451 Research Insight: Organizations Need a Clear Line of Sight from Strategy to Execution

451 Research Insight: Organizations Need a Clear Line of Sight from Strategy to Execution

June 30, 2020
Written by

Madison Klein

Published on

June 30, 2020

In a recent Livecast, Catalant Co-Founder and Co-CEO Pat Petitti joined 451 Research (now a part of S&P Global Market Intelligence) Senior Analyst Conner Forrest to discuss strategy execution in the ‘new normal’. In the Livecast, Forrest identified key challenges that organizations face today in executing their strategies and Petitti explained how Catalant is helping some of the world’s largest and best known companies to overcome these obstacles.

This virtual event came on the heels of 451 Research’s recent report on Catalant, in which Forrest analyzed how Catalant “helps to manage multiple aspects of strategy execution” through a “centralized SaaS platform to help customers design and execute their business strategies, alongside an expert marketplace that connects resources and employee capabilities to the jobs and projects customers are working on.”1

According to Forrest’s analysis, “the demand for stronger alignment between business strategy and execution” is consistent in 451 Research’s proprietary survey data across panels of enterprise leaders. This survey data shows that organizational leaders, department heads, and team members at the execution level share many of the same strategy-execution struggles, and makes clear that better visibility and stronger alignment would help to overcome challenges at all levels.2

1451 Research, “Coverage Initiation: Catalant matches internal employees and independent contractors to jobs and projects,” April 2020.

2451 Research, “Voice of the Enterprise: Workforce Productivity & Collaboration, Work Execution Goals & Challenges,” 2020.

Missed the LiveCast?

Watch the full recording of the 451 Research Livecast, and download a recent analyst report about Catalant.


Aligning priorities across the organization

“Aligning priorities across the organization” is the challenge to strategy execution most commonly reported by 451 Research survey respondents at the organizational level; this is also the number one challenge reported at the departmental level.2 This data is also supported by Gartner’s research, which shows that only 30% of strategists agree that their execution efforts are aligned with their strategies.3

In response to the need for greater alignment, many organizations have evolved departmental strategy offices or domain program management offices (PMOs) into enterprise PMOs, transformation management offices, strategy realization offices, or similar centralized groups responsible for orchestrating strategic workstreams at the organizational level. However, even companies that have developed specialized offices to prioritize and execute strategic work struggle to align organization-wide initiatives with strategic objectives without the right technology.

3Gartner, “2019 Gartner Strategy Execution benchmark Survey,” 2019.

Case Study: Enterprise Portfolio Management for a Fortune 100 Technology Company

A multinational technology company, recognizing the need to drive greater orchestration across its portfolio of strategic work, partnered with Catalant to help its EPMO to get better visibility into its pipeline and resource capacity and to surface data to inform prioritization decisions.

As with many EPMOs, the demands of the business and potential work far exceed capacity, making prioritization and intelligent orchestration critical to achieving the company’s strategic objectives. Driving synergies across fragmented business units and product lines while maintaining strategic focus requires both orchestration and disciplined prioritization.

The organization decided to use Catalant’s platform to provide them with greater visibility into their pipeline of potential initiatives and projects — from ideation to business case development to budget approval to launch. This visibility enabled them to ensure that they prioritized the work that would drive greatest impact.

Ensuring plans are actionable and getting buy-in to the planning process

“Ensuring plans are actionable” is the second most frequently cited challenge to strategy execution at the organizational level, and it is the top concern at the departmental and team levels, according to 451 Research survey data.2 “Getting buy-in to the planning process” is also a major challenge, especially at the departmental level.

Setting clearly defined, measurable objectives and forming actionable plans for how to achieve those objectives is a struggle for large businesses. Much of this stems from how difficult it is to create and maintain meaningful feedback loops between those setting the strategy and those responsible for execution. According to 451 Research survey data, only 31% of enterprises even track individual performance goals against business strategy.2 Harvard Business School Professor Robert S. Kaplan and PhD. business theorist David P. Norton have written that only 7% of employees fully understand their company’s business strategies and what’s expected of them to achieve company goals.”4 Failure to link the company’s objectives, strategic plans, and execution efforts degrades communication and often results in unfocused work and poor allocation of resources — both of which diminish a company’s ability to execute the strategic plan. 

The Catalant Platform helps companies to map how their strategic initiatives and projects roll up to their business objectives. It also provides visibility into work progress against those objectives and facilitates communication both vertically and horizontally throughout the enterprise. This visibility and enhanced communication gives business leaders and teams a more nuanced understanding of shifting plans and execution efforts, which allows them to work together to ensure that goals are well understood and plans are actionable.

4Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “The Strategy-Focused Organization,” 2001.

Responding effectively to market changes

“Responding effectively to market changes” is a high concern at both the organizational level, which is responsible for setting strategy, and at the team level, for whom changes in the market could radically alter their ability to execute.2

Many of our customers have told us that some divisions or business units are soaring in post-pandemic market conditions, while others are facing significant headwinds. This imbalance creates stress for many large organizations, as high-performing parts of the business must produce beyond capacity while anemic parts of the business may have extra capacity due to slowed demand and little likelihood of executing their pre-pandemic plans. Research supports that companies that are better at reallocating talent to rebalance in such scenarios significantly outperform their competitors;5 however, talent mobility remains cumbersome within most large companies despite widespread adoption of workforce management and project planning tools.6

5McKinsey & Company, “Linking talent to value,” McKinsey Quarterly, April 2018.

6Gartner, “Cool Vendors in Human Capital Management: Transforming Talent to Drive the Digital Workplace,” 2019.

Case Study: Transformation of a Fortune 100 Financial Services Company

A multinational financial services company recognized the need to transform its operations to ensure that work happening across the organization was in line with its strategic objectives. Company leaders partnered with Catalant to help them orchestrate their transformation workstreams and more efficiently allocate internal resources.

Ensuring that employees were engaged, productive, and driving strategy forward required a nuanced understanding of the skills and experiences within the workforce. Catalant’s platform gave business leaders a much more granular view into the capabilities and aspirations of individual employees, which allowed for more efficient resource allocation. Increased access to stretch opportunities and a better understanding of how individuals contribute to strategy has also helped the business to advance a culture of learning, ownership, and accountability.

Whether driving transformation workstreams forward in periods of less volatility or having to pivot strategy in response to rapidly changing market conditions, the organization knows that its resilience is predicated upon its ability to navigate constant transformation and build strategy execution as a well-honed internal capability.

Gathering resources to execute plans

“Gathering resources to execute plans” is one of the biggest challenges to strategy execution at the team level, according to 451 Research survey data.12 Their research not only shows that skills shortages throttle execution, but also that the top methods to improve talent access include “more proactive candidate recruitment” and “better identification of internal candidates.”13

The Catalant Platform provides business leaders with a clear view of the organization’s most important work and of the knowledge, skills, experiences, and capacity of the workforce. This enables organizations to dynamically deploy the right people to the right work at the right time.

Better visibility into how the skills and experiences of the workforce align with the needs of the business also allows business leaders to recognize where they have organizational capability gaps.

To bridge knowledge, skill, or capacity gaps and keep strategic initiatives on track, Catalant’s Expert Marketplace gives business leaders flexible access to nearly 70,000 elite independent consultants and more than 1,000 firms.

7451 Research, “Voice of the Enterprise: Workforce Productivity & Collaboration, Employee Lifecycle & HR,” 2020.

A clear line of sight from strategy to execution

All of the strategy execution challenges identified by Conner Forrest in the 451 Research survey data can be mitigated and overcome with the right technology and processes in place.

Organizations struggle to get a clear line of sight from strategy to execution, in large part, due to fragmented technology solutions and patchwork processes at different levels of the organization and across different departments, functional groups, and business units.

Uniting a company’s strategic objectives, work, and workforce in one platform enables greater alignment across the organization. It ensures that plans are actionable by creating a feedback loop that connects strategic objectives with the work to be done with the people responsible for executing. It allows for organizations to respond more effectively to market changes by streamlining communication as priorities shift, updating plans in real-time, and allocating resources to adapt to those plans more dynamically. And it ensures that the right resources are available for the right work at the right time.

The Catalant Platform

Software-as-a-Service to align your workforce with your strategic objectives

Expert Marketplace

On-demand resources to variabilize workforce — and fill skills & capacity gaps

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