Developing a strategic plan for a firm to achieve goals and objectives

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Introduction

Developing a strategic plan for a firm requires not only a situational analysis of the firm and its operations but also formulating strategies which when implemented will achieve the goals and objectives of the firm. Michael Porter in his article on "What is Strategy [1] " stated that strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position involving a different set of activities. With regards to the U.W.I Credit Union, the aim of the firm is to cater to the many needs of its relatively small number of customers. Porter also stated that strategy required a firm to make a trade off in competing and decide what not to do base on its business activities. He further stated that strategy involved creating a "fit" among the firm's activities which highlights the way the firm's activities interact and reinforce each other. However, before a strategic plan can be developed to achieve the overall objectives of the firm, certain strategies need to be formulated to facilitate the achievements of these objectives and goals. Therefore, the aim of the firm and its reason for being need to be evaluated in order to access the direction of the firm. Subsequently, strategic priorities, goals and objectives can be developed centered around the firm's mission and vision.

Mission Statement

A firm's mission statement [2] gives a description of its purpose and its business activities. The mission statement of the U.W.I Credit Union is "Dedicated to providing superior services continuously, to enhance the quality of life of its members, while maintaining long term financial stability." A mission statement should identify and distinguish products, services and buyer needs it seeks to satisfy, the customers it is trying to serve, the approach to satisfying those customer needs, and distinguishing the company's make up from that of others. Christopher Bart in his work on mission statements [3] stated that a mission statement should answer certain important question such as why does the organization exist, why is this organization here and what is this organization trying to accomplish.

Based on the fundamental criteria outlined by Bart on mission statements the U.W.I Credit Union's mission statement answers these three basic questions. The firm's mission statement identifies why it exist and why it is here which is to continuously provide superior service that will enhance the quality of life of its members while it also identifies what the firm is trying to achieve which is long term financial stability. The mission statement of a firm must be formulated with the interest of employees and stakeholders and communicated to its various stakeholders as well as its customers and its employees in order for it to be effective. An effective mission statement would facilitate a firm in achieving objectives especially in the short term.

Vision Statement

A firm's vision provides a picture of a future position that the firm seeks to achieve by setting intrepid long term goals. Therefore, a vision [4] is a desired future state that a firm hopes to realize. It serves to reiterate to employees the purpose of the firm and the direction of the firm. The firm's vision is reflected in its vision statement [5] which is a written declaration of the firm's vision. The U.W.I Credit Union's vision statement is "The U.W.I Credit Union is the institution of first choice for superior financial and other services." Some of the basic criteria of a vision statement is that it should be future oriented, it should be clear, easy to remember and communicate and unambiguous. A vision statement should be realistic and should be achievable with no specific time frame.

Based on the criteria highlighted above the U.W.I Credit Union's current vision statement can be deemed as satisfactory. This is because the vision statement of the firm satisfies some of the basic criteria such as it identifies the future state that the firm wishes to achieve, is clear, easy to remember, realistic and one which employees are motivated towards achieving based on communication with management and staff. Vision statements provide a guideline for developing a firm's strategy and assist the firm in preparing for its future state. A firm's vision statement should shape the direction of the company for the future and ensure that decisions taken are in sync with the long term goals of the firm. It is important that the firm's vision statement be communicated to management, employees, customers and other stakeholders in order for it to be effective. Also, it is essential that these persons be involved in the preparation of both the mission and vision statement in order to foster greater commitment and sense of belongingness and importance to the firm which is critical to the firm achieving its short term objectives: mission; and its long terms goals: vision.

Values

Values [6] are the beliefs, attributes and norms that persons within firms are expected to portray when conducting their day to day activities in an effort to pursue the firm's mission and vision. Therefore, values are paramount to the firm and it can complement the firm's mission and vision. Values that facilitate the achievement of the firm's mission and vision can be reiterated and circulated within the firm to inform employees. The U.W.I Credit Union has identified its core values [7] which serve as guidelines when communicating with members, employees and other business partners. These values include:

Integrity - uncompromising ethical and moral behavior geared towards gaining the trust of members, employees and business partners.

Proactivity - display creativity and innovativeness in becoming a leader in developing products and services for members, and in the growth of the Credit Union Movement.

Mutual Respect - Promotion of respect and support for each other, whether as members, employees, officers, the Credit Union movement and the wider community in which the firm operates.

