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The value of Strategic Alignment Reviews

Billions of dollars are invested in programs and projects daily. The financial and opportunity cost of investment in programs that fail to deliver on strategic outcomes continues to be a significant challenge for organisations.

Undertaking a Program Strategic Alignment Review ensures that strategic benefits and outcomes agreed by executives and key sponsors will be met; facilitates effective and successful program delivery; saves substantial amounts of investment in program re-work; and helps organisations to realise their Return on Investment (ROI).

Case Example

A Janellis client recently had a high-profile enterprise program in-flight that was composed of a portfolio of multiple technology projects. The program, at the outset, was thought to have had clear and well-defined strategic benefits and outcomes agreed with the Executive.

During a critical stage of the program, concerns were raised and specific questions posed:

  • “Are the strategic outcomes going to be met?”
  • “Are we doing the projects in the right order?”
  • “Are the projects going to meet Executive expectations?”
  • “Is the program set up for success?”

An urgent and independent Program Strategic Alignment Review was conducted by Janellis with the goal to answer the above listed questions and provide evidence and recommendations to support the findings.

The assignment was sponsored at the Executive level with a clear mandate but also coincided with an organisational restructure that was in progress. The uncertainty and lack of clarity around ownership made the approach to effective stakeholder engagement critical in ensuring the assignment was completed successfully.

Findings

One-on-one interviews were conducted with a diverse range of stakeholders and the findings were that the program had been under-resourced and under-funded due to competing economic demands, and there was a lack of clarity and ownership in key areas.

It was found that the program had not been structured as well as it should have and key decisions at a project level had been made based on spend rather than the combination of ‘best solution’ and ‘cost’. Importantly it was also found that the strategic objectives, benefits and outcomes had not been defined well enough.

Outcome

The Program Strategic Alignment Review Report was provided to the Chief Executive as an independent assessment with an agreed revised plan and strategy, including the case for new funding commitment to invest in fixing the program. The program was re-defined with clearer and more detailed outcomes and expectations, and more strategic consideration for stakeholder engagement and alignment.

Post-engagement the client assigned a new senior program manager to lead the high-profile program. The contents of the review and report were critical in helping the program manager to make the right decisions in re-setting the program and re-affirming the strategic benefits and desired outcomes. The program has now been successfully delivered.

Janellis Strategic Alignment Reviews can be done at any stage during a project or program using our consultative discovery process. A Program Alignment Report is created with findings and recommendations delivered in a succinct and visual way and typically includes an Executive Summary, Program Overview, Key Insights, Concerns, Recommendations, and an Action Plan.

Building an agile culture

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, business leaders are looking to strip back traditional and cumbersome business process, and create new work cultures and mechanisms that enable faster execution and faster delivery – many are turning Agile.

Agile is hardly a new term. Agile has become a proven approach to nimble execution for executives and senior managers, and is also one of the most popular and effective project and change management methodologies. It may be one of the most over-used terms in business today – along with Transformation – and gets a mention in every executive strategy, and forms prominently in the internal vocabulary across almost every organisation.

Leaders and executives want their organisations to ‘be Agile’ and to ‘work Agile’.

For organisations to ‘be Agile’ and to work in an agile way, they require a culture of agility. 

Creating a culture of agility requires the changing of attitudes, behaviours, and habits of those within an organisation. These changes need to be underpinned by the improvement or re-engineering of business process across the entire organisation, creating a quicker and more responsive way of working and an environment that enables the acceleration of strategy.

Keys to building an Agile culture:

  • Shifting the focus onto measuring ‘leading’ rather than ‘lagging’ indicators of success – Determining what the leading indicators of success are and reporting on those in a pro-active and visible way allows the organisation to be adaptive, to adjust and change outcomes.
  • Framework that provides visibility, transparency and accountability across the enterprise – Having a framework is necessary to provide visibility, drive accountability and track results. For example; formalising the structure into an Enterprise Program Management Office or Transformation Office creates transparency and enables the organisation to prioritise investments and resources as well as facilitate fact-based decision making faster and with more accuracy.
  • Ideas generation – Implement a pipeline of business improvement ideas, and ensure this pipeline is always building and being maintained and that a robust process is in place to prioritise and select the ideas for execution depending on the organisation’s environment and market position at that time.
  • Speed to value – All the effort must translate into improved business performance. This can be dependent on the system of measurement that has been agreed and implemented top-down. For example; organisational financial performance, operational performance, customer satisfaction, etc.  This also must work both ways in that if initiatives are not providing value (not working) then the concept of agility becomes important in shutting down these initiatives and starting new ones based on the ideas pipeline above.
  • Visual and interactive tools to engage teams, facilitate decision making and maintain momentum – The use of visual tools as well as personal and verbal interaction allows for rapid decision making and sharing of information. There are different ways that visual tools can be integrated into the framework above.
  • Strategic approach to change management – A more strategic approach to change management looks at change across the enterprise and clarifies specific desired behaviours and provides ‘enablers’ to support these to occur. For example; success can be attributed to communicating the ‘why’ very clearly and with a strong support system in place everyone is more likely to commit to the change journey.

