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Here’s how decision management delivers continuous strategy


An old colleague of mine, Vaughn Merlin, had a really interesting post this week When Strategy Becomes Continuous. It’s a great post and he makes three key points:

  • IT strategy is not the point – it’s all about business strategy.
  • Much ‘strategy’ effort is not very strategic.
  • Strategy formulation and execution are too loosely coupled.

He then quotes Gary Hamel who said “If you want to understand the real strategy, look at what people are doing!”.

It was this last comment that crystalized the link to decision management in my mind. After all, in a modern corporation, it might be almost more appropriate to say “if you want to understand the real strategy, look at what the systems are doing!”. After all, most transactions are handled by systems and, with self-service on the increase, more and more customer interactions are with systems (at least in part).

So that got me thinking. In an era of continuous strategy – where constantly changing and adapting corporate strategy is critical to success – how important is decision management? Critical, clearly. My systems must reflect my strategy and my strategy must change all the time so my systems must be agile. But the kind of changes my systems need to make are changes to decision making – it is the decisions that are implemented in a system that must reflect my strategy.

If we go back to Vaughn’s three points, decision management aligns perfectly. Decision management means putting business people in charge of the behavior of systems (business not IT, point no 1). Decision management focuses effort on the decisions that affect operations (making it strategic, point no 2). And most importantly, decision management ties strategy to execution (point no 3).

Continuous strategy is going to become a competitive reality, decision management is how you can make this work in your information systems. I for one am looking forward to his research on this topic.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Vaughan Merlyn October 16, 2008, 4:39 am

    Thanks for making the linkage to decision management – this is an important connection and must be an integral part of the next generation of strategy formulation/execution.

  • Doug Dame October 23, 2008, 12:35 pm

    “Continuous strategy” as you describe it is not Strategy.

    The Strategy is the capability and use of constant, or at least rapid, refinements and tweaks of business rules, based on empirical cost/benefit/effectiveness data.

    The resulting operational adjustments are at best tactical, and arguably better described as autonomous. Depending on their scope.

    Deciding there is a need for a level, comfortable ride, and designing a suspension system with shock absorbers is a strategic decision. Once that’s been engineered and implemented, would you argue that all the travel of the shock absorbers as they adjust to the bumps and dips in the road are “strategic”? Of course not.

    Same thing with a customer business decision system that self-evolves, as customer responses do, within the framework of an explicit and empirical ROI maximization model. (And/or other models.)

    Don’t disagree with you on the significance of anything you say, but the term “continuous strategy” is a oxymoron. IMO, of course !