I’m going to focus a few posts on strategy. As strategists like Harvard’s Michael Porter (no relation) have noted, strategy makes or breaks your company. If you haven’t thought through what you do and how you compete then your company will be impacted. More strategic firms will outmaneuver you while winning a larger share of the pie. There’s a gap in how companies act strategically.. In healthcare, we see this frequently but it’s a problem across all industries. They tend to get lost in the implementation of their business strategy and devolve too quickly into ineffectual tactical projects.
Many consulting firms do great works as strategists. I have seen some really good output that described the challenges and defined strategic focus and steps a business should take. This output usually comes in a lengthy and beautiful PowerPoint presentation that brings home the key points. It usually ends with a summary that shows the 3-5 steps that company should take. This is a valuable step. It forms the start of a new approach for your organizations hiring, investment, and go to market activities. In this age of digital transformation, I’ve seen entire new organizations created with a focus on orienting towards the new business strategy.
These strategies by their very nature can only go so far. They identify high level actions to take but naturally don’t get into the detail. That’s for the specific initiatives and projects that come from it. Many companies just launch right into it which can result in ineffectual results. In discussions with Perficient colleagues like Juliet Silver and Jim Hertzfeld, we think of strategy like this:
- Business Strategy: defining the market place and how the company addresses the market.
- Industry Strategy: the place of industry and how that impacts what you do. Our healthcare practice for example would always be part of any strategy with our business and technology strategists
- Technology Strategy: the steps needed to correctly use technology to meet strategic business needs
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In your typical gap scenario, we see the following:
- Brilliant business level strategy created with 3-5 key pillars presented to executives and the board. This achieves buy off and funding.
- Initiatives created at the business level. This may include new hires or organizational shuffling and mandates to IT for change.
- Projects created which in many cases include lots of new technology, technology modernization, or upgrades.
- Projects move forward and the initiatives start to stall. People all have their own opinions about what needs to happen and the “doers” have a lot of pet peeves about the day to day processes they want to solve in the midst of this investment. Delays occur.
- Projects launch which provide some value but not that envisioned by the original strategy. Executives begin to question the investment.
The gap occurs between steps 2 and 3 and to a lesser extent between 1 and 2. When you go from the really high level recommendations straight to tactical initiatives or project, you tend to miss out on a few things. Some of these are really important.
- Communication to those lower in the organization why this is being done and what are the expected outcomes. You want to get the organization behind the change
- What is most important? What are the steps to success? Which steps should be taken first and why?
- How will this be implemented? What business, process, and technology changes are needed?
Filling the Gap
Fortunately, this gap in strategy can be filled by taking a step back and focusing on the what and how of the equation. Perficient has actually done well here partly because of our own go to market strategy. Like many consulting firms, our approach to the market is different than others. We win by filling a market niche or a particular set of needs that our clients have. Those niches can be quite large but at the strategic level, it’s because we focus on the what and how that is below the business strategy. It doesn’t mean our management consultants wouldn’t be happy to help you create a business strategy because they can and do. But we have been successful in stepping into the inevitable gaps that happen after the business strategy is created.
Now that I’ve defined the gap, in the next post we can dive into the pragmatic approach to strategy that fills these gaps.