In our last blog, we discussed how the Star Model of communication means strategic business roadmaps can be shared across the enterprise to support value-oriented decision making. By consolidating various roadmaps with a strategy matrix, organizations can identify critical dependencies and make the right decisions for the project portfolio that put strategy execution front and center.
Once projects are chosen, the next step—which, surprisingly, can be the most difficult—is orchestrating the work. It’s not about a lack of ability to execute; it’s about execution disciplines that prevent things from getting done quickly.
Over-allocation is the enemy of execution
Creating strategic business roadmaps and comparing possible investments across roadmaps primarily involves senior management. The execution phase, on the other hand, is largely in the hands of directors, product owners, PMOs, project managers, and program managers. This is where we most often see an over-commitment of resources that annihilates timelines and obstructs strategy execution.
There are three reasons a strategic business roadmap can be a lifesaver for keeping projects on track. First, it helps others visualize the trade-offs that can help them achieve their own goals. Second, it highlights the time sensitivity of the problem you’re working to solve. Third, it enables you to make your point in value-oriented terms that can’t be ignored.
As we touched on in part 1 of this series, strategic business roadmaps do NOT need to be complicated. In fact, the less in-the-weeds you can go, the better. You simply want to lay out the desired business outcomes and the earliest date they can realistically be delivered.
If your organization hasn’t adopted this form of planning yet, don’t let that stand in your way. Quickly sketch your own roadmap on a scrap piece of paper or the back of an envelope, and you’ll already be ahead of the curve.
The power of hard numbers
Let’s walk through an example. During a daily check-in, you find out that two out of your four team members are being pulled in other directions: one has been asked to work on another project for the next three days while the project’s product owner needs to prioritize some critical commitments with his “day job.”
While you’d normally try to work around missing team members, this is not the first time this has happened. Now, you’re starting to worry about meeting your deadline to deliver the project in 3 months. That’s the time to get out your strategic roadmap.
Your project is to deliver a pre-shopping cart page that automatically offers companion products for a customer’s purchase at a slight discount. The salespeople believe this will increase revenue instantly by 5%.
By using the numbers in the business case, you calculate that a delay in the project will cost the company $50k per day to start. We can also assume those costs will compound given that sales are expected to grow as a percentage. Additionally, your project is just the first in a long line of projects designed to increase customer engagement. If your project is delayed, the next three will be delayed as well, and the cumulative missed revenue will multiply.
Having this information in front of you makes it so much easier to negotiate. Let’s say that when you talk to the production manager that stole one of your team members, he tells you there’s a bug in the sales app, and since your team member wrote the code, he should be the one to fix it. Now, you get to ask if fixing that bug is worth $50k a day to the company. Numbers like that are much harder to ignore than you simply saying I need my team member back.
Next, when you talk to your product owner, you find out he’s overallocated between his “day job” and your project. By sharing the numbers with his manager, you can prove that it would be more beneficial to the company to hire a contractor to reduce your product owner’s workload so he can focus on your project.
Working towards a shared goal
Will having a strategic business roadmap mean negotiations work out this easily every time? Of course not. You’re always going to have to contend with internal politics and egos.
Roadmaps will never replace having a great relationship with your project sponsor or the people in areas of the company that you frequently interact with. There’s no replacing a strong network.
However, the strategic roadmap helps alleviate some of the pressure on those personal relationships. It’s no longer about asking your connections to do you a favor; it’s about being able to accurately represent how your project supports the goal of the enterprise and truly moves the progress needle in a significant way.