Agile strategy execution
Realise the strategy, and reach your goals effectively with the right projects
Agile strategy execution allows companies to navigate and take advantage of the changes faced by the organisation. The key is maximising value, a strong fit between selected projects, and strategic goals and optimal project balance. Achieve success! Avoid delays, failed projects, low employee motivation, and dissatisfied customers by using adaptive, but systematic project prioritisation and execution.
- Optimal project selection that maximises value, strategic fit and balance
- Flow in the execution and utilisation of capabilities and resources
- Project models, methods and tools that facilitate successful projects and program managers
- Progress and results through targeted performance management
Agile strategy execution enables companies to navigate within and take advantage of changes. The key is maximising value, a strong fit between selected projects and strategic goals, and optimal project balance. Avoid delays, failed projects, low employee motivation, and dissatisfied customers by using adaptive, but systematic project prioritisation and execution.Projects and programmes are the execution engines for the strategy. Prioritised projects must be connected to the strategic goals, so management can continuously monitor the organisation’s execution performance, the expected and realised impact, and the risks. Strong strategy execution is built on to a solid foundation, where relevant project models go hand in hand with resource optimisation, organisation, management skills and timely communication.
Connects strategy to execution and creates focus, speed and efficiency
Strong portfolio management is the company’s key to effectively bridge building between strategy and execution. Despite the importance, portfolio management is still not a priority area in a broad sense. To achieve results, portfolio management requires systematic work – both process and organizational.
Portfolio management is a process that identifies, selects, defines, prioritizes and monitors projects and programs in an organization. However, portfolio management is also a management tool responsible for prioritizing initiatives, programs and projects in the portfolio.
A lack of focus on portfolio management leads to choosing the wrong projects and starting too many projects, creating queues. This means an increased risk of error, too few winning projects reach the final line, demotivated employees and significantly increased idea to realization process. Final result; dissatisfied customers, unmotivated employees and reduced competitiveness.
Portfolio Management as a process
A strong portfolio process must ensure that companies evaluate and prioritize projects and programs based on relevant requirements that basically address 3 factors:
1. Maximize the portfolio’s value, eg. Net Present Value (NPV)
2. Ensure strategic alignment so that selected projects and programs support the strategic objectives
3. Achieve the right balance in the portfolio, including risks in relation to benefits
In addition to ensuring a strong process for evaluating ongoing and upcoming projects, including ensuring optimal asset management, the company’s portfolio setup should also recognize current activities or products. In relation to product development, it is not enough to focus on new products. The prioritization of new and ongoing products must also be balanced with the existing portfolio of products, taking into consideration the product life cycle and competitiveness as to which new products should be prioritized.
Portfolio Management as an organizational body
Portfolio management is more than just a selection process. A project office (PMO) are responsible for several focus areas, including ensuring that the processes used in and around project execution work optimally and are executed properly. Resource planning is a challenge. Effective portfolio management focuses on the flow of projects rather than a unilateral focus on resource optimization. The latter increases the risk of queues, if there is no balance between the number of projects and actual resources. Involvement in too many projects at a time and thus many context changes reduce employee efficiency.Governance is another central issue in portfolio management, it involves the establishment of decision-making processes tailored to the individual company. Governance is not an administrative straitjacket, but a framing to ensure optimal growth conditions for projects and programs within the strategic guidelines of the organization. The ongoing monitoring of project performance benefits the company’s competitiveness because the decision-makers have an overview of the portfolios health and the right handles to continuously optimize the portfolio’s composition.
4IMPROVE focus on process and organization. We are experienced in:
- Establishment and implementation of the right governance structure for the individual company with focus on decision making and execution competence
- Determine the process of selecting, prioritizing and monitoring portfolio activities
- Establishment and anchoring of visual portfolio management for the benefit of cross-organizational transparency and overview
- Organizational set-up and competence development that support the agreed processes, including securing the necessary competencies in the PMOs
The crank in the company’s execution engine
Projects and programs are the effective execution engine for change in all organizations. At all levels of the organization, from strategy coverage to optimization – across all functions of the company from HR and economy to production and logistics.
