Strategy describes a coherent and effective approach to reaching a defined set of goals and objectives.

Strategies exist at many levels throughout an enterprise. There are corporate or enterprise-wide strategies, business unit strategies, regional and market strategies, and for products and projects. It may be described by a strategic plan, a product vision or roadmap, a business case, or other artifacts.

Strategy analysis provides a purpose and direction for change. Without a strategy, an initiative may be able to deliver business value, but it will end up being driven by conflicting demands and pressures and risks becoming a collection of features, desires and goals without any greater purpose. A clear strategy is needed for solutions to include everything that is needed — and only what is needed — to achieve a defined purpose.

Strategy consists of answering a number of related questions:

  • What is the problem we are trying to solve (or the opportunity we want to exploit)?
  • What is the context in which we are trying to solve it?
  • How will we know when we have solved it?
  • What kinds of solutions are possible?
  • Which of those solutions are the best option for us, if any?
  • What needs to change to make the solution work, if it can?
  • What could go wrong?

A good strategy will answer these questions, and will also help define how the solution will deliver greater value to the enterprise and to key stakeholders.

Strategies should never be frozen. As we implement a strategy, the environment will change and we will get information we didn’t have when we started. The purpose of strategy is to focus us on what’s important, not to prevent changes in direction. If our context is stable, and the outcome of changes is predictable, then our strategy focuses us on helping to act on the most valuable requirements and we may be able to plan it out well in advance. If the context is changing, or the outcomes of actions are unpredictable, the strategy may need to focus on testing assumptions and mitigating risks until we can find a course of action that will produce the results we want.