Gartner recently published its latest Market Guide for Strategy Execution Management Software. We were pleased to read Gartner’s continued insights on this emerging market, as well as the key takeaway: “Executing strategy in the digital age requires tools connecting the shared objectives of business strategists and those executing the change.”

As the Strategy Execution Management software market gains focus, we have several observations of our own:

Effective strategy execution is more than enterprise-scale project and portfolio management

Task tracking and resource management are foundational requirements for any kind of business execution, but neither “on-time, on-budget,” nor an all-green enterprise dashboard guarantees any particular business outcome. Instead, we see successful enterprise program leaders treating strategy execution as a distinct discipline, often with the support of third-party advisors.

Rather than simply managing enterprise dashboards, these program teams are building comprehensive business value frameworks – including process status, org health and business impact KPIs – and then using Shibumi to rigorously measure progress, identify risks, drive value-focused program decisions and confirm the realization of quantified business outcomes.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software is not a substitute for Strategy Execution Management (SEM) software

Enterprise PPM applications were designed to manage traditional IT PMO objectives – tasks complete, budget used, resources consumed – as well as to select pre-defined business outcome metrics, such as cost savings. These traditional PPM capabilities remain valuable, but they are insufficient on their own to support effective strategy execution. Instead, we see strategy execution teams defining and tracking a broader set of business metrics – often including customized leading indicator KPIs, linked to critical outcome metrics. Further, instead of adhering to a standard PPM methodology, strategy execution teams must craft highly context-specific information flows, decision sequences and reporting formats.

While standalone PPM is insufficient for strategy execution, PPM and Shibumi can be highly complementary. In this model, PPM and project management tools manage day-to-day initiative execution and provide valuable – but incomplete – input into the status of those initiatives. Shibumi then integrates that process data with other business metrics to provide a complete view of program business value realization.

Effective strategy execution is a balance between art and science

Every enterprise-scale change program occurs in a distinct business, cultural, and political context. SEM software can provide structure and insights to improve strategy execution, but software is not a substitute for human judgment, insights, and persuasion when executing sensitive, high-stakes strategic programs.

We’ve designed Shibumi with this balance in mind – providing governance structure and detailed execution data, but also enabling a collaborative, team-centric process. Each Shibumi solution can be fully configured for a unique business context, and we’re investing heavily to further simplify the user experience and empower users to continually optimize the platform for their evolving needs.

External advisors remain a key component of effective strategy execution

Realizing sustained impact from strategy execution is hard, and it’s not surprising that many companies work with external advisors for expertise, objective viewpoints, and incremental resources. We expect advisors to remain at the center of strategy execution for many programs, and enabling advisors is core to Shibumi’s approach. Today, multiple advisors are leveraging the Shibumi platform to deliver their proprietary methodology and use case-specific IP in a repeatable framework. And enterprises benefit by retaining that repeatable framework even after a particular consulting engagement is complete.

The Strategy Execution Management software category is still in flux

As one would expect for an emerging category, the vendors in this space represent very diverse approaches to strategy execution. Three particular approaches stand out to us:

  • Vendors that originated in traditional process-centered use cases (such as new product development and investment portfolio management) are now adding more strategy-centered capabilities
  • Other vendors have specialized by methodology – building out process management tools around a specific strategy delivery approach, such as balanced scorecard
  • Finally, several consulting firms – most notably McKinsey & Co. – have built in-house solutions to support their own projects

While solutions focused on specific strategy execution use cases, methodologies and consultants will always have a place, we see a flexible and configurable platform as the better answer for most enterprises. This approach allows enterprises to support a broader range of strategy execution needs, applies the industry expertise of a range of advisors and reduces the risk of lock-in to a particular methodology or consultant.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.