Project management can simply be considered as the management of deliveries, time and resources to drive the project from idea to realization. But project management is much more complex, and the potential within project efficiency is high. Project / Program management often refers to the discipline of the team and to the head of the project / program, but companies can advantageously focus a lot wider: The road to project efficiency goes not only through the training of the individual Project Manager, but through the training of steering groups and project participants as well as the construction of efficient processes.
Traditionally, project management is a planning discipline creating coherence between project scope, budget and time. Scope is often specified and locked early in the project, but numerous projects have been challenged on both time and budget. Based on the software industry, new methods for executing the project, including SCRUM and Agile, are on the rise. These methods challenge the one-sided focus on a stuck scope. Instead, they focus on continuously adjusting scope in terms of budget and time, driven by prototype learning and tests throughout the project. Both traditional project management and agile project management can be effective, but the approach must be chosen and tailor made according to the project’s goals, the project’s surroundings and the organization.
Within the framework of the projects, including project models, governance and tools that are closely linked to portfolio management, for project management it is necessary to distinguish between management and leadership of projects.
Management of projects
The disciplines within project management include project planning, time and risk management, quality assurance as well as compliance with processes and templates. Competencies the well-trained project managers should master and which must be continually enhanced through the exchange of experience between the organization’s project managers and external inputs.
Leadership of projects
Project leadership is just as important as the project manager’s ability to execute project management. The role of a project or program manager is a discipline that requires strong management skills and experience. Key words are team performance and thus the project manager’s ability to establish and continuously strengthen the team’s cohesion, cooperation, trust and performance.
The project manager, as head of the team, must balance the efforts in relation to the team and the individual project participant as projects, usually, go across functional areas. Close dialogue with direct and indirect stakeholders is one of the keys to effective project management. Situational management, tailor-made communication and conflict management are also skills the project managers should possess.
Project management has existed since the Egyptians performed the first pyramids but remain a key competence, crucial for companies’ ability to develop, execute and implement internal and external changes. The striving for project efficiency is the key to improving the company’s competitiveness.
- Establishment of a project manager function in organizations for the benefit of corporate governance and management of development activities.
- Competence building in the form of courses and coaching courses focusing on project management discipline and steering group participation.
- Development and anchoring of effective project management tools that ensure consistency in project implementation, including visual management methods.
Business Intelligence & analytics
Reveal the connections between large amounts of data. Reach the right decisions
We create data models that are based on the company’s business and situation, and these models translate data into usable knowledge, and subsequently convert knowledge into value. Capitalise on the large amount of data generated in organisations, so you can reach better decisions quicker, and use less resources.
- Reduced waste in the processes, and increased efficiency
- Common image of the processes, which ensures uniformity when processes are executed
- Improved quality driven by a process where errors are eliminated and transit time is minimised
- Improved welfare at work
Today, companies are in possession of huge, partly-untapped data potential. Data on products, people, machines, processes, etc. We convert the company’s data into useful knowledge, and turn this into information that is relevant for management, and supports decision-making , which facilitates growth and optimisation.
Business Intelligence & Analytics create connections between data across systems. These connections are used to identify growth potential, optimisation options and reporting, both operational and managerial.
Examples of modelling and Business Intelligence:
- Forecast and planning of resources at hospitals
- Planning and invoicing in consultancy and temporary functions
- Tender calculations in the construction industry
- Monitoring of competitors and intelligent pricing
Synchronise and optimise core processes to release the organisation’s full potential
In every organisation, performance depends on understanding, integration and ultimately, management of the company’s key and support processes. By basing business processes on LEAN theory, the company can improve how it utilises resources, its flexibility, its ability to react, and its performance.
- Reduced waste in processes, and increased effectivity
- Shared image of the processes, which ensures uniformity when processes are executed
- Improved quality is driven by a process where errors are eliminated and transit time is minimised
- Improved welfare at work
Processes operate across functions. Organisation in accordance with sales, production, distribution, stock, HR, administration and functional goals, presents the risk of sub-optimisation of processes in the effort to improve individual functions .
