Strategy Execution Software helps focus, Focus, FOCUS

Effective strategy execution requires focus. How can software help?

Effective strategy execution needs focus, Focus, FOCUS. How can strategy execution software help?

8th February 2019

Why focus at all?

When we started our journey developing strategy execution software to complement our consulting, we interviewed as many senior executives as we could get access to or had worked with during our previous business transformation project work. We asked them their view on the main challenges of strategy execution in organisations that had worked in.

One executive we spoke to, was an ex-CEO of a multi-national FTSE 100 insurance business with an amazing track record of both personal and professional achievement.

He said to us, "it's very straightforward; strategy execution requires focus, Focus, FOCUS on ruthless execution".

After digging deeper, he meant that one's ability to achieve our objectives is determined by our ability to marshal available resources on the things that are most important. For most organisations, this could be perhaps summarised as:

  • Be clear what you're trying to achieve and by when (clarity of objectives).
  • Focus your key resources on activities that add the most value.
  • Remove low value, distracting activities ruthlessly.
  • Ensure all activities measurably contribute to the desired outcomes and objectives.

These simple statements are easy to write but much harder to do in practice, particularly in large complex organisations where the landscape is frequently changing, politics are at play and individual stakeholder viewpoints need to be frequently reconciled.

However, the organisations and individuals that can get this right, are the ones that achieve many times more than others and that somehow, in the face of adversity, manage to achieve the impossible.

Hard work, dedication and discipline are critical success factors too. Elon Musk's now famous 100 hour working weeks and unnerving ability to continue in the face of difficulty are hallmarks of success, but doing the right things and only the right things are critical. There's little point working 100-hour weeks on the activities that add no value.

It's no wonder, in a recent survey of 400 CEOs, Donald Sull of MIT Sloan School cited Strategy Execution as the number one problem facing Fortune 750 businesses.

Why is focusing important yet difficult?

Research from Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan and others indicates that many strategic projects fail because staff get caught up in the day job, and fail to understand their role in delivery of the strategy. When there's too much going on, staff revert to the day job or what they're most familiar with and lost focus on what's important and why.

Our own observations from working with many organisations, is that there is so much complexity and such a large, complex workload for most, that firstly identifying only the important activities is a huge challenge but having the strength to stop the unimportant activities is even harder.

What are the benefits and outcomes of focusing?

Being able to focus clearly on the things that are important and focus your key resources on them, brings a multitude of benefits not limited to:

  • Productivity and efficiency improvements.
  • These beings financial reward (assuming the strategy is focused on financial outcomes)
  • Improved staff motivation and morale
  • Improved staff engagement.
  • Ability to demonstrate effectiveness.
  • Ability to explain your actions to regulators, peers and leadership.
  • Being able to measurably trace success and data-driven decisions

Perhaps most importantly, it enables what some call alignment between the delivery portfolio and objectives. This means all activities, staff and suppliers are focused solely on the delivery of objectives. There is little or no wasted effort, pet projects or activities which cannot be linked to the desired organisational outcomes.

This leads to the question of how do you find the wasted effort and enable staff to focus on the right things?

How is finding waste and focussing activity traditionally done?

In our experience, traditionally this level of focus is very difficult to achieve, even for the strongest leaders. One of the biggest challenges is identifying which activities add value, by how much and which are not contributing. Stopping the wrong projects is fraught with political difficulty particularly without the ability to objectively measure their contribution to strategic objectives.

Non-contributing activities are bad news for two main reasons. Firstly, the expended cost and time spent. The second, arguably more damaging, is the impact on key resources who spend their time on activities which add little value. The best staff need to work on the most important projects. Not a drop of wasted effort should be spilt.

How can software help?

Given this challenge, how can software playing a role in helping organisations cut through this complexity and focus on what's important and take incremental steps towards the outcomes?

Strategy execution software is newly emerging field of software, which promises to help organisations align their work on what's important and ensure that the benefits of projects and programmes are measurably linked to the objectives and their associated key performance indicators. The very best products help each stakeholder involved in change to focus on their aspect of delivery. This means any wasted effort is minimised, and that each staff member knows what they are delivering and how it fits with the big picture.

The latest software enables the execution planning to be set out clearly and for each staff member to manage delivery by exception when the execution starts to deviate from the desired path. Of course, the very best, most mature organisations can't always plan a strategy completely in advance, so being able to flex and model the strategy dynamically, is critical within software.

Being able to model change and the impact on objectives on the organisation before making large, risky investments is hugely powerful and helps discussion and agreement between leaders.

