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Strategic planning is always this nebulous thing that people don’t really understand what it is or what it involves.
Content from our sponsor Please note: The Wall Street Journal News Department was not involved in the creation of the content below. Deloitte’s Insights for CFOs provides financial executives a customized resource to help them address the strategic, operational and regulatory issues they face in managing their finance organizations and careers, with top-line digests, research, perspectives and technical analyses.
With technology playing a larger role in driving company value and competitive advantage, it is more important than ever that CFOs collaborate closely and effectively with CIOs.
Deloitte LLP CEO Cathy Engelbert discusses top-of-mind issues facing CFOs and other senior executives, such as disruption, transformation and shareholder activism, as well as cyber and data protection. What does it take to be a transformational CFO, one who is a partner to the CEO and leads finance to drive value in the business? As Global Chief Risk Officer (CRO) of Allianz SE since 2008, Thomas Wilson has witnessed turbulent market events as well as a number of substantial new regulatory requirements.
Turning Strategic Ambiguity into Strategic ClarityAs in battle, strategic ambiguity can sometimes lead to disastrous results and cause major stress for CFOs. In a CFO’s view, strategic ambiguity is the uncertainty arising from the organization’s inability to 1) define strategy in the face of economic volatility, 2) clearly communicate the strategy internally to employees and externally to investors and other stakeholders, 3) align resources to implement that strategy and 4) execute effectively.
One of the root causes of strategic ambiguity, not surprisingly, is the volatility in the business environment.
At each step of the Strategy Execution Framework, there can be opportunities for CFOs to take the lead in cutting through the fog of ambiguity to achieve strategic clarity. Volatility in the economic environment can cloud the core vision of the organization as well as the validity of corporate objectives. Articulating the strategy is as critical as defining it, and CFOs are uniquely positioned to communicate that direction to both employees and external stakeholders.
Translating the vision and corporate goals into concrete plans of action with clear resource requirements and expected outcomes over a defined time frame. Incorporating plans into operating budgets, assigned to managers accountable for achieving results. Using reporting and analytics to evaluate progress and to identify needed course corrections. These steps only offer a framework for combating strategic ambiguity, however, not reducing it. This publication contains general information only and Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries ("Deloitte") are not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax or other professional advice or services.
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Occupational Health and Safety Strategic Planning provides a planned, documented and quantifiable approach for the comprehensive and systematic management of OH&S business planning and continuous improvement. We function from the belief that a strategy is a solution to move from where you are now (A) to where you want to be (B)…or put another way, it is what you want to happen to achieve an end.
We utilize a process that integrates OH&S with operational activities, while remaining sufficiently flexible and responsive to meet changing demands and environments and encompasses the areas of leadership, behaviour, incident prevention, management and OHS data analysis and supporting risk management processes. The other important component of a strategic plan is an environmental scan, which reveals potential threats of the company as well as strengths. The other part of strategic planning is strategy implementation, which involves using the company resources to ensure that its objectives are achieved. It sounds like something important and we know that we’re supposed to do it, so we plan on doing it. By strengthening their partnership, CFOs and CIOs can improve their ability to align IT investment with strategic growth plans and business performance. She also discusses talent, including managing multigenerations, shifting approaches to performance management, and the importance and value of a diverse workforce.

