Strategic Planning Software – What Exactly Is It?

Here at Cascade, we pretty much live and breathe strategy. It’s our core currency, and without strategy our strategic planning/execution software platform wouldn’t need to exist. Because we’re in deep, it’s easy to forget that the majority of people don’t know what strategic planning software is! As one of the most popular platforms out there, we figured it was part of our responsibility to explain exactly what it is, what it does, and why you might need it.

Before we go in-depth about the features and benefits of strategy software though, it’s more useful if we first look at some common business problems faced by organizations all over the world. We’ve worked with over a thousand organizations, providing a platform for them to successfully create and execute strategy. So, it’s fair to say we’ve seen our fair share of strategies. We’ve also seen where things go wrong, how this impacts organizations, and why so many keep making the same mistakes.

Common Business Problems

From speaking with clients, the broader strategy community, and conducting our own research, certain organizational issues keep making their way into discussions. We’ve summarised 7 of the most common strategy/business problems we’ve heard in the statements below. Some of these may sound very familiar to you. Perhaps you’re experiencing this in your current organization, or remember the frustration of experiencing this at a previous company. We heard you say:

My organization often wastes time, effort, and resources because there is duplication of goals/projects across different departments, due to organizational silos.
strategic-planning-software

Objectives and goals in my organization often fall off track due to a lack of ownership and accountability.
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My organization struggles to get everyone on the same page about our key business objectives, and the goals and projects that will achieve them, due to poor communication and transparency.
strategic-planning-software

I struggle to quickly and easily report on the progress of business objectives, goals and projects.
strategic-planning-software

My organization often struggles to keep progress on track for key business objectives, projects and goals.
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I don’t have a clear understanding of whether our strategy is working, and the actual progress we have made on key business objectives.
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My organization’s strategy often becomes an afterthought as people go back to business as usual, because they are not bought in to the strategy.

The Strategy Cycle

Believe it or not, all the problems mentioned above arise from a breakdown in a phase of the strategy cycle. Here at Cascade, we view the strategic planning and execution process as a cycle that moves between planning, managing, and tracking your strategy. We call this the ‘strategy cycle’. Your organization should constantly be revisiting each stage, as strategy is an ongoing and iterative journey. To help give you a visual idea of how we view the strategy cycle, we’ve created an infographic below.

strategic-planning-software
Now that we have a better understanding of the phases of the strategy cycle, we can begin to see where in the process each of the business problems may arise.

Plan

In the planning phase of the strategy cycle, the key actions that need attention include scanning your organization’s environment, creating your strategic plan, and cascading that plan throughout the organization, by working with the different managers and teams to create the projects, goals, and initiatives that will achieve the strategic objectives. The problems you may face in this phase of the cycle include, though are by no means limited to:

  • Objectives and goals in my organization often fall off track due to a lack of ownership and accountability.

Manage

In the manage phase of the strategy cycle, organizations will need to actually implement their strategic plan by communicating the strategy to everyone involved, and ensuring they’re all on the same page, as well as undertake the actual execution of the strategy. The problems you may face in this phase of the cycle include:

  • My organization often wastes time, effort, and resources because there is duplication of goals/projects across different departments, due to organizational silos.
  • My organization struggles to get everyone on the same page about our key business objectives, and the goals and projects that will achieve them, due to poor communication and transparency.
  • My organization’s strategy often becomes an afterthought as people go back to business as usual, because they are not bought in to the strategy.

Track

The track phase of the cycle does not begin once manage has finished, instead, these two phases work in unison. For ease of consumption, we break manage and track into distinct phases to help you understand what’s involved in each. The track phase involves tracking and reporting on the progress of your strategy as well as analyzing results. The problems you may face in this phase of the cycle include:

  • I struggle to report on the progress of business objectives, goals and projects.
  • My organization often struggles to keep progress on track for key business objectives, projects and goals.
  • I don’t have a clear understanding of whether our strategy is working, and the actual progress we have made on key business objectives.

Before you start executing your strategy, claim your FREE 14 day trial of Cascade

Cascade is the complete strategy execution platform and will help you to execute your strategy and much more. Easy to use, incredibly powerful and trusted by some of the largest (and smallest) brands in the world. Pricing starts at $29 per month

Strategic Planning Software

Strategic planning/execution software should help you solve issues in each of the strategy phases mentioned above. Whilst different platforms will have different features, the one thing they should all have in common is this fundamental principle:

Strategy isn’t a thing that you do in addition to running your business. It is your business. Every single KPI, project and task that you undertake should have a clear link back to your strategy. The organizations who succeed are the ones who take this principle to the heart of their existence.

Using our problem statements again, let’s look at how the features in strategic planning/execution software can resolve these issues.

