Strategy Mapping for Business Analysts

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Synopsis

This article explores strategy mapping as discussed within Business Architecture Guild BIZBOK, and attempts to extend the discussion by defining a set of information and graphical principles that allows strategy to be represented graphically.

What is strategy?

Often when the word strategy is mentioned in the media, magazine articles and whitepapers there is allot of fluff and not allot of concrete definitions as to what it actually is, or how to execute it.

Some say strategy is just a fancy word for business planning. In a sense this is true. As mentioned in the BIZBOK, strategy comes from the military context of planning an army’s battle of offensive and defensive operations.

Companies have a hierarchical structure just like an army, they are coordinated, and sometimes regimented and follow orders that are administered from the top down that filter through the ranks and have different meanings, activities, rules and specific outcomes depending on the role of the individual in the hierarchy. The analogy of an army lends well to organisations as well and it’s no wonder that the terminology has been adopted in the corporate world.

A strategy allows an organisation to answer the following questions about itself;

  • What might it do?
  • What does it want to do?
  • What it can and can’t do?
  • What it should do?

What is strategy mapping?

The proposition is that strategy mapping is the exercise in modelling. Modelling provides an abstract plan or description of the strategy that allows stakeholders to have a reference point, or a starting point for conversations. Models can be extended, scaled up or down, changed or used to simulate some kind of scenario. Models are dynamic allowing many variables to be changed and the overall result to be assessed and determined if the outcome is expected and desired by different stakeholders.

Strategy is a business plan. Strategy mapping is the modelling of a business plan in a graphical representation. This modelling technique can be used by consultants, business architects and strategic business analysts.

What are the elements of strategy mapping?

Strategy mapping is a modelling technique that shows objectives being realized over time with respect to external and internal influencers. These objectives are SMART (Specific Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound), which means they define a discrete measuring points over time.

Elements: Capabilities, Services and Objectives

Capabilities and services are the most relevant concepts used within the business world to represent an enterprise. Capabilities are generally internally relevant abstractions of an organisations potential. Services are outward facing abstractions of potential realized by the customer. Services are composed of one or many capabilities that appear as a unified service and customer experience.

It is recommended that capabilities and services be used in strategy mapping since they are both supported abstractions within the Business Architecture Guild (Bizbok) and The Open Group (TOGAF), not to mention the business world, in the form of being supported in meta-models and as techniques to achieve a given architecture. (Value mapping is also another useful abstraction.)

What is important is to recognize that capabilities and services are tangible and can be measured and represented as milestones that are stated as objectives. These capabilities, services and objectives are tied together on a strategy map.

Organisations are always trying to build existing capabilities/services or develop new ones, and deliver more value. Strategy mapping is concerned with realizing objectives that represent increments of services and capabilities over time; from the current to future state.

Strategy mapping requires that these elements be represented as a road-map between a starting and ending point. Strategy mapping defines the current and future state with the various transitions in-between.  

Influences

This is a term within The Object Management Group’s business motivational model. Influences are internal and external factors that impact an organisational planning and execution. These influences are often assessed through SWOT analysis (Strengths & Weaknesses: internal influences, Opportunities and Threats: external influences). Internal and external influences impact strategy and should also mapped in line with capabilities, services and their associated objectives. External influences can also be considered in terms of Porters Five Forces; competitors, substitutes, entrants, suppliers and buyers.

A good way to visualize influences is to consider the analogy of a game of chess. You need to understand the rules of the game, together with where all your pieces are to make a sound decision. If for example, you could only see half of your own pieces there would be a higher chance that your move would result in a poor outcome. An enterprise needs visibility of its people, processes and technology in order understand how it can mobilize its resources in undertaking both offensive and defensive operations based on the careful assessments of external and internal influences.    

Information Principles

The following are a set of information principles that guide strategy mapping. The following principles should be supported to allow all the required information to be represented. This information, if presented in the correct way (See graphical principles in the next section), should provide the intended outcome of visualizing a strategy graphically.

  • Should align to all pre-existing enterprise principles
  • Should allow current state and future state to be defined in terms of capability and services
  • Should define the transition between the current state and future state
  • Should define the  transitions as a series of objectives that are SMART
  • Should define the external and internal influences that contextualize the current, future states and transitions
  • Should define the external influences as opportunities and threats
    •  Should define the  opportunities and the corresponding objective that takes advantage of the opportunity
    •  Should define the  threats and the corresponding objective that mitigates the threat
  • Should define the internal influences as strengths and weaknesses
    • Should define the strengths and the corresponding objective that extends on the strengths
    • Should define the weakness and the corresponding objective that strengthens the weakness
  • Should define all mentioned elements above; capabilities, services, external and internal influences that align to objectives in the time domain. (All elements in the time domain are related and are positioned in response to each other. E.g. An objective that realizes an extended customer service can be positioned in response to a competitors plans to release a new campaign.)    

Display Principles

Representing strategy graphically is a challenging exercise given the complexity of enterprises and the number of different elements displayed within one artifact. A strategy map would best be produced as an A0 size and positioned for executives to visualize the enterprises current trajectory toward the long term vision.

The following display principles should serve as a guide in mapping strategy graphically; 

Y Axis

  • Decomposed into 2 horizontal sections; External and Internal
  • Internal to have strengths and weaknesses
  • External to have opportunities and threats

X Axis

  • Decomposed into time boxes
  • Time boxes to encapsulate current time, current states and future states
  • Time boxes to show time boxes relevant to objectives; e.g. short term, medium term ad long term or 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter and 4th quarter.

