IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment

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white paper: strategic alignment
IT Strategy Maps:
A Tool For Strategic Alignment
Forrester research


November 21, 2005

IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For
Strategic Alignment
by Craig Symons


Helping Business Thrive On Technology Change

November 21, 2005
IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
Visual Representation Of Strategy Makes IT-Business Communication Easier
by Craig Symons
with Laurie Orlov, Samuel Bright, and Katherine Brown
Aligning IT and business strategy remains the No. 1 or No. 2 business IT issue year after year. But no
matter how much focus and attention this subject receives, little progress seems to be made. Forrester
recommends that 1) firms start measuring strategic alignment as part of the “you can’t manage what
you don’t measure” philosophy, and 2) start using strategy maps to build consensus around strategic
objectives and communicate this strategy to all stakeholders. By creating a picture of strategic objectives,
making strategy visible in a strategy map makes it easier to communicate and drive alignment, thus
embodying another familiar philosophy — a picture is worth 1,000 words.
2 Strategy Maps Present Business Strategy
For this document Forrester spoke with a range
From Four Perspectives
of firms, including:, Dell, Honda,
The Financial Perspective — Strategies Create
Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom, Procter & Gamble,
Southwest Airlines, and Toyota.
The Customer Perspective — How Will The
Firm Differentiate?
Related Research Documents
“IT Measurement Survey Results”
The Internal Process Perspective — It’s All
April 21, 2005, Trends
About Execution
The Learning And Growth Perspective — What
“IT And Business Alignment: Are We There Yet?”
About People?
April 13, 2005, Trends
6 The IT Strategy Map Helps Align Business
“The Balanced Scorecard: An IT Perspective”
And IT
October 15, 2004, Best Practices
9 Strategy Maps Are A Tool In The IT
Planning Arsenal
10 Use Strategy Maps To Drive IT/Business
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Best Practices | IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
Aligning IT and business strategy remains one of the top issues that business executives and CIOs
wrestle with. Maximizing the return on IT investments requires that these investments link directly
to strategic business objectives. One of the major obstacles to achieving strategy alignment is that
many organizations do a poor job of communicating their strategy. When people who are key to
executing strategy don’t know what the strategy is or understand how their day-to-day activities
contribute to strategy execution, it’s highly likely overall enterprise performance is going to suffer.
Strategy maps are one way to shore up communication about strategy with a visual representation.
Strategy maps are:
· Derived from the Balanced Scorecard. Strategy maps emerged as part of Robert Kaplan’s and
David Norton’s seminal work with the Balanced Scorecard.1 At their simplest, strategy maps
describe how the organization creates value — the missing link between strategy formulation
and strategy execution. Using the four balanced scorecard perspectives as a starting point, the
strategy map shows the cause and effect linkages between the four perspectives:
Financial — To succeed financially how should we appear to our shareholders?
Customer — To achieve our vision, how should we appear to our customers?
Learning and growth — To achieve our vision, how will we sustain our ability to change and
Internal business process — To satisfy our shareholders and customers, at what business
process must we excel?
A strategy map is a generic architecture for describing strategy that helps organizations develop
a holistic, integrated, and systematic way of viewing their strategy. The strategy map forces an
organization to think about its strategy from the four perspectives, to develop the outcomes and
drivers of the strategy, and to draw the linkages between them (see Figure 1).
· Developed within a top-down process. Strategy map development is a top-down process
beginning with the financial (value) perspective and ending with the learning and growth
(future orientation) perspective. Developing a strategy map is a forcing function that drives an
organization to first reach a consensus on its strategy and related objectives, and then to develop
expected outcomes and their dependent drivers. Financial and customer perspectives represent
the expected outcomes of strategy (i.e., make money and have happy customers), while the
internal process and learning and growth perspectives represent the drivers of those outcomes.
November 21, 2005
© 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited

Best Practices | IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
Figure 1 A Generic Strategy Map
Productivity strategy
shareholder value
Growth strategy
(IT value)
Improve cost
Increase asset
Customer value proposition
Product/service attributes
and social
• Supply
• Selection
• Opportunity ID
• Environment
• Production
• Acquisition
• R&D portfolio
• Safety and health
• Distribution
• Retention
• Design/develop
• Employment
• Risk management
• Growth
• Launch
• Community
Human capital
Information capital
Organization capital
Source: Forrester Research adapted from Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.
© 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited
November 21, 2005

