Buying Software For Strategic Planning: 5 Key Considerations

Buying software for strategic planning is an excellent investment.
Buying Software For Strategic Planning: 5 Key Considerations
Buying software for strategic planning is an excellent investment.

If you’re researching strategic planning software, it’s likely you’re in search of a tool that will help make your job easier. At ClearPoint, we wholeheartedly support this mission. We’ve seen firsthand how organizations’ strategic planning efforts buckled under the sheer weight of the administrative tasks associated with strategy planning and execution. That’s why process simplification is a key objective of our software.

But there’s another, even more compelling reason to invest in software for strategic planning. Strategy software leads to better reporting, which produces better business outcomes. (Keep reading to learn more!) That means it’s a win-win for both you and your organization’s leadership team.

So how can you make sure the solution you choose will deliver in both of these areas? We’ve put together this buying guide to help you evaluate your options. If the strategic planning software you choose checks all the boxes below, you can rest assured you’ve made a solid choice.

Vet potential software vendors with our 29-question guide - know if they're the right fit for you.

Software For Strategic Planning: 5 Things To Consider

If software shopping feels overwhelming, you can make the job more manageable by immediately discounting tools that focus solely on one of these items: data analysis, data visualization, or even project management. Too often, organizations gravitate toward these one dimensional tools and try to adapt them for use in strategy reporting. However, while many of these tools are excellent for their intended purpose, they aren’t strategy-focused, so attempting to cull strategic data from them and cobble together an insightful strategy report will not produce the results you’re looking for. So skip any software products that don’t claim to be strategy software and focus on the real—and much smaller pool of—contenders.

1. It should support your strategy framework.

There are numerous strategic planning models out there—Balanced Scorecard, OKRs, goal-based strategic planning, Baldrige (for governments), etc. Look for a solution that doesn’t force you to adopt a certain methodology. It should adapt to what you’re doing—not the other way around.

Strategy frameworks are fluid; they are often combined, and organizations may change their approach over the years. You may be using the OKR framework today, for example, but that could change as you grow. In that case, the last thing you’d want is to have to buy new strategy software to fit your new model. So, flexibility is key. Make sure the tool you choose can be used for nearly any approach, with a minimum of effort.

ClearPoint is flexible enough to be used with any strategy framework, so no matter which direction you’re planning to go, we can go with you! We even have scripts that allow you to switch from one framework to another with ease.

“ClearPoint Strategy is a ‘your size’ program, providing solutions and tools that fit your immediate needs, but can grow with you as you continue to grow your plan and metrics, with a price point that can fit practically any budget.”

—G2 reviewer

2. It should make it easy to align organizational goals and activities.

All too often organizations set ambitious, high-level goals yet fail to ensure that all departments are actually working to achieve them—it’s a common point of weakness in strategy planning. When business plans aren’t aligned with organizational strategy you wind up with disparate groups working on their own priorities. And while that might mean that a particular department makes strides, it does little to move the organization itself ahead.

Good strategic planning software should shore up this weak point by making it possible to link departmental objectives and activities with organizational ones, so you can clearly see when teams are not aligned. When everyone, in every business unit, is working together to make the organization’s goals a reality, you have a much better chance of succeeding.

ClearPoint is the only strategic planning software tool that lets you quickly and easily see which objectives, measures (KPIs), and initiatives (projects) are aligned and which ones are not, so you can address gaps.

3. It should help you generate insightful strategy reports.

Strategy reports need context. An Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation made up of data copied and pasted from various sources isn’t likely to clarify anything for decision-makers. They need to know how all the strategic data points and elements fit together—in essence, what the “big picture” looks like.

Only strategic planning software can provide that point of view. Make sure the software you choose is capable of producing attractive reports that visualize department goals, measures, and initiatives, and allow you to view as much or as little detail about each aspect as you like. It should also offer a variety of report types—PDFs, online dashboards, briefing books, etc. Strategy software helps leaders get the most relevant information in the least amount of time, which helps them to analyze progress, make decisions, and execute in a timely manner.

ClearPoint allows you to visualize quantitative information in charts, and time-based activities in Gantt Charts. You can also add qualitative analysis to bring this information to life, and include color status indicators for a quick assessment of any strategic element. All these features give you the capability to create varied reports for different audiences, so leaders have everything they need for better strategic decision-making. (See how the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has used it to improve its strategic outcomes and save millions of dollars through increased efficiencies!)

