The Need for Continuous Strategy

In a 2018 seminal research article, McKinsey explains that:

“The pace of change across the business landscape is unrelenting. Technological, economic, and political disruptions are requiring a rethink by most companies of where and how they compete, what organizational model they need to keep up, and where they must build capabilities. Annual strategy reviews need to be compressed to a quarterly time frame, with real-time refinements and sprints to respond to triggering events.”

McKinsey

Other strategy advisories agreed and released their own supporting statements.

“The pace of technology change has accelerated so quickly that in many cases, one-year planning cycles are no longer applicable.”

Deloitte

Across the board, one thing is clear: Strategy at the current pace is a threat to survival. Organisations that cannot set and course-correct strategy on at least a quarterly basis will cease to exist within the next decade.

Building a large, complex IT Strategy Roadmap is no longer sustainable because intentions and situations are changing too fast to be encumbered with time-bound, rigid plans with vast resources and capital allocated against them.

To survive the current pace of change, protect their license to operate and be relevant in the future, organisations must behave more agile and fluid where there is no fixed target state, instead organisations continuously adapt to an evolving future state and dynamically allocate resources in real-time to current, emerging and anticipated situations.

Laggards are going out of business – 52% of Fortune 500 from 2000 do not exist today. For those who can achieve this (termed “business agility”), there are rich rewards to be had.

The same research has shown that organisations that have achieved agility can pivot within days, hours or even minutes as new threats and opportunities emerge, consequently they outperform peers 1.5X financially and 1.7X in non-financial measures.

Since the dominant driver of large-scale disruption today is in Information Technology, it has never been more important than now to link Business Strategy and IT Strategy (and Digital Strategy, for organisations that treat it as a separate activity).

“If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”

Jeff Bezos

Yet most companies are unable to set strategy more than once annually and continuously review/course-correct/perform real-time interventions. The primary contributing factor is the traditional strategy creation process itself which has seen little digital focus and consequently is stuck in the Victorian era. This traditional process is:

Episodic – every few years, annual at best in leading companies.

  • Manual – studies show the data collection phase alone takes up 50% of the IT Strategy effort and time when attempted with Microsoft Excel, with further wastage in collation and visualisation phases.
  • Slow – on average it takes nine months to produce a complete Business-linked IT Strategy for a global company with three business units by an organisation that is otherwise busy with business-as-usual. The Strategy is likely dead-on-arrival (DOA) as the position has shifted by the time its produced and ends up explaining the obvious – what the business is already doing rather than outline what the business will do in the next trading period.
  • Expensive – significant upfront investment, largely on low value activities like data gathering and validation, costing ~£1.2M/year when attempted end-to-end with in-house talent, and more with outside experts. 90% of this cost is repeated when strategy is refreshed.

Moreover, the business usually fails to reach its target end-state (per KPMG, McKinsey, Bain, PwC, others). The impact is 5% off the P&L, never realized (per Accenture studies).

Introducing Continuous Strategy

Continuous Strategy is a radically different and more mature state of the strategy creation and communication process where organisations generate and publish their enterprise strategy in real-time, on demand, at the click of a button.

McKinsey and Gartner talk along similar lines, called “Emergent Strategy” and “Continuous Foresight” respectively.

Continuous Strategy takes the episodic “traditional strategy” and makes it a continuous business-as-usual process whereby strategy becomes the DNA of the company, with no defined endpoint or target end state, capable of generating a current and relevant strategy snapshot on-demand, when the Board and other stakeholders want it.

With the relentless pace of change today, barring some exceptions, it no longer optimal to define fixed, rigid target states and tie-up resources to achieving such states over long timespans only to discover the goalposts have moved during that time.

The world’s best companies that practice Continuous Strategy:

  • Are 1.5 times more likely to financially out-perform peers.
  • Add 5% or more to their bottom-line.
  • Are 1/3rd more likely to have an IT strategy that sustainably supports the business.
  • Are capable of pivoting within days, hours or even minutes as new threats and opportunities emerge.
  • Enable their CIOs to work at Board-level and help drive revenue.
  • Enable their senior executives to spend more time on issues of strategic importance.

Continuous Strategy cannot be achieved with the current toolset of email, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. It needs a powerful digital platform that enables real-time collaboration between the Board, CIO, and executive leadership teams with internal and external experts on a purpose-built platform that continuously collates information into self-updating strategy stories, insights, and views that tell stakeholders what is happening right now, imminently and in the long term.

Xirocco makes this possible.

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