The Strategic Management Process Essay
The Strategic Management Process
Strategic management process can be defined as “a managerial process that involves matching organizational capabilities to market opportunities” (Stevens, Sherwood, Dunn, Loudon, 2006, p. 15). The process can be either done on a corporate level involving whole companies or divisions or at an individual level involving a single product or service.
First, the company’s strategic division analyzes the opportunities in the market and then matches the company’s resources to these opportunities. The major decisions taken by the strategic managers are whether a company is ready to take advantage of the opportunities in the market place, and set a broad plan to achieve it. To ensure that the strategic planning in a company is successful, the top management and line managers need to be closely involved in the process, and not just the strategic planners who facilitate the process.
This paper discusses the strategic planning process in general as it applies to a company. The various elements of the process are analyzed first, in addition to the roles of the various managers in the process in the literature review section. The practical aspect of planning, the issues that can arise in various situations are covered next in the analysis.
The problems arising from incorrect or incomplete planning process are also discussed in this section. The explosive rate of globalization has affected the strategic management process in a big way, and so has the computerization of business due to the advent of Internet. The affects of these changes on the strategic management process are discussed in the subsequent section. Finally a summary of the paper is given which highlights the main points of the discussion in the previous sections.
Strategic Management Process
Strategy defined by Armstrong (cited in McCourt, Eldridge, 2003, p. 25), is “a statement of what the organization wants to become, where it wants to go and, broadly how it means to get there”. Mc Court and Eldridge have also described strategic management as a simple process, and have given the following figure to mention the various components associated with it.
Fig: 1 Strategist Management Process (McCourt, Eldridge, 2003, p. 25)
According to the figure given above, the strategic management process begins with a mission, which is essentially the intention of a company’s existence and its purpose in general. Companies usually have a well-defined mission statement towards this purpose. The next element i.e. objectives define a company’s specific targets under the scope of the mission. The objectives are usually a set of statements that define the targets of the company.
While mission is generic, objectives are specific and in many cases even quantified. The next element of the strategic management process is strategy, which is the broad plan or approach followed to achieve the objectives. The strategy merely defines the role of various departments or level of managers; it is not specific and acts merely as a guideline. Finally the implementation can be a tactical plan or exact roles and responsibilities along with set target dates for achieving a particular objective.
Strategic management process hence adds strategic planning and implementation by adding ongoing attention to budgeting, to performance measurement, management and evaluation, and to feedback relationships among these elements (Hutzschenreuter, Kleindienst, 2006, p. 678). Poster and Streib (cited in Peters, Pierre, 2003, p. 40) present a framework for thinking about strategic management as a process. Their framework incorporates seven elements: values, mission and vision; strategic planning; results-oriented budgeting; performance management; strategic measurement; assessment of the internal and external environment; and feedbacks relationships among these elements.
The first element in their framework comprises of values, mission and vision which are seen as a central organizing force for the strategic management process. The next stage i.e. strategic planning can be used to help the organizations get their values, mission and vision and to develop strategic initiatives to realize in practice. Result-oriented budgeting helps to organize the resources needed to fulfill the initiatives. Performance management involves strategies and mechanisms for assigning the responsibility for strategic initiatives to specific units and individuals and holding them accountable for results.
Strategic measurement involves identification and tracking of valid measures of the organization’s attempts as it to achieve its strategic objectives. The next element as the name suggests analyzes the various pertinent factors in the internal and external environment of the organization, and their corresponding effects on the environment. Finally the element of feedback from the client helps in assessing the process of effective learning, adaptation and leadership (Peters, Pierre, 2003, p. 40). The strategic management process is a complex one and as suggested by Hutzschenreuter, Kleindienst, (2006, p. 677), it is also shaped by the environmental and organizational context.
Business strategy development was due to a purely practical requirement’s perspective Post the world war in 1950s, the world for the first time became aware of the business opportunities that existed by considering rest of the world as markets, rather than production places. This brought about a very complex business structure, which became even more complex to manage financially. Thus formal business strategies were first built in 1970s to focus on planned diversification of companies. Hence, corporate planning, which was the norm of the business units till then, shifted to business strategy (Farjoun, 2001, p. 580).
Strategy is essentially a deliberate search for a plan of action which will bring competitive advantage and compound it. Any company begins making its strategy by making an analysis of where it is presently, and what resources it has. The next is an analysis of the competition of the company in present market as well as the market where it wishes to expand. The competition in the new market gives an idea about the present competitive advantages of the company. The new markets are as a result of careful analysis of the places where the company would most increase the scope of its advantage.
The theories of building strategy started to emerge soon. However, even in the present day there is no clear cut path for the formulation of strategy especially concerning long-term business development, new products, technologies or investments, because of the ever changing business environment at an ever increasing pace. Theorists have divided strategy itself into three: corporate business and functional strategies. Corporate strategy gives the macro level decisions which companies need to take such as investment in diversification, vertical integration, acquisitions, and new ventures. The allocation of resources to different business units of the organization and divestments are also covered by this strategy.
Business strategy is concerned with how the firm competes within a particular industry or market. That is to say the decision of how a company should compete in the market is answered by this strategy. Functional strategies are the elaboration and implementation of business strategies through individual functions such as production, R&D, marketing, human resources, and finance.
When the concept of strategy emerged, it was an implicit understanding that the senior managers of an organization are able to objectively appraise the enterprise and its environment and formulate a strategy that maximizes the company’s chances of success in an uncertain future. However, all the theories of strategic management agree on one thing that the formulation and implementation of strategy cannot be separated. A well-formulated strategy must take into account the way it would be implemented and through this implementation the strategy is continuously refined and formulated.
Types of planning involved in a Strategic Management Process – The strategic management process is an amalgamation of different elements. Planning in any form is one of the most important process elements. Planning involves an assessment of an organization’s mission and goals in relation to its external environment and internal capabilities, projected into the future by several years.
Organizations go in for strategic planning when they perceive that they are sensitive to external environment, which by nature is volatile (Alkhafaji, 2003, p. 5). Planning focuses on understanding changing stakeholder needs, technological developments, competitive position, and competitor initiatives. Any decisions taken after considering the long term strategic plan are more realistic and goal-oriented. There are different types of planning involved in a strategic management process which will be discussed in this section:
Strategic Planning – Strategic planning is the process of developing and analyzing the organization’s mission, overall goals, general strategies, and allocating resources. It usually has long-term goal, vision and mission. These are usually prepared by top level management of the company. These strategies are usually prepared for a period of 5 or more years. This time frame, however, is arbitrary and is dependent on the long-range planning capabilities of the company’s executives, based on its resources.
It lays a lot of emphasis on the future implications of a present decision, and hence aids in the organization’s adaptation in an ever-changing environment. The factors which influence the strategic planning are external environment, market dynamics over a period of time, financial, operational and process stability of the company. The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the company is critically important in the formulation of its strategic plan. After this strategic goals are made to show a path of reaching the vision of the company with its present capabilities (O’Regan, Ghobadian, . 2007, p. 12).
Tactical Planning – Tactical planning is the continuous process of translation of broad and many a times ambiguous strategic plans, into specific goals and plans that are aimed at a specific division of the organization. Hence, it can be said that tactical planning deals with the implementation part of the planning process. It has a shorter time frame than a strategic plane, usually 1-2 years, and is also narrower in scope. The factors influencing tactical planning are the annual budget, project reviews, quality evaluation processes, target turnovers, market dynamics, government policies, consumer needs, available expertise and finally an evaluation of possible alternative solutions
Operational Planning – Operational planning is the planning done at the lower levels of the organization. It is used to detail specific processes and procedures used in a department. It primarily focuses on the daily routine tasks and is usually made for a short period of time.
Operational plan is generally derived from a tactical plan to achieve one or more operational goals. The factors influencing an operational plan hence are the intra-departmental structure of an organization and efficiency of the manager. Another factor is the time-period for which an operational plan is made. Since the operational goal is either a single-time or a repeatable goal, some factors which effect the planning are the policies, reward system, and even the goal itself or the lack of a specific goal. To take care of such factors, the goal setting and planning should be collaborative (O’Regan, Ghobadian, . 2007, p. 15)..
Contingency Planning – According to Macneil (cited in Mayer and Berkowitz, 2008, p. 151) contingency relationships ensure some within relationship flexibility thus facilitating adjustments when conditions change Regardless of how carefully strategies are formulated, implemented and evaluated, unforeseen events always can make a strategy obsolete. To counter this, organizations should develop contingency plans, as a part of their strategic planning process, in the evaluation stage.
