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Business product review: International Strategy Workshop


The International Strategic Workshop (ISW) product is delivered to both direct relationship managed (DRM) and non-DRM businesses within the Scottish Enterprise Strategy Development (SD) Intervention Framework. The ISW Product, along with the General Strategy Workshop (GSW) Product, is designed to address market failures experienced by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) by providing intensive support through a workshop session, provided at no cost to the businesses, and designed to identify the key strategic choices and assist in reaching informed decisions on future strategic direction for the business. The ISW Product focuses on firms considering entering international markets. The review aimed to: validate the delivery of the Product against specification; and identify potential for improvement of the service and the effectiveness of the Product.


The review process consisted of: consultation with the Scottish Enterprise Appraisal and Evaluation Team; a review of relevant information, consisting of the ISW Product User Guide (PUG), the SD Intervention Framework Approval Paper and management information relating to ISW spend and activity over the period up to January 2013; and a facilitated discussion amongst account managers (AMs) of DRM users of the Product.


The review confirmed increasing and high levels of usage and satisfaction with the ISW Product amongst the AMs who attended. The particular strengths of the Product and its application which were identified included: the flexibility of the Product allowing it to be applied to a wide range of international market development issues and choices facing businesses of varying sizes operating across all sectors; the value placed on the Product by the participating businesses with the experience cited as meeting and often exceeding their expectations; the production of a tangible output in the form of an action plan which provided focus for a follow up session and an agenda and pacemaker for ongoing activity to develop international operations; the provision of a specific focus on internationalisation as distinct from the GSW; and generally high levels of satisfaction with the suppliers known to and regularly selected by the AMs and businesses to deliver the Product. The main weaknesses of the Product and its application identified were: the use of the Product with businesses which were potentially less likely to benefit from its application; lack of consistent and comprehensive follow up of participant business progress and performance in international markets; inconsistencies in the format and scope of the action plans produced by different suppliers; lack of consistent and independent assessment of the suppliers of the Product; and restricted use in some cases and areas of the whole panel of suppliers.


A number of actions were recommended, including that: the rationale for making the ISW Product available to non-DRM businesses is revisited given the significant scale of resource being absorbed by these businesses; consideration is given to rationalising the GSW and ISW into a single SD Product; the procurement process for a rationalised Product takes into consideration the opinions of AMs on the performance of those suppliers they have used to deliver the ISW and reflects the requirement for suppliers to have experience in international business development; consideration is given to a second stage summary tender process for each workshop offered to a business from a minimum of three suppliers; consideration is given to involving the AMs more in preparatory work in advance of the workshop; a process is put in place for the consistent, independent and objective assessment of supplier performance based on the experience of the attending AM and the business; provision is made to better track and assess the international development of the assisted businesses following the application of the ISW; and consideration is given to introducing a charge for secondary applications of the Product, and for provision of follow up sessions facilitated by the supplier at full cost recovery.

Author Malcolm Watson Consulting
Published Year 2013
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses