By Brian Nejmeh and Jon Sappey

A maddening reality of a SaaS business: the very moment you “finalize” something by sharing “approved” information with stakeholders, the information starts becoming obsolete. It doesn’t matter how brilliant, how important, how timely, or how valuable the information is. The world keeps turning, and the memorialized information becomes less and less effective in describing reality, context, etc. If the world is changing particularly quickly and/or significantly, the document’s useful life can be quite brief. When and to what extent the information should be updated or “refreshed” become important questions in managing stakeholder expectations.

Let’s look at this phenomenon of obsolescence through the lens of a company’s Strategic Narrative, which is what we call a synoptic expression of the business (or line of business) context and intent for the coming 15-24 months. And in particular, let’s consider where we are now as a likely time – perhaps a no more appropriate and necessary time – to refresh your Strategic Narrative.

It’s hard to imagine any business – software or otherwise – that hasn’t been affected by an immensely complex series of developments since early 2020, any of which may demand changes to your course and speed. These include:

  • Progress in digital transformation initiatives that may have been in progress before the pandemic, or accelerated or expanded because of it.
  • The impact of the pandemic on customer technology adoption or business practices, or on internal practices that impact development and delivery.
  • Talent impact of the “Great Resignation” and its drain on productivity…and opportunities to attract new strategic resources.
  • The work from home movement, born during COVID, appears here to stay for many companies and workers.
  • Persistent supply chain disruptions and resulting supply chain de-risking initiatives.
  • Increasing regulatory pressure on matters of privacy, misinformation, and competition in the technology space.
  • Issues of social justice as they affect the workplace and business decision-making.
  • Economic and social impact of Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.

Organizational responses to any of these, individually, may already be underway, but the cumulative impact merits a revisiting of the fundamental assumptions about the business. And probably not just some small “adjustments” to the formal strategy.

In the face of significant change along the lines of what we have experienced from 2020 to now, it’s usually advisable to pull out a blank piece of paper and create a new Strategic Narrative, including new framing, new metaphors, redefined priorities and performance parameters. Both the destination and the journey have likely been altered in ways that might make their 2019 versions seem a great distance from your present realities.

Of course, all of this assumes that your company had developed a comprehensive, coherent Strategic Narrative prior to 2020 to begin with. In many cases, strategy documentation is incomplete and ad hoc. For these organizations in particular, now is a great time to commit to developing a comprehensive Strategic Narrative that accounts for all of the current dynamics. This will clarify priorities and provide appropriate context for all company activity. The benefits of clarity and shared vision will be worth the investment of time and effort.

What does your firm’s Strategic Narrative look like?

Have you taken the time to explicitly refresh your Strategic Narrative in view of present realities?