If tech implementation is not the first thing to focus on, what is?

Strategy translation comes first. It comprises rigorous steps to ensure strategic potential before you invest in implementing software and business change.

strategy translation in software practice
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Implementation doesn’t automatically deliver strategic outcomes

A lot of business literature is excellent, but some of them give us the impression that strategy execution is about implementation and deployment. Sadly, we frequently see the same idea in practice as well. Most software projects are implemented passionately — in an effective and efficient manner. Increasingly, software is also deployed with great care and there's celebration when software goes live. Sooner or later though, it becomes clear that the newly deployed technology is poorly aligned with business strategy.

Why? Because we're not in the habit of doing strategy translation as the engine of execution, when in fact translation is the factor that largely determines whether or not we could eventually generate strategic outcomes.

What is strategy translation?

When we say "translate strategy," we may be saying nothing at all. The phrase “translate strategy” is frequently used, but it is used without a common understanding. Some folks have a narrow view of it, as in “translate strategy into measures.” Some think of it abstractly, as in “translate strategy into reality.” Others have several views between these two extremes.

So, here’s a definition you may find helpful. Strategy translation is a deliberate activity to produce an architecture that packs strategic outcomes potential.

With this working definition, it becomes easier to create a method and to define the skill-set needed to apply the method. We can then enable internal or service provider teams to help translate strategy.

Strategy translation: Your new business phase

Strategy translation needs a clearly-marked space in the strategic management process and in software practice.

When it comes to software initiatives, strategy translation rarely, if ever, happens. The focus instead is on the technical phase. The technology/engineering strength must be kept, but strategic outcomes depend a lot on what activity goes first and how much attention it receives. Sure, software practice does have a Business phase that precedes technical implementation, but it is weak because it is not designed to help translate business strategy.

Where would strategy translation fit? In Stanford’s Strategic Execution Framework, strategy translation fits into the Engagement domain. In software practice, strategy translation is your improved Business phase. It brings the needed improvement to reverse tech's poor strategic contribution.

Software implementation without a preceding focus on strategy translation will not translate strategy. To execute business strategy through technology, start with a focus on strategy translation. Make the Business phase of software practice a strategy translation phase, rather than just a requirements analysis phase. Ensure that what you would eventually implement, deploy, and use has strategic potential.

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