A Global Fortune 50 insurance corporation was launching a Digital Transformation initiative to support many new business initiatives. The existing Enterprise Architecture team need to mature many of its internal capabilities to support many new digital platform technologies and vendors while also enabling business, marketing and IT development teams to launch new projects. Enterprise Architecture would also need to become a more real-time practice that cross integrated directly with business units and marketing in order be create more agility within the organization. In addition, they would be supporting the Program Management Office in scoping and prioritizing projects and IT Development teams direct in the development of new architectures.
An incremental roadmap was prioritized to drive the development of multiple capabilities of the evolving Enterprise Architecture Practice. New digital platforms and technology solutions would be identified and evaluated for adoption. New vendor and solution partners would correspondingly be selected for partnerships. Solution areas represented big data, business intelligence, cloud computing, mobile, marketing, and social media. For each area, new architectures, frameworks, standards and technical governance models would be established and integrated across the organization. New resource planning and estimating models would be developed and revised with implementation experience. New opportunity & risk models would be incorporated into strategic planning and business leader planning sessions.
Over a several year period, the Enterprise Architecture Practice drastically transformed the digital capabilities of the company allowing business units to engage with customers and partners through entirely new solutions and increase the ability of the business to move rapidly in the digital space. The practice transformed from a classic Enterprise Architecture team to a fully integrated practice across the matrix of the corporation. It became an enabler to planning and execution serving as a directly engaged resource to business and IT groups. It provided a key integration point for the business across IT, operations and cross line of business efforts. Given the cross matrix integration, it also became a key component in driving alignment, standards and collecting new forms of decision support data for the enterprise.
A Global 100 global insurance corporation was transforming a large number of core legacy system to next generation technology platforms. Most of these systems were core mission critical systems for the business. This required multiple systems to be migrated at the same time due to complex dependencies and performance requirements. This lead to a very large development, contractor and vendor resource based to be engaged and hundreds of projects to be launched, synchronized and aligned over several years.
A multi-year roadmap was prioritized to drive wide scale migration of legacy systems into new technology platforms. This required Enterprise Architecture to evaluate and select new platforms and vendors while implementing a new Agile development methodology for the enterprise. The new development technologies also required new toolsets, repositories, testing and deployment process and governance models. Solution playbooks containing the architectural standards where also developed to span application, infrastructure, data, integration and security models. A portfolio of over 150+ active projects were managed across a blended teams of employees, consultants and vendor specialists. New Enterprise Portfolio Management methodologies where implemented and integrated across the executive leadership team, lines of business and the Project Management Office.
Over a several year period, the Enterprise Architecture Practice managed the implementation, synchronization and alignment of hundreds of inter-dependent IT projects. This enabled the business to move off a number of siloed legacy systems that were mission critical to the business. The migration to new technology platforms created new agility for business units are drove an internal digital transformation for the enterprise. Due to the management complexity the capability of Enterprise Portfolio Management was developed and matured by providing new sources of business intelligence that changed strategic planning going forward.
A Fortune 100 global marketing corporation was creating an brand new Enterprise Architecture Practice for the entire organization to migrate an extensive number of legacy systems into a enterprise wide and integrated Service Oriented Architecture. This multi-year initiative would be overseeing a massive portfolio of IT projects to redesign and migrate the solutions to new technology including cloud and on premise solutions. Enterprise wide redesigns would include mission critical systems, technology platforms, security, and data platforms.
A multi-year roadmap was prioritized to drive the development of multiple capabilities of the evolving Enterprise Architecture Practice. New technology platforms and would be identified and evaluated for adoption. New vendor and solution partners would correspondingly be selected for partnerships. The Enterprise Architecture practice was developed from the ground up including team development, capability development and cross-enterprise integration. Senior executives, from across the enterprise, worked closely with the Enterprise Architecture leadership team to prioritize the core systems for migration and drive organizational alignment and integration to strategic planning budgeting for the mass migrations. Enterprise Architecture drove many parallel paths both in building up their team, establishing the new technology platforms, defining standards, integrating governance and deep integration to implementation teams with new forms of Agile development methodologies. A new master data model was established across the entire enterprise as older legacy system silos were refactored into a universally shared set of enterprise services that created more agility for business needs.
Over a several year period, the Enterprise Architecture Practice developed into a strategic capability for the corporation. They played a key role in redesigning the IT landscape and transforming the business from one that was handicapped by legacy systems to one that had the agility too rapidly create new solutions through a strong services layer of functionality. The new technologies also enabled a digital transformation across the business as new technologies could be rapidly integrated into the core business process both for internal collaboration/productive, as well as, for customer and partner facing solutions.
Even the best Strategic Planning methodologies can be at risk of common pitfalls when it comes to execution. I’ve been involved in both help corporation evaluating methodologies and building out their internal practices over several decades, but this experience was really rich in seeing how they executed their plan. The University ran a really deep internal strategic planning workshop to chart the course of new an innovative business services in a mission to become more directly involved in the business community. I was very impressed with the format, methodology and rigor put into a week long process, with follow up on a reoccurring basis over the weeks as execution began. The sessions where very collaborative combining internal faculty & staff, external practitioners, and inviting historic leaders to return to share their insights into the business. The sessions where well facilitated featuring both prepared materials that where designed for interactive and direct collaboration. An example of this is the image on the post featuring a historical timeline of the business where historical speakers and team feedback could be recorded as the session was presented. As the days progressed, team members and new employees where integrated into the format to both present, facilitate, and run breakouts creating a deeper vesting into the process. The days progressed covering the setting of goals & objectives, exploring new opportunities, and detailing out the investments and impact to the organization to pursue traditional and innovative paths forward. Each days artifacts, scribe notes, and team voting scores where digitized into the online repositories for continued reference and to historically be made available for future governance points when the need to review the inputs and context into decision making processes. While the process and methodology where impressive, many learnings and insights jumped out going through this exercise that I wanted to share.