Commitment - committed and dedicated to continuously seeking ways to improve the quality of life of its members.

Confidence - Act in a professional and sincere manner when dealing with members, employees and business partners.

Achievement - firm is achievement oriented.

Family - Firm recognizes family as the pillar on which society is built and considers the promotion and support of family life.

These values highlighted above are the foundation upon which the U.W.I Credit Union was built and operates. Thus, these values are important to the firm achieving its vision of becoming an institution of first choice for superior financial services as well as its mission of enhancing the quality of life its members and maintaining long term financial stability.

The values of a firm are sometimes linked to the firm's corporate social responsibility. The European Commission defines corporate social responsibility [8] as a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholder on a voluntary basis. This is important because firms have become aware of the significance of this concept and how it can lead to the success of the firm. In order to build its corporate social responsibility the U.W.I Credit Union provides services such as family counseling, scholarships to individual, helps in social, cultural and sporting programs, promotes the green movement and promotes core values upon which its operations are based. These initiatives assist the firm in building on its social image which can show stakeholders, members and the community that the firm is not only concerned with making profits but also the betterment of society. This can be very beneficial and assist the firm in achieving its mission and vision.

The mission, vision and the values of the firm provide direction to the firm when formulating strategy and developing a strategic plan. Therefore, strategies undertaken by the firm should reflect the mission and vision of the firm. Of paramount importance to the firm are its customers. In the situational analysis in Appendix one, the customers, potential customer and key stakeholders of the U.W.I Credit Union were identified. The firm therefore, must decide on what it offers to its customer and stakeholders to foster a good relationship with them in an effort to achieving the firm's mission and vision. This is done through the customer value proposition.

Customer Value Proposition

The customer value proposition refers to the value that a company affirms will be passed onto its customers through the provision of its goods and services. This value is initially determined and communicated to employees as well as customers and stakeholder and would henceforth guide strategic direction, particularly the strategic plan. Customer value proposition is intended to capture and win over customer and must be precise. A customer value proposition that is developed collaboratively with customers and important stakeholders can be very beneficial to a firm. This would provide the firm with primary information on what customers expect from the firm and what services customers' value. Value creation is what drives a firm and so it must be at the heart of the strategy.

In order to develop a successful customer value proposition the firm needs to identify some of the basic needs of its customers, potential customers and its stakeholders. The basic needs of the customer, potential customer and stakeholders of the U.W.I Credit Union include:

Provision of efficient and effective service.

Provision of affordable and reliable financial services such as loans.

Ease when conducting basic transactions such as withdrawals and deposits.

Accumulation of wealth

Feel a sense of belongingness and importance towards the firm.

The needs identified above are some of the basic needs of the customers, potential customers and stakeholders of the U.W.I Credit Union. After the needs of the customers, potential customers and stakeholders have been identified the value proposition of the firm should be built around these needs. In developing this value proposition the firm has to identify its product or service attributes; its relationship with customers, potential customer and stakeholders; as well as its image. Through these initiatives, the needs identified above can be achieved in order to create value for customers.

The U.W.I Credit Union strives on providing efficient financial services with a personalized touch. The product or service attributes can be assessed on certain characteristics such as product or service function, availability, choice, quality and price or cost. The U.W.I Credit Union provides a range of services such as deposit facilities, loans, acquisition of shares, bursaries, insurance and counseling services. Therefore, customers and potential customers have a wide array of products and services to choose from to satisfy their needs. Products and services are readily available, and are provided at the highest quality which is guided by the core values of the firm. The products and services provided by the firm are also competitively priced as interest rates on loans tend to be lower than interest rates on loan offered at commercial banks.

The firm also has a very close relationship with its members which was identified as one of the firm's core competencies in the situational analysis in Appendix one. This close relationship keeps both members who are in effect the customers and staff motivated and is paramount to the operations of the firm. Based on its corporate social responsibility the firm strives to continuously improve its image through its customer and undertaking social initiatives. This close relationship that exists between the customers and staff of the U.W.I Credit Union, together with the image of the firm and the attributes of the products and services the firm offers, provides value to customers. This value for customer can lead to potential customers becoming customers of the firm. This is reflected in the forecast of the membership conducted in the situational analysis in appendix one which illustrates that membership grew continuously from 2006 to 2009 and is forecasted to continue growing from 2010 to 2013. This shows that the value created by the firm for its customers and potential customers can lead to increases in membership for the firm which subsequently results in increased revenue for the firm. Thus the strategies undertaken should be geared towards continuing to build on the existing customer value proposition.