As the category of strategy execution software becomes mainstream for high performing organisations, we hope leaders can take advantage of this capability to really focus on their objectives and to provide the insight about where effort is wasted.

Refining the ability to focus strategically has huge top and bottom-line advantages that should transform the fortunes of leadership teams and the organisations they work in.

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5 tips to use strategy execution software effectively

5 tips to use strategy execution software effectively

5 tips to use strategy execution software effectively

16th January 2019

Strategy execution software is a new and emerging category of software which has traditionally been served well by leading consulting firms and now offers an exciting new way of driving your objectives.
In this short article, we will explore what strategy execution software offers and how customers can get the very best out of strategy execution products to achieve their objectives faster and more effectively.
What is strategy execution software and what can it do for me?
There are many forms of strategy execution software, but at their heart, good strategy execution products are focused on ensuring their users can deliver their objectives faster and more effectively. In doing so, they aim to improve both top and bottom line business performance by focussing effort on the right activities and reducing (or ideally removing ) wasted effort.
The very best products both align your objectives to new and existing delivery activities and identify gaps between leadership team expectations of outcomes and delivery reality both at planning time and during delivery.
This helps to ensure that the activities and delivery plans you are already or planning to invest in, can really meet the objectives of the organisation long before the heartbreak occurs and any significant damage is done.
Strategy execution journey
A common first reaction we experience from new clients when demonstrating strategy execution software for the first time is that they aren't yet mature enough to get the best from the software, even though they can see the clear potential and power of the approach.
Experience shows that organisations that are even starting to develop capability and maturity in strategic alignment planning can still get great benefits from strategy execution software by taking an iterative approach to improvement. Focusing on a few key areas that can provide the biggest benefit and will achieve the most significant improvements is a good way to start and can have a powerful impact.
We recommend the following tips and ideas to organisations who are starting on out on this journey from our experience.


Tip 1 : Focus on execution changes that have the biggest immediate impact
It might sound obvious, but many customers already know the areas that are affecting their ability to execute their strategy well. This range from an inability to align delivery activities to the strategy, or a lack of accountability/ownership or failure to properly map and track benefits of projects and programmes to strategic objectives.
We would recommend selecting one or two areas that will have the biggest change impact on the way you deliver and select a product that enables you to start modestly.
Don't try to solve everything in one go.


Tip 2 : Take an objectives-first view of execution
Starting with the end in mind is a great place to begin your journey. Ensure there is absolute clarity on the objectives you are trying to achieve and how you intend to measure their performance. It is common to find differences of opinion at senior levels of the organisation about what the objectives are and how they will be measured through wide ranging key performance indicators at the early stages of planning.
Once the objectives have been written down and agreed, then make the assessment of how well the delivery portfolio (existing and new projects and programmes) actually supports the objectives. The best way to do this in our experience, is to assess the benefits and outcomes of each initiative, programme or project and marry the planned benefits to the objectives.  When there is clear and measurable consistency between both, there is a good fit. It is also possible to look from objectives downward to the delivery activity to identify gaps in expectation between delivery projects supporting objectives.
Where there are measurable differences, this could be due to a number of reasons. Either the initiatives are enablers and are needed to support support other initiatives which have their own benefits, they could be compliance projects. Alternatively, they are initiatives where the benefits cannot be attributed to strategic objectives and therefore make candidates to consider culling and cost reduction.


Tip 3: Focus on modest process improvement
It is well documented, but software alone is rarely enough to change business practices. The common mantra is that lasting change involves, people, process and technology. However, software should be a catalyst to driving new ways of working.
We recommend focus on the key individuals and processes where modest changes using strategy execution software will bring the biggest benefit. These might include changes to the way projects are governed once live, or potential the way in which new ideas are approved as projects to ensure they align to objectives.
When changing processes, it's a good idea to assign someone influential as the change leader who is enthusiastic and motivated in ensuring the new process and ways of working take hold.
Tip 4: Drive from the top
As with tip 2 planning delivery activity from objectives is very powerful. Driving the use of strategy execution software from the leadership team is also a compelling way of driving behaviour through the organisation. This might mean starting with a single leadership team member who is enthusiastic and supportive of strategy execution and their team.
Effective strategy execution software should bring about such a powerful and common-sense approach to planning, that once there is one part of the organisation using the approach it should start to drive adoption more widely. It always helps to have a real-world example where the software and process is working well and driving meaningful change.
Tip 5: Trust the data
Once the data is up to date and the software is being used to monitor the strategy execution, one of the biggest steps is to use the product consistently and trust the data. It is very easy for project and programme managers to try to overrule software by thinking they know best and fall back in to old ways of working.
The benefits of becoming a truly data-driven organisation are huge in both efficiency and ability to scale. This means letting go and trusting what the products and data are telling you.
This requires a mind-set shift which is one of the hardest to aspects change, but over time, with experience and more use, this should become second nature and the huge benefits of using rich strategy execution software can be achieved.