Only high-priority planning areas require contingency planning, which should be as simple as possible. The prime factor influencing contingency planning is the degree of volatility of the present environment. That is to say, the frequency and magnitude of occurrence of unforeseen events like strikes, boycotts natural disasters, government instability and even at times arrival of foreign competitors etc. In case if company’s strategic plan is to expand, the above factors apply to the newer environment in question. Also, the possible affect of the present market environmental fluctuations should be taken into consideration while making the contingency plan for newer markets (Sadgrove, 2005, p. 258).
Organizations involve in the process of strategic planning in order to respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by marketplace. Strategic planning can be defined as “a process that describes the direction an organization will pursue within its chosen environment and guides the allocation of resources and efforts” (Peter, Donnelly, 2002, pp. 5).
Strategic planning includes all the activities that lead to the development of a clear organizational mission, organizational objectives and appropriate strategies to achieve the objectives of the entire organization. In the strategic planning process the organization gathers information about the changing elements of its environment. The output of the strategic planning process is the development of a strategic plan. In the discussion that follows, a case study is used as a means for understanding the elements mentioned above (Short, Ketchen, Palmer, Hult, 2007, p. 150)). This would give a practical demonstration of how a company translates these theoretical principles for use in their case.
Strategic Planning Process – Strategic planning process is concerned with long term broad marketing mix decisions and the implications of these decisions. It is designed to ensure a systematic approach to planning. Hence, the strategic marketing planning process must be consistent with circumstances. The strategic marketing planning process occurs at multiple levels of the organizations and hence the plan represents the implementation of the organizational strategy. This follows the guidelines of the overall strategic planning process. The strategic planning process is considered essential when the increasingly hostile and complex environment where companies operate is considered.
It is basically a series of logical steps that have to be worked in order to arrive at a marketing plan (Gilligan, Wilson, 2003, pp. 44). An extension of strategic planning process is the Strategic marketing planning process, which is concerned with the development of strategies that are based on the planning team’s assessment of the market and perceptions of managerial expectations and organizational capability.
This process is used by the organization to formulate its strategy provided that it is adapted to the organization and its environment. Strategic marketing planning consists of ten steps: Mission, Corporate Objectives, Marketing audit, SWOT analysis, Assumptions, marketing objectives and Strategy, Estimate expected results, Identify alternative plans, Budget and First year detailed implementation program (Baker, 2003, pp. 91).
Management’s function in Strategic Planning
Strategic planning involves an assessment of an organization’s mission and goals in relation to its external environment and internal capabilities, projected into the future by several years. Organizations go in for strategic planning when they perceive that they are sensitive to external environment, which by nature is volatile (Alkhafaji, 2003, p. 11). Strategic planning focuses on understanding changing stakeholder needs, technological developments, competitive position, and competitor initiatives. Any decisions taken after considering the long term strategic plan are more realistic and goal-oriented.
Organizations should consider strategic planning as an essential management function. Any organization wishing to have long-term growth should infuse a culture of competitive focus throughout all the hierarchical levels. Hence, every employee in the company, especially the managers compete, with their company’s competitors in their work (O’Regan, Ghobadian, . 2007, p. 17)..
Roles of various managers in the Strategic Management Process – Planning is a basic function of management which determines the objectives and the course of action required to attain them. Planning is done at every level of management, hence is done by all managers from the highest to lowest in the management hierarchy.
Managers in an organization have a primary role in strategy-implementation. Managers use strategic planning as a management function to allocate resources to programmed activities, which is calculated to achieve a set of goals in a dynamic and competitive environment. Management changes are even more extensive when the strategies to be implemented move a firm into a major new direction. Hence, their inputs while the formulation of a strategic plan becomes extremely important (O’Regan, Ghobadian, . 2007, p. 18)..
Equally important is the involvement of strategists in the strategy-implementation activities. There are four main types of planning – corporate, strategic, management and operations, each of which is carried out at different management levels, covers a different time-span and has varying levels of short and long-term impact on the working of the organization (Boone, Kurtz, P. 271). Needless to say, the planning activities of various managers at different levels are different.
