Enterprise Strategy Management Best Practices: Using software tools

By Eric Denniston, Denner Group International – April 2013 (Lead – Think – Plan – Act)

Takeaways: Criteria for an integrated enterprise strategy management tool. Using a software tool for greater success and higher performance in tracking, managing and executing strategic initiatives. Reinforcing the importance of linking strategic tasks and cascading projects up and down the organization. Leveraging buy-in and stay-in with a flexible and scalable shared communications resource.

What tools do you use to track and control your strategic objectives? Are they doing the job you want and need? Every organization must constantly revisit its progress and performance on satisfactorily completing its strategic objectives. Depending on the size of the business, one or more people are responsible for creating, overseeing and shepherding this process. This is more compelling perhaps to larger organizations, due to the need to coordinate larger numbers of employees and numerous teams whose projects are often interconnected. However, even small firms need to be disciplined about measuring progress. Many different software tools are typically employed in this effort, starting with simple documents, spreadsheets, meeting minutes and, very likely, project management files. Enterprise strategy management best practices, however, suggest the need for software tools to facilitate the tracking of strategic initiatives.

Often these tools lack the integration necessary to achieve the most critical desired outcomes for the use of these tools. Perhaps you will agree that those most critical goals include:
1) document goals and processes,
2) track progress, and
3) share information

Might you also agree that using these software tools intends to achieve some secondary objectives? These might be some shared behaviors and practices in using the tools, creating a greater understanding of roles in supporting the strategies, linking projects and sub-projects to better track “soft” measures, and aligning tactical, or short-term, objective with the longer-term strategic initiatives.

All the above goals are then subjected to benchmarks and measures to help managers track progress and make adjustments as necessary. Only now we have to ask ourselves: How do we use these tools in a manner that really fulfills these three primary goals?

The likely answer is that we can document the goals, and possibly articulate the processes to track progress and share information, but does that really achieve what we need? Usually it does not.  The bigger challenges are the difficulties in:
•    driving and maintaining alignment,
•    sharing information,
•    improving accountability,
•    fostering efficiency, and
•    enhancing transparency for your stakeholders

Without an integrated tool that brings all this together, these are frequently overlooked or only partially addressed.

Linking initiatives

There are two key issues to address on linking initiatives. One is to create the links up and down the organizational levels and cross-functionally between departments and divisions by identifying which ones need to collaborate on each initiative. The next one is to create the structures, or processes such as reports or meetings, to support the feedback needed to keep people informed in an efficient and timely manner. This is one of the biggest challenges for those responsible for keeping strategies on track. The value in accomplishing this effectively is the resulting ability to react more nimbly to necessary adjustments and do the fine tuning that can really impact performance and therefore the bottom line. Keeping the information flow timely from the bottom up and from the top down and across functions is one of the most powerful accomplishments managers seek in driving strategies.

Best practices in the strategic planning process call for documenting these linkages. And it is a really tough challenge to track and manage them. You might recall the reports and Excel files mentioned earlier which present a challenge in keeping them updated when many individuals and departments are involved. What we want is to create and deliver reports in a timely fashion. Most tools fall short in supporting this in a simple and seamless manner which is so critical for helping everyone perform at the high level desired. Let’s explore what might make an integrated software tool for this valuable.

One tool that links strategies and projects really well is Y-Change.

Criteria for an integrated tool

It should be multi-user. It should support the needs of all management levels to access the level of detail that each requires. It should support existing tools, such as spreadsheets and other digital materials and data. It should support the specific structures and processes your organization has for managing strategic and tactical goals. And it should improve productivity and accountability. I have evaluated three such tools and from my perspective one tool that links strategies and projects really well is called Y-Change: an Enterprise Strategy Management solution.

I have used the Y-Change Enterprise Strategy Management suite, and really like the fact that it is structured to accommodate my systems thinking focus on strategic management. It is the software platform within which those who are accountable for creating, managing, measuring, monitoring, guiding and adjusting strategic and tactical objectives in an organization are better able to perform those duties. Having a multi-user application like this to manage the various levels of accountability within strategic initiatives, and being able to link tasks across projects and strategies, is most helpful in performing quick reviews and obtaining status updates. In addition, the tool makes it possible to link to other data files from other applications that contain more detailed information. Sometimes this means simply opening a file from another application to review the data, and in some cases, actually import that data into Y-Change.

From within the application I can launch email messages to individuals and groups to keep people informed of progress, or lack of it, focus on specific initiatives, request feedback and relate to the measures everyone agreed to. This means a quicker response time to adjustments in the related tasks.

Perhaps of greater relevance to upper level management, the strategic initiatives can have their interconnected actions linked across two or more core strategies, providing both a documented and visual cascade of actions and accountabilities down and up through the organization.  How people support the organization’s broader strategic objectives can also now be incorporated into performance reviews much more easily.

Maintain a culture of strategic focus

This is a great help in preventing actions, good and bad, from being overlooked, and in uncovering mistakes and diversions from the strategic objectives in real time. It is an ongoing challenge for those responsible for driving strategy in an organization to maintain a culture of strategic focus combined with operational flexibility to sustain high performance. This tool excels in helping do just that. The tool allows for customized views for different levels of management which provide either detailed or summarized views of performance. With this feature, managers at all levels are better able to measure, track, manage and adjust their and their team’s work toward the organization’s key objectives. In addition, this tool supports the cross-functional collaboration required to really sustain a high level of strategic and tactical performance.

Linking the various initiatives further supports the management of business unit portfolios and projects. The integration of the shared objectives provides transparency in the review and reporting processes needed.

The Y-Change Enterprise Strategy Management tool is uniquely suited to helping the organization’s leaders and teams create buy-in to the shared vision and support stay-in. The tool provides easy access to key and current pieces of information and reinforcement of vital concepts, like the vision, mission and values of the organization. This shared resource also provides controlled universal access to data by adjusting permissions access levels and limiting the capability to edit data as appropriate.

In essence, the Y-Change Enterprise Strategy Management tool helps to raise organizational competitiveness by helping employees at all levels become and stay engaged in the shared organizational vision. It helps them stay focused on those tasks and actions they need to accomplish that will more effectively reach the desired objectives. This means higher productivity, lower costs, faster communication, plus greater transparency and accountability.

If you would like to learn more about this tool or request a demonstration please contact me at eric@dennergroup.com.

About the author: Eric Denniston has a background of 30 years business planning and strategic management consulting on an international level. Working with non-profit and for-profit organizations, he has worked with leaders on corporate governance, leadership development, business planning, and strategic management challenges. He has also trained sales development and technical teams. His business planning activities include global businesses, resort, hotel and residential development and international healthcare projects. A native of Mexico he is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Email: eric@dennergroup.com – Website: dennergroup.com.

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About Eric Denniston

Eric Denniston has proven experience with strategic business planning and financial management systems and processes. Working with non-profit and for-profit organizations, he has worked with leaders on corporate governance, leadership development, business planning, and strategic management challenges. He has also trained sales development and technical teams. His business planning activities include global businesses, resort, hotel and residential development and international healthcare projects. Eric has native fluency in Spanish and English and is also highly fluent in French. He has a masters in international management from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, AZ.