Fit organisations—those that perform well in any market condition—distinguish themselves in part because they are great at creating, articulating and executing strategy in a way that maximises results. CIOs, for their part, have to help the enterprise understand how information and technology enable business capabilities that drive business success.
“CIOs can generate more impact by using storytelling to demonstrate how their strategies fuel business growth,” says Heather Colella, Vice President Analyst, Gartner. “Storytelling captures the adaptive nature of great strategy and helps organisations quickly determine priorities and investments. From a one-page story to a one-page strategic plan, the narrative evolves from idea to action.”
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Storytelling also helps CIOs to avoid the age-old trap of focusing on strategy documents—lengthy, technical documents that are rarely used in practice. Storytelling helps CIOs and IT leaders to engage business leaders in strategic business conversation by visualising the business model in a way that can be easily shared for collaboration across the enterprise.
Craft your strategy story in 4 steps
In 1967, Rollin Kin and Herb Kelleher drew a triangle on a napkin. At each point was a city: Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. The two men created a vision for a low-cost commuter airline moving passengers between the three cities. And so Southwest Airlines was born, alongside a new industry for low-cost air transportation.
Capture your enterprise story on one page by using a four-step approach.
Step 1: Know how you succeed
Creating a strategy begins with an understanding of the Value Disciplines model created by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, authors of the Discipline of Market Leaders. Successful companies differentiate themselves in one of three ways:
- Customer intimacy: Making money by understanding customer wants and needs better than any competitor
- Operational excellence: Optimising the supply chain to provide quality products and services at low prices
- Product leadership: Becoming industry product leaders through innovation
Step 2: Understand your differentiators
Knowing which approach your company uses serves as a lens to focus the strategic decisions and investments to be made. For example, a product leader would invest more heavily in innovation processes and ensuring the company gets product to market before the competition.
Step 3: Develop a rich story from a specific viewpoint
Select a viewpoint and tell the story of your strategy from that position. For example:
- Stakeholder view. Identify all stakeholders in the story: from employees delivering service to customers receiving products and services. Tell the story from the perspective of each of these stakeholders.
- Tell a product story. Use an image of the customer or product in the centre of the page and speak to what you need to do as a company for your customer to be happy or your product to be successful.
- Tell a process story. Identify the top five to seven core business processes that, when optimised, will achieve business success. Identify the capabilities created by the process for that success to be delivered.
Step 4: Draw a picture to commit your strategy to paper
Remember, this is an iterative process that should be revisited and changed as necessary.
For example, using the illustration shown, this process-driven strategy highlights a three- to six-year plan for a new CIO.
- Years 1–2 (the base): Invest in IT, creating a platform from which future growth can be enabled.
- Years 3–4: Remove duplication and complexity from the business processes.
- Years 5–6: Grow the business by creating value-added solutions for customers.