This is the second post in a 3-part series. Read part 1 and part 3.

In part one of this series, we discussed how Agile (with an upper-case "A") is a terrific development framework when there is minimal repetition of activities combined with a high degree of unpredictability or uncertainty. There’s no better way to describe today’s business environment than one of constant change. Hardly a day goes by without a new competitor, disruptive business model, or fresh market trend impacting existing products and companies.

The challenge lies in building a modern planning cadence and defined process to support the volume and pace of change. The only repetitive aspect of planning is the artifacts (outputs) we create to communicate the strategy internally and externally. The planning process itself must inherently be agile (with a lower-case "a"), flexible and outcome-driven.

In order to revisit plans and strategies at regular intervals, the tools used to support the planning processes need to be re-evaluated so as to handle the ever-increasing influx in data. Three-ring binders holding massive amounts of stale data, that are dusted off and reopened once a year no longer support the strategic planning process. While electronic document tools like Microsoft® PowerPoint® are easier to re-examine and amend than hard copies stored in filing cabinets, the process of getting the right people to make the relevant updates and managing document versions is cumbersome and complex, forcing decisions to be made with potentially out-of-date data and even missing data. An evolving strategy requires an end-to-end software system that acts as a single source of truth with reliable data compiled from across the organization.

Imagine a company with two divisions, each with ten products. At first glance, this may appear to be simple. In reality, it is not. Just imagine the cascade of plans required for the company to function. There would be the central company strategy, each division’s piece of that, and then at least ten product plans and roadmaps — each of which should incorporate a multitude of data points gathered both internally and externally (e.g., market, IP landscape, and competitive data) — to achieve said strategy. Now imagine a global company, with multiple divisions, each with dozens of products and brands. The complexity quickly becomes unmanageable without the proper data collaboration tools.

With the newfound desire for creating plans that can empower teams to be more Agile-like and to deliver value against the corporate plans, an underlying toolkit to streamline processes and increase functional teams’ relationships with the outputs of these defined processes is necessary.

This is where digitizing the planning process with a platform like Accolade becomes critical. The ability to capture the strategy in a data-centric environment on a defined time horizon enables product teams to create living, enterprise-wide plans. These will not only give each team direct line of sight to the overall strategy, but will empower teams to thrive in new ways. Since each product team is capturing internal and external information to drive their plans, executives and business leaders have the benefit of transparency and visibility across the organizational landscape.

Potentially even more powerful than streamlining massively complex processes is the ability for Accolade to surface new insights via gap and overlap analyses across your product teams. Gap analysis determines what is missing to drive strategy. Overlap analysis offers opportunities to connect multiple teams on the same or similar problem spaces. As each product team or executive updates their respective elements within the plan, the entire organization is immediately made aware of that change.

Having up-to-date, reliable data is the lynch pin to enabling an agile planning process. This allows a business to be more responsive to the market’s high rate of change and the extreme volume of information needed to track these changes, ensuring optimal alignment of tactical plans with strategy.

Read the final article in the series, Embedding Agile into the NPD Work Stream.

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