Do Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Projects really give you the functionality to plan, execute, and track your strategic plan, manage goals, and succeed? As hybrid working and agile principles bleed into the world of strategic planning and execution, it’s time to reconsider what your organization is using to execute strategy.
Written by: Sophie Gentile, Solution Consultant
Within every business, Microsoft Office tools like Excel, PowerPoint, and Word have their place.
So too Microsoft Projects and project management software.
But, when user errors are a constant hurdle, and you have multiple data sets to contend with, plus the fate of your strategy is in the head of the ‘spreadsheet specialist’, surely that’s enough to reconsider their use.
Today we're exploring the pros and cons of using spreadsheets and slide decks to execute your strategy, and, importantly, how they stack up against Strategy Execution software. You may leave feeling that traditional tools suit you just fine, or it might be enough food for thought to change your mindset…
My story of using Excel and PowerPoint for Strategy Execution
I wanted to begin by sharing a story that I know will likely ring true for you based on my experience.
I have a love/hate relationship with MS Excel.
In a previous role, I was responsible for creating an overall project document, using Excel.
I tried to save the document onto a shared drive. After countless attempts, I gave up and saved it to my desktop. Little did I know, I would later regret this decision.
A few days later, I tried to turn my laptop on and thought the battery had died because it would not switch on. I stopped by the office, tried again, but to no avail.
Panic started to set in, so I contacted our IT department and the words that followed filled me with dread…”we need to rebuild your hard drive.”
I felt a warm glow rise in my cheeks. Hours of work creating an entire project plan were wasted.
All I ask is that you keep that in mind.
Are we too comfortable with Excel and PowerPoint?
Usage rates suggest yes. In the United States alone, 60% of businesses rely on spreadsheets. Conversely, only 21% of businesses are looking at other software solutions.
You likely fall into the 60%. Why? Because if it isn’t broken, why fix it, right? Or, perhaps it’s challenging the norm, or simply being unaware of a world of solutions out there for your Strategy Execution.
Stop, read these stats and ask whether traditional tools still have a place in planning, executing, and tracking your strategic plans and operational efforts with:
- 88% of spreadsheets contain formula errors
- 93% of spreadsheet users find it inadequate for managing and tracking plans
- One wrong keystroke can cost millions – ask Fidelity’s Magellan Fund
If your strategy rests upon a spreadsheet that is prone to human error, that truly isn’t a solid foundation.
The cost argument
Excel, PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Sheets etc. – they’re bread and butter tools with generational buy-in, commonplace in organizations, at a seemingly cost-effective license fee.
- Do traditional tools provide a centralized location to safeguard and drive your Strategy Execution?
- Does Microsoft Projects allow you to use standard templates and processes with your projects and show how they connect to your strategic goals?
- Do Excel and PowerPoint allow you to collaborate and align your team's efforts to your strategy's goals?
- Can you get real insights from your data that allow you to act fast, and act with confidence?
Indeed, you may still sit in the camp where cost is the bottom line. If so, that’s fine. As your business grows, the need for an enterprise-level system to manage your strategy increases.
And, if at present, your data is poorly managed and inaccessible, even with errors limited to the smallest of statistical risks, alarm bells should be ringing. Price will be important, so do take the time to understand how much your strategy software may cost.
Excel templates for strategic planning, projects, and performance management
Knowing you could ask a member of your team to jump into your strategy spreadsheet and pull together a presentation in PowerPoint on your current performance is a major plus.
But can they demonstrate the overlapping layers of dependencies between objectives, resources, and goals across corporate, functional, plant, and product line level, such as with our X-Matrix?
Do they have the skills to know how a rotation can change the output of the cells on a tab, and that it’s because the data that sits within that very cell is populated by a formula on another page? Confused?