Yet, there may be no one better positioned than the CFO to navigate their organizations through strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity.
Economic upheaval and change continue to drive companies to revisit and revise their core strategies. They also can stifle the broader organization’s ability to effectively execute the strategy.
Most companies do not have the luxury of investing in each opportunity and only a finite number of major initiatives can be managed effectively.
Poor communication of strategic objectives often leads to a lack of buy-in and internal alignment resulting in less desirable resource allocation decisions. Clear communications and alignment on strategic objectives is also critical among external stakeholders to gain the confidence of investors. Finally, corporate objectives and the strategies to achieve these objectives are rarely static. Moreover, guided by the following four questions, CFOs can move out of their steward and operator roles as outlined in the Four Faces of the CFO? into the strategic and catalyst roles they desire. Asking this question focuses the conversation on whether volatility in the environment is a near-term disturbance to endure or something that requires a rethinking of the way the organization does business.
For example, CFOs and the senior leadership team should be actively involved in the front-end of the annual planning process, articulating the overall strategic objectives for the organization and setting clear topdown guidance. To effectively do this, the investment decisions should be classified as either necessary to maintain business as usual or to change the business in support of strategic objectives. The impacts of accepted initiatives should be incorporated into the financial plan and reflect both the costs and benefits of those initiatives. To truly drive clarity of strategic objectives, CFOs should leverage variance analysis and reporting processes to understand whether unexpected performance is a function of execution missteps or an indicator of changing external realities. The usage of scenario planning, particularly for black and gray swan events, has only increased over the last few years. Organizational skills and capabilities should constantly be evaluated and changed to align with strategic intent. The respondent CFOs told us in the 2Q10 survey that they wanted to spend more time in their strategist and catalyst roles, and by the 2Q11 survey, they had gotten what they asked for. The CFO plays a critical role in bringing strategic clarity to multiple constituents as a result of his or her particular position as an unbiased participant in the strategy development, communication and execution process. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business.
As such it should support your strategy by providing a way to reach (B) that provides an acceptable balance of risk and reward. A strategic plan includes having a mission statement that describes the vision of the company. Strategic formulation is another important part of planning strategically which seeks to enable the company to attain much needed profits and to be superior to its competitors. Whether personal or business related, he stresses the importance of setting BIG Goals – Bold Inspirational Goals. Learn how to employ three actions that are critical to realizing a stronger CFO-CIO partnership: achieve mutual understanding, establish effective communications and identify opportunities to collaborate on delivering value to the business. Looking at innovation, she notes the influence it is having on professional services and other sectors, and why CFOs are positioned to help drive innovation in their organizations. A former management consultant, he explains how he has shifted the culture in finance, expanded its activities and freed capacity to focus on creating value. Wilson believes that CROs contribute to profitable growth and shareholder value both through traditional risk control activities and by being deeply engaged in strategy and in the upfront design of products and services. Following is a discussion of how CFOs can leverage data and the planning and performance management cycles to address multiple aspects of strategic risk and in the process create opportunities for themselves to serve as business strategists and catalysts. At the same time, companies’ ability, or inability, to formulate and execute their business strategies only adds to the problem. If investors don’t understand or disagree with management’s view on corporate objectives, they can express their disagreement in capital markets.

Effective implementation of strategic objectives requires a change in organizational practices, investments and incentives. Effective companies balance the need for a clear and executable strategy with flexibility and a certain degree of organizational redundancy to respond to changes in the business environment. CFOs should help ground the discussion in facts and help the organization understand the range of possibilities. In addition, CFOs should leverage investor communication channels to continuously gauge and shape external viewpoints around the organization’s strategic direction. Using the traditional operating versus capital-funding distinction, investments may attract some scrutiny, but those using operating funds are often subject to limited review and accountability for performance. CFOs should strive for planning and budgeting processes that avoid unnecessary detail and provide rich context behind targets pushed down to operating managers.
Specifically, CFOs should expand the reporting process to include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) aligned with enterprise and operating unit strategies and then hold the organization accountable to the metrics.
CFOs should make sure the planning takes into account certain volatile factors such as the strength of the economy, consumer demand, technological innovation and the regulatory environment to determine plausible scenarios and possible outliers.
Finance can play a critical role in establishing performance expectations and monitoring execution and recommending course correction by providing reporting, analysis and decision support pertaining to resource deployment and productivity. By leveraging the planning and performance management cycles as well as analytical capabilities, CFOs can minimize strategic ambiguity and establish strategic clarity for the organization and its stakeholders. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.
With the guidance if the vision the company states its objectives as part of strategic planning process.
The last part of strategic planning is evaluation since for a plan to be successful it has to be monitored.
He also discusses how CFOs can sharpen their understanding of emerging technologies that could impact their business model. The inability, or delay, in changing these factors to align with the strategic objectives will most likely result in reduced success or even failure. In addition, CFOs should use their position as a centralized, unbiased participant in the strategy development and execution process to determine that both sides of any decision are evaluated and that the assumptions and underlying projections are road tested. Earnings calls or investor road shows can also be used to signal changes in strategic direction and management’s view of the future.
This can determine that the process efficiently and effectively links strategic direction to a measurable financial plan and clearly identifies initiatives that drive strategic objectives.
In addition, the advent of increasingly effective analytical processes and supporting tools offer the CFO a platform to deliver rich insights to the business operators. In addition, CFOs should push the planning beyond the traditional “high-medium-low” approach to include a wide enough range of possibilities that allow the team to prepare for particular scenarios and watch for signs that they are actually happening. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication. Insurance leader for Deloitte LLP, and David Garnitz, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP.
Through the process of communicating or implementing a strategy, companies may learn things about internal capabilities that may require a re-thinking of focus. Many leading CFOs balance quantitative and qualitative analyses pertaining to product penetration and profitability, pricing strategy and tactics, and segment or geographic dynamics, to name a few. Most important, the scenario planning process should include testing to see if the firm’s strategy will hold up to each possibility.
Consistently linking these analytics to strategy execution helps reinforce and communicate the strategy internally and externally.

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