Michael Porter developed three generic strategies [9] available to firms which were further expounded to five by other authors. These generic strategies are:

Low cost provider strategy

Product Differentiation strategy

Best Cost provider strategy

Low cost focused strategy

Differentiation focused strategy

The generic strategy selected by the firm would depend on the market size and competitive strategy in which the firm wants to pursue such as low cost leadership or a differentiation strategy. Low cost provider strategy is achieved when the firm becomes the low cost leader within the industry. One way in which this strategy can be pursued is by reducing price in an effort to increase market share. This strategy tends to work best when there is a lot of price competition within the market, if there is low switching cost and little differentiation is possible. However, pursuing such a strategy can be at the expense of profitability and quality.

Product differentiation strategy aims to provide a differentiated product within a large market. The product can be differentiated based on certain attributes and must be unique in its own way but still providing value to the customer. This strategy is profitable when it is driven by continuous product innovation, superior customer service which can include after sales service, technical superiority and providing a reliable and high quality product. This strategy work best when there are few firms pursuing this strategy and customers' needs are diverse. However, undertaking such a strategy may result in high prices, imitators, and the provision of products which have little value to customer due to over differentiation.

Best cost provider strategy aims to provide customers with more value through increased product attributes at low prices. This strategy is designed to satisfy and exceed product price and expectations thus providing more value to customers. This enhancement in product quality comes at a cost but this cost is not passed on to customers. This strategy is specifically geared towards customers who are value conscious.

Low cost focused strategy aims at providing the lowest cost compared to competitors within the niche market. Whereas focused differentiation strategy aims at providing a differentiated product to the niche market. This strategy offers customers from the niche market a product or service which is specifically targeted towards their unique taste and preferences. Successful use of this strategy occurs when customers want special product features and the firm is able to distinguish itself from competitors within the market niche.

Strategic Priorities - Issues

Based on the situational analysis conducted it can be determined that the U.W.I Credit Union needs to undertake focused differentiation strategies. This is because the firm targets a specific market niche which is individuals associated with the U.W.I St. Augustine Campus and other tertiary level institutions, U.W.I students and graduates of working age. The firm would then offer a service which is specifically targeted at providing value to customers taking into account the unique taste and preferences of customers which can be reflected in their basic needs as highlighted above. Thus, one of the main strategies pursued by the firm is to provide personalized financial services to its customers. This strategy is a focus differentiation strategy as there are several other credit unions which offer financial services to the same market niche and other market niches, but the differentiated service that the U.W.I Credit Union offers through its personalized financial services gives the company a competitive edge. Therefore, strategies undertaken should seek to build on the already established focus differentiation strategy of personalized financial services.

The situational analysis conducted for the U.W.I Credit Union also allowed the key issues facing the organization to be scrutinized. Strategy therefore, is needed to build upon this by outlining the way forward as to the way these issues should be address. However, the strategies outlined should be in sync with the firm's vision, mission, values and its customer value proposition. Several issues were itemized along with the possible implications for the U.W.I Credit Union's operations. Based on the SWOT analysis conducted as seen in Appendix one, the following strategic issues were highlighted which include low customer confidence in the market, inadequate use IT services, a large number of competing firm operating in a difficult economic climate and slow decision making. As a result, key strategic priorities were identified given the scale of their potential implications for the firm.

Increase use of IT to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.

Build customer confidence within the market through the provision of competitive financial services.

Increase in customer base through increase in membership to provide more customers with the services provided by the U.W.I Credit Union.

Provision of other financial services which the firm currently does not offer. This can be pioneered through the use of IT.

Build on strong customer relationship with is one of the firm's core competencies.

Maintaining a solid financial position.

Improve decision making process and time.

Above are the key strategic priorities which have been identified based on the SWOT analysis matrix conducted for the situational analysis of the U.W.I Credit Union. From those strategic priorities the firm can develop a strategy statement which will serve to further guide its strategy formulation for the period 2011 to 2013.

Strategy Statement

"The U.W.I Credit Union will seek to utilize information technology to continuously deliver essential, efficient, superior financial and other services with confidence, respect and integrity aimed at constantly improving the quality of life of members; build customer morale by maintaining long term financial stability and being recognized as a first choice institution for the provision of financial and other services through implementation of proactive and achievement oriented policies."

This strategy statement, the mission statement, vision statement and values of the firm will be expounded in order to develop goals and objectives that will facilitate the implementation and realization of strategic initiatives and subsequently the strategic plan.

Goals and Objectives

Goals are long term aspirations geared towards the accomplishment of the firm's vision, whereas objectives [10] looks at the firm's mission and transforms then into realistic time bound targets. Objectives can also be classified as the targets that the firm wants to achieve. When formulating objectives it is imperative that objectives be SMART. This means that objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. Thus, objectives need to be concrete and well defined, quantifiable, feasible, account for the available resources of the firm and be specific to a particular time frame within which it should be achieved.

Goal of the U.W.I Credit Union for period 2011 - 2013

Improve the quality of audits conducted by the loan committee.

Expansion of the firm's operations.

Build strong partnerships with customers and social groups.

Provide exceptional financial and other services that satisfy customer needs.

Objectives of the U.W.I Credit Union 2011 - 2013

Increase membership by 6 percent annually.

Reduce time lags in decision making.

Increase the efficiency of operations specifically the loan application and approval system.

Increase the number of financial and other services offered.

Maintain financial ratios at satisfactory levels.

Use IT and training to improve audit assessment by loan committee.

Build customer confidence towards the firm and its operations.

Provision of excellent customer service to members.

To provide training aimed at continuously improving staff and committee members' customer service skills.

The objectives identified above are influenced by barriers and critical success factors. [11] Critical success factors are events or issues that have a major influence on the firm achieving its objectives. These critical success factors need to be identified and managed in order to ensure the achievement of the firm's objectives. Barriers, on the other hand are factors or issues which may hinder the achievement of the firm's objectives.

Critical success factors which may influence the objectives of the U.W.I Credit Union for planned period 2011 - 2013 are:

The strong and close relationship which exist between the firm and its customers. This is very important as this relationship between the firm and its customers is core to the operations of the firm. The firm thrives on this special relationship which exists between it and its members or customers in order for the firm to provide its focused differentiated service which is personalized financial services. Therefore, building on this relationship can lead to a successful accomplishment of the firm's first, sixth and seventh objectives as outlined above.

Providing additional value to existing customer while at the same time encouraging new customer to join the firm. The strategies undertaken to create additional value for the customer may not lead to new members. Therefore, the strategies developed and services provided need to provide value to customer as well as encourage new members to join the firm, in order to gain from the value which the firm offers.

It is also important to consider whether the provision of other financial services will erode the strong relationship which exists between the customers and the firm.

Barriers which may affect the objectives outlined for the U.W.I Credit Union for the planned period 2011 - 2013 are:

The cost of the information technology to be acquired, also the cost of training employees and committee members in customer service skills and the cost of training to equip loan committee with appropriate techniques to improve the standards and quality of audits. The high cost associated with these activities may discourage the firm from pursuing these objectives. This can affect the third, fourth, sixth and eighth objective outlined for the firm above.

The culture of certain members of the organization can be one that is resistant to change. Therefore, these individual may be very hesitant to change certain ways of operations and also their way of thinking which may hinder the achievement of the firm's objectives. This can affect the sixth, eighth and ninth objective.

The area in which the firm operates may hinder the firm from providing efficient and effective services to customers. This is because heavy rainfall is normally accompanied by flooding in the business area and as a result business may have to be shut down when it rains heavily or customer may not be compelled to come to the firm when it rain.

Strategies and Initiatives

There are several strategies and initiatives suggested that the firm undertake to achieve its identified goals and objectives. These strategies and initiatives include:

One strategy that the U.W.I Credit Union can pursue to achieve its objectives is to increase the use of information technology at the firm. The increased use of IT can be used to provide other financial services namely online banking. This would increase the ease with which customer perform basic transactions such as checking of account balances and transferring money to different accounts. This could give the firm a competitive edge over some of its competitors.

Also, the use of IT can be utilized to reduce the transaction time taken when applying for a loan. Currently, when a customer applies for a loan, the customer has to undertake the tedious task of writing down basic information which is already available in the firm's system and also the customer service agent has to go back into the system after the form has been filled by the customer and also manually update the form with information from the system. An MIS II Group Project undertaken by the Mad Techs group identified that this process can be eliminated with a customized loan application form which will be generated by the system and the only information which will be required by the customer is their signature. This will increase efficiency and also reduce the human error which the current system is prone to.

