5 tips to use strategy execution software effectively
16th January 2019
Strategy execution software is a new and emerging category of software which has traditionally been served well by leading consulting firms and now offers an exciting new way of driving your objectives.
In this short article, we will explore what strategy execution software offers and how customers can get the very best out of strategy execution products to achieve their objectives faster and more effectively.
What is strategy execution software and what can it for me?
There are many forms of strategy execution software, but at their heart, good strategy execution products are focused on ensuring their users can deliver their objectives faster and more effectively. In doing so, they aim to improve both top and bottom line business performance by focussing effort on the right activities and reducing (or ideally removing ) wasted effort.
The very best products both align your objectives to new and existing delivery activities and identify gaps between leadership team expectations of outcomes and delivery reality both at planning time and during delivery.
This helps to ensure that the activities and delivery plans you are already or planning to invest in, can really meet the objectives of the organisation long before the heartbreak occurs and any significant damage is done.
Strategy execution journey
A common first reaction we experience from new clients when demonstrating strategy execution software for the first time is that they aren't yet mature enough to get the best from the software, even though they can see the clear potential and power of the approach.
Experience shows that organisations that are even starting to develop capability and maturity in strategic alignment planning can still get great benefits from strategy execution software by taking an iterative approach to improvement. Focusing on a few key areas that can provide the biggest benefit and will achieve the most significant improvements is a good way to start and can have a powerful impact.
We recommend the following tips and ideas to organisations who are starting on out on this journey from our experience.
Tip 1: Focus on execution changes that have the biggest immediate impact
It might sound obvious, but many customers already know the areas that are affecting their ability to execute their strategy well. This range from an inability to align delivery activities to the strategy, or a lack of accountability/ownership or failure to properly map and track benefits of projects and programmes to strategic objectives.
We would recommend selecting one or two areas that will have the biggest change impact on the way you deliver and select a product that enables you to start modestly.
Don't try to solve everything in one go.
Tip 2: Take an objectives-first view of execution
Starting with the end in mind is a great place to begin your journey. Ensure there is absolute clarity on the objectives you are trying to achieve and how you intend to measure their performance. It is common to find differences of opinion at senior levels of the organisation about what the objectives are and how they will be measured through wide ranging key performance indicators at the early stages of planning.
Once the objectives have been written down and agreed, then make the assessment of how well the delivery portfolio (existing and new projects and programmes) actually supports the objectives. The best way to do this in our experience, is to assess the benefits and outcomes of each initiative, programme or project and marry the planned benefits to the objectives. When there is clear and measurable consistency between both, there is a good fit. It is also possible to look from objectives downward to the delivery activity to identify gaps in expectation between delivery projects supporting objectives.
Where there are measurable differences, this could be due to a number of reasons. Either the initiatives are enablers and are needed to support support other initiatives which have their own benefits, they could be compliance projects. Alternatively, they are initiatives where the benefits cannot be attributed to strategic objectives and therefore make candidates to consider culling and cost reduction.
Tip 3: Focus on and celebrate improvement (even if modest)
It is well documented, but software alone is rarely enough to change business practices. The common mantra is that lasting change involves, people, process and technology. However, software should be a catalyst to driving new ways of working.
We recommend focus on the key individuals and processes where modest changes using strategy execution software will bring the biggest benefit. These might include changes to the way projects are governed once live, or potential the way in which new ideas are approved as projects to ensure they align to objectives.
When changing processes, it's a good idea to assign someone influential as the change leader who is enthusiastic and motivated in ensuring the new process and ways of working take hold.
Tip 4: Drive change from the top
As with tip 2 planning delivery activity from objectives is very powerful. Driving the use of strategy execution software from the leadership team is also a compelling way of driving behaviour through the organisation. This might mean starting with a single leadership team member who is enthusiastic and supportive of strategy execution and their team.
Effective strategy execution software should bring about such a powerful and common-sense approach to planning, that once there is one part of the organisation using the approach it should start to drive adoption more widely. It always helps to have a real-world example where the software and process is working well and driving meaningful change.
Tip 5: Trust the data
Once the data is up to date and the software is being used to monitor the strategy execution, one of the biggest steps is to use the product consistently and trust the data. It is very easy for project and programme managers to try to overrule software by thinking they know best and fall back in to old ways of working.
The benefits of becoming a truly data-driven organisation are huge in both efficiency and ability to scale. This means letting go and trusting what the products and data are telling you.
This requires a mind-set shift which is one of the hardest to aspects change, but over time, with experience and more use, this should become second nature and the huge benefits of using rich strategy execution software can be achieved.
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