The Strategy-Train Content

This first unit will review the central concepts in strategy like vision, mission, and company values. Classical External-Internal analysis methods will be discussed. Then the course will turn to more advanced methods and tools. It will analyse concepts and the scope of business strategy including scenarios and options on how to shape and assess strategy implementation. The course will critically review elements of strategic management to discuss the contexts in which they are best applied. Finally the course will address strategic options (specialisation, diversification, integration) and how to integrate analysis at the SME level.

The second unit which deals with the analysis of the external environment, includes the study of the organizational environment to pinpoint environmental factors that can significantly influence operations. It will train the managers in understanding what is happening both inside and outside their organization and how to integrate the environment in the strategies developed. In order to perform an environmental analysis, managers must understand how organizational environments are structured. The course will include contextual and transactional environment, Porters 5 forces model, Industry structure and strategic groups model. Competitive or technological threats are also highlighted.

The strengths and weaknesses of SMEs and areas of specialization are analyzed in the third unit. Financial, strategic and operational factors and resources are considered and the efficient use of financial resources is calculated. The opportunities open to the SME are diagnosed and its growth potential assessed. The critical information - business structure and operations, company history, major products and services, key skills, knowledge and abilities and executive biographies are covered. The SME's strategy is checked for adequacy and is benchmarked in comparison with competitors. Finally a very short overview of motivation and leadership strategies is given.

A SME positions itself by leveraging its strengths, which is discussed in unit four. Michael Porter has argued that a firm's strengths fall into one of two categories: cost advantage or differentiation. By applying these strengths in either a broad or narrow scope, three generic strategies result: cost leadership, differentiation, and focus. These strategies are applied at SME level. Franchising is discussed as an option for SMEs.

The fifth unit covers vertical integration, which is the extent to which an SME controls its inputs and the distribution of its products and services. A SME's control of its inputs or supplies is known as backward integration. A SME?s control of its distribution is known as forward integration. Small scale vertical integration is commonly known as Supply Chain Optimization or also as Supply Chain Planning. This unit analyzes an SME's vertical integration strategy. Shows benefits, costs and risks of vertical integration and shows how vertical integration can be included in an SME's strategic management.

The central objective of unit six is to develop effective managerial and business leadership skills for dealing with those management issues that arise when firms do business internationally. The unit focus on SME's and the possibilities for going international. It will analyze potential costs and risks and shows how internationalization strategy can be included as part of an SME's strategic management.

Diversification strategies are the main topic in unit seven. They are used to expand firms' operations by adding markets, products, services, or stages of production to the existing business. The purpose of diversification is to allow the company to enter lines of business that are different from current operations. This unit focuses on SME's and the possibilities for diversification. It will analyze portfolios and shows how they can be planned and managed.

In unit eight business development strategy is used to underpin the main business plan and to outline a standard approach for developing new opportunities. The unit will analyze mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances and will demonstrate how they can be included in strategic management of SME.

Unit nine aims to turn strategies and plans into individual actions, which are necessary to produce better business performance. Here strategic theory is translated into action plans that will enable the strategy to be successfully implemented and sustained. The unit will demonstrate methods for effective strategic corporate implementation and detail a process-based approach. It will link performance factors with strategic initiatives and with policies designed to develop and optimise the SME.

The final (unit ten) discusses important practical IT solutions and concepts like enterprise resource planning (ERP). It will also demonstrate some of the most important quality assurance concepts suitable for SMEs including total quality management, six sigma, and business process reengineering (BPR). Finally the unit will show how evaluation, monitoring and feedback cycles can be used for continuous improvement of the company.

The full Strategy-Train programme provides more than the learning modules. It employs a blended learning approach incorporating face-to-face learning with selected features of e-learning under the umbrella of a specifically designed learning path.