Situation, Target, Proposal: Informing Decision-Makers
By Alan Sells
Different frameworks facilitate decision-making. When selecting a framework, the goal is to ensure that all decision-makers understand the need for a decision, the available options, and the consequences of their choices on delivering solutions. When there is a need for a call to action, the Situation, Target, Proposal (STP) tool is a great way to illustrate this information for leaders while proposing a solution.
Situation, Target, Proposal
Rarely does a name provide the contents of the tool so clearly. The Situation, Target, Proposal, also known as an STP, is a technique to present information to decision-makers. The STP often influences decision-makers towards a specific vision. It is not a suitable format to illustrate the tradeoffs between multiple options that may be under consideration. Below is a brief description of the STP and the processes to create it.
Decision-makers need to understand the reason why they are being asked to take action. The decision they make is influenced by the current state of the problem space. In this section, the user should detail the characteristics of the current environment and illustrate why they are being asked to make a decision. What are the costs of not making a decision or lagging in decision making? What will not be accomplished if a decision is not made? Document the current state in terms of people, processes, tools, data, and other relevant characteristics.
The analysis should include interviews with current stakeholders in the problem space to document the situation. As noted above, an understanding of the stakeholders guides the list of interviewees. In each interview, ask who else should be interviewed to validate the stakeholders’ list and identify potential new interviewees.
Document both the good and bad of the current situation. The decision-makers should have a clear understanding of what is working, what is not working, and what needs to be accomplished. This background information ensures that all decision-makers have a clear and consistent view of the current situation.
Those creating the STP may choose to create process, data, or applications/systems models to illustrate both the current and desired state. The models are used to draw the decision-makers’ attention to key details. However, the analysts need to be aware of the decision-makers’ understanding and ability to read them. Ensure that the models do not provide so much detail as to hide the key issues.
The target represents a vision of the desired state. It should balance the aspirational and attainable. It is often good to express the target from the customer or end-users’ point of view. What will they be able to accomplish once the decision has been implemented?
The target state environment can be defined using similar tools as the Situation. If models are used in the Situation, then the same models should be presented in the target with clear indications of the action/decision’s impact.
Process models, such as swim lane diagrams, illustrate the roles that participate in the process and their actions. They can illustrate points where control moves from one group to the next, often points of delay.
Application/System models illustrate how the applications that are in the environment work together. They highlight the systems and integrations necessary to support a business process. These box-and-arrows diagrams can provide a high-level abstraction from the technical details, making them easier to understand.
Data models such as entity-relationship diagrams (ERD) and class models illustrate what information is needed and how it is related. Unlike process and application models, data models are often difficult for senior and non-IT leaders to leverage.
Organizational models can inform decision-makers of the impact of change on how the organization has deployed its people.
Technical models are used to indicate the technical aspects of the environment, including things like hosting arrangements and network components. These diagrams are only typically leveraged with IT leadership to support technical decision making.
The target addresses the question, “what do we want to achieve?”. The proposal defines “what needs to be done?” and outlines the steps needed to move towards if not fully accomplish the target state. The target should be independent of the implementation details and not prescribe a solution. Those details are covered in the proposal.
A picture is painted in the situation that illustrates the need for change. The target creates a vision to inspire change. The proposal details the plan to move towards the target. It should contain the steps and decisions necessary, or at least the required first steps to create the change.
The proposal should contain the recommended actions and their impacts. For example, actions can be a single act, such as selecting a software package from a preferred vendor, or be more complicated, such as reorganizing the company to launch a new product. The decision-makers need to know the following items for each action in the recommendation.
Cost: What is the expected cost of the action over the planning horizon? Some actions require a one-time cost, while others will require recurring costs associated with maintenance or other cost drivers.
Time: How long will each step or phase take? This should include the time to implement the change and other activities such as conversion, training, and soft roll-out. Interdependencies and sequencing are also important to illustrate. Gantt charts and activity networks may be used here.
Available resources: What is going to be required to implement the change? This can include numbers of people or specific people who may need to be available but hard to get their time. Resources may also have computing resources or others that are not always available.
Alignment with strategy: Is the action being requested aligned with the corporate direction? If not, why is the action being recommended, and how does this impact the strategy.
Help needed: What help is needed from decision-makers or leadership to accomplish the action?
When you have a vision you want to present, a tool like the STP help teams present their findings during the decision-making process. Effective decision-making creates actions to drive an organization forward towards its goals.
If you want to learn more about the characteristics of decision making and other tools to help facilitate quality decisions, download our whitepaper, Making Quality Decisions.