Is your project set up for success?


With 87% of the perceived value of programs being unrealised when organisations move from strategy to execution, many organisations are looking to ‘do things better’.

Billions of dollars are being invested in projects on a daily basis. The financial and ‘opportunity’ cost to invest in programs of work that fail to deliver on strategic outcomes is a problem that needs solving.

Many of the programs and projects start well, with defined strategic benefits and outcomes that have been agreed to by the executives and key sponsors. Many of the ‘drivers’, objectives and benefits are based on known assumptions at that time.

Over the course of the program however the following questions and concerns get raised:

  • Are the drivers for this program still relevant, considering the change occurring within our business and externally?
  • Is this program setup for success?
  • Do we have the right resources and expertise to meet the objectives set and realise the benefits documented?
  • Have we engaged the right stakeholders and are they aligned to this program of work in order for us to succeed?

Given the complexity of organisations and people within those organisations and the rate of change occurring; these questions are all valid and relevant and need to be answered on a regular basis to ensure that the perceived benefits are realised within the timeframe and budget allocated.

How can you ensure Strategic Alignment throughout the project life-cycle?

Janellis have an approach to strategic alignment that seeks to answer these questions at any time in the life-cycle of a program. Our approach builds on investments already made and creates alignment; facilitates consensus and builds confidence for all who have a stake in the program.

The Janellis Strategic Alignment Review (or Project Health Check) is a consultative discovery process with key stakeholders, and includes a review of documentation, one-on-one meetings and workshops, where relevant.

The key questions that we seek to answer through the meetings and documentation review are:

  • Strategic Alignment – Does the program still link to strategic objectives of the executive team, and is it being prioritised appropriately within an enterprise project portfolio?
  • Stakeholder engagement – Are the key stakeholders engaged in the program at the levels that they need to be. Is there a change management plan that identified all relevant stakeholders?
  • Ownership – Have the people and teams responsible for owning the outcomes been identified and are they clear on how they will maintain and sustain the solutions?
  • Benefits Realisation – Are the projected benefits still relevant and achievable? How are they being measured, how will they be embedded and who will own that accountability?
  • Resources – Does the project have the right people sponsoring, leading and working on the program? Are their roles and deliverables clear and do they have the capability to ensure success?
  • Risk Management – Are the real risks of success being identified? Beyond a risk plan and issues log, are risks being communicated, managed and mitigated for the program?
  • Governance – Is the governance framework following best practice in terms of management structure, documentation, quality assurance, procurement and requirements gathering?

What will a Strategic Alignment Review provide you?

A Strategic Alignment Review will highlight significant issues that require immediate attention, uncover areas of excellence to be applied more broadly and provide assurance on the areas that do not require further work.

Anyone sponsoring, managing or delivering a project or program of strategic initiatives would benefit in undertaking a review such as this to provide assurance on the likelihood of success, alignment to objectives and meeting executive expectations.

A review will raise awareness of the issues and provide confidence to those working on the project as well as stakeholders including the board, regulators and critical suppliers or clients, where relevant.

How have other businesses used this approach to create Strategic Alignment?

Many of our clients are spending a significant amount of money on project-based activities. Statistics for projects being delivered on time, on budget and delivering the expected benefits indicate that there are still many challenges in this area.

Consultants working in team in the office

Janellis project specialists and executive coaches

Right now, those responsible for the outcomes and benefits realisation of projects are facing increasing pressure to provide assurance to a range of key stakeholders. By initiating the Janellis Strategic Alignment Review, our clients have generated a level of transparency and clarity that has allowed them to address the issues, highlight the wins and set the project on course for success.

Why Janellis?

  • We have been working in this field for the past 17 years with some of the most complex organisations in Australia and are experts in this niche area of strategic alignment.
  • Our unique tools have been widely used and can help accelerate the strategic benefits of any program.
  • Our consultants are highly skilled and experienced in all stages of a project life-cycle and can review, lead or support critical initiatives.

For more information on our Strategic Alignment capability, Project Health Checks and our Subject Matter Expertise in this area please follow the links below, call us to request a meeting – info@janellis.com.au