The Art of the One-Page Strategy

July 13, 2021

Contributor: Kasey Panetta

Bring IT strategy to life with storytelling that shows how IT contributes to business success — and sets the stage for developing an equally clear one-page strategic plan.

Fit organizations — those that perform well in any market condition — distinguish themselves in part because they are great at creating, articulating and executing strategy in a way that maximizes results. CIOs, for their part, have to help the enterprise understand how information and technology enable business capabilities that drive business success.

“CIOs can generate more impact by using storytelling to demonstrate how their strategies fuel business growth,” says Heather Colella, Vice President Analyst, Gartner. “Storytelling captures the adaptive nature of great strategy and helps organizations quickly determine priorities and investments. From a one-page story to a one-page strategic plan, the narrative evolves from idea to action.”

Download now: Your one-page IT strategy template and guide

Storytelling also helps CIOs to avoid the age-old trap of focusing on strategy documents — lengthy, technical documents that are rarely used in practice. Storytelling helps CIOs and IT leaders to engage business leaders in strategic business conversation by visualizing the business model in a way that can be easily shared for collaboration across the enterprise.

Craft your strategy story in 4 steps

In 1967, Rollin Kin and Herb Kelleher drew a triangle on a napkin. At each point was a city: Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. The two men created a vision for a low-cost commuter airline moving passengers between the three cities. And so Southwest Airlines was born, alongside a new industry for low-cost air transportation.

Capture your enterprise story on one page by using a four-step approach.

Step 1: Know how you succeed

Creating a strategy begins with an understanding of the Value Disciplines model created by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, authors of the Discipline of Market Leaders. Successful companies differentiate themselves in one of three ways:

  • Customer intimacy: Making money by understanding customer wants and needs better than any competitor 
  • Operational excellence: Optimizing the supply chain to provide quality products and services at low prices
  • Product leadership: Becoming industry product leaders through innovation 

Step 2: Understand your differentiators

Knowing which approach your company uses serves as a lens to focus the strategic decisions and investments to be made. For example, a product leader would invest more heavily in innovation processes and ensuring the company gets product to market before the competition. 

Step 3: Develop a rich story from a specific viewpoint 

Select a viewpoint and tell the story of your strategy from that position. For example: 

  • Stakeholder view. Identify all stakeholders in the story: from employees delivering service to customers receiving products and services. Tell the story from the perspective of each of these stakeholders.
  • Tell a product story. Use an image of the customer or product in the center of the page and speak to what you need to do as a company for your customer to be happy or your product to be successful.
  • Tell a process story. Identify the top five to seven core business processes that, when optimized, will achieve business success. Identify the capabilities created by the process for that success to be delivered.

Step 4: Draw a picture to commit your strategy to paper

Remember, this is an iterative process that should be revisited and changed as necessary.

For example, using the illustration shown, this process-driven strategy highlights a three- to six-year plan for a new CIO.

  • Years 1 – 2 (the base): Invest in IT, creating a platform from which future growth can be enabled.
  • Years 3 – 4: Remove duplication and complexity from the business processes.
  • Years 5 – 6: Grow the business by creating value-added solutions for customers.

The Art of the One Page Strategy

Translate the strategy story into a strategic plan

By capturing the strategy in a way that makes it easier to communicate and engage with business leaders, IT leaders can close the strategy-to-execution gap by developing a strategic plan that specifically defines the roadmap of initiatives and portfolio of investments required to execute on the strategy. 

The strategic plan can also be captured on one page, providing IT leaders with an effective tool to summarize, visualize and communicate the link between the strategy and the strategic plan.

The one-page IT strategic plan summarizes the key inputs and connects these to the key sections of the strategic plan output.

Three foundational elements of any strategic plan are:

  • Business objectives: Profitable growth, operational excellence, customer experience and compliance excellence 
  • Business capabilities: Expected to drive business outcomes; in practice, one capability is likely to drive more than one business objective
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): Used to gauge whether you are delivering on the outcomes

Then create a roadmap for deploying each enabling capability and initiative, and a tracker of cross-enterprise dependencies and risks.

 

This article has been updated from an earlier version, published in April 2019, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

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