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When Projects Are Confused with Strategy

Too often executives use terminology to their advantage to add work that is contradictory with the trends of reducing spend. The verbiage is used to cushion and dispel rumours of unnecessary spending. If changes or new development have to be completed to meet business needs, should this be labeled as a project or a strategy? Does the label "strategy" constitute more funding than "project"? Does a defining strategy override the need to minimize overhead?

It is important to recognize that strategy embodies a vision that requires multiple tasks to be accomplished for a common goal. A project is a set of well-defined tasks that accomplish business requirements and directives. Many projects are birthed from a strategy but the two are not interchangeable.

For example, if a company chooses to build an ODS (operational data store) based on frequent data feeds from external data sources, there are usually two compelling reasons - 1) reduce overhead of reporting development and maintenance from different data sources and 2) implement and simplify business intelligence in a format understandable by sales, marketing, and operations executives. The project to create the ODS is a very important part of the strategy of providing visibility and transparency to customers and cross-departmental executives to increase customer satisfaction and develop better products/services for its consumers. Now if there is no unique identifier to relate consumers and products/services across the ODS, there needs to be a one-time data update to create and amass this key for reference. This is neither a project nor a strategy but a one-time assignment and task for a data update for the synchronization across the ODS to happen successfully.

In essence, strategy does not equal to project. While strategies are normally highly funded, projects have to be formed to implement the strategy accurately. One time tasks that only provide an immediate business need are not projects and should not be labeled accordingly. Test it out. What projects are you working on to impact a strategy or fulfill an immediate business need? The answer defines whether you are a key component to a greater vision.
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