Pioneering corporate strategists are using new technology tools to continually scan the horizon for new competitive advantages to deploy—and threats to monitor. Today’s volatile business environment calls for an integrated corporate and technology strategy that supports organizational nimbleness, scalability, and stability.
And as business strategy and technology strategy increasingly intertwine, many corporate executives are finding their organization’s past technology choices are limiting their strategic options and business agility. To resolve these limitations, strategists can look to collaborate with tech leaders to confirm that the organization’s critical technologies support the organizational strategy—and that the organization’s technologists have the right framework and understanding of the corporate strategy to make their day-to-day technology decisions.
In Deloitte’s 2020 CSO Survey, most participants (70%) rated disruptive growth as critical for their companies’ success, but only 13% are confident their company can deliver on this strategic priority. Even though most responders say they are seeking disruptive growth, 71% report spending more than three months on a single round of strategy development. Nearly half (45%) refresh their strategy annually, or even less frequently: every two years (23%) or three years (22%). These statistics indicate that many companies have a lot of work ahead to become more strategically agile. But agile strategy development and execution doesn’t happen in a vacuum—to generate effective results, organizations need the following foundational elements in place:
- Empowered strategy function. Whether it’s the CEO, CSO, or other executive, an empowered leader is critical to effective strategy development and execution. In collaboration with the CIO, the strategy leader can help expand and shape the vision of other executive leaders and board members. As one executive from a leading oil and gas company said, “The CSO needs to challenge long-held views and get our fellow executives to think about a market environment that is different from the existing one.”
- Tech-savvy C-suite. C-suite executives and board members should have a broad understanding of the critical technologies the company needs to gain competitive advantage and to build resilience against disruption. Leaders need to be supportive of investing in a portfolio of technology investments, from proofs of concept that test emerging technologies to major implementations of proven platforms. Moreover, executives can help challenge the critical assumptions of those implementing the technology to help make sure implementation will drive value for the enterprise.
- Business-savvy tech leaders. Likewise, IT leaders and technologists can engage in strategy development processes and education that helps them broadly understand the business and its strategic objectives. As strategic partners, tech leaders can help strategy and business leaders identify and explore emerging technologies that support the strategic vision. In fact, Deloitte research shows that 40% of CEOs said their CIO or tech leader will be the key driver of business strategy—more than the CFO, COO, and CMO combined.
- Aligned technology and partners. Effective organizations choose their technology platforms and ecosystem partners carefully, aligning their choices and implementation decisions with their strategic goals. When selecting important ecosystem partners, evaluate their long-term motives and agendas to understand whether their objectives and aspirations align with yours. In a worst-case scenario, a platform partner could become a competitive threat after they “learn” your industry.
- Collaborative list of strategic assumptions. Early in the strategy development process, strategists, tech leaders, and ecosystem partners can explore and challenge the assumptions for a tech-enabled strategy to be effective. Consider holding the discussion in a neutral environment such as a workshop, where a range of answers are encouraged and cataloged to be used later to flag leading indicators of the strategy’s success or failure.
- Agile funding. Executing on agile strategies demands a flexible process for planning and funding the technology investments required to implement strategies.
As leaders consider a wider range of variables and future scenarios, tech-enabled strategy platforms may help strategists think more expansively and precisely about the wide range of future possibilities. Equipped with advanced analytics, automation, and AI capabilities, these platforms can also help leaders gain insight into seemingly unrelated occurrences that can enable smarter strategic choices on a continual basis by identifying driving forces, informing strategic decisions, and monitoring outcomes.
Strategy development is not a one-and-done exercise but, rather, an ongoing, cyclical process. While accelerating technology is a strategic complicator, executives can deploy it to simplify and accelerate smart strategy development and execution. Leading organizations are engineering their strategic function to be more agile, scalable, and stable, giving them an array of options in their back pocket for whatever the future holds.
—by Rich Nanda, U.S. Strategy offering leader, and Tom Schoenwaelder, U.S. Strategic Growth Transformation market offering leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP