Strategic Planning Done Right
By The Dude
reposted with permission from http://tralfaz.org/prodmgmt/166-strategic-planning-done-right
The Dude here, wanting to talk about Strategic Planning. I will comment on some common problems, and how it is best to execute. To facilitate this discussion, a brief review of how the myriad techniques come together is worthwhile.
Regardless of the “official” methodology you use (and some MBA in your organization will have lots to say about the ‘best’ one), the strategic planning process is some combination of:
Understand trends, segmentation, adjacencies, TAM, SAM and a realistic evaluation of your SOM. Hard, real numbers both bottoms up and top down are essential. This is the domain of product management and marketing (and likewise one of the reasons why I am a believer that they are either the same person, or together in one group).
Identify competing companies in the same technology, similar technologies that can infringe upon your turf, SWOT analyses of you and your major competitors, and, if possible, a sanity check via a published market report.
What you can do, how capable your development team is, what research is in the pipeline, and realistic expectations on when major programs can be delivered.
Putting your products into volume production, being able to deliver at a cost that doesn’t cripple your chances in the market, having competence on supply chain management, and improving productivity and quality continuously.
Sales Channel Analysis
Do you have the right field organization? Can they effectively sell? If you are planning a beach head project in a different segment, can the sales team handle the topography shift? Does your pre-sales technical team have the chops to cross industries?
Of course, there are more moving parts, but the above tasks are pretty much de riguer for all strategic planning processes
Lots to keep in mind, and to prepare for.
But how is Strategic Planning often done?
Of course there are lots ways to execute this, but all too often, it has been my experience that Marketing and the GM or VP of a business unit will lock themselves in a room and cram it all together. Naturally, they ask for assistance, and even sometimes couch the requests as part of “Strat Planning”, but it is not uncommon for this dynamic duo to do 85% or more of the activities before getting any other input.
I have even experieced where my GM just assigned it to Product Marketing to handle it. Hey, you manage the roadmap, why not just extend that to strategic planning?
But this is wrong. The entire senior staff needs to be part of the complete process. They need to have responsibilities in the initial planning stage, where you gather the intel and status of their organizations, as well as a say in how the puzzle fits together. Lastly, they need a stake in the outcome. They need to believe that if they contribute their part over the period in question, then the organization will realize their goals.
If, for example, an assumption that an expansion into China was going to treble the Asia-Pacific bookings and revenue, but the sales director internally thinks that is folly, then one non-serious participant can negate all the work.
Naturally, Marketing has an outsized role. We have the domain knowledge of the markets, the technology, instinctive knowedge of the competition, and as part of our daily duties, we keep track of segmentation, regional variations, potential adjacencies, the near and medium term product roadmaps.
But it is folly to think that Sales, Operations, R&D, Support, and Marketing Communications have nothing significant to add to the process.
Of course, the GM and the PMM heading out to an offsite location has some benefits. Usually, they are quite well aligned in priorities, and goals, so there are usually not wide oceans between them to cross. Add in 6 more people into the mix and you start having dynamic issues (factions form, politics floats to the top, explicit and implicit arguments are fomented, etc.) and that can defocus, or slow the process down.
You might see too rosy of a picture emerge. Unbelievable projections. Market valuations that make no sense (particularly where you use a near analog – think: Cardiac Device by modeling the whole pharma industry) – to make estimates, and you can begin believing your own exhaust.
To overcome these risks, you need a strong Senior Management sponsor (VP/GM type person) who can force a decision, and prevent devolution into a pissing match, and by making sure that a well grounded bottom’s up analysis is done. Fortunately product managers are usually gifted with the ability to develop such an analysis.
It is a balancing act to expand the team that coalesces to perform the ritual of strategic planning. By getting consensus or buy in from the committed parties, you greatly reduce the chance that the Strategic plan will be built, delivered to the executive staff, then languish on a shelf for 3 – 5 years.
About The Author
The PM Dude is a pseudonym used by a product management expert to voice snarky, sarcasm in a no holds barred discussion on the subject of Product Management. Blog: http://tralfaz.org/dudes-corner Follow him on Twitter: @PMDude