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Strategic Planning Software: How To Chart & Track Your Course
Bouncing between PowerPoint and Excel to manage your strategy can leave you spinning in circles, no closer to your goals. ClearPoint’s strategic planning software gathers and tracks your information in one single place. With a central hub of data, it’s easy to create any report you need and share it with stakeholders—your board, leadership team, and entire organization. The outcome? You make better decisions because you have precisely the information you need.
Ready to try out ClearPoint for yourself? Fill out the form to the right to be guided through a tour. If not, keep reading to discover what you should demand in your strategic planning software.
“The department has never had this level of visibility before, which helps our executive team make decisions.” - Mike Turner, City of Austin
ClearPoint’s strategy software keeps your course clear.
When you find yourself losing sight of your KPIs or creating complex processes to get other people in your organization to provide data updates in the same version of Excel, it’s time to hit the reset button. ClearPoint is designed to chart and track your strategy with tools that are sophisticated, yet user friendly. Here are five features of our strategic planning software that will help you map a course to reach your goals:
Tailor ClearPoint with the information that’s relevant to your organization, without having to reinvent what you already have in place.
- Use the language and framework from your existing strategic plan.
- Track different frameworks (e.g. Balanced Scorecard, OKRs, Hoshin Kanri).
- Incorporate different types of elements such as goals, objectives, measures, projects, and milestones.
2. Plan Alignment
No matter how your strategic plan is built, you can see how your efforts are aligned across your organization with ClearPoint. With neat, clean visuals and logical formatting, it’s easy to understand how information ladders up to your broader plan.
- Link objectives, measures, and initiatives.
- Identify and address gaps.
Are you spending more time discussing the elements that compose your report than analyzing the information in the report itself? Summarize any information you want across any part of your strategic plan (goals, KPIs, projects) with accurate, up-to-date reports that are easy to read and understand.
- Use templates to repeat reports at any time interval (month, quarter, etc.) with current data.
- View information over time.
- Display quantitative and qualitative information side by side.
- Facilitate informed decision-making.
No more blank stares across the conference table when someone asks for a status update on a milestone. Clearly communicate responsibilities and share progress with ClearPoint’s strategic management software.
- Assign ownership and collaborators to all plan elements.
- Create different permission levels to easily define responsibility and share information, without sacrificing data integrity.
- Track changes by owner, scorecard, or element with a detailed revision history.
You can cancel that recurring calendar appointment that blocks off an entire day (at least!) to update the data points and information tied to your strategic plan. In ClearPoint, it either happens automatically, or with just a few clicks.
- Add or change information with a double click.
- Use the Data Loader to integrate with other data sources such as Excel, CSV, and SQL.
- Leverage a fully documented REST API.
“I like the program, the flexibility, the customization of the platform, and the depth of the system (which we have only scratched the surface of) and most of all, I like the people. You guys rock. It’s not too often all those things line up in perfect harmony. I love this company!”
Carl Nattrass, Region of Waterloo
These five features of ClearPoint’s software make it a good fit for many organizations, but it’s not necessarily right for everyone. If you need more information about strategic planning software before making a decision, it helps to get advice from someone who’s been in your spot before.
We spoke to James Bowman, the president and CEO of SBS Group, for his insights into strategy software procurement. Here’s what he had to say about what you should demand and what you should ignore from a software during your selection process.
What To Demand From Strategic Planning Software
1. Demand software that supports your strategic planning framework.
If the software you’re examining doesn’t allow you to construct your scorecard using your chosen framework, it may be a good idea to look elsewhere. This could be the Balanced Scorecard, Six Sigma, management by objectives—whatever philosophy you have in strategic planning.
2. Demand the ability to see measure ownership.
Your strategic planning software should help you clearly understand who has responsibility for the execution of the plan. Why? You need to be able to quickly monitor the status of the plan as it unfolds throughout the year. So when you’re looking for the right software vendor, consider whether or not you can assign responsibility for the components of the plan to ensure accountability and execution within the software.
