In new jobs after graduating from university, Eric Perriard and Tom Wright found their employers could articulate grandiose strategies for their businesses. But there was little connection to how the average employee could help out.
Perriard, who worked in human resources for a manufacturing company, and Wright, in banking, found that HR systems were fine for performing technical tasks related to employees. But HR software couldn't track if a company's broad strategy was on the mark throughout the year and how employees felt they fit into the big picture and performed.
"There is nothing to cascade the strategy down to people — to really translate the CEO's or organization's missions to every person down from middle management to the people in the field," Perriard said.
Perriard and Wright's company, Sydney-based Responsis, has built a cloud-based web service called Cascade. For employees, Cascade keeps them in tune with how they can help the goals of the organization, and for management, ensure everyone's work remains aligned with the company's strategy.
There are other products, such as SAP's Successfactors, that try to tackle this problem. Perriard said Sucessfactors focuses on appraisal and people management, but doesn't help to solve issues around executing company strategies.
Cascade is Web-based dashboard. An employee, for example, can see the company's broad goals and then more specific ones in their business unit. They can define their own goals, which fit into a neat, visual hierarchy in Cascade.
A company's chief strategy officer — an increasingly fashionable title in organizations — can see diagrams of employees and which ones are working on tasks that fit into the overall vision. Cascade creates a percentage that shows how strategically aligned an organization is, or the "overall cascade" in which strategic themes are filtering throughout a company.
Perriard said Cascade isn't an HR system, but it certainly can be used by HR. Wright said interest has typically come from managing directors, strategy officers and CFOs because they're the people that come up with the strategies.
"They want it so they have can visibility — so that they can say, 'I took the time to create this particular strategy, now I want to know how is that being implemented right down to the front line'," Wright said.
Cascade is intended to help companies catch when things start to go astray. A company may kick off the year with a new set of strategies but actually only figure out in August or September that they're not going to meet, say, a revenue goal until it is too late to change.
Cascade isn't designed for bosses to micro-manage people. It's also not a project management tool. Employees would likely update their work and goals once a month or so in Cascade, while management would keep a closer eye on how groups of people are working towards the strategy.
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