02 Aug 2016

Strategic planning is key to your succes

It’s no news that the World changes more rapidly than ever, which also has a great impact on the app industry. As the industry and market matures, customer expectations increase continuously and shift over night. This shortens app life-cycles drastically and puts pressure on the need for updates with new features. Simultaneously, Apple and Google continues to push innovations into the mobile eco-system, which the users quickly adopt and demand.

Consequently, no one in the industry can take survival for granted as succeeding with an app becomes increasingly difficult. Truth being told, there’s no easy way forward, however, we believe there is a way — you have to distinguish clearly between a plan and planning. This approach was originally developed by the renowned German Field Marshal, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder (1800-1891) who strongly believed that “[…] no plan of operations extends with certain beyond the encounter with the enemy’s main strength.”. This belief made his battle strategies revolve around a series of options rather than simply one single plan.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) and U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) later made more modern and easy to understand statements “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”, “… plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”, respectively.

While this approach is far from new, I believe it’s worth recalling, because it enables you to develop an app strategy that works in a fluid and unpredictable environment.
Here are four principles that will help you in the right direction:

Expect Less from Your Strategic App Plans
We experience companies (corporates, as well as start-ups) who have given up on strategic planning entirely, because they have come to realise that their plans do not hold true as the underlying circumstances change. Statements like this isn’t uncommon these days; “We have tried to make strategic plans, but they always turn out to be wrong so we have stopped planning ahead.” or, “We don’t want to spend resources on planning, because the market is changing too much for the plans to matter anyway.”.

You need to acknowledge that performing analysis and writing down how your app will succeed will not make the uncertainty disappear. This means you should expect less from your plans and focus more on the creation of flexible planning processes.

Continuous Reflection is Key
Planning processes are key, because it forces you to reflect on and revisit the underlying circumstances, which might have changed. Hereby the planning process becomes a platform from which change can be leveraged in your organisation. The planning process will be frustrating at times and require resources, but the preparedness it creates is worth it.

Another important reason is that it forces people to be on the same page. People often think they agree until they distill their viewpoints in a written document that they have to sign off to. The disagreements created in this process are key, because it surfaces hidden knowledge in your organisation and engages people where they’re needed the most.

Strategic Plans are Organisational
You need to acknowledge the important distinction between business strategy and the actions within. While action is certainly fundamental to implementation and success, it’s performed at the individual level. Business strategy, on the other hand, is performed at the organisational level where individual actions across various departments must come together to create something bigger in unity.

Example: To succeed with an app, i.e. onboard and retain users, your IT department have to work closely with your marketing department to understand the users’ need and develop proper IT solutions accordingly. Thereafter they both have to work closely with communication department to ensure the solution is presented effectively among the users.

Regardless of how simple it might seem, we experience companies who struggle, because their apps aren’t integrated across the organisation, which hampers their performance, thus ROI.

Keep Your Plans Fresh
In a World undergoing constant change, plans age like milk, not like good wine. This means you have to revisit your plan regularly. For apps, I recommend monthly, complex apps even bi-weekly. In my experience, apps are best seen as living and breathing products, which in turn means a strategic app plan has to be a flexible document that guides decision making and helps marshal resources.

Example: You'll quickly experience that it can be quite a challenge to manage the many feature updates, minor adjustments and bug-fixes simultaneously. This gets even more complex when changes and new features need to fit within and support the strategic direction. Here I recommend setting up a Feature Roadmap where ongoing and future projects can be plotted and easily overviewed in turn. The world doesn’t stand still and neither should you.