How to measure success — change the perceived failure of value

An Australian company is expanding its strategic execution management software into the United States to offer a new way to measure success.

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Connexion Systems, based in Adelaide, South Australia, launched its Amplify project management platform in 2013 and this year signed General Electric and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, its first American customers.

Amplify is typically used when a company identifies the need for strategic change and brings in a strategic adviser to develop potential initiatives. The platform then ranks the initiatives against a set of agreed values to help choose the optimum portfolio, and tracks their performance throughout implementation and execution.

Connexion Systems Director Matt Williams said the platform’s dashboard was visible across the organisation and was able to flag potential issues before they turned into strategy de-railing roadblocks.

Williams said one of their biggest challenges was being compared to existing tactical products in a mature market.

“We are a strategic level solution used by the most senior executives in an organisation rather than a project management tool,” he said.

“Up to 70 per cent of projects are said to fail but what’s the definition of failure? So I did some research and it became apparent that it wasn’t a failure of schedule, or budget, or risk management but in most cases it was a perceived failure of value.”

Williams said research he had done into portfolio management tools found many of them to be rigidly focused on execution rather than value, much like those typically used in traditional project management.

The Sydney Opera House was budgeted to cost $7 million but was eventually completed a decade late at a cost of $102 million. The 1400 per cent budget blowout has been famously referred to as the biggest in the history of megaprojects around the world.

“Yet no one would ever consider the Sydney Opera House to be a failed project because of the immense value it has delivered to Australia in the five decades since it was built and continues to deliver to this day,” Williams said.

“The only people who really care about project execution success are the individuals who are personally responsible for the budget and the schedules — others take a more holistic view of the outcome and if the outcome is valuable then it’s considered a successful project.

“That’s what sets Amplify apart from the competition.”

Connexion Systems is looking for an investor to help accelerate its growth plans.

He said Amplify allowed companies to constantly measure the value of their strategic changes, adjust forecasts and refine.

“What traditionally happens in strategic change projects is a business case is approved and it includes a forecast but no one ever goes back and checks that forecast until the end of the project,” Williams said.

“That’s like looking at the weather forecast two weeks out from a party you are hosting and saying ‘on the day of my birthday the weather is going to be fine so we will have an outdoor party’ and then never checking the weather forecast again, it’s a bad idea, especially when you can keep checking and potentially take mitigation steps if the forecast changes.

“It’s the same thing here with business strategy execution.”

Williams said American firms seemed to understand the importance of real-time information, analytics and transparency as a necessary way of doing business.

“We’ve managed to make these sales into the United States from Australia but we need to open an office in the US and get some people on the ground there,” he said.

“We want to grow our revenue by 200 per cent year on year for the next two years and go from a staff of about 12 to 32 by the end of 2020.

“We’ve done our market scan and we know what the opportunity looks like and the market size in the US and the match between what we do and what they’re already doing is the highest.”

Influential global IT research firm Gartner defined a new market segment it called Strategy Execution Management Software in 2016 and has identified “must have” and “should have” features of products in the space.

Early Australian customers included the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services and Brisbane City Council before the product pivoted from a value management tool into a strategic execution management tool in 2016.

Connexion Systems has since delivered software to a range of Australian and international clients including Coca-Cola Amatil, Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand, South African energy utility Eskom, Public Health England and oil and gas company SANTOS.

“We estimate that the market for Strategy Execution Management Software will be US$400 million by 2020, the challenge for us is what percentage of that we can get.”

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