3. Demand the ability to easily update measure status.
Does the software you’re considering make it easy for users to update the plan status? How will integrating it throughout your company change the measure owner’s day-to-day activities? Does the software enable users to provide a contextual history of the progress against the plan? These are all questions you should consider during your search. You want to be able to show how a measure is improving over time, or how a situation is falling further behind plan. You can then look back and learn what is working and how to recognize challenges before they become disasters.
4. Demand seamless operational integration.
Does the strategy software allow you to integrate your operational systems through the use of APIs? Your operational software will likely contain data you may need to support the measures in your strategic plan. Don’t rely on double entry; look for opportunities to integrate applications. An API is good for that.
Strategic Planning Software: What To Ignore
1. Ignore vendors that force you to adopt their style.
Does the vendor allow you to build a plan that is unique to your organization using their software, or do they force you to adopt their own style? If it’s option B, be wary. Remember, your software should enable you to follow your organization’s unique methodology. If the software doesn’t allow you to create custom reporting fields and design fields, or it doesn’t allow you to designate, track, and filter projects as you want to see them, look for another option.
2. Ignore immature software options.
There are many business strategy software options on the market. Most of them are cloud-based providers who tout marquee customers—which makes them difficult to tell apart at times. One major difference you should be looking for is how long the software has been around. If you’re not able to tell through some online searching, the feature sets and capabilities of the software should provide some hints.
3. Ignore the look of the software.
Very often, software buyers are enamoured with how pretty an application looks and thus don’t dig deep enough into its capabilities to determine whether it can support the organization’s business needs or not. Ignore the looks and drill into how the software can help drive the execution of your strategic plan. At the end of the day, functionality is far more critical than beauty.
4. Ignore software that doesn’t aid in strategic execution.
Strategy software that is focused only on planning without execution is fairly useless. The purpose of a tool like this is to drive the execution of the plan as much as it is the development of the plan. Make sure the strategic planning software you choose helps you visualize your strategic plan (i.e., through a strategy map), assign accountability so team members can see how they link to your strategy, automatically load your data from other sources, update all of your projects simultaneously, and more.
5. Ignore Excel.
In an organization with multiple business units or hundreds of employees, it can be very difficult to manage the execution of your strategic plan with Excel. Although Excel is easy to use and fairly flexible, it’s really limited in its ability to scale beyond just a couple of users. If you want to be able to track all of the changes and updates that go on throughout the year, Excel isn’t your best bet.
6. Ignore software touting capabilities of one-off activities.
During the development of your strategic plan, you may run into a series of strategic exercises you only need to complete at the beginning of the strategic planning process. And while it may sound counterintuitive, you won’t benefit from having “robust” software that will handle these activities that you’ll only need to do once. In fact, it may be better to do these activities on a whiteboard in a conference room! And while we don’t think Excel is a smart option for managing your strategic plan, some strategic “one-off” activities may be better when they’re completed in Excel.
The one-off activities listed below and others are important inputs to your strategic plan—you should expect your software to be able to hold the outputs, not manage the process of performing these activities:
- SWOT analysis: You may need to do a “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats” analysis early on in the strategic planning process. This is something that is typically done in a room full of leaders and executives as a fair amount of brainstorming goes along with it. Software is helpful to capture the output, but using software for the complete process might slow you down.
- Strategic shift: The act of capturing where you are now and comparing it to where you are going across a variety of categories is often called a “strategic shift.” Like the SWOT analysis, this might be done in a larger group setting and software could slow down the process instead of provide aid. Capturing the output with software, however, can be helpful going forward.
- Voting and prioritizing: Any kind of process that includes voting or prioritization may benefit from technology—but again, that technology isn’t strategic planning software. For example, you may want to use a text-to-vote or digital voting software in lieu of hand-waving or Survey Monkey instead of a paper-and-pen survey.
Strategy software is an excellent aid for repeatable activities. Thus, preparing for strategy review meetings, assigning responsibilities, sending out reminders, updating your strategic plan, and reporting out on your results are great ways to leverage strategic planning technology.
But remember, you still have to do the work to create your strategic plan before you can leverage software to manage, report on, and execute your plan. If you find software that is flexible enough to handle the creation of your plan—including the development and input of your goals, strategies, action items, and initiatives—you’ll know you have found a solid business strategy software option.
Thanks again to James Bowman from SBS Group for his insights into this topic.