Sub-optimisation of processes creates inefficient processes. In the worst case scenario, this affects the customers, and renders cost-to-serve too high. The waste in the processes is either not visible to employees working with them on a daily basis, or the employees are unable to change the situation.
The impact of a process design and transformation project can be observed in several parts of the company: process optimisation, transparency in processes across organisational functions, increased employee knowledge, improved understanding of processes, and a culture of improvement, that continuously enhances performance.
Unlock your full potential and create increased performance in the processes
Improvement potential in the companies’ business processes are often overlooked in spite of the great potential that often lie hidden here. By focusing on business processes with LEAN as a foundation, the company can enhance resource utilization, flexibility and responsiveness.
Whilst business processes within the company are continually adjusted and adapted to changing prerequisites, many experience that processes do not function optimally. Even worse, the waste in the processes is so subtle and vague, employees working with them on a daily basis do not recognise this waste, nor are they able to change the situation.
Many companies are organised by function, and have established functional goals. The focus is primarily on sales, production, distribution, stock, HR, administration etc. Processes operate across the functions, which heightens the risk that the companies experience a suboptimisation of the processes in the effort to improve individual features. Suboptimisation of processes engenders ineffective processes which, in the worst cases, affects the customers and causes cost-to-serve levels to be too high.
LEAN is a production philosophy that is essentially about creating value for customers using minimal effort. Many companies have experience with LEAN, some with success, whilst other have experienced implementation failure, or the work being either undermined by other “projects”, or perhaps even forgotten. One of the prerequisites for a successful LEAN strategy is that companies manage to initiate and maintain continual improvements in the processes. This is not solely the responsibility of management, because all employees must contribute as active participants.
Unfortunately, administrative processes are often overlooked, regardless of the fact that there are many possibilities and resources hidden precisely here. By focussing on the administrative processes with LEAN as a method, it is possible to strengthen the company’s resource usage, flexibility and responsiveness. It is, however, crucial that specific LEAN goals have been set prior to commencement. This necessitates experience, consideration and stable process management to ensure optimal and lasting results.
Companies with less developed processes often find that there are issues concerning employee welfare, as a result of ineffective processes with extensive wastage. Indeed, it is particularly during pressured periods that processes which do not function become more obvious, resulting in employees being exposed to higher stress levels. Often, employees are unable to see the challenges themselves, nor change the situation in a cross-functional way, which in turn may result in lower levels of well-being and higher levels of stress at work.
LEAN process transformation can therefore have several purposes, but most often they are:
- optimise the company’s core business processes, primarily through LEAN methods, but also Customer Journey, Six Sigma etc.
- Implement methods that create continual process improvements and maintain the activities in the new culture once the project has ended
- Strengthen and improve maturity in process work so that both management and employees know, follow and ensure that the desired quality is met in the process output
- Train and educate employees so that they become part of the process of improving the business and instigating culture change in the company
- Lower cost
- Lower risk
- Improved uniformity of process
- Improved quality
- Increase in customer satisfaction
- Simplified production
The effect of a LEAN process transformation project can be observed in several areas of the company. The aim of the project is process optimisation, transparency in processes across organisational functions, increased employee knowledge, understanding of processes and an improved culture that continually improves processes.
The results come in the form of:
- Lower costs as waste is removed from the processes, and employees become more effective and use less time on tasks
- Risks are identified and minimised. There are economic, qualitative and regulatory risks that are minimised
- Employees become familiar with the processes, which create more consistency every time a process is executed
- Quality increases in line with an increase in consistency, whilst waste is eliminated and throughput times are minimised
- Customer satisfaction increases as customer-oriented processes are digitised, throughput times are reduced and quality is improved
- Production (both physical and administrative) is made more transparent and manageable in order for more strategic projects to be prioritised and implemented
- Employees thrive more in the workplace when processes are optimised and inefficiencies and wastage is eliminated
Understand, connect and synchronise processes to release the company’s full potential
Performance in any organisation depends on the understanding, integration and, ultimately, the management of the company’s key and support processes. Judicious drafting and understanding of the processes involved provides invaluable input for transforming the way the company operates. Ultimately, this process insight is the prerequisite for taking performance to a significantly higher level.
