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Strategy Implementation: How Should Technology Factor In?

Executing on your strategy is an art; find out how to paint a complete picture using technology.

Ted, Founder and Managing Partner at ClearPoint, has over 25 years of experience working with organizations to improve their performance management and strategy execution processes.

Simply put, strategy implementation is the art of executing on your strategy.

But if we’re being honest, nothing is as simple as its definition. It’s one thing to define strategy implementation and another to realize what the strategy implementation process actually entails.

The strategy implementation process is not simply pulling a report together each year (or at the end of your strategic planning horizon). It’s the detailed and meticulous process of reviewing your strategy on a regular basis, talking about how you’re doing, reviewing the implications of where you’re at, and determining what changes you need to make going forward.

Clearly, it involves a great deal of work. This work could be thankless, and you may end up getting blamed if something goes wrong. You have to involve the right people and ensure that everyone sees the benefit of this implementation. To make the process go smoothly, the following must be firmly in place:

  • A clear strategy, which typically comes in the shape of a strategic plan. If you do not have a strategic plan, you’ll need to create a clear set of targets with due dates, usually 3-5 years in the future. For example, “We will be at $X revenue by X date” or “We will be the safest city in our state by Y date.”
  • A leadership team that believes in the strategy. A majority of your leadership team needs to not only agree that strategy is important, but also be willing to talk about it, support it, and review it on a regular basis. A strategy is not something you set and then forget...since that strategy only works with this one device.
  • An understanding and appreciation of the impact technology has on your strategy implementation process. With this in mind, let’s examine four key components of the strategy implementation process, and how technology factors in.

Strategy Implementation Step #1: Track your goal, measure, and project results.

You’ll need an effective way to track the progress you make on your goals, measures, and projects, but the very nature of the tracking process can make your strategic implementation difficult. For instance, you could have 20 or more individuals involved in different projects at any given time. Gathering up details from each contributor is a tremendous amount of work, and if one or two people don’t participate, it can throw off the whole process.

Without technology, you have to ask all the people involved in each goal, measure, and project to update a single spreadsheet. They may never send it back, they could change the report, or they could show up to the meeting claiming they have the updated numbers—and your final spreadsheet does not.

With technology, you can give everyone involved a simple way to report. Each owner is notified automatically to load their data into a central, cloud-based system. They have a structured way to update their data—and they are all kept apprised when the strategy report is ready for the meeting, so they can prepare.

Strategy Implementation Step #2: Meet as a leadership team to discuss progress.

It’s critical to discuss your strategy on a regular basis so you can adjust it based on tracking results and progress. The focus should not only  be on “How did we do?” but on “What can we do to improve our results?”

Without technology, you’ll face a wall of challenges. Most notably, it will be difficult to put together pre-meeting documentation that gets everyone on the same page. You run the risk of people coming to the meeting with a detailed, 10-page project update, and others coming with a brief overview of how things are going. This can cause a long and excruciatingly disjointed meeting.

With technology, you can gather up summary-level information in a consistent format at a level of detail you choose. If you need more detailed information during your meeting, your strategy software can assist you. Furthermore, using technology as your presentation medium allows you move naturally through areas of discussion instead of flipping from page to page. Finally, you can send out meeting and information update reminders so everyone is prepared ahead of time.

Strategy Implementation Step #3: Make adjustments or strategic decisions along the way.

Do you have a system in place to understand if something’s happened in your business environment? Economic or political changes, environmental disasters, or strategic shifts from a competitor could all have an impact on your own strategy. Regardless of the reason, you will likely need to be able to make decisions along the way—even during your strategic implementation process.

Without technology, your team may gather in a conference room to discuss strategic issues and make decisions—then walk away, leaving any discussion results on flip charts or white boards. There's rarely any follow-up on how those decisions are impacting your strategy as a whole, and no one seems to be responsible for taking action on the decisions.

With technology, you can discuss progress in key areas, track those decisions, see the outcome of those decisions over time, and record any analysis or recommendations. Essentially, technology removes the guessing game! The next time you meet, your team can be briefed on the actions that have or need to take place since the decision was made.

Strategy Implementation Step #4: Create progress reports as you go.

Now that you’ve taken on the task of strategic planning, you’ll want your key stakeholders to know that you’re tracking and implementing the strategy in an organized, planned fashion—and that means generating reports

Without technology, you’d have to create your reports manually. And since different people want to see information in different ways and in varying levels of detail, manual reporting presents a unique challenge. On top of that, you have to be certain that every person creating or updating the reports uses the same data. You wouldn’t want to report two different revenue numbers to two different groups, even if there’s a good reason for it.

With technology, you can use a common set of data to create reports for division heads, enterprise employees, board of directors, city council members, the general public, etc.  With the click of a button, you can create templates to easily reproduce reports as well, and you can publish certain data online—all while knowing with certainty you have the most up-to-date versions. Every report is time-stamped and dated. Having technology to assist in your report creation is one of the best ways you can leverage technology in your strategic implementation plan.

In Summary

Implementing strategy is a key part of realizing your strategic plan. And the fact of the matter is, without technology, you could potentially fail in one of the above areas.

Even though you have many touch points across the organization, technology will help you produce consistent and impactful reports. This is money well-spent when you can increase the quality of outputs in those areas.

Download: 4 Ways To Take Control Of Management Reporting