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Shapecast G-cloud approval

G-Cloud 10 approval

Published Date  29th June 2018
For the third year in a row, Shapecast have been awarded G-Cloud status as a cloud software and services provider.

We offer two cloud software based solutions in the market place.
The first is a cloud-based strategy execution solution which allows leadership teams to build, track and analyse complete strategic execution plans from their objectives-first. This solution includes both the cloud software and the professional services required to work with clients to capture, clean and load the initial data and training for clients to be fully self-sufficient and to manage strategy execution themselves.

Strategy Execution Solution

This solution can be used to manage any type of strategy, ranging from tracking organisational strategy where the executive leadership team are the stakeholder, through to specific types of strategic change including digital strategy transformation or very specific regulatory changes such as the upcoming GDPR regulatory changes which affect every organisation. In each case, the solution provides an incredible platform to fully track and manage all aspects through strategic change, providing personalised, real time dashboards for everyone across the organisation and extremely powerful reporting showing where execution is blocked and why.

Cloud Migration Solution

The second offering is a cloud migration tool for IT leaders. This newly released product captures your existing on-premise IT services through automated discovery. It then uses this information to analyse and match equivalent services and their costs in each of the leading cloud providers side by side. We currently support Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google, Rackspace, Fujitsu K5 and Oracle.
This solution allows IT leaders to get an accurate forecast of specifically what servers and services to procure in each of the providers to support both business case generation and the detailed process of planning migrations.
The tool supports both multi-cloud (choosing different cloud providers for different environments) and hybrid-cloud (some services remaining on-premise whilst others move to cloud).
Once a specific provider has been selected the tool generates a detailed human migration plan and accurate costs of migration based on a real time view of market resources.
This allows leaders to accurate model the real total cost of ownership and migration to cloud.

To arrange a consultation with us go to

Shapecast-Brexit partners partnership

Shapecast & Brexit Partners join forces

Shapecast, the leading provider of data-driven business change solutions and Brexit Partners, a specialist Brexit strategy advisory firm that guides governments, industries and corporates through the transition process as the UK exits the EU, have today announced a partnership.

Brexit Partners is comprised of experts spanning business transformation, corporate finance, legal, regulatory, risk management, public policy, marketing and human resources with Shapecast core services focusing around strategy execution planning, operating model design and IT/Digital architecture transformation.

Shapecast’s bespoke analytical strategy execution and data-driven planning and execution capability is a perfect fit with Brexit Partners targeted methodologies, focused on understanding the Brexit impact in organisations that have yet to come up with a continuity or strategic action plan to deal with the anticipated business challenges pre and post Brexit. This new partnership will ensure even the most complex of initiatives will be evaluated, delegated, tracked and delivered ensuring the outcomes required.

Dr. Ray Nulty, Managing Partner at Brexit Partners comments:

"Far too many organisations are uncertain and confused about what they should be doing to address Brexit. Much of this is driven by lack of progress in the negotiation process between the EU and UK. Additionally, firms have other priorities which are much more tangible. Despite the ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty around Brexit, Britain’s departure from the EU is almost a year away. Many organisations are ill prepared for both Brexit and the transition period (assuming a deal is reached)."

"We are delighted to partner with Shapecast. We believe it will be an important solution in helping our mutual clients manage the complexities, risks and indeed opportunities presented by Brexit.  We are confident that Shapecast will be a worthwhile investment for any firm looking to protect revenues and address the considerable time, effort and cost challenges associated with Brexit."

Will Barnett, Managing Director at Shapecast says:

"We are delighted to be partnering with Brexit Partners. Our mix of analytics, change and planning solutions will augment Brexit Partners’ insight, who’s work in the lead up to the UK’s exit from the EU is of critical importance for organisations that are still caught in the pre-Brexit assessment stage. Together, we can help our clients assess the detail of the strategies they need to overcome the challenges and take advantage of the post-Brexit economy."

Shapecast white paper

Data-driven business change

Data-driven business change

22nd January 2018

This white paper is for business leaders,both technical and non-technical. It provides information on what is data-driven business change and planning, why it differs from traditional methods and the major benefits it provides. 

It then goes on to provide some methods and approaches for how you can implement data-driven business change in your own organisation and what you need to be successful. 

Download whitepaper