1. PLAN

No surprises here, but strategic planning/execution software should give you a really easy and flexible way to create a strategic plan. You’ll want to experiment with a few different frameworks in the tool to figure out which works best for your organization. You’ll use the tool to put together the different layers of your strategic plan, starting with high-level goals and then getting down to the ‘how’. A typical strategic plan will consist of focus areas, objectives, KPIs and projects (with tasks to indicate what has to happen to get them all done). Strategy software doesn’t usually help you come up with the actual strategy (though a few have tools to help you do this). That bit needs to come from you!

So how does strategic planning/execution software tackle the actual problems in the statements we mentioned earlier?

Objectives and goals in my organization often fall off track due to a lack of ownership and accountability.

Strategy software will allow you to connect each and every project, KPI, and task in your organization with an owner. This person’s name will then be displayed attached to the KPI or project in all kinds of reporting, from dashboards to snapshots. This ensures the ownership is clear, and the owner is held accountable for progress.

Tools you’ll replace:
PowerPoint, Excel

2. MANAGE

Once you have a strategic plan, you’ll need a set of tools to deliver and execute on the different components. These tools exist today in the form of project management tools, goal management systems, and even task managers. The difference with a strategic planning/execution software platform is that they’re all housed in one system. You’ll also have the ability to directly link them back to the outcomes in your strategic plan.

Again, how does strategy software tackle the problem statements we mentioned earlier?

My organization often wastes time, effort, and resources because there is duplication of goals/projects across different departments, due to organizational silos.

Strategic planning/execution software includes features such as emails, mentions, notifications, file uploads, and virtual teams to encourage and promote cross-functional communication and kill organizational silos.

Our company struggles to get everyone on the same page about our key business objectives, and the goals and projects that will achieve them, due to poor communication and transparency.

In addition to the features mentioned above, export features that allow instant PDF and CSV views of the strategic plan are generally a part of strategy software. This combination of features can be utilized to improve organizational communication and transparency.

My organization’s strategy often becomes an afterthought as people go back to business as usual, because they are not bought in to the strategy.

Getting your people bought into your strategy is a big part of making the strategy actually succeed. While not exclusively solved by communicating your plan, we have found however that organizations who put a real emphasis on communicating their strategic plan to everyone, have much higher rates of engagement with strategy. Strategy software that allows you to easily share and communicate your strategy is a great tools to achieve organizational buy-in.

Tools you’ll replace:
MS Project, Excel, Basecamp, Asana, Trello

3. TRACK

Tracking whether or not your plan is working is paramount to success, and a good strategic planning/execution software platform will deliver a range of reporting tools.

Typically those tools will include high level reports of how the components of your plan are “moving the needle” against your strategic outcomes. You should also have access to more detailed reporting tools that allow you drill into specific projects. Ideally you will also be able to create drag-and-drop dashboards to avoid the need to create PowerPoint presentations.

I struggle to report on the progress of business objectives, goals and projects.

With snapshot reports at the click of a button and real-time data on your dashboards, strategy software gives you all the tools to make reporting a breeze.

My organization often struggles to keep progress on track for key business objectives, projects and goals.

A key part of keeping on top of your progress, is understanding where you currently are and where you need to be. Strategy software will usually encompass real time data and easy-to-use visualizations, which makes staying on top of progress a whole lot easier.

I don’t have a clear understanding on whether our strategy is working, and the actual progress we have made on key business objectives.

Employing strategic planning/execution software will mean you’ll never have this thought again, as the suite of reporting tools will allow you to visualize and understand exactly where you are, where you need to be, and whether what you’re doing is working.

Tools you’ll replace:
PowerPoint, Microsoft Power BI, SharePoint

Need Strategic Planning Software?

All of the strategic planning/execution software platforms offer slightly different things. However, the best should provide functionality in all three areas above, and ideally more. We’re extremely proud of our own platform Cascade and would love for you to give it a spin with a free 14 day trial. But, here’s a list of other strategic planning/execution software platforms from the comparison site Capterra, to help you figure out which one best meets your needs.

Before you start executing your strategy, claim your FREE 14 day trial of Cascade

Cascade is the complete strategy execution platform and will help you to execute your strategy and much more. Easy to use, incredibly powerful and trusted by some of the largest (and smallest) brands in the world. Pricing starts at $29 per month

Showing 2 comments
  • andrew kanyike bulwaanyi
    Reply

    what i have realized is that we learn form mistakes and more often from our wiknesesim learning every time you send an email thanks and keep in touch

    • Maddy Mirkovic
      Reply

      Hi Andrew, glad to hear you’re finding our emails and content useful! A lot more to come.

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