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BD #36 - Execution Planning is Vital to Data Strategy

Start at the end and plan how you'll execute on your strategy or be doomed to fail

Update - It’s Been a While…

We’ve been super busy at Hypercube building the best data and AI services organisation for the energy sector. Things are growing fast and the team is scaling as we line up more and more brilliant customers driving innovation in the energy industry.

Most exciting is the launch of our new podcast - we interview data and AI leaders from the energy sector on what they’re doing and where they think the technology is supporting change.

A favour to ask, please jump over to wherever you get your podcasts from and give it a listen, subscribe, and an honest rating - it all helps us get this off the ground and enable us to do more.

In line with the podcast I’m clearing out more time to get back to this newsletter - I still want to share as much as possible on data and AI strategy and leadership here and have plenty more work to come.

The Importance of Execution Planning to a Good Data Strategy

This week’s post is inspired by a sales book actually. I read Blue Ocean Strategy years back and the second half talks about strategy execution. It’s been pivotal to my approach since, but it’s a worthwhile read across the board.

What do we mean by “Execution Planning”?

A good execution plan takes into account the application of the strategy itself. In my mind, this is often the missing piece that leads strategies of all kinds in that undesirable state where they make a lot of sense on paper but don’t connect with the company and culture as a whole.

It answers questions like:

  • how do we roll out this strategy?

  • who will be the early adopters?

  • the detractors?

  • what activities will align the business behind it?

In this article we will delve into the concept of execution planning its significance in data strategy, essential components, obstacles faced during the process and methods to evaluate its success.

Understanding Execution Planning

Execution planning in the context of data strategy involves creating a roadmap for implementing initiatives related to all of the data and AI initiatives outlines in the wider data strategy. So once you’ve built your data strategy, how do you get the resource and buy-in to roll it out effectively?

This entails setting goals outlining steps and allocating appropriate resources to achieve those objectives. Execution planning provides an approach to ensure effective delivery and implementation of data strategies.

A Plan About a Plan?

This might seem confusing but a strategy isn’t just a plan, it should become a set of guidelines and rules that allow everyone in your organisation to make informed, autonomous decisions about all of your data and AI initiatives.

Here’s the distinction:

  • Data Strategy - the priorities, impact, risks, opportunities, and timelines through which your organisation will develop its data and AI capabilities over the coming timeframe.

  • Execution Plan - the approach to delivering on that strategy, ensuring the cultural adoption, alignment, and minimal negative disruption to any significant change.

Core Considerations to Execution Planning

Anyone that’s had experience of rolling out significant shifts across and organisation will understand - good or bad - that people hate change. You have to be careful with the who, how, and when this change happens.

You can shape this any way you like. When we build data strategies for our customers at Hypercube there’s an in-depth guide to forming a strong execution plan that’s right for the customer. We build this collaboratively to ensure the success of our projects. I’ll go through five of the dominant themes within our framework below.

Buy-in: Starting the Snowball

In anything we do, people and their buy-in is key to success. Do you know who is already on board? Who’s not going to like the change? Who’s going to need help understanding it?

We’ve found it helps to categorise people into groupings like this and identify all of the specific stakeholders affected by the upcoming changes. You can then think about tailoring your approach to each.

Engage champions and early adopters at the start of the process and once they’re seeing success, the snowball starts to grow as they draw in others.

Timing: Pick Your Moment

Establishing timelines is crucial, for managing expectations and ensuring a smooth implementation process. You might be excited about the upcoming data strategy and all the wonderful things it’s going to deliver but I promise you the finance team won’t give two hoots during the end-of-year accounts close period and the software team won’t be listening if you’re approaching a big launch.

Pick your moments not just at the start, but throughout. Ensure the right people are engaged when they have the best likelihood of success.

Tracking to a timeline also allows for progress monitoring and measuring your success.

Proof Points: We’re On to Something

One crucial aspect is establishing measurable objectives that serve as the foundation for the planning process. These objectives provide a sense of direction - allowing you to drive to completion, but also take stock of where you are.

Having things to point at, like “department XYZ had the kick-off meeting and are already booking in their personal training sessions” is a great tool to communicate with other teams and management.

Early Warning Signs: Turn Back Now

Be wary of the sticking point and potential traps. Negative sentiment on feedback surveys, decreases in engagement with certain tools or forums, all these things can act as early indicators of significant issues with the strategy that might need addressing.

Reflection: What Have We Learned?

Take points within the rollout to reflect on what’s there and make continue/pivot decisions on the rest of the strategy implementation. We like to make this formal and bake these checkpoints into the timelines as you can’t guarantee it’ll be right first time.

Final Thoughts

Even the best strategy will fail if people don’t engage with it succesfully. This, in my opinion, is one of the root causes in people thinking about strategy as a woolly word, with little real meaning.

Thinking actively about how best to rollout and implement your new strategy can do wonders to smooth the path to success.

All the best,

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