~ 5 MIN READ
Managing Strategic Initiatives At An International Financial Institution
Learn how a global bank automatically tracks and evaluates its strategic business initiatives, including auto-evaluations and dashboards.
In the niche, privacy-laden world of banking, it can be challenging to share best practices and learn the most efficient ways to operate—particularly when it relates to an institution’s strategic plans. This article seeks to share this type of knowledge by explaining how one of our clients, an international financial institution, transitioned to a more dynamic system for tracking and managing its strategic initiatives.
(Note: The client’s name and data are removed to protect confidentiality.)
As of mid-2018, this client was sending a quarterly strategic performance report to its board in a PowerPoint presentation. The PowerPoint was lengthy, showing the different measures for hundreds of strategic initiatives across four large divisions. While the board was ultimately able to discern how each division was performing individually and the company’s total overall performance, the presentation was an overload of information and charts. Most board members would admit that they were not reviewing all hundred pages of detail with the same level of attention.
The challenge on top of that was the time it took to create the board report. There were hundreds of embedded Excel files in the PowerPoint presentation. Each file had to be updated, and the PowerPoint became unwieldy with the usual challenges of version control. The bank was spending hundreds of hours each quarter just managing this report.
The bank had already deployed ClearPoint for basic strategy planning and, based on the success of the office of strategy planning, was hoping to see similar success in a broad-scale deployment of ClearPoint. The goal was to shift the institution’s reliance away from Excel and PowerPoint by automatically tracking and evaluating strategic business initiatives, or projects, within ClearPoint. This would consolidate data on a single platform and foster better strategic alignment across the company’s four divisions.
We worked closely with the client to determine how to translate the information from the quarterly PowerPoint presentation into an accessible, easy-to-understand briefing book. For example, the presentation included over 30 slides showcasing measures from different divisions.
Additionally, the bank reported the status of all initiatives using a single pie chart that showed the percent of projects that were on track, off track, and in progress. They wanted to provide more helpful information to the board, without sending them too many pages of information. So, our challenge was to provide the client with more information in fewer pages.
We broke down each presentation slide and built custom templates and styles for all strategic initiatives and related elements. Here’s a brief summary of how that worked:
In ClearPoint, the left navigation appears as a scorecard “tree,” showing all the financial institution’s divisions and departments. Users simply need to click on an item to dig deeper within the navigation. For example, clicking on Retail Banking in Division 1 brings up a screen showing the objectives, measures, and initiatives for that department. For example:
- Objective: To increase revenue
- Measure: Increasing the number of new credit cards
- Initiative: Increasing credit card direct sales
To aid in project management, ClearPoint also includes Gantt charts, which include the milestones for all strategic initiatives. Examples of a milestone for the credit card initiative might be to achieve an increase of 5% in direct sales for new credit cards by the end of Q2, or hire 10 new salespeople by the end of Q1.
Our banking client had fairly complex business initiatives with multiple layers—on average, each division had about 100 initiatives with seven milestones each...and many had additional sub-milestones. That translated to hundreds of items whose performance needed to be evaluated. ClearPoint has no limit to the number of initiatives or milestone levels, so we were able to add all our client’s data to their account. Now, all initiatives across every division would be in one place, rather than each division emailing spreadsheets with updates for individual projects (imagine managing 100 spreadsheets per division!).
The automatic evaluations work by “rolling” values from the bottom up. So, owners of the base-level sub-milestone enter a percent-complete value (this number is typically determined using a formula from your project management system that combines due dates, budget, etc.). The percent-complete values for all sub-milestones are then averaged together automatically and rolled up to obtain a value for the corresponding milestone; all the milestone values are then averaged to obtain the percent-complete value for the corresponding initiative. Initiative status could then be used in a weighted-average format to automatically evaluate objectives. The automatic calculation of values was very effective because it took the subjectivity out of performance reporting (one of the challenges the bank was experiencing at the time).
Within ClearPoint’s system, users see color-coded status indicators next to objectives, measures, initiatives, and milestones. Depending on the percent complete, the status will show as red, amber, or green (RAG). The client even leveraged custom status indicators to show if the project was on hold or complete. This status indicator shows performance levels at a glance. The institution’s board, or any leadership team, can see performance status indicators for top-level objectives and drill down into initiatives, milestones, and sub-milestones for additional details as needed.
Initiative Count Dashboards
We built a custom briefing book for the financial institution that closely resembled its quarterly PowerPoint report. The briefing book includes all the same information—including an executive summary, the organization’s strategy statement, and performance dashboards—but in a clearer, more visual format. Most notably, the bank’s briefing book includes an advanced version of the slide that summarized the status for all strategic initiatives. The institution’s simple pie chart has been transformed into a more detailed, interactive chart that segments initiatives by division:
When the institution's users update data within their account—for example, adding a percent-complete value to a milestone—that information is automatically rolled up and reflected in this dashboard (and throughout the briefing book, where applicable). For the quarterly report, the bank’s board can quickly see the performance of strategic initiatives for each division, understanding how many are complete, on track, delayed, and more at a glance.
The institution leverages scheduled reminders to ensure each initiative owner is updating their elements on a quarterly basis. As long as users are updating data at the lowest level of the automatic evaluation roll-up, the briefing book will contain the most current information every time it’s run. If board members want more information, they can click on any “piece of the pie” to see the data behind the chart, all the way down to the sub-milestone level. This briefing book is a template that can be easily generated every quarter.
Results & Conclusion
This international financial institution received great feedback from its board and leadership on the new quarterly report. The upgraded, interactive format was more user friendly with more accessible data. Equally important was the objectivity the automatic evaluations brought to the institution's strategic business initiatives. It’s easier for the board to manage performance across a global organization, establishing a standard that all teams can be responsible for.
The bank was also able to leverage the flexibility of ClearPoint’s strategy software. We took a highly customized, niche report and rebuilt it within our system to consolidate information, automate workloads, and improve reporting processes overall, saving our client hundreds of hours each quarter.
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