Senior management usually does the corporate and strategic planning activities. Strategic planning details the goals and objectives of the company while corporate planning decides how the organization would operate to achieve these objectives and goals. The resource allocation for achieving the goals is also done during the corporate and strategic planning stage. Strategic planning is usually long term covering about three to five years (Dixon, 2003, p. 29, 30). The plan charts out the path of the organization during the period and the various activities which need to be done for achieving the objectives set. An example of strategic planning is of General Motors and Dell’s business strategy related to their spare parts given in the book by Muckstadt (2005, p. 2) .
In Dell’s case, there is no need to maintain an exhaustive inventory regarding its old products sales parts, while this is an important element of General Motor’s strategy. Hence, GM as a part of its business strategy maintains a huge storage space where hundreds of thousands of storage parts are stocked. The location of the storage space must also take into consideration its supply chain partners like either individual car dealers as well as its suppliers, when designing such a strategy.
Change is the most certain part in any environment, and business and markets are guided by various factors, which might necessitate a change in strategy. It is the job to the senior managers to ensure that a new strategy ensures sufficient plans for the acceptance of the strategy by people working in the various levels of the organizations. An example is given in the book by Murray and Richardson (2002, p.5) about the Canadian industrial supply company Acklands-Grainger which in less than a span of twelve months moved from a 4% growth rate to a 20% growth rate and higher profitability.
The authors mention in their book (p. 24), that within 100 days of launch of a new strategic plan for the company several major steps like a new communications initiative to involve more people in the decision making process, were successfully implemented. This ensured that the employees of the company were by and large impressed by the strategy and were enthusiastic to take part in the strategy. Many people working in the frontline were however skeptical about the strategic change within the company, as they could see little change in their own work areas. To ensure the front-line people, the Strategy team committed to five deliverables at the end of 200 days of the launch of the new strategy to assure its front-line employees that things were really changing.
These included specific changes to branch operations, improvements in logistics and improvement in training. Although the delivery of the five tasks was not perfect the outcomes ensured that the employees felt that there was a definite change and had specific development points which they could identify with and discuss. The example above, details how a change in strategy was successfully implemented within a company. It highlights an important point that while a strategy change is being developed by a company, the strategy must be flexible and should include detailed plan for implementation to being about the change from the point of view of the line-employees (Parnell, Lester, 2003, p. 295).
Management planning is done by middle level management who divide the task into different smaller units and ensure that proper execution of the task would take place by making a effective integration plan. This planning is of a comparatively shorter time span than the strategic planning and usually lasts for a single project or a set of similar projects. They also cover only a partial division of the organization.
Operational planning is done by the line managers and is of a shorter time span than the management planning. It usually refers to the day-to-day planning addressing the specific time-tables, task and measurable targets that managers in each different unit of the project make and maintain to ensure that the task get done in-time. Hence, operational planning deals with developing and implementing tactics in specific functional areas. The managers allocate time and teams consisting of a specific number of employees to perform a particular task (Dixon, 2003, p. 31).
Strategic goals are achieved by setting and achieving tactical objectives. Hence, it is very important that the plans at different levels complement each other. Managers at different levels must have proper and effective communications, such that goals at every level are understood as well as the objectives behind these goals. Senior and higher-levels of management must ensure that there information flow s efficient and the line-managers are aware and clear about their roles and responsibilities.
The job of the middle managers is to ensure that the objectives are understood by the line managers and proper goals are set to achieve these objectives (Nadkarni, Narayanan, 2007, p. 263). It is often seen that many times the organizations fail to achieve their objectives, despite the fact that the senior management is clear about their vision and strategies and line-management is skilled at their work. The problem in this case lies with the middle management who fail to translate the objectives into tactical goals for the various functional groups (Boone, Kurtz, P. 271). Following figure shows a sample organization chart which gives the level of managers and the strategic business decisions they can take.
Fig: 2 Strategic Decisions taken by various Managers (Grant, 2002, p. 24)
Strategic Leadership and Decision Making
As an organization prepares itself for future success, by using its strategic planning, no other internal factor is more critical than the strategy formulation and leadership. For a successful strategy formulation and implementation leadership is a necessary factor. The term leadership encompasses visioning, developing, motivating communicating and involving. The book by Scott (2005) defines the terms as explained by Peter Drucker, who gives three essentials of leadership as “Defining, communicating, and establishing a sense of mission in a way that is understandable to others; Treating leadership as a responsibility rather than a rank and; Earning and maintaining the trust of others” (p. 108, 109). The book further gives that opinion of Drucker on leadership, who says that it should be based on being ethical and consistent in word and deed rather than being clever and deceiving.
