease to exist. Technological forecasting and long-range planning assures that communications capabilities and facilities continue to change and evolve to meet the needs of a growing organization operating in an environment subject to change brought on by competitive pressure and regulatory and technological change.
Technology forecasting and strategic planning should be considered in the broader context of the organization’s mission and objectives. It should deal with all fundamental requirements of the organization, such as revenue producing products and/or services structure, human and capital resources, physical facilities, and utilities. This chapter introduces the concept of long-range strategic business planning, explains how to do communications technology and long-range planning, and its use in the overall plan.

Long-Range Strategic Planning

Does your organization have a long-range business plan, also called long-range strategic plan, or simply just a strategic plan? Have you seen it? If the answer to both questions is yes, consider your good fortune in the sense that most companies don’t have a long-range plan, let alone a technology plan. Much like the story about RCA, they worry about what to after lunch, eventually getting bought up, or taken over by another organization. Others take forever to get an annual budget prepared and agreed to by their banks and other lenders whose primary interest is that they receive each month’s interest payment on the money the company owes, not on the company’s product and service revenue, gross margin, and net income.
If your organization does not have a long-range plan, regardless of the nature and character of the annual business plan or operating budget, you are in a good position to learn while doing something valuable. If your colleagues and management do not appreciate the effort, you will be in a position to benefit your next employer when your current organization experiences its premature demise. The best place to start is with your organization’s annual business plan and budget, 

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