Both axis

  • The display of capabilities and services
  • Capabilities are a bar chart that extend vertically
  • Services are a bar chart that extend horizontally
  • Services are superimposed over capabilities
  • Displays Objectives as points extending across the time domain
  • Threats & Opportunities displayed as points in the top horizontal half
  • Strengths and weakness displayed as points in the bottom horizontal half
  • Services, Capabilities, Opportunities, Threats, Strengths and Weaknesses are all aligned to the time domain, and to each other since they are related

Display Example

A rough sketch of a strategy map has been defined to show a quasi-example of how it might be represented based on the Information and Display principles. The following example shows a strategy map with the following elements;

  • 3 services and 5 Capabilities
  • Current state, transitional state and future state
  • Opportunities of X & Y and threats of A & B
  • Strengths of service 3, capability 5 and 3
  • Weakness of Service 2 and capability 2 and 4

The strategy map shows the current state to represent;

  • Services 2 and capability 2&4 are weak and therefore should be developed
  • Threats  A&B are addressed by building Services 2 and capabilities 2&4
  • Opportunity X&Y could also be taken advantage of

The strategy map shows the future state to represent;

  • All services and capabilities have equal level of maturity since they have been developed since the current state
  • As a result the organisation has no weakness (All services and capabilities are equal in theory since they have been developed from the current state.)

Process

Strategy mapping is a techniques that is should be exercised iteratively to allow the constant assessment of internal and external conditions. Consider the following process where each step can repeat or proceed to any previous step.

1.      Monitoring performance indicators; KPI, benefits realization, financial performance, etc.

2.      Monitoring influences; internal and external environments

3.      Define opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses

4.      Define current state; re-validate current state of capability and services

5.      Determine future state; re-validate vision and assign high level objective,

6.      Define high level transitions; define objectives of capabilities and services

7.      Define detailed transitions; define objectives of capabilities and services

8.      Harmonize transitions across entire series of objectives from current to future

9.      Build measures within BAU to allow for monitoring and tracking post implementation. E.g. the balanced scorecard

The above process allows for information and display principles to be plotted on the strategy map. The final stage of the balanced score card defines a reporting mechanism within the enterprise to track progress on the various objectives or capability and service increments.

Assumptions

Successful mapping of strategy relies on a number or pre-existing conditions;

  1. There is a common understanding of terminology of capabilities and services
  2. That capabilities and services have been mapped in the enterprise and therefore allow capability based planning and execution
  3. That objectives defined can be traced to increments of defined capability and service
  4. That appropriate measures have been baked into operations to allow tracking of progress

Exemptions

Strategy mapping doesn’t explore the need to model different scenarios. Scenarios are different external and internal conditions that have different levels of probabilities of eventuating that need to be assessed against each other.

Different scenarios could be represented in separate horizontal swim lane moving up the Y Axis for example. This would allow more than one strategic trajectory to be modelled against another and hence compared.

Conclusion

There is allot of literature about strategy; very little about how to actually do it. This technique proposes a graphical technique that integrates SWOT analysis, with the mapping of objectives against a time domain, allowing the current and future states to be shown with a series of transitional objectives, allowing the journey toward a vision to be shown in terms of capabilities and services.

Graphically mapping strategy is very challenging due to the complexity of organisations, the market and their dynamics. One could conceive the strategy map to resemble some kind of battle map as seen in so many Second World War films where the top military generals and commands gather around a large light box, map on top, and draw ruled lines, move pins on the map to represent their assets, as well as the assets of their enemy. Allot can be said for just marking the territory and moving pins around like chess pieces to model and predict scenarios from eventuating. This highlights the dynamic nature of strategy; always being verified, validated, adjusted, planned for and executed.

Representing SWOT analysis, objectives, capabilities and services realized over time is a powerful approach to visualizing strategy, because it ties together the most relevant information in a logical and simple visual form. Strategy mapping can be undertaken as an analysis technique, like all the existing techniques within TOGAF, BIZBOK and the BABAOK.

Techniques provide us with a tool to solve a problem; here is another one to think about.  

Author: Matt Fishbeck, Sr. Business Analyst

Matt Fishbeck, Sr. Business AnalystMatt is a senior business analyst with 5+ years experience in transport, telecommunications, utilities, technology and automotive industries working with stakeholders to meet the objectives of organisations. Matt is competent across the spectrum of competencies and possesses sound alignment to IIBA best practice. He has engaged stakeholders in large transformation projects to facilitate change by delivering value through best practice. He provides thought leadership through research and development, academia and knowledge of open standards. 

Matt has extensive technical knowledge and is passionate about technology, business, business analysis and business architecture. He takes a dynamic high energy approach to delivery and providing exceptional value to clients through consulting. Matt leverage’s the creative process to innovate and deliver solutions to business. He has worked internationally in organisations in Melbourne, Germany and the UK.
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COMMENTS

pomifritz posted on Monday, September 28, 2015 11:33 PM
Since writing the article I confess my understandings and provide the following amendments;

*Use capabilities and value streams as the basic building blocks; not capabilities and services

*Integrate porter five forces and Ansoff's market/grid models under the umbrella of SWOT analysis (All factors for consideration in strategy mapping is either external or internal to the enterprise; highest level of abstraction.)
pomifritz posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 5:04 AM
There are other points as well, namely using value analysis to drive the prioritisation about decision making.
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