Strategic leadership is a newly developed type of leadership and is needed to initiate and direct the strategic management process. Strategic leadership covers five aspects of leadership: technical leadership, human leadership, political leadership, cultural leadership and educational leadership. These aspects contribute directly to environmental analysis, planning and structuring, staffing and directing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the strategic management process. Strategic leadership can be defined as encapsulating entrepreneurial processes (Slater, Olson, Hult, 2006, p. 1225)
Strategic leadership is also seen as a concerned with strategy development and change. Essentially strategic leadership refers to the top management team, and strategic theory has evolved from upper echelons theory. Strategic leadership concerns developing the organization’s vision, mission, strategies, and culture and monitoring progress and changes in the business environment to ensure that strategies are focused. Strategic leadership concerns monitoring how well organizational culture, including values is supporting the organization’s vision and mission (Brower, Fioi, Emrich, 2007, p. 70). It also concerns with the monitoring of human capital and organizational structure and systems.
Strategic leaders posses the following capabilities which is the actual difference between managers and leaders also. These are given as below:
- Visionary/ Strategic – An abstract vision of where the firm might want to be in the future is of limited use without its translation into an executable competitive strategy. Hence, strategic leaders must have both the vision and the means to achieve the vision.
- Systems Thinker – Strategic leaders create organizational and operating practices that carefully coordinate the interactions and dependencies between different operating areas. Hence, a characteristic of strategic leader is that they can see the connections between individual parts of the firm and its competitive strategy, but do not concern themselves with individual practices or procedures.
- Effective Motivator/Communicator/Teacher – Strategic leaders can see the firm’s strategy and can see the requisites to deliver the strategy, in addition to being equipped to build the hiring, compensation, and coaching systems in accord with the firm’s competitive strategy.
- Obsessive – Strategic leadership is not a part-time activity and hence strategic leaders need to be obsessed with the execution of the strategy in each act within the firm. Strategic leaders are driven to align all the activities in the firm with the delivery of the value proposition.
(Brower, Fioi, Emrich, 2007, p. 69, 70)
It is clear from the above discourse that strategic leaders, more than anything else, need to believe in their strategy. For the success of a strategy, strategic leaders should be prepared to endure short-terms costs and dips in performance, to facilitate making investments for future. These tradeoffs are managed with a commitment to the strategy and there is no major change between different high and low periods, since the focus is on the long-term direction. Despite the fact that strategic leadership is generally concerned with the upper echelons of management, the qualities themselves are not limited to the top management group. This fact must be understood by the senior managers of the firm so as to create an environment, to make sure that these qualities are recognized, expressed and nurtured within all the levels of the organization (Hitt, Ireland, Camp, Sexton, 2001, p. 482)
Strategic leadership and decision making – Management is usually concerned with the following functions in some or the other way: Planning, organizing, staffing, and decision making (Parnell, Lester, 2003, p. 298). Decision making is the heart of management. Any function performed by managers at any level of management involves decision making. Managers at all times are faced with a various alternate solutions of a problem, and their task is to choose the most optimum solution from amongst these and implement it. Decision making process consist of: identifying the problem, analyzing the problem, developing alternate solutions, comparing alternate solutions, choosing the best solution and implementing and finally verifying the solution.
During the decision making process is where a manager continuously tries to achieve a state of stability by implementing a course of action, while all the time dealing with the possible consequences of his actions. A key competency in strategic leadership is decision making about whether and when to act (Elbanna, Child, 2007, p. 435) Consistency of decision making in accord with the firm’s value proposition is important for a strategic leader.
It allows the members of the organization to see the connection between their daily responsibility and the delivery of the firm’s strategy. Strategic leadership hence involves building a coherent set of original beliefs and practices that are aligned with the requirements of the seller’s value proposition. All have responsibilities for their own beliefs and for the performance of their coworkers, and hence strategic leadership is needed for all the levels of the firm.
