Matt Ipri - November 01, 2017

Strategy execution is key to more intelligent IT resource planning


Matt Ipri is the former VP of Marketing and Business Development at Decision Lens, where he focused on using data-driven and analytics-based solutions to improve IT resource planning. Matt has worked in enterprise software for more than 10 years, spanning product management, product marketing, and general marketing leadership roles. He holds a BS in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia and an unparalleled level of enthusiasm for the New York Mets.

Every day, we work with organizations who are struggling with the pace of change digital transformation has introduced. They’re looking for the best opportunities to transition IT resources from running and maintaining their technology to transforming their business. And that’s what innovation is all about: transforming the business to deliver better products and services to all customers.

The problem is, these organizations don’t exactly have a bench full of skilled technology resources just waiting to take on new transformational projects. And the constant stream of new requests and demands from the business make this a problem that snowballs. Solving it requires the ability to re-prioritize and re-adjust resource allocation plans far faster than organizations typically can today.

At its core, improving this never-ending hamster wheel of requests and re-allocation requires an ability to assess the impact of investments and projects against the business strategy. This helps prioritize things that move the business forward and de-prioritize things that do not. This process is starting to be known as “strategy execution” and from our experience, it’s the missing ingredient to making your resource planning faster and more effective.

“Strategy execution” is a pretty terrible term. Just reading it can feel confusing, given the two words are often viewed as separate and unique functions of a technology organization. The leadership team generally “does strategy” and the delivery team generally “does execution.”

But it’s become clear that as organizations look to technology as the accelerant for transformation and growth, the two topics can no longer exist separately. IT executives are being asked to not only deliver general IT services, but also to PUSH the organization towards its digital, transformational goals and make the strategy of the organization a reality.

»Related content from Decision Lens: Strategy Execution: It’s time to do it right, your success demands it. 

Strategy execution is our way of describing how organizations ensure that the execution of initiatives, programs, projects, and resources directly support the strategy of the business. Strategy execution ensures that any investment or resource decision (in IT or otherwise) begins with a consideration of the organization’s strategic direction and the elements needed to win in the marketplace. From there, portfolios are built to make the best possible run at the strategy. This approach truly aligns strategy with execution, something most organizations talk about but don’t achieve.

Why is strategy execution important?

Organizations are looking to grow and transform faster than ever. Major digital and transformational programs are being planned at the highest levels of the organization, and resources (budget and people) are being plucked from existing activities to support them. But tying strategy to real-time execution tends to be an afterthought for most organizations.

Thinking about strategy after activities are in motion isn’t effective, especially when resources are short and ambitions are high. It’s not good enough anymore to simply use the resources that are on the bench or to cut a project or two. It’s not enough to decide how projects in motion “fit into” the strategy AFTER they are running. And it’s not enough for PMOs to simply report monthly on the success or timeline of projects. 

Strategy execution makes it possible to:

  • Truly put your strategy into objective measures to assess impact and alignment.
  • Identify and fund those programs and initiatives that BEST push the strategy forward.
  • Identify and reallocate the resources necessary for growth.
  • Find low-value or misaligned investments and turn them into opportunities for reallocation.
  • Plan the optimal use of budget and people to achieve the strategy as quickly as possible with the resources available.
How strategy execution makes IT resource planning more successful

On its own, using strategy execution methods and solutions to improve your IT process will undoubtedly improve alignment and efficiency within your organization. But deploying smarter strategic alignment methods will also make your resource allocation processes faster and more effective.

Odds are, you’re pretty adept at your regular, formal (usually annual) planning process for assessing next year’s budget, resources, and roadmaps. You probably have a solid, repeatable process for collecting new requests, prioritizing them, and planning out the following year of work. 

But unfortunately, your “regular, formal” process only gets you so far once reality hits. Your IT resource planning likely has a few common pitfalls:

  • Demand for new initiatives and projects doesn’t ONLY come in during your annual planning cycle—it comes in as a constant stream from business leaders and executives.
  • Trying to figure out WHEN new demand can be met and with WHAT resources, and trying to assess the value of the new project and its comparative rank against all other work is a very tedious exercise that can take weeks of manual spreadsheet work.
  • That tedious process of manual spreadsheet work has to be repeated EVERY time a new set of demands come in.

When you add it all up, that’s a very ugly “real” process.

Building a better process that incorporates systems and workflow to make strategy execution methods an automated part of your planning means you can much more quickly assess the impact of ANY new request that comes in—without weeks of spreadsheet work.

Better IT resource planning means you can more quickly look at different resourcing scenarios to deliver on the demand—without building piles of Gantt charts. And it means you can more confidently build a queue and roadmap to communicate quickly—without losing business trust in the technology team.

To learn how to get more visibility into available resources for project build and run phases, download Apptio's executive brief: Plan the full life cycle of project build and run costs

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