Strategic Initiative Portfolio: Guide to Effective Analysis and Reporting
On average, only 1 out of 7 initiatives generate the expected value and are aligned with the strategy. Do you know their efficiency as a portfolio? Your organization’s initiatives are no longer applicable to the reality or environment that surrounds it?
A formal initiative management and implementation process ensures that these are aligned with your company’s strategic objectives and that the value each one of them generates is being maximized.
First of all, by "initiative" we refer to a set of closely related projects that consist of activities with definite durations and that are designed with the specific goal of achieving a strategic objective. Ideally, they are funded through “Stratex” (Strategic Expenditures), a budget line specially intended to be invested in strategic projects. Furthermore, initiatives have an inherent value on their own, as well as an aggregated value as components of a bigger portfolio that, in turn, supports a strategic objective.
How to Manage Your Strategic Initiative Portfolio
In order to identify and manage your initiative portfolio efficiently, we recommend following the next four steps:
1. Collect and select proposals for initiatives
2. Evaluate and prioritize proposals
3. Plan and approve their implementation
4. Establish a follow-up and continual improvement mechanism for your initiative portfolio
This last step, the follow-up and continual improvement mechanism, undeniably presents one of the most complex challenges for executives. This step is not only crucial to know the portfolio’s exact status, but also provides the executive team a dynamic assessment of the cost/benefit that each initiative entails and how they impact the available resources.
To prevent the company from funding obsolete or unprofitable initiatives, it is necessary to have timely and high-quality information, enabling managers to make informed decisions regarding their investments. Priority should be given to those initiatives that promise higher strategic returns, as every investment implies an opportunity cost.
Having regular meetings to review the initiatives’ process helps keep track of the costs and benefits they generate, as well as of the obstacles and strategic changes the organization faces. It also allows the company to take advantage of opportunities as they arise in the market, as the reunions generate discussion forums where the initiative portfolio may be modified as seen fit. It is recommended therefore that these reunions take place at least once a semester.
Initiative Portfolio Management and Strategy Review Meetings
The follow-up and continual improvement process would ideally a component of the Strategic Review Meetings. This process would consist of four steps:
1. Collect all the information that pertains to the initiative, for example: progress of the execution of macro-activities, deviations from the budget, etc.
2. Create a document that allows for the analysis of the initiative’s performance during the specified time frame, along with specific recommendations for each initiative.
3. Have the Initiative Portfolio Review meeting
4. Execute a management process that allows the executive team to communicate to the rest of the company their decisions regarding the initiatives that will be continued, those that will be cancelled and new ones that shall be implemented.
The monthly Initiative Portfolio Analysis Document
For the second step, executives need to put together a series of Initiative Portfolio Analysis documents that must be revised periodically. These consist of two sections: a summary and the detail of each initiative. These, in turn, are organized by strategic theme.
Among the aspects that may be included in the initiative’s summary are its progress, budget, deviation from budget, as well as its expected and actual return on investment. Its status may also be color-coded according to the Balanced Scorecard’s common practices.
Similarly, the detailed view includes its qualitative analysis, the progress of its macro-activities, as well as recommendations regarding the initiatives and the actions that must be taken to optimize its performance.
The Initiative Portfolio Review meeting
This third step enables the executive team to decide what to do with low-performing initiatives and evaluate new initiative ideas. The fundamental purpose of the reunion is to maintain an ideal portfolio that fits with the company’s strategic environment. This way, if the company were to redefine a strategic feature, this reunion would allow executives the opportunity of redistributing the budget towards projects that support the new direction. As this would be an analytic forum, the danger of upholding “pet projects” lacking strategic solidity would be minimized.
Executives must allow sufficient time between reunions so as to be able to make informed decisions. This will also allow the corrective measures the opportunity of generating results. However, if there is too much time between reunions, it is possible that valuable opportunities will be left unattended.
The best practices recommend that executives meet once every quarter. Two of the reunions will be formal analysis reviews, while the other two will focus on analyzing readjustments. It is also recommended that these reunions be coordinated with the company’s budget cycles as these two concepts are closely related.
Roles and Responsibilities
It is important to define the responsibilities each member will have during this process. For example, those in charge of strategic themes will be responsible for the initiatives’ performance as a portfolio and will make recommendations on how to optimize its structure. Those in charge of individual initiatives will be responsible for supervising their daily execution and will have to coordinate said activities with those responsible for the project’s milestones.
Similarly, the Office of Strategy Management will provide information on the status of objectives and indicators for each of the strategic themes and will recommend strategic changes that could affect the portfolio.
One of the biggest advantages that this Initiative Revision and Control Process offers is that it allows organizations to have timely and quality information, enabling them to continually adjust their focus and resource allocation to maximize their return on investment.
Do you know YOUR initiatives’ efficiency as a portfolio?
“A flawed execution, and NOT a flawed strategy, is the cause behind 70% of CEO failures,” according to Forbes Magazine. In other words, even if your company’s initiatives look great on paper and have a solid potential for success, they’re not going to get your company any closer to its vision unless they’re executed properly.
At TRISSA we can help you and your executive team develop a formal and structured process to successfully manage your company initiatives. We offer a comprehensive set of services that will help you get started on the right foot in your execution process.
Author: Trissa Strategy Consulting
Source: Katz, Keith and Travis Manzione. "Maximize Your "Return on Initiatives" with the Initiative Portfolio Review Process." Balanced Scorecard Report (2008): 31-33. Online journal.