The purpose of understanding the company’s key and support processes is to acquire an essential knowledge of how value is currently being created through the company. Therefore, comprehension of process architecture forms the basis for identifying how this value creation can be optimised – ultimately for creating higher value, delivering value, providing faster and more precise delivery, higher quality delivery and/or cheaper delivery. It is only with a distinct understanding of the company’s process context that the correct optimisation decisions can be made. The alternative presents a high risk for sub-optimisation, an incoherent process chain, waste of resources and dissatisfaction (on part of both the employee and the customer.)
Drafting a process architecture design thus helps to create an overview of the company’s processes, as well as the connections and dependencies. The drafting/understanding facilitates a better and deeper understanding of how the company works and functions as a whole entity, rather than as a fragmented department/individual-based understanding that disregards input and output connections and their optimisations.
A solid process architecture should therefore, as a minimum, contain details about the following:
- Current processes in the company
- Interfaces and interactions between processes (internal interfaces)
- Responsible processors
- Approach towards customers and suppliers (external interfaces)
- Identification of weaknesses and/or potential for improvement
The above provides a managerial and comprehensive foundation from which overall decisions about action areas can be identified and considered – as noted in the last point. Subsequent work on improving processes will demand further details, such as:
- Which activities are performed throughout the process
- Which organisational units (or departments) participate in the process
- Which input and output data is necessary and processed
- Which IT systems should be utilised
- What situations and risks can emerge in the execution of the process
A series of different tools are accessible for the preparation of details in the construction and improvement of the process architecture. Possible tools include: models such as RACI and SIPOC, which support the establishment of role and responsibility sharing, (Responsible – Accountable – Consult – Inform), and the understanding of interdependence from supplier to customer (Supplier – Input – Process – Output – Customer). The supplier-customer relationship must in this context also be considered internally within the company, where the supplier-customer relationship operates in the interfaces between process actions. This occurs equally between processes as in-between activities, as with individual processes.
An overview of the process architecture, interdependence etc, does not in itself release the company’s full potential. All improvement and changes demand resolute leadership, focused on the present. For this reason, process architecture and process management are mutually dependent on each other to provide the crucial difference. One cannot function without the other, and it is precisely this combination where strong management demands and expects an overview (process mapping), and actively uses it to make the right decisions, so the process architecture goals are achieved:
- Improve and ensure alignment throughout the company to meet customer demand and expectations
- Increase process transparency and therefore understanding of the business
- Drive efficiency and productivity through the entire business
- Release employees’ full potential
- Secure the product and quality of delivery
- Eliminate unnecessary expenses
Robotics Process Automation (RPA)
Reduction in manual tasks, cost reductions and minimalizing errors
The classic challenges in task automisation are that data is dispersed within many sources and systems, and integration is complex, slow and expensive. RPA software robots automise manual, repetitive tasks, and workflows. With the help of software robots, not only are costs reduced, but at the same time, real time task management is ensured, and there is a guaranteed reduction in manual errors. Automising even small manual tasks adds value, as both errors and cost-to-serve are reduced.
- Reduction in expenses
- Optimised quality and flow
- Improved customer experience
- Employees’ engagement and innovative thinking is stimulated
RPA software robots automise manual, repetitive tasks, and workflows. With the help of software robots, not only are costs reduced, but at the same time, real time task management is ensured, and there is a guaranteed reduction in manual errors. The approach to RPA is naturally connected to the approach to business optimisation and cost reductions. Rolling out RPA is done typically in 8-week sprints, running simultaneously in various development and implementation waves. This ensures fast progress and visible results.
4 very clear RPA benefits
The benefits gained by companies that implement RPA can be divided into different areas:
We operate from a model with 10 attention points, where the focus on processes, organisation, employees and techniques are equally divided. Our customers typically choose to focus on 3-5 attention points in each project.
Service delivery model
Improving productivity, efficiency and quality via systematic optimisation of the overall value chain
Service Delivery Model ensures quality in all the customer’s touch points. It enhances the customer experience through optimal planning of activities, employees, time and competencies. At the same time, the Service Delivery Model forms the basis of a targeted increase in employee competencies.
