We can finally talk about the actual investment being made in strategy. Most people want a strategy to start at, “What steps am I going to take?” Most people find it painful to think about and do the Insights and Ideas steps discussed in previous posts. While those other elements are essential, it’s where the rubber meets the road that you finally fill the gap. It’s here that you get to make a plan that justifies the investment, and that delivers the actual value. That said, this final strategy phase contains more than just a roadmap. It’s here that you plan, justify the investment, and start the work. Think of it as three key elements:
While many skip this step, it’s good to define your specific objectives and key results. By critical results, we mean the actual measurable outcomes you expect. Don’t fall back on simple measures like the number of page views and the number of downloads. If your investment will increase customer engagement, sell more product, sign up more subscriptions, schedule more appointments, etc., then focus on that. Be as ruthless as your CEO is going to be when asking if this is worth what is probably a substantial investment.
In the process, don’t forget about a benefit model, e.g., what specific benefits do you get? How can you measure those? Can the benefits provide enough value to justify the actual cost? Doing your homework here aligns everyone early on and dissipates any complaints later in the project.
The program focuses on the basic set of the project or the “program” It should also include any change management needs you have. We find that Organizational Change Management (OCM) is needed in every single large program or initiative. You need to make a case for change, identify the differences, communicate the plan/results, and train people to successfully roll out new functionality. From an OCM perspective, remember one best practice, start early. Don’t start two weeks before you launch a crucial system.
If your strategy involves multiple projects or workstreams, then you should plan on forming a program and managing these at a program level. Allocate resources to the program. This includes program management and technical expertise.
The roadmap represents the culmination of the effort. Here you develop your 18-24 month roadmap. Anything beyond 24 months is unrealistic. You will see too much change at that time to plan beyond it. When working on the roadmap, remember these best practices:
- Put your roadmap in a tool where it’s easy to change. I use Excel for that reason. This is a living document. It will change.
- Communicate and iterate. Show the roadmap to everyone involved. Let them know what you plan and why. Take the feedback and incorporate it.
- Start with a straw man. Don’t start with a blank slate and have a meeting with 15 people. No one deserves that kind of painful meeting. Take a core team of 2-3 and create your first draft. Then fill it out as you get feedback from a larger group.
- Let the roadmap take into account people and processes. You will need to incorporate governance, change management, hiring, and training.
- Show the delivery of capabilities. Yes, you should model many elements that are more technical in nature, but you want people to see progress as you deliver value to your end-users.
- Take into account priorities. No one will approve a roadmap that only delivers value in the 2nd year.
- Take into account the level of effort. What are the easy wins? Have you mapped those activities in where it makes sense?
- Do not forget critical dependencies. If you are a retail organization that wants to use your physical locations to enhance a digital experience, then look at all needed, like process automation, inventory, employee communication tools, etc. If you are a hospital that wants to allow for online scheduling, then take into account not just the delivery of a front end but also of the scheduling system and the API’s involved.
- Don’t overload too much in any one time period. This is a long-haul effort. Get the team and resources allocated for the long haul.
- Model in how you will measure the value of the effort.
- Do plan on Agile, Cloud, and other technology best practices. Strategy implies change, so make changes that set you up for the future.
Let me hearken back to the initial challenge of a gap in strategy from my first post in this series
“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”
The overall framework for strategy takes a beautiful high-level strategy and gives it enough detail to become actionable. This final step shows the exact action you want to take and what kind of results you can expect. It closes the gaps and puts a lovely ribbon on it.