A simple tool to align activities with business goals

Every business engages in a unique set of activities to achieve its objectives. Taken together, these activities determine the strategic position and, ultimately, the financial performance of the business.

It follows naturally that every manager should strive to have complete visibility and clarity about all company activities. More importantly, employees also have a need to clearly understand how each of their activities fits into current initiatives. They have a need to know how their work contributes to the company’s goals.

Timely, direct access to such information can help inform key strategic decisions, intelligently prioritise tasks, identify and reward winning activities, fine-tune or eliminate under-performing activities and so on. Employee morale and performance are also strongly correlated to the ability to identify with high-level vision and business goals and to have a measurable sense of their individual contribution (i.e. a sense that their work is meaningful.)

Most organisations lack an established mechanism for conveying such information clearly and consistently to all stakeholders on a continuous basis. This is especially problematic in large companies where individual teams often lack an understanding of how their work feeds into the work performed by other teams.

It is easy to label this as a “communications issue” and to attempt to resolve it by encouraging more meetings. Unfortunately, more meetings is rarely the answer to any business problem and typically leads to a decrease in performance (the exact opposite of the intended effect.) The “communications issue” label, being too generic, is difficult to tackle directly and usually remains unresolved.

Even in small businesses (all the way down to the individual freelancer or sole proprietor) it is all too easy to lose track of the reason behind each task throughout the day. Without a good system in place, it can be challenging to measure the effects of every activity on the overall business goals. As a result, prioritisation becomes habitually driven by urgency (rather than importance) and it becomes impossible to break through the current level of performance.

Fortunately, there is a surprisingly simple “low-tech” tool that provides a solution to these problems. It works equally well for individuals and for large, multi-national corporations - in fact, its value increases exponentially with the size of the organisation.

We call this tool an "Activity Alignment Chart" and we have seen the simplicity of it bring refreshing clarity, visibility and alignment to teams of any size. Moreover, once it is adopted, it is difficult (especially for management) to imagine working without it!

An Activity Alignment Chart can be implemented simply on a whiteboard that is manually updated every time activities change (one per team), or more intricately with automated software that spans the entire organisation and breaks communication boundaries across departments. Contact us to request a consultation or to discuss how our custom software can benefit your organisation. 

How software became the core of business

Once upon a time, there were two types of businesses — those that used software and those that didn't.

Initially, neither group was noticeably more successful than the other. The companies which bravely embraced software in the early days did sometimes manage to save time & money, or to occasionally beat the competition to market with a new product. Yet industries continued to be dominated by those who had been in business the longest and had access to the most resources.

Over the span of just a few decades, as the capabilities of computing machines increased many-fold and the world became more connected, the balance of power changed in unexpectedly dramatic ways. Suddenly, a few small enterprises that not only embraced software, but built whole new business models around it, started growing so rapidly that they took entire markets from under the feet of the incumbents. Empires crumbled and were replaced by new ones — smaller, yet wealthier.

Then the genie got out of the bottle. Impressed by the epic success stories, organisations everywhere began devouring technology at an unprecedented rate. It promised to solve everyone's problems once and for all. To tame complexity and super-charge sales. IT became a big deal. Business software went mainstream. Everyone was using it and everyone was an expert at it.

And everyone was failing — spectacularly.

Untold billions were wasted on grandiose IT projects by businesses and government agencies all around the world. Projects that not only didn't deliver on their bold promise, but many times didn't even live to see the light of day. Instead of taming the complexity of business, enterprise software created whole new realms of complexity itself. Refusing to acknowledge failure, organisations accepted missed deadlines and budget overruns as the new norm in IT. Suppliers were changed, consultants were replaced, but the results remained, for most, unimpressive. Executives, staff and customers all learned to see software as a kind of necessary evil — over-complicated, unfathomable, broken by design, compromising the security of business operations and personal data alike... yet utterly ubiquitous and unavoidable.

In the so developed "can't live with it, can't live without it" situation, some of those business owners and entrepreneurs who happened to not have access to infinite resources decided that the status quo just isn't good enough. A new generation of business software began to emerge — more down-to-Earth, more accessible, more connected, lighter, cheaper, easier to change, easier to adapt... easier to measure the benefits of. Software that didn't make overly grand promises, yet because it actually delivered, had a disproportionately more positive impact on the business world. This new generation of business software wasn't simply being driven by more technological advances, but also by a change in perspective.

Today, there are no longer two types of businesses. There is only one. If you are not adept at structuring your enterprise around technology, no matter what industry you're in, you are not in business — period. Software is no longer a product that you buy to fix your problems. Software is the core of any business, the bloodstream of any strategy. All companies are now technology companies. How well your enterprise and your software blend together determines your success rate.

The amount of bad advice and IT bloat that was (and continues to be) generated by the old, sluggish "Enterprise Software" industry and their management consultant champions is large and wide-reaching. This makes the modern IT terrain difficult and dangerous to navigate.

As a business leader, the IT choices that you make are more consequential than ever, while making the right choices has never been more challenging. The choices that seem "obvious" are often traps. Many of the software technologies that everyone else seems to be using are a lot like today's reality show stars - famous for being famous, without necessarily much substance underneath. In any case, if you are looking for competitive advantage, the choices made by "everyone else" are unlikely to be your answer. The software that will work best for you is very personal, very specific to your business. It can not be built without your expertise (and certainly can not be sold en-masse).

Contact us to discuss how your business can grow faster with software built for you.