Excel and PowerPoint are great tools, but do they offer the versatility, collaboration and security upon which you can deploy, manage and optimise your strategy? The answer is no, and as agile working becomes the norm, and we seek the benefits it brings, it’s time to reconsider what your organisation uses.
Written by: Sophie Gentile, Solution Consultant
Within businesses, traditional Microsoft Office tools like Excel and PowerPoint have their place. However, 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.
This article covers the pros and cons of traditional tools such as spreadsheets and slide decks vs Strategy Execution software. You may walk away feeling that traditional tools suit you just fine, or it might be enough food for thought to change your mindset…
My tale of traditional strategy, tracking and continuous improvement tools
I wanted to begin by sharing a story which 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 numerous 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 was wasted.
All I ask is that you keep this tale 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 building, deploying, tracking and continuously improving your strategy and operations 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 organisations, at a seemingly cost-effective licence fee.
- Do traditional tools provide a centralised location to safeguard and drive your Strategy Execution?
- Do Excel and PowerPoint foster collaboration, communication and alignment?
- Can you extract relevant data and condense it into an intuitive, graphical representation of your strategic or initiative performance to date – with ease?
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, project portfolio execution and metrics 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 rotate an 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 resource to sink your teeth into:
- Strategic business plan templates (beginner friendly)
- Strategic vision builder template
- X Matrix template
- Bowling Chart (Hoshin Kanri/Policy Deployment friendly)
- OKR template (Start-up / < 25 employees friendly)
- Improvement prioritisation matrix 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, enterprise organisations must 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, organisation 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 organisation 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 organisation 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 and SMEs.
If, however, your organisation staffs over 500 employees, with considerable revenue each year, and countless initiatives across multiple sites and organisation levels, 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.