Keep in mind that there is a difference between skilled and ‘casual’ users of Office applications. If you do have those skills, and budget is a concern, there’s a plethora of resources to sink your teeth into:
- Strategic planning templates
- Strategic vision builder template
- X Matrix template
- Bowling Chart (Hoshin Kanri/Policy Deployment friendly)
- OKR template (Start-up / < 25 employees friendly)
- Improvement prioritization matrix template
- Project Charter DMAIC template
- Balanced Scorecard template
- KPI tracking template
- Performance management reporting template
And the alternative? To reduce the risks around unsecured, disconnected, and time-consuming strategy, goal, and performance management, it pays to consider an all-in-one Strategy Execution solution.
The case for Strategy Execution Management software
When a strategy must be built, deployed through hundreds of initiatives, containing a long list of KPIs and is actioned daily by thousands of staff, the case for a traditional-tool lead approach is quickly discredited.
a) Why there’s a need for the solution
Enter enterprise strategy software, and the evident case to leave the planning of the 90s firmly behind:
- Strategy execution mature organizations are conscious of the need for a well-oiled, intuitive deployment and management of their strategy and initiatives, which are fine-tuned with continuous improvement
- Great resource goes into developing a vision and strategy, the same due care is needed for setting your goals, the initiatives to achieve them, and tracking their progress
- Standalone, organization-wide projects require the c-suite to look beyond separate systems like BaseCamp and Power BI to a more complete, collaborative solution
b) The benefits of an all-in-one Strategy Execution solution
The question really needs to be asked about the benefits of an all-in-one solution. We know that Excel and PowerPoint aren’t right for your strategic management, so what is?
If you’ve got this far into your research, you’ll know your company needs a solution which:
- Offers a single source of truth for strategy execution
- Enables strategic goal cascade at all levels within a global matrix
- Drives long-term strategic initiatives and continuous improvement
- Supports performance management progress and outcomes through facts and data
- Easily integrates with your existing platforms and data sources
- Is based on a secure private SaaS infrastructure
c) How to achieve buy-in
The disconnect between boardroom strategy and the ‘nuts and bolts’ activity of Project Management teams within an organization can be a critical weakness in strategy execution.
From an overview of the value of Strategy Execution software to the support that i-nexus provides your organization in implementing the platform, including the best-in-class WalkMe™ adoption system, book a demo today with a member of our team.
Are spreadsheets and slide decks right for your strategy?
There are plenty of advantages to continuing the use of Microsoft and Google’s spreadsheets and presentations. With an array of free templates, training, and familiarity, they’re a great fit for start-ups.
But, if your organization is looking to create a coherent strategic plan which is meaningfully linked to your team's goals and daily work, with the ability to connect multiple plans, and report with the click of a button (not countless hours), there's a good chance that leaving your strategy to the fate of the Excel and PowerPoint Gods may be a risk that you can’t afford to make.
The decision is yours.
Want to learn about how i-nexus can support your Strategy Execution?
To learn how the i-nexus platform can help your business address its challenges, be that with transformation projects, driving continuous improvement, or increasing clarity of portfolio performance to support management meetings, watch our on-demand demo by clicking below.
And what’s next on your Strategy Execution journey?
Click here to visit our Strategy Execution Management knowledge hub, filled with content to support you in embracing the 'no normal' of strategy in the 2020s and beyond, or explore these recommendations:
- How to get your strategy to play ball with the catchball process: Great strategies make use of the catchball process. Here’s what that means and how you can integrate it.
- How AI and machine-assisted learning will help your Strategy Execution: As Artificial Intelligence becomes a mainstay in our lives, read how AI and machine-assisted learning will evolve to support your Strategy Execution.
- Plotting a course for business transformation: As markets become hyper-competitive, transformation is crucial for success; these are the trends you need to follow in 2020.
About the author
Sophie Gentile is i-nexus’ Solution Consultant. Her background covers 16 years in Financial Services, providing a wealth of passion and knowledge of the benefits of Strategy Execution software, only matched by her love for lean methodology and continuous improvement.