Best Practices: ( What was done well in this session ) 1. Spend the time doing strategic planning with the entire leadership team ( and even better the entire team at planning points.) While this is quite an investment the benefits can be extraordinary in terms of the team building, alignment and the insights the full team can bring into the effort. 2. Invest in covering the history of the organization. Look at the politics, leaders, funding, results and general economic factors that shaped the formation of the business and how those factors are still shaping and / or constraining the business today. 3. Methodology matters. You have to build the capability to plan effectively. The process, artifacts, facilitation and knowledge management all matter. The style really effects how well the team collaborates and participates. It is also important to note that planning and execution never stop. A formal strategic planning session is just the kickoff to ongoing and continuous planning and adjustment to driving effective execution. Don’t leave the strategic planning session without an ongoing plan for continuous planning and reflection. 4. Ongoing planning and capability development require metrics and measurements. Track on how well you plan, how many iterations it takes to prioritize and build out the execution plans. How aligned or desperate team voting is during the process, etc. How many times does the plan pivot throughout the year? Build trend lines to how well the organization can plan. Don’t leave the strategic planning session without a capability and metrics plan to further the group’s capability. 5. Build a strong external communication plan to share your strategic plan for the greater organization and include representatives outside the group in the sessions and ongoing methods of managing the execution. This requires a strategic relationships plan and communication plan across the larger organization and identify key intervention points for senior management to course correct if needed.
Pitfalls & Learnings ( Where execution did not follow the plans )
1. Decision making: While the methodology and team voting were very strong in the formation of the plan, the leadership completely failed to ratify decisions and seek alignment for the upper management of the larger organization. This completely fractured the execution of the plan with team members all heading off in different directions based on what they thought were the agreed directions from the planning sessions.
2. Group dynamics: After the amazing team building and planning sessions, the fact that no decisions where made left the team without out shared values around priorities and goals. The hierarchical structure also prevented any level of empowerment leaving the team without direction or empowerment to move on their own. This eventually tore the team apart as different groups were moving in separate directions, based on assumptions, and not supporting each other. People’s expectations where being violated at a basic understanding level. This was greatly compounded by failing to have continuous planning sessions where the team could align and readjust plans and commitments. The team proactively attempted this early on, but the effort was continually confounded by the lack of decision making. As team dynamics fell apart and friction grew, the team meetings were abandoned and replaced with 1:1 meetings. While these had tensions, they resulted in private conversations and individual plans that continued to draw the team apart and management never reconciled the goals, promises, and agreements they made with individuals.
3. Alignment with upper management: the team’s leadership failed to execute the communications plans to senior organizational management and with the board. This left the team greatly exposed and without any air-cover to execute the plan. While there where routine status meetings, as execution failed to produce results, status was white-washed. Another pitfall was failing to have the metrics in place to trigger an intervention point of senior management and the board to engage directly with the team to see how or why operations were suffering. Much less senior management never seeing the original plans and metric evolve from the initial session should have been an obvious red flag. If you truly own developing a strategic plan, you have to also establish the conditions where intervention points are critical and usually in 30 – 90-day increments. The sooner you can correct the plan or the support needed the better vs. driving the team into the ground with a failing execution.
4. Year Two: Given such a robust strategic planning process was conducted in the first year it was amazing to see both the complete lack of replacing and then the entire omission of planning at the kick-off of the second year. The burning red flags of failing to meet metrics, terrible team dynamics, and lack of decisions would have been time for an intervention and investigation to realign execution to the plan. By this point, team members are leaving and team moral had plummeted. If all of these red flags didn’t trigger a response, then it displays a need for HR to be integrated into strategic planning. At some point, if none of the conditions of the plan, execution, metrics, reporting, and failing performance reviews should kick HR into action to engage the team in a supporting role. Rarely is HR been included in the process. This is a key opportunity to have personnel and talent managers plugged into the goals of the organization but to also provide a fail safe to the many layers of management that can misfire. Performance reviews should also be a key time when HR checks into the team to see how they would evaluate how well planning and execution are functioning in their departments. What a critical safety value for the organization and senior leadership to put in place to keep tuned in, especially if they are too busy fight fires to genuinely pay attention themselves.
5. Leadership & Management: The road to failure is also paved with good intentions. This team was filled with good people and good intentions along its entire journey. Its organizational structure was very hierarchical with a complete lack of management and leadership talent at the top. This created an enormous communication and visibility barrier to senior management. When putting a team together, realize the difference between management and leadership. Teams require both, but they are very different. Lacking one or both will clearly doom the effort. Most important for senior management is to be sure to have a communication plan that encompasses both the leadership and the execution members. If you are not directly talking with the execution team, you really do not have complete status – period.
Take Away 1: The Value of Organizational History – Remember this post began by calling out the act that the strategic planning process began with deeply reviewing organization history. Now that this team’s management have all been removed and the team is rebooting, would they revisit their own recent history to glean these lessons learned? Organizations must be able to embrace their failures and leverage the insights to initiatives that have not succeeded. As organizations are being required to be more innovative and agile they need to be able to fail faster and then learn from those attempts. Usually, the insights are critical to the success factors going forward and need to be captured, documented, shared and actually celebrated as effectively maturing the organization.
Take Away 2: Think beyond managing the planning process to the team planning for the capabilities around metrics, communication, and governance of the execution model the planning really needs. This is at the hard of enterprise capability building and management.