Many organisations spend a large amount of resources on developing and defining their strategies. They ensure strategic alignment; invest in a concerted communication effort in order the ensure that staff understand the strategy and their role in it; as well as spend a large part of their discretionary funding on it.
However, delivery of business outcomes only comes with successful execution. But before we move to action/project plans, there is a missing step – the execution roadmap.
In this article I want to share with you some practical tips on how you can take your strategy and build effective execution roadmaps that will:
· Focus your organisation on business outcomes, ensuring that your key stakeholders see value and remain committed to the strategy
· Improve overall execution success by delivering business outcomes faster and more frequently
· De-risk overall program execution by embedding agility in your planning, and enabling faster response to any changes
Start with the basics – aligning to strategic outcomes
At AIA we have long espoused the value of good strategy. We have helped numerous clients with developing concise vision and mission statements, defining strategic goals, and ensuring that strategy is structured in a way that clearly articulates the business outcomes in whatever way your organisation does this. Examples include Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), Objectives and Key Result Areas (OKR). For public sector organisations this often takes the form of Strategic Intent > Outcomes > Outputs (as per DPME guidelines).
Having a clear strategy, with traceability down to the key outcomes (with metrics), is a key foundational step to building effective roadmaps.
Business outcomes are the milestones
Starting with your long-term strategic goals, break them down into short and medium-term milestones – but state the milestones with corresponding business outcomes. Outcomes must describe the impact you are making in the organisation to a relevant stakeholder group (e.g., customers, shareholders, or employees).
As an example, assume one theme of your digital strategy has one outcome: to digitise 75% of your business processes. A key milestone is the implementation of an online sales portal. The business outcomes would be a digitisation of your sales process, delivering a new channel and expanding your customer reach. Over time you would build on this theme by digitising other steps (e.g., service), leading to the ultimate strategic outcome of digitising 75% of your business process as per your strategy.
Having shorter term outcomes also motivates and encourages delivery by demonstrating value early, and frequently.
Agility over long-term detailed plans
While strategic planning is usually an annual event, with perhaps a 5-year detailed refresh, we believe that you should be reviewing your roadmaps quarterly and making adjustments. This approach values execution agility over long-term planning. We advise that clients develop detailed plans over a short horizon (e.g., 6-12 months) which incrementally delivers on the long-term (3-5 year) objectives of their strategy.
Focusing on the shorter term enables:
· The ability to test assumptions and course-correct (or pivot) as required. If you set a short-term milestone it can be used to validate assumptions, this de-risks your overall strategy execution.
· Adaption and response to changes in macro factors (market forces, customer expectations, competitor pricing etc.)
· Flexibility in funding and project portfolio allocation – focusing on the projects that deliver on your strategy and stopping those that don’t.
This approach acknowledges a level of volatility and uncertainty in the long-term, and builds flexibility and pragmatism into your strategy execution.
AIA has developed bespoke software Strategi EXE, that has helped numerous clients in documenting, cascading and executing their strategy. Be sure to check it out at https://strategiexe.com/, and contact us should you require a free demonstration of how this can help your organisation.
We hope that this brief article gets you thinking about how to build your own strategic roadmap, and ultimately execute your strategy.
Reza Suleman leads our Digital & Innovation practice. He is an experienced strategy and management consultant, IT executive and strategic program manager with 20 years’ experience across diverse industries. He has a Business Science degree with honours in information systems, with additional majors in Finance and Statistics. Skilled in IT and digital strategy and execution, he has built a strong delivery reputation across strategy development, execution and program & portfolio management. This includes all aspects from developing strategy, setting up and running multiple PMO’s, leading and delivering large strategic programs and accountable for portfolio management across a number of large portfolios.