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Strategic Management Software – What to Look for?

Does Strategic management software even exist? Setting strategic direction is more an art than a science. Think of those who changed reality – big tech companies, statesmen, or Nobel prize winners. Were they aided by strategy management software? Or was that their obsession and trial and error method that they owe their triumphs to?

The software does kick in, however, when you have the mission statement and the general direction set in place. Planning and execution of the strategy indeed require software, specifically a tool capable of the long-term perspective. What kind of software will assist you in managing your strategy best?

Strategy management software is a vague term. Few strategy management software rankings make it to the top of Google search results. Capterra, for instance, lists Jira in the ‘Strategic Planning Software’ category. There is no universal standard of what falls into the strategy management software category and what doesn’t.

When you are after strategic management software, what you are looking at is in fact:

  • Roadmapping software
  • or, high-level Project Portfolio Management software. Or, if your organization practices agility, the category you should direct your attention to is Enterprise Agile Planning tools.

What areas should a great strategic management tool cover?

When combing the roadmapping and PPM software categories, seek the following three qualities:

  1. Easy recording of strategic goals (on a train, plane, etc.). Ideally, support for KPI-style, measurable objectives, also known as S.M.A.R.T. objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). 
  2. Miscellaneous roadmapping views (timebox and timeline roadmaps, with variable time horizon)
  3. Optionally, tools for translating strategy into action, such as WBS (work breakdown structure), Gantt charts, boards, calendar, resource manager, risks module, reports, etc.

Bullets 1. and 2. are a must for any strategic management software, while bullet 3. is a nice-to-have requirement.

Next, test your candidate software against these questions:

  • Am I able to develop a strategy in the collaboration mode? 
  • Is conceptual work, and visualization at the core of the candidate?

While your “winner” should support KPI objectives, it should not be a spreadsheet-like tool. Seemingly incompatible traits? Great strategic management tools combine scientific methods and liberal arts.

KPIs in strategic management software

Strategic management software revolves around KPI objectives. Let’s give a few examples of strategy-level KPIs.

Table 1: Sample strategy-level KPIs
image - 2021-07-07T124538.242.png

Many strategies consist of both economic and corporate image goals. The thing is that the strategic management software must be capable of measuring both categories. And here we come to the PPM software. Remember how we stated that the Project Portfolio Management tools often fall into the Strategic management software category? There is a reason for that.

Strategic objectives – be it business, sales, or corporate image goals – can be, in most cases, further broken into pieces. The ’15 new discount stores opened in Germany in 2021′ objective can be sub-divided into Discount store 1, Discount store 2, etc. tasks. Tree-like work breakdown structures, as well as ‘in progress / done’ reporting are bread and butter for most PPM software suits. This is why we think PPM software packages, provided they also have roadmapping modules, make great strategic management tools.

Have a look at this BigPicture screenshot. Can you see the ‘My strategy’ top row and the corresponding 16,7% strategy implementation success rate?
PPM software, roadmap, gantt chart as strategic management softwareFigure 2. Managing a strategy in BigPicture PPM software. Note the 16,7% strategy implementation success rate.

image - 2021-07-07T124540.516.png

Live or Non-real-time reporting?

Yet another key purchasing criterion: do I need live, real-time data on the progress of my strategy? Or is non-real-time data sufficient? If the former is true, then this is another argument in favor of PPM software; here, low-level tasks are “connected” to medium-level epics or phases. These, in turn, automatically recalculate the progress of high-level objectives or value streams. By modelling your strategic management into Portfolio Management software you can track your strategy in real time.

Conclusion

Best strategies are emergent. Responding to new information and adapting a strategy is crucial. Over time you are going to learn more, get new information, validate assumptions, be wrong in others, etc. How you respond to that becomes critical.1 That is why the feedback-delivering project management tools are great at managing and honing organizational and product strategies.

Author: Marcin Gebicz

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