I’d like to get to the point on the role of technology in Strategy Management. There is merit to the idea that it’s best, to begin with, a manual process, then once your needs and workflows are well understood, migrate to an automated solution. However, experience shows some significant pitfalls to this approach.
Anyone who has managed a performance program manually for any length of time can verify that the pain in such an endeavor is enough to make one consider developing a solution themselves! First let me say that smaller organizations, with infrequent or highly repetitive reporting requirements, can get away with Excel and PowerPoint for some time. Depending on the size, scale, and structure of your organization, as well as your user demands, a well-organized Performance Management Team, with a disciplined Microsoft Office approach can carry the day.
Having said that, there are enormous longer-term benefits for your organization to automate the process, not to mention the real-time benefits to the Performance Management Core-Team and the program:
- Release Control/Configuration Management – One Version of the “Truth,” particularly critical if incentives and rewards are planned to be tied to the data.
- Scalability Across the Organization, Including Remote Sites – From collecting data to interpreting and analyzing performance, remote locations will be easier to engage through a shared interface, rather than chasing email exchanges.
- Repeatability – Each time your monthly or quarterly meeting comes around, a system will ensure the preparation, meeting, and follow-through are consistent, no matter how foggy the memories of the practitioners are! Of course, report generation will be snapped once the reports are configured for your needs.
- Resilience to Staff Changes – This goes for Leadership as well as change agents – When new leaders arrive, you expect they will want to make some changes in direction, but building the process into a system ensures they won’t have to change the way it’s managed. When change agents leave, a piece of the process will leave with them if their know-how isn’t built into the business rules of the system.
- Standardization – The look, feel, and interface of the process will be identical throughout the organization, facilitating speedier learning, retention, and mobility of the practitioners.
- Organizational Learning – A system will allow newcomers and seasoned staff alike to learn the process consistently from one place, at their own pace and convenience. This will save on chasing the few experts around for their ‘tribal knowledge’ on how things work.
- Real-Time Availability – Enables Execs and Senior Managers the ability to tap into organizational performance as it suits them, rather than waiting for the monthly meeting, or tracking down performance data manually on-demand.
- Integration – Often the data is in functional silos, while the insights, decisions, and actions need to be cross-functional. Consolidating your performance management information into a tool brings integration benefits and opportunities for cross-functional insights that may not otherwise be possible.
- Trending/History – Similar to the benefits of integrating your performance information across your lines of business, the ability to view performance easily over time, and to go back to previous meetings and analysis to recall the rationale for past decisions, is valuable.
- Security/Backups – Like any IT system, once the information is consolidated in one place, it’s much easier to protect the content from intruders, as well as ensure recovery when disasters strike.
The plunge into an IT System to aid in managing your Strategy or Performance Management process is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are risks, but with the right people involved and clear expectations from the outset, the benefits can far outweigh the potential risks.