IT can also be used to equip the loan committee with appropriate tools necessary to conduct quality and proper audits. This can be done through the acquisition of various software packages to assist in the process and also the provision of training by an expert in the field.

A membership drive can be undertaken to increase member and maintain the membership percentage at six percent yearly. This can be done via mouth to mouth conversations that members have with potential members and other individuals. Therefore, due to the close relationship that exists between members and staff, members can be encouraged to spread the words and enlighten their friend and co-workers about the U.W.I Credit Union. This sort of communication is very effective. The membership drive can also be pursued by providing added incentives to customer for joining the U.W.I Credit Union during a specific time period such as more attractive interest rates on savings and reduction in the time to acquire certain services such as applying for a loan upon receiving membership.

Provide loans at lower interest rates than those provided by commercial banks and other credit unions and provide attractive interest rates on savings. This will compel customers to take loans which are the main source of revenue for the firm. Also, the reduced interest rates offered by the firm can also attract new members as potential members are encouraged by the attractive interest rates on savings and loans.

Use good financial standing to market the firm has a safe investment option especially since there is low consumer confidence. Therefore, the firm has to maintain its financial stability over the period by not undertaking risk investments and by reducing the delinquency on loans.

Provide training to employees and committee members to improve on their customer service skills. This is important as the core competence of the firm is the close relationship it has with its members. Thus, the firm must continue to build on this relationship through the provision of continuous improvements in customer care.

Provision of safer modes of conducting day to day transaction. This can be achieved through the provision of a cheque book service. This means that customers will have less cash to carry around to undertake day to day transaction. Due to the crime situation, customers are becoming increasingly conscious of the amount of money which they carry around with them on a daily basis. The provision of a cheque book will reduce the amount of cash the customers carry around daily. In, addition members should be educated on the benefits of obtaining the LinCU card which is also a safer mode of conducting day to day transactions. This card provides customers with the services of a debit card and can be used almost anywhere.

Build on it corporate image by continuing to assist organizations undertaking social, cultural and sporting programme. Also, the firm can funds its own programme such as sponsoring a football or cricket tournament among the various division or faculties of the U.W.I St. Augustine Campus. This will assist the firm in achieving its long term goal of building strong partnerships with social groups.

Providing excellent customer service by reducing the complaints against staff and committee members and the continued provision of personalized financial services. This can be achieved through a quarterly appraisal of staff and committee members which will require customer to complete an appraisal form. Also, a suggestion box will be erected to encourage customer to provide ideas to the firms on ways in which it can improve certain areas of its operations.

The initiatives undertaken by the firm will specify how the firm will accomplish its objectives for the period 2011 - 2013. The main tools which will be utilized here to identify the strategies and initiatives to be undertaken by the U.W.I Credit Union during the period 2011 - 2013 to achieve its goals and objectives is the Balanced Scorecard [12] . The Balanced Scorecard was developed by Kaplan and Norton in 1992. It is a management tool that enables a firm to translate its vision and strategy into action utilizing four perspectives namely: financial perspective, customer perspective, internal business perspective and the learning and growth perspective. The financial perspective asks the question "in order to succeed financially, how should we appear to our shareholders?" The customer perspective asks the question "in order to achieve our vision, how should we appear to our customers?" The internal business perspective asks the question "in order to satisfy our shareholders and customers, in what business processes must we excel?" The learning and growth perspective asks the question "to achieve our vision, how will we sustain our ability to change and improve?"

In order to utilize the Balance Scorecard several themes were identified upon which a balanced scorecard was developed and generated in a table form highlighting the objectives, measures, targets and initiatives to be undertaken as seen below.

Theme:

Perspective

Objectives

Measures

Target

Initiatives

Year 1

Year 2

Year 2

Financial

Customer

Internal Business

Learning & Growth

Theme:

Perspective

Objectives

Measures

Target

Initiatives

Year 1

Year 2

Year 2

Theme:

Perspective

Objectives

Measures

Target

Initiatives

Year 1

Year 2

Year 2

Theme:

Perspective

Objectives

Measures

Target

Initiatives

Year 1

Year 2

Year 2

Theme:

Perspective

Objectives

Measures

Target

Initiatives

Year 1

Year 2

Year 2

Theme:

Perspective

Objectives

Measures

Target

Initiatives

Year 1

Year 2

Year 2

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