To Be Financially Viable A Strategy is Necessary. Without a Strategic Review a Strategy and Subsequent Strategic Roadmap is Impossible
Before we can decide on the Strategic Roadmap destination we need to establish where we are and where the wind is blowing. Where the storms (problems) and ship wrecks (disasters) are and how to avoid them.
So the best starting point is a strategic review. Then we can produce a Strategic Roadmap that will get us to our destination.
Strategic Roadmapping: A Conventional View
The danger with Strategic Reviews is that they are bounded by convention and often keep within safe areas laid out by the norm.
If this is the case, although they may look carefully at where we are now and where we need to be; they fail to consider all future options. This can be for a variety of reasons. Not wanting to stray outside of the known, outside of what we know to be safe is understandable. But if we do this we end up with a new strategy that is no different to the old one. It is only when we explore new ideas, new ways of doing things that change is likely to occur.
New tactics and methods can still be safe. They needn’t be risky.
A good starting point is to look at how other sectors deal with issues. Can they be adapted to suit your situation?
That’s not to say we shouldn’t explore totally new ideas, that we shouldn’t be innovative. But innovation for the sake of it is not necessary. Innovation has its place and some of your strategy may well be innovative. But there is no sense reinventing the wheel if there is no need to.
Strategic Roadmapping: The Background
There are many types of roadmaps. All are a type of plan to guide progress toward a goal. Strategic roadmapping will guide your progress towards your goals. A typical roadmap will highlight a number of goals, each with its own narrative and KPIs.
They are defined by looking at where you are now, where you want to be by a given date, how you might get there and what success looks like. They need SMART KPIs to be meaningful.
The key to deciding where you want to be by a given date is to look at all possibilities, not just the most obvious and those you know you can easily achieve. By exploring outcomes that initially look impossible you are often able to list the constraints preventing success and then explore ways around the constraint. Researching the constraints it is often possible find new technologies or processes, that you were unaware of, but can be applied to your situation. Even more powerful is to use research to identify other sectors that have experienced similar constraints and found ways around them.
Part of the Strategic Roadmapping process entails looking at the main drivers of change e.g. curriculum, technology etc. and how they impact your situation now and in the future.
Strategic Roadmap Decision Making
Once all the data is collated Strategic Decision Making is the main factor determining manageable success. The key here is to ensure that timely and relevant information is used to make sound decisions.
The assumption is that various departments and individuals in the business possess the key information required for the strategic decision making process to be undertaken. Where this is not the case it is necessary to seek advice about the technologies, processes and other essentials from an external source. Where the organisation or individual assumes it is the fountain of knowledge on future scenarios it is likely to fail. For example Google invented Adwords but it took people like Perry Marshall and Mike Seddon to write the definitive books on the implementation of Adwords in their respective markets in the US and UK. So although Google invented the software and programming they did not possess full knowledge of how customers might implement it. They needed to consult with people like Perry and Mike to gain that insight.
On other occasions the expertise lies at levels lower than the Executive Directors or board.
Strategic Roadmap Components
In addition to the factors mentioned above a Strategic Roadmap also describes the practical steps required to get to a the defined goals. Listing KPIs alone is rarely sufficient as frequently there are interdependencies and alternative routes that necessitate the breaking down of potential silos. The alternative routes will help to help optimise resource allocation as well as recognise and minimise risks.
The Strategic Roadmap Process
Strategic Roadmapping can not be owned by one person or even a small group. It is collaborative if it is to succeed.
Once initial data is collated the next step is to determine a vision. The vision should be the best possible future that can be envisaged. Only by doing this, however impossible it might appear in the early stages, will the Strategic Roadmap stretch the organisation sufficiently that it will achieve its best.
Once the best visions are established, and it should be noted in the early stages there might be more than one possible vision, concrete goals need to be defined. The two dangers at this stage are defining too many goals and making them nebulous. Saying you want to be world class is meaningless. Or at least the meaning of world class will be different for every stakeholder. Each goal needs to be specific and achievable.
A Gap Analysis is now conducted. The A+Gap Analysis needs to establish what capabilities and resources are needed to bridge between the current situation and future vision. These need both identifying and resourcing.
Long Term Strategic Roadmap Considerations
Strategic Roadmaps are usually written with a design “shelf life” of 5-10 years. This sort of timeframe is necessary if the strategy is to be viable. Constantly changing direction is inefficient, unsettling and financially unstable.
However the reality is that external conditions change on a regular basis. The roadmap should therefore not be considered a static tool. It should be reviewed regularly and several iterations may be produced during its currency. A well written roadmap may see KPIs being amended but the goals should remain current throughout it life.
We should also remember that a roadmap doesn’t define or predict the future. It’s role is to be the collaborative tool that enables strategies and actions to be defined to reach toward a desired future position.
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