- Enhanced customer experience through the quality of all the customer’s touch points
- Improved correlation between plans and market activities
- A firm basis for the company’s purposeful efforts to increase competencies
- Improved planning of activities, and employees’ time and competencies
With rising expectations for quicker response times and higher quality of responses to queries and orders, businesses face new demands. Businesses need to forecast their workload, plan operations in detail, improve and systematise performance management, and continuously improve and optimise operations.
Planning schedules for employees and internal activities is essential for ensuring employees are available for customer queries. More must be delivered, quicker, at a better quality standard – and for less money.
The good customer experience is often the result of continuous evaluation and competence-upgrading, as well as improved correlation between plans and market activities, e.g. sales and production meetings. Competence upgrades, combined with the mapping of processes, optimisation and implementation of RPA, provides a guarantee for higher quality and efficiency.
Today, customers’ expectations of response times to enquiries mean that companies need to be more efficient at forecasting and planning for fewer complaints and more positive recognition in their marketplace. There is a directly measurable outcome for such factors as churn, more sales and further upsell, lower cost-to-serve and increased engagement of the employees involved in the improvements. The traditional service is also undergoing reconstruction, so more channels can be utilised to provide customers with the service they expect. Such channels include the telephone, email, chat and social media. Customers expect rapid response times from all channels, and this in turn makes greater demands on the company to plan manpower, and at the same time manage market-driven activities.
Regardless of the size of the company and the customer-oriented functions, there will be a need for planning for both employees, and for the company’s internal functions that affect the employees’ contact with the customer regarding responding to queries.
A critical prerequisite for preparing an exact plan is the company’s ability to predict the cycle from which the contact comes. Such forecasting emerges from data and statistics from years and months back, as well as knowledge about individual employee and process performance.
Historical data and developed statistical models are connected to the customer-oriented functions, which are typically sales and marketing. Consequently, the forecast is fed information pertaining to campaigns and market activities that should lead to an increase in requests. Such knowledge is used for planning and training, and to provide employees with information which will better equip them to guide the customer.
A key method in improving customer experience is to improve the link between employee time schedules and market activities. Establishing sales and production meetings can often help the company on its way to more efficient planning, yet whilst even to a smaller degree, statistical forecasting work should not be neglected. Lacking merely one person within medium-sized customer service functions can mean a decrease of up to 25% in the company’s aim to meet its response time targets.
A precise forecast which is linked to sales and marketing activities, allows the company to be more accurate when devising employee time schedules, as well as plans for internal activities. In this way, all channels can be adequately manned, based on the most critical customer contact times during the day and week.
For following-up and evaluating forecasts and plans, Performance Management and Leadership methods are typically utilised, so the company can continuously improve plans and conform to them. When Workforce Management is correlated with Performance Management, Knowledge Management and employee training, Workforce Management gains positive results from day one.
A whole host of IT systems for improving Workforce Management in companies are available. In our experience, companies can achieve a great deal by utilising datamining and statistical models via ordinary Office tools, and without investing in costly IT systems. It does, however, depend on the size of the service function, how developed it is, and the levels of datamining and planning skills. 4IMPROVE does not work with specific IT solution suppliers, but instead collaborates on requirements, clarifications for the suppliers, and implementation of the selected systems.
Customer experience management
The customer’s traditional decision-making process is undergoing change. New channels, social media and rating sites increasingly showcase the company’s products and processes, and therefore influence the customer’s decision-making processes, as well as the overall experience they have of the company. A good product can no longer compensate for bad experiences with such things as delivery, service and support, invoicing etc. Indeed, today, the product is perceived as the customer’s complete experience of the company over a longer period of time.
The customer’s experience of the company is largely based on emotions rather than purely the physical product, or the dialogue they have with customer services. This emotional experience is the sum of the total input the customer receives about the product and the company, and it comes from the web, social media, friends, family etc.