Effects of business environmental changes on strategy
Theorists and business strategists consider the most important recent trends in the macro environment as the forces the new economy. The new economic era started at the advent of the 21st century, but the factors which led to the change had already been felt and observed at least two decades back.
The new information and communication technologies restructured the global markets, and whole industry sectors, by challenging the conventional economic thinking and hence redefining how business is done. The New Economy is almost a revolution in the way business works, economic wealth is generated, so cities are organized and individual exist within them (Grant¸2003, p. 504). The figure below shows the key features of new economic environment that impact on business strategy, as compared to the key features of old economic environment.
|Old Economy||New Economy|
|Key industries||Oil, Mining, Steel, Vehicles, Railways, Shipping||Computers and Software, biotechnology, personal and financial services, Entertainment|
|Key Resources||Energy, Labor||Information Knowledge and Talent|
|Technology||Power Trains, Machine Tools||Information Technology|
|Product Life Cycles||Measured in decades||Measured in Years or months|
|Working Day||8 hours||24 Hours|
|Communication Media||Letters, Telephone, Fax||Mobile devices, E-mail, Internet and Intranet|
|Organization Structures||Centralized Hierarchical, Functional||Devolved, Flat, Functional|
|Workforce Characteristics||Mainly male semi-skilled or skilled||No gender bias, high proportion of graduates|
Fig -3 Key features of old and new business environments (Sadler, Ryall, Craig, 2003, p. 29)
Key elements that have effected the environment to bring these changes are:
- Globalization: The globalization as we know it has happened in two stages. The first stage was post world war, when other countries came to be seen as new markets rather than colonial acquisitions. This brought about a change in the business organization. The second phase was in the late 1980s, when the internet emerged to be a n option where people could display their wares or even sell them, for instance in case of paid music downloads. Presently globalization is not only an advantage; it has become a must for any company wishing to enter the business domain (Pitt, 2005, p. 316).
- Small-World with reduced distances – The world as we know it is getting smaller everyday with the emergence of new technologies in wireless communication. People can now communicate visually and effectively with anyone across anywhere in the world at the same time. This has brought about a lot of new requirements which were heretofore quite unknown
- Knowledge Economy – A bye-product of the shrinking world is the awareness people have about other cultures and economic conditions in various parts of the world. The awareness of the new technologies is also increasing among people at a rapid pace, and is no longer confined within a select few number of people.
- Impact of new technology – People in the present day world are so used to rapid changes in technology that they almost expect smarter, cheaper and better performance devices almost every day. Hence, the importance of R&D among the various industries has increased and is no longer an option but a necessity.
(Pitt, McAulay, Sims, 2002, p. 159, 160)
In the light of these discontinuous, large-scale changes facing the world, organizations might be required to undergo major, strategic reorientations. These reorientations may involve changes in products, services, markets, organizational structure and human resources. A change can be viewed either a technical problem, political problem, or a cultural problem.
However, strategic change views the problem as a varied amalgamation of all the three problems. Strategic change refers to the non-routine, non-incremental, and discontinuous change that alters the overall orientation of the organization, and/or the components of the organization. (Håkonsson, Obei, Burton, 2008, p. 65) However, the exact boundary between a strategic and a non-strategic change is blurred. Sometimes it depends on the magnitude of change and at other times the time frame of the impact of the change is in question.
The paper gave a general discourse on strategic management processes. The process consists of various elements, and each of which is equally important to the process. The planning stage is the most critical out of these processes, which was described in the next section along with different types of planning. The nature of strategic planning was discussed in detail which also covered the strategic planning process. The subsequent section discoursed upon the role of various strategic managers on strategy building. After this the discussion shifted to strategic leadership and the power of decision making.
Finally the effects of business environmental changes on strategy making was discussed, which gave the critical factors involved in strategic decision making in the present day world. A comparison of this was done with the economy just a decade or two past, and can be seen that there are few if any common factors between the two economies. Hence, the strategy making process has undergone a massive change in the recent times. Till then the strategy formulation process was an evolutionary one, with one element being added over another. But the present day world calls for revolutionary strategies since the success factors too have undergone changes.
The paper hence gives an idea about the direction companies of the present day world need to take in order to be successful. While the topics covered are generic, and do not give a situation-level analysis for the choice of a strategy, there is enough information here to help strategic theorists understand the dynamics of the business environment and act accordingly.
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