Turning Strategy into Reality with a Winning Combination


Picture this: You're a C-suite executive of a leading infrastructure company. You’re at your wit's end. Your organization recently invested millions in a transformative strategic initiative, but halfway through, it’s become clear that the program isn’t delivering the expected results. Deadlines have been missed, budgets overrun, and you’re afraid you’ll start losing ground to competitors. You largely attribute this to fragmentation across your business – from your planning practices to the tools your people are using and everything in between.

You are not alone. This problem is a pervasive one, affecting businesses of all sizes: Research shows that 60 percent to 90 percent of strategic plans are never fully launched. And, when effective change management is lacking, transformation projects are seven times more likely to fail.

This trend is not only widespread; it’s deadly for organizations. It’s eroding the value they are striving to create through their strategic initiatives. But, when a strategy is fully realized, businesses experience a 77 percent increase in potential profitability.** So how do you ensure you fall into this camp and consistently achieve the results you are after? 

In this blog, we’ll introduce an answer: the unique combination of two powerful approaches: Strategic Portfolio Management (SPM) and Managed Services.  When you finish reading, you’ll understand how this dynamic duo can help you:

•    Stay agile,
•    Connect your enterprise,
•    Optimize your resources (especially your most valuable resource – your people), and 
•    Drive sustainable transformation.

We’ll also share three real-world examples and plenty of actionable insights your organization can implement to consistently unlock value. Let’s begin.

Turn your strategy into reality with Strategic Portfolio Management

According to the 2023 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Strategic Portfolio Management, “by 2025, 70 percent of digital investments will fail to deliver the expected business outcomes due to the absence of a strategic portfolio management (SPM) approach.”

Adopting tools like NH360 Strategic Portfolio Manager can be a transformative step for your business, enabling you to turn your strategy into a reality. It provides a comprehensive, real-time view of your investments, arming you to make data-driven decisions that align with your objectives and optimize every dollar for maximum impact.

A powerful SPM tool can also help you track efficiencies and manage talent by providing clear metrics and visibility into resource allocation. The outcome? You're able to make more informed decisions about where to focus your efforts and invest your resources. This is crucial for effectively managing costs in today's fast-paced business environment, where the ability to pivot quickly can mean all the difference between success and failure.

By leveraging SPM, you can tackle the main culprits of value erosion head-on, including: 

  1. Misalignment. SPM helps you prioritize investments by assessing their strategic impact and value. This ensures that resources are allocated to initiatives that directly support your organization's goals, aligning everyone's efforts with your strategic vision.
  2. Siloed thinking and decision-making. SPM provides complete visibility across your investments, which helps break down barriers and enhance collaboration.
  3. Poor delivery. With full visibility into your investments, SPM helps you proactively identify and mitigate risks while measuring portfolio performance against key metrics. This keeps you on track and allows you to adapt as needed to deliver successful outcomes.
  4. Inability to pivot. SPM supports your ability to employ scenario thinking and planning, so you can stay agile and responsive as organizational needs and market dynamics shift.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION: Consider our recent work with an oil and gas company. The company needed to manage roughly 2,000 initiatives, a task that would be insurmountable for any enterprise without the right tools and approach. With SPM, however, the company organized and streamlined approximately $1.3 billion of capital and operating investments. By leveraging SPM, leaders gained unprecedented visibility across resources and project site capabilities. And, armed with a view of the entire portfolio, they made more informed decisions, funded and executed the right initiatives, and allocated resources optimally to maximize business value.

Managed Services: Your key to agile, scalable, outcome-driven success

Today’s business landscape is high-speed and competitive, and you need a workforce solution that can keep up with your shifting priorities. That’s where a Managed Service comes into play, providing a flexible, scalable, and outcomes-based partnership that works with you to proactively anticipate capability needs and sustainably achieve your strategic initiatives.

To be truly effective, a Managed Service must go beyond simple outsourcing; it needs to be a collaborative partnership that’s built on trust and transparency and evolves and innovates alongside your portfolio of initiatives. By focusing on key areas where strategic investments lie (pinpointed by SPM), a Managed Service partner can deliver high-performing, specialized expertise, while remaining agile enough to pivot when those areas change.

The value of a Managed Service is also rooted in creating lasting capability through knowledge transfer. By working closely with your workforce, our teams not only deliver high-quality results but also equip your people with the skills and knowledge needed to lead the organization effectively and independently once our engagement is complete.