Companies typically have several people responsible for the end-2-end customer experience. This is frequently the result of divisions in the functional organisation. This division separates managers who are responsible for sales, marketing and customer analyses, customer service and support, product development, web/IT etc. Each department usually has its own goals and incentive schemes based on qualitative evaluations of time, quality, errors etc. This data is not necessarily shared across the organisational boundary lines, and therefore is not used qualitatively to improve the underlying processes across the organisational dividing lines. Consequently, each department may produce acceptable results, but it is possible that the collective customer experience is still well below target.
Harvard Business Review’s survey suggests that up to 70% of customers receive advice from others before buying, 65% of customers research the products thoroughly, and up to 53% of customers comment on a brand or express concern, or even complain about a brand or a product. At the same time, 45% of companies admit to having very limited knowledge or no insight at all into how customers interact digitally with them. Advertising and retail campaigns use up to 90% of marketing expenses, despite the fact that the most important impulse to buy comes from another person’s recommendations.
It is imperative that companies, on a cognitive level, are in the same “place” as consumers. It is vital that the webshop and the physical shops support each other, and not least of all, the different sales and information channels operate in synchrony, so consumers gain a total experience, regardless of which channels they use.
How to work with Customer Journey Experience
Figure 1: Telecommunications company, where the individual areas deliver quality around the 90% mark, but where the overall customer experience is still only 65%.
Figure 2: The merger between webshops and physical stores. Norstat’s analysis is presented on behalf of Dansk Erhverv.
In addition to working on project optimisation and continual improvements, there may also be the need to bring the customer much closer to the processes. This can be done by measuring customer experiences, and engaging in comments and evaluations from rating sites.
When processes are optimised in the course of a Customer Journey, the starting point is the customer and the emotional responses that arise when they are in contact with the company. Emotions emerge during direct contact with the company, through a lack of contact and through indirect contact the customer has with the company on the web, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. This involves a wide group of employees, equally as it involves concepts such as “field study”, “mystery shoppers”, or interviews with selected customer groups.
The aim of the analysis of the customer’s emotions is to identify the situations where the customer feels uncertain, is missing information or cannot interpret the value offers of the company, which inevitably will lead to a lack of satisfaction and a risk of loss of sales or a reduction in loyalty.
When the desired customer experiences have been designed, and the impediments have been identified, the underlying processes can then be optimised, thus increasing efficiency in the processes. Optimisation of the processes in turn improves systems, manual workflows, resources and competences, as well as the applicable organisational and regulatory conditions.
The structure and systematic work involved in optimising the customer experience and the underlying processes and systems provide significant benefits. Apart from increased customer satisfaction, less complaints and better market ratings, there is a directly measurable impact on targets such as churn, additional sales and more upsell, lower cost-2-serve, and an increase in engagement of the employees involved in the improvements.
Structured work on the Customer Journey improves the company’s results. Harvard Business Review and McKinsey & Company
Operating model design
Create a correlation in the business model
- The company’s strategy is executed by employees, and everyone is focused on the most important goals
- Strategic choices are translated into easily-understood priorities that employees can utilise in their daily work
- Improved scalability allows the company to be adaptable to such things as market swings
- Increased efficiency and profitability
Management has an inspiring vision – one where employees possess great knowledge and experience. Nonetheless, many companies experience challenges when attempting to create a correlation between strategy and processes – or between their “WHYs” and “HOWs”. A well-defined Operating Model addresses this dilemma.
The company’s management has set a course through a solid strategy. Employees are the experts in their field and execute these processes with great efficiency. Nonetheless, it is often seen that the company’s strategy is not executed in line with the larger concept, because employees have not understood the strategy in relation to their own daily operations. Thus, their daily job is not aligned with the company strategy. They are missing the connection between “WHY” and “HOW”, and that connection – the company’s “WHAT” – is the Operating Model.
The most important element in designing an Operating Model is establishing solid, specific, strategically-relevant Design Principles. These are the foundation blocks upon which an Operating Model rests. Once the company has succeeded with the foundation, it is most probable that the result is an Operating Model that stands as a lighthouse to guide the employees by illuminating what is most important, and what decisions should be made. If they are designed in the right way, Operating Models are typically very solid constructions, which prove their value for years to come – naturally with some adjustments in line with changes in strategy and circumstances.