“Clearpoint is very easy to use and understand. The analytics that are produced are great. The dashboards are easy to make. I can't say enough good things about this product and the ClearPoint team. Our finished product looked amazing.”

—Darcy B. (G2 reviewer)

4. It should make the reporting process easy.

Organizations have a tendency to overlook the management aspect of strategic planning; most of the time, everyone simply goes back into their siloed corners and does their own thing. Continuous tracking and reporting is essential to reaching your goals. But unfortunately, the complex processes associated with reporting can overwhelm organizations to the point where they either can’t keep up (and abandon their efforts) or are forced into a permanent state of inefficiency, which threatens their competitiveness.

Strategy planning software should put an end to this problem. Some solutions, like ClearPoint, employ automation to make the reporting process easy. So there’s no longer any need for team members to chase down quarterly update data, generate reports, or even distribute reports. Much of your reporting process should run smoothly on its own, providing your decision-makers with exactly what they need, when they need it.

ClearPoint was designed from the ground up to solve the specific challenges associated with the strategy reporting process. For over 10 years, ClearPoint has worked with leading private and public sector organizations to transform their strategy reporting processes, making them more effective and efficient. One ClearPoint customer was able to reduce the cost of its monthly management board reporting by 70%, and another was able to reduce its reporting time by 90%!

5. The vendor should be dedicated to helping you succeed with your strategy, not just your software.

Contact with your vendor shouldn’t end after your initial training. The best vendors are those who see themselves as partners in your strategy efforts, not simply as software providers. Ensure that the vendor you’re looking at not only meets customers’ expectations, but goes above and beyond to make them happy.

The ClearPoint support team is the best in the business. We’ll do everything we can to not only help your team get up and running with the software, but also to continue to use it effectively as your organization grows. You’ll have your own account manager to help you get started with a custom implementation plan based on your team’s needs and goals. Our support team is dedicated to helping you get the most out of your software investment for as long as you use it!

ClearPoint has been awarded a “Best Support” badge by G2, and gets a 9.7 rating for quality of support by our customers. That’s because our team members have a passion for performance management and great technical skills—we solve problems quickly so you can focus on executing on your strategy, not fighting with a software tool while trying to create your reports.

“The ClearPoint Strategy Team is outstanding in supporting your business needs, assisting you with various reports, walking you through processes to implement your business's strategies, goals, initiatives, and outcomes…The customer service is outstanding and they continuously check in on their clients to ensure your success.”

—G2 reviewer

Must-Have Strategic Planning Software Features

Hopefully the above gave you some things to chew on; here’s a short list to keep handy for making your final selection.

To get the most value out of your software for strategic planning, it should have:

✔ Advanced reporting customization options—Can you customize nearly all parts of the tool (fields, layouts, frameworks, dashboards, etc.) to make it your own?

✔ Automation—Can you schedule data update reminders, data uploads, and report generation? Can you automatically get alerts when things are off track or projects are due?

✔ Organizational alignment—Can you link goals, metrics, and projects at all levels?

✔ Project management capability—Can you link projects to strategy, and manage the various tasks, timelines, and budgets?

✔ Easy integrations—Can you integrate it with the tools you already use so you can easily import data?

✔ A variety of report types—Can you create and share progress reports in multiple ways?

✔ Quantitative & qualitative data—Can you input both types of data to provide context?

✔ Ease of use—Have you tried it out yourself and read user reviews?

Make your reporting system—and your outcomes—better with ClearPoint.

You’ve taken great care to come up with your strategy playbook; now you need a tool that actually helps you run the plays! ClearPoint is the only strategic planning software you’ll ever need. Not only does it give you the necessary insights to continuously improve the key strategic drivers of your business, but it also makes the activities around strategy execution easier and faster. See the system in action and schedule a demo today!

29 Questions To Ask Your Software Vendor
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Buying Software For Strategic Planning: 5 Key Considerations

Sean Callison

Vice President of Sales & BBQ Master

Sean is the Vice President of Sales at ClearPoint. He leads the Sales department and focuses on developing impactful, consultative sales teams.