Leveraging a Managed Services partner that shares your strategic alignment can be a strong driver of value. Here’s more about how: 

  1. Strategic workforce planning. With proactive demand planning, you’re able to identify upcoming priorities and future needs. This allows your partner to swiftly bring on board the right experts, ensuring you have the necessary skills and resources when you need them most. At North Highland, we can scale teams up and down based on a firm's changing priorities. 
  2. Reducing overhead costs. By outsourcing certain responsibilities, you can significantly decrease recruiting, training, and other staff management costs that come with transformations or strategic initiatives. Instead, you're able to focus your energy and resources on your people and core business activities.
  3. Building capabilities with insights. Knowledge transfer should be a critical aspect of any strong Managed Service. To achieve this, we employ a data-driven approach that includes conducting maturity assessments and setting specific capability transfer targets to upskill your workforce.
  4. Ensuring quality outcomes, every time. Drawing from our extensive experience working with diverse clients, we bring to the table best practices and valuable lessons learned (think proven methodologies and robust governance processes). This ensures that your projects are delivered to the highest standards, plus it provides you with additional industry insights that help drive your success.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION: Throughout an eight-year partnership with a leading British multinational postal service, the entity has experienced significant improvements in resource optimization, performance management, and quality assurance. By adopting our innovative resourcing approaches (i.e., Managed Services), which go beyond traditional headcount or role-based models, it has been able to effectively meet resource demands while maintaining a high level of operational efficiency.

The ultimate power couple: SPM and Managed Services

So now that you know more about each solution, let’s talk about what happens when SPM and Managed Services come together. When combined, they create a powerful combination that addresses the end-to-end needs of managing a strategic portfolio.

By integrating SPM and Managed Services, organizations like yours benefit from a virtuous cycle of strategic alignment, efficient execution, and continuous optimization. This combination enables you to respond to dynamic market conditions and customer needs while maximizing the value of your investments. 

Here’s a quick look at how: 

  1. Aligning strategy with execution. SPM gives you the strategic lens that allows you to identify and prioritize initiatives that will drive the greatest business value. Meanwhile, Managed Services complements this by offering the flexible capabilities you need – exactly when you need them – to deliver those initiatives successfully and with speed. 
  2. Gaining unparalleled visibility. As a leader, having a clear, consistent view of the health of your portfolio/business is paramount. SPM provides that with continual metrics and reporting that helps you keep your fingers on the pulse of performance (and gives you the insight to course correct if needed). A Managed Services partner takes this a step further, serving as a strategic counselor to help you more deeply understand performance and enable informed, data-driven decision-making.
  3. Bridging the talent gap. With SPM, you can more efficiently identify resource capacity and expertise gaps that could hinder your success. Managed Services then helps you rapidly fill these gaps with on-demand access to specialized talent.
  4. Driving sustainable transformation. As a leader today, you must be able to adapt and realign your investment priorities quickly. SPM provides the strategic guidance necessary to navigate these changes, while a Managed Service supports the execution with continuous capability creation and knowledge transfer. This combination ensures that your organization doesn’t just weather the change, but emerges with sustainable capabilities.  

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION: Our partnership with a leading infrastructure business illustrates the power of combining these two solutions. As the lead portfolio partner, North Highland set out to assemble a team that worked closely with leadership to reorganize the operating model and governance. Using a 'right-size' approach, the team established consistency and best practices across the program, significantly increasing efficiencies. This partnership enabled the program to swiftly respond and reorganize its 1,000+ strong workforce. Initially deploying a team of around 20 people to a single workstream, we flexibly adapted as demand shifted, seamlessly moving between workstreams and building in-house capabilities to maximize value. The result? A transformed organization, empowered to navigate change with agility and resilience.

Your next steps

Having a solid plan for your next initiative is no longer enough to guarantee success. Every executive today needs a comprehensive approach that seamlessly aligns strategy with execution, optimizes resources, connects your entire enterprise, and consistently delivers results. The combination of SPM and Managed Services offers a powerful framework to achieve just that.

By tapping into this synergy, expect to confidently tackle even the most complex strategic initiatives and achieve the outcomes you’ve envisioned. You’ll have the processes, tools, and expertise needed to make more informed decisions, adapt to changing market conditions, and continuously optimize your resource allocation for maximum impact.  

Consider your deadlines consistently met, your budgets on track, your enterprise connected and aligned toward a common goal, and a sustainable competitive advantage that allows you to stay ahead of the curve. 

**Gartner®, The 5 Pillars of Successful Strategy Execution, Contributor: Jackie Wiles, July 17, 2023.

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