July 13, 2017
A few years ago, my family and I set the goal of visiting 100 national parks. In addition to great views and good times, traveling cross country has taught me a very important lesson — not all roadmaps are alike.
The same is true in business. While most companies have a strategic roadmap that guides progress, some plans prove more capable than others. Often, the difference between a strong roadmap and an ineffective one stems not from poor work or a lack of effort, but from the goals upon which stakeholders base their strategies.
Clients regularly ask us logistical questions about roadmapping. How far out should they build it? How specific should it be? Questions like these are tough to answer because factors such as internal company politics or market competition impact the ability to craft a single solution.
There’s a level of complexity to digital transformation that cannot be avoided, but we can mitigate it with the right questions. At PointSource, it’s our job to help clients move beyond vague ambitions as we work together to build a strategic roadmap that asks – do you have clearly defined business goals?
Guiding Roadmaps With SMART Business Goals
SMART goals are strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-stamped. To illustrate the importance of the “strategic” part, imagine you’re a high school student with one plan for after graduation — making money. You find a job that helps you achieve this goal, but there’s little guarantee that you actually enjoy the job or that it leverages your unique skills. In addition, achieving that goal is short-sighted and hard to scale.
Now imagine you’re that same high schooler, but before graduation, you sit down, think critically and set the strategic goal of becoming an accountant, math being your favorite subject. Securing this job still helps you make money, but its specificity makes use of your unique talents and encourages your overall satisfaction. Additionally, setting a targeted goal helps clarify your roadmap to achievement — perhaps an internship or particular college reveals itself as useful.
Emphasizing strategic-minded goals offers similar opportunities to businesses. This almost always means basing those goals around how to impact the end user. According to our recent study, just 36 percent of organizations always work toward SMART goals based on the level of impact to end users.
Let’s use the goal of boosted revenue to see why many companies fall into a trap. From our experience working with companies both private and public, nothing can derail a business quite like setting the broad ambition of making more money. A strong bottom line is, of course, a major reason entrepreneurs start companies. But it’s a business outcome that lacks the structure, clarity and direction to inform a truly useful roadmap. These SMART goals must be more specific to truly impact your business.
The broadness of this goal leads to a roadmap that is short-sighted and hard to maintain across a multidisciplinary team. A lack of specificity also leaves the necessary objectives open to interpretation, and therefore multiple solutions. We frequently observe that organizations who have goals like these quickly lose alignment because the lack of specificity reveals other issues like communication, meeting cadences, and conflicts with team and personal goals.
To refine their goals, companies must reframe their outcomes around the user experience, as focusing on customer-facing goals produces stronger results across the board (as well as more money). A company could, for example, explore why users are choosing competitors to identify deficiencies in the experience it currently provides. Perhaps customers are unhappy with a lack of third-party tools or wish a software was easier to install. Armed with these insights, the company can pursue specific steps that impact customers — x number of integrations by x date, or building out a more elaborate onboarding program with x, y and z trainings. Businesses can work these specific goals and their associated values into a strategic roadmap, using sensible forecasting to identify quarterly and short-term outcomes. When achieved, these goals improve the user experience and delight consumers with greater, more effective capabilities, which ultimately drives revenue.
Moving From SMART to SMART-E
Specificity elevates a SMART strategy to a full-blown SMART-E. What does the ‘E’ stand for? Educational.
SMART goals may check the boxes of a complete idea, but complete doesn’t always mean valuable. Once a goal is achieved, if it’s not generating some level of intelligence then the outcome has failed to help your business become smarter over time. Fortunately, clearly defined business outcomes are easy to learn from.
Again, take revenue. Total revenue is a lagging indicator, meaning that what it measures is a byproduct of something else. Companies can still pursue increased profit, but earning concrete insights about users starts with a customer-facing goal (a leading indicator).
Continuing the example from above, it’s easy to see what a company can learn from working toward outcomes like improved integrations or easier implementation. For instance, as a company engineers more integrations to develop a comprehensive offering of tools, stakeholders will likely uncover other digital experience preferences. If a majority of users are accessing these tools via mobile, this indicates that a stronger mobile offering could be something worth looking it. Or, if users are struggling with one tool more than other, maybe they would benefit from additional training and resources (videos, blogs, etc.) on this integration.
Businesses can turn these customer insights into additional specific goals down the road, collectively contributing to increased user satisfaction and boosted revenue over time.
Curious how we can help your company improve its strategic roadmap with more specific business outcomes? Let us know! And stay tuned for future posts that offer additional ways to redefine your business outcomes.