Best Practices | IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
The Financial Perspective — Strategies Create Value
For publicly held companies, creating shareholder value is the overarching strategic objective. On
the other hand, for nonprofit and government entities, stakeholder value is often substituted for
shareholder value. There are two major strategies for creating shareholder value — growth and
productivity. These strategies are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but typically a company will
emphasize one over the other.
· A growth strategy drives revenue. Companies in new or emerging markets will be likely
to pursue growth strategies. Developing new sources of revenue through new markets, new
products, and/or new customers as well as increasing the “wallet share” of existing customers
(i.e., expand the relationship through cross-selling, upselling, etc.) are central to a growth
strategy. By growing top-line revenue faster than expenses, organizations can expand margins
and improve their profitability — typically leading to stock appreciation.
· A productivity strategy focuses on cost and efficiency. Favored by companies in mature
industries, productivity strategies work on the expense side to lower the costs of products and
services and improve the utilization rate of assets. This too can also lead to improved margins
and profits.
The Customer Perspective — How Will The Firm Differentiate?
Ultimately, financial success is a function of a differentiated value proposition (i.e., the unique
mix of product, price, service, customer relationships, brand, etc.) that an enterprise provides its
customers. Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema determined that there are three different strategies
an organization can use to differentiate itself in the marketplace, including:2
· A product leadership strategy. The organization attempts to be the first to market with
innovative products and services, thus obtaining a near monopoly in the beginning. It is the
only source for the product or service. For example, Southwest Airlines was the first to market
with a low-cost point-to-point flight travel offering.
· A customer intimacy strategy. The organization builds lasting bonds with its customers,
anticipates their needs, and provides the products and services they require. For example,’s approach to customer relations emphasizes its ability to understand and
anticipate what the customer will next want to purchase.
· An operational excellence strategy. The organization delivers a combination of quality, price,
and ease of doing business that is difficult to match. For example, Dell strives to differentiate
from its various competitors with its streamlined supplier relationships and direct-to-customer
model sales channel.
November 21, 2005
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Best Practices | IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
· A combination. These strategies are not mutually exclusive; however, organizations typically
excel at one of these while maintaining some level of competency in the other two. For example,
an organization that excels in customer intimacy would not be successful long term if it sold
shoddy products or charged an exorbitant price. Using a retail industry example, one could
argue that The Sharper Image pursues a product leadership strategy, Nieman Marcus pursues a
customer intimacy strategy, and Wal-Mart pursues an operational excellence strategy.
The Internal Process Perspective — It’s All About Execution
The shareholder value and the customer value proposition are the outcomes an organization
expects from its strategy; however, these outcomes depend on execution — and that is where many
organizations fail. Developing a strategy and its associated outcomes is the easy part, excelling at
the required processes and aligning them with the appropriate outcome is the hard part and the one
where many companies fail. The true value of the strategy map occurs when it can identify and link
the performance drivers that will lead to the desired outcomes. For example:
· Innovation drives new products and services. An organization that wants to be a product
leader must have excellent innovation capabilities around product design and development,
including robust research and development capabilities. It must produce a steady stream of new
products and services on a consistent basis. For example, Procter & Gamble’s transformation in
recent years to a “connect and deliver” innovation network, as opposed to its previous focus on
developing all products internally, has boosted revenue and lowered development costs.
· Customer management processes drive relationships. Building lasting customer relationships
means having deep knowledge about the customer and a passion for providing world-class
customer service — the Nordstrom approach to customers is an example of a culture
emphasizing “the customer comes first.”
· Solid operating fundamentals drive operational excellence. Firms like Honda and Toyota that
manufacture and distribute high-quality products and services at low cost, require competencies
in supply chain management, efficient manufacturing, and optimized distribution capabilities.
The Learning And Growth Perspective — What About People?
Ultimately, success at the process level requires that the intangible assets of the organization, as
well as those previously discussed, are also aligned with the strategy. The appropriate investments
must be made in people and systems in order to generate and sustain innovation and growth. This
perspective defines the core competencies, skills, information systems, and corporate culture
required to successfully execute strategy. The three intangibles of the learning and growth
perspective are human capital, information capital, and organizational capital.
© 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited
November 21, 2005

Best Practices | IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
· Human capital. Process excellence depends on having a motivated workforce. Individuals
are driven to succeed knowing they possess the required skills and competencies, and
understanding how their day-to-day activities are aligned with the overall strategic objectives
of the organization. For example, organizations are beginning the active use of competency
models and assessing their employees against them. By understanding their employees’ future
needs, organizations can perform a gap analysis and develop proactive plans for addressing
any identified gaps. An IT organization might determine, for instance, that next year’s project
portfolio will require 10 senior project managers to fulfill. An assessment reveals that there are
only seven senior project managers and only five are performing at or above the competency
model. This would suggest that the organization must either develop additional project
managers or begin the process to bring on board external hires.
· Information capital. Process excellence also requires that employees have access to
information systems, data, and other tools necessary to effectively and efficiently carry out their
responsibilities. For example, an organization may have a strategic goal to improve customer
service by reducing the long customer wait times a multi-system causes. While customer service
representatives access multiple systems to find requested information, customers wait longer
than necessary. Implementing an integrated CRM system would provide the required tools to
increase efficiency and meet this specific objective.
· Organizational capital. Organizational culture plays an important role in strategy execution.
Successful organizations require strong leadership, collaboration, and a clear line of sight from
individuals to organizational strategy. For example, to improve its effectiveness a manufacturer
of machine tools wanted to encourage the sharing of ideas and best practices among its line
workers. It began to measure contributions and reward workers who shared information with
their colleagues, holding contests each quarter. Over several years this sharing practice became
part of the factory floor culture and contributed to an improved safety rating, among other
The strategy map for IT is very similar to the generic business strategy map, and an organization
achieves alignment when the business IT strategy map links to the business strategy map. For
example, if the business strategy is primarily a productivity strategy emphasizing driving as much
possible cost out of the business to provide customers with the lowest price, then IT’s strategy must
reflect this. Therefore, the IT strategy should also be a productivity strategy, focused on using IT
to reduce costs (see Figure 2). The IT strategy map follows the corresponding four IT perspectives,
· IT value. Like a business, IT’s strategic goal is to create value via information technology. This
value can come through enabling the business to develop innovative products and/or services,
November 21, 2005
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Best Practices | IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
expanding markets (growth strategy), or helping the business become more efficient and cost
effective (productivity strategy).3
Scenario: A Southeastern bank had a strategic objective to increase revenues from existing
customers. The IT organization implemented a referral application on top of existing teller
systems. This enabled bank tellers to create automatic referrals during customer transactions.
For example, while a teller was handling a routine deposit transaction for a customer, he
might learn through casual conversation that the customer was in the process of shopping for
a new car. The teller could then initiate a referral to the branch employee responsible for auto
loans. If the branch ultimately makes an auto loan to that customer, the teller receives a small
commission for the referral, and the bank branch obtains additional revenue from the customer.
In the year since the system went live, revenues per customer have increased by 5%.
· User (customer). At the same time, IT has customers (users) it must satisfy. Satisfaction can
stem from the development side by delivering new projects on time and on budget, or from the
operations side by providing highly reliable and available systems, as well as high quality and
timely problem resolution, through the help desk.
Scenario: In an effort to improve its customer satisfaction, the IT organization of a Midwest
manufacturer decided to negotiate service-level agreements (SLAs) for 12 of its major services.
These services ranged from provisioning a new employee to providing timely responses to
help desk calls. It closely monitored its performance on the SLAs, and customer satisfaction
consequently improved in each successive quarter.
· Process excellence. Creating business value with IT and maintaining high levels of user
satisfaction require process excellence. Process excellence applies to both the applications side
(project execution) and the operations side (reliability and availability) of IT.
Scenario: Unhappy with its project execution performance, a regional retailer in the Northeast
implemented a project portfolio management application and upgraded the staff in its project
office. The portfolio management system helped IT communicate the demand on its resources
to its users and resulted in discussions that led to a more manageable workload. Today, the
development group delivers more than 90% of its projects on time and on budget, versus only
68% previously.
· Future orientation capabilities. Process excellence in IT requires a skilled and motivated
workforce with clear goals and objectives that are aligned with the organization’s strategy.
Furthermore, employees must be led by capable managers and have access to the tools and
information required to perform their jobs.
Scenario: The Northeast regional retailer mentioned above, realizing that it needed to upgrade
its project management skills, developed a competency model for project managers and
© 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited
November 21, 2005

Best Practices | IT Strategy Maps: A Tool For Strategic Alignment
assessed its people against it. This tool enabled the retailer to understand where in the workforce
it needed to build skills, and it also identified current staff exhibiting project management
potential. This identification resulted in personal development plans for these individuals that
would provide them with the necessary training and mentoring to grow them into capable
project managers.
The value in the strategy map is exposing the linkages between the strategic objectives and ensuring
that the objectives are linked to strategic outcomes. Process excellence and future orientation
capabilities result in IT value and customer satisfaction. It is the transformation of the intangible
assets into tangible results.
Figure 2 An IT Strategy Map
Sustained shareholder value
IT Value
Managing unit cost of
Maximize business-unit
information technology
value creation
Do the right
thing at the
right time
Optimize IT
Realize scale
platforms &
end users
Attract and
Focus on
Promote a
Acquire skills
retain people
culture of
in enabling
with key skills
Source: Forrester Research adapted from Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.
November 21, 2005
© 2005, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited

Document Outline

  • front.strategicalignment
  • WP-StrategicAlignment.pdf
  • back-tribridge