Managing stage-gates for your strategic program? Shibumi can do that

Posted on October 13, 2017 by Mark DiGirolamo


A robust stage-gate process plays a critical role in many strategic programs by strengthening governance and enabling early executive intervention on emerging risks – while still empowering initiative teams to adapt and execute flexibly against their goals.

We’re excited to announce that Shibumi now supports stage-gate processes with capabilities purpose-built for complex transformation programs!

Our approach builds on conventional stage-gate models, while recognizing the unique challenges of governing large-scale, strategic programs – including sensitive information, diverse teams, complex dependencies, and high execution risk. We’ve worked closely with leading advisory firms and enterprise program leaders as we designed our enhanced capabilities, including:

  • Time-based goal definition
  • Advanced role management
  • Fine-grain visibility and metric editing controls
  • Automated notifications
  • Configurable rules-based workflow
  • Full history and audit logging

Time-based goal definition

Success of an individual initiative (as well as a broader program) is defined by meeting pre-defined goals along a target timeline. Shibumi now simplifies the process of tracking execution against targets, while also increasing executive visibility of emerging risks. As both individual initiatives and the broader program are executed, actual metrics can be compared with target metrics at specific points in time. Metrics can be customized for specific program goals, varying cadences can be defined (e.g. monthly, quarterly), and outcomes can be charted to visually depict both progress and gaps.                                                                                                               

Advanced Roles                                           

The key to an effective stage-gate process is defining (and enforcing) roles for reviewing and approving initiative progress at defined process points. Shibumi now enables program owners to define custom roles (with enterprise-specific nomenclature), set permission levels, and assign users to their appropriate role in the stage-gate process.

Fine-grain visibility and edit controls

Stage-gate processes also define how information is controlled and managed through the stages of a program. For example, the design phase of a program may include ongoing iteration on highly sensitive cost reduction targets, where premature wide-scale sharing of a target could lead to organization disruption. However, as the program shifts into execution, the cost targets may become both fixed and broadly shared.

To account for these needs, we’ve created configurable rules that can be optimized for the unique requirement of each program’s stage-gate process. Rather than hard-coded rules for generic stage-gates, Shibumi rules are defined as expressions that can incorporate any aspect of the program and/or initiative to manage access. These visibility and editing rules also fully integrate with pre-defined user roles.

Automated notification emails

To simplify and streamline stage-gate process execution, Shibumi also supports automated e-mail notification for required user actions. Notification emails are based upon configurable rules that determine to whom and when notifications should be sent. Like visibility rules, these notifications can incorporate any aspect of a program to support advanced logic conditions.

Configurable rules-based workflow

While the stage-gate concept is widely adopted, different programs will have very different approaches across stage numbering, definitions, approval structure, and information gathered. Shibumi’s fully configurable rules allow program owners (and their advisors) to define stage-gate processes that are optimized for their specific business context, as well as their preferred execution methodology.

Full history and audit logging

Finally, strong program governance requires rigorous change control and auditability. To manage stage-gate decisions, ensure accountability, and identify risk, reviewers need full visibility into the history and source of metric changes. Shibumi provides full transparency into the history and source of all changes with our history view. This view shows not only the time of the edits, but also the user who made them.

Putting it all together

Let’s see how these capabilities come together by walking through an example.


When an initiative is added to the program, it starts in Stage 1. In this stage, an initiative owner enters basic business case information, including overall goals, objectives, and some high-level cost and benefit targets.

Once the initiative owner has completed entering the Stage 1 information, he flags the initiative as ready for Gate 1 approval. At this point, automated notifications are sent to the Gate 1 approvers along with a tailored view showing relevant details they need to make their decision.

As approvals are provided, the initiative progresses to Stage 2. Shibumi logs all changes and approvals for change control and future audits.

Based on the rules configured for this specific stage-gate process, the current stage defines which information is editable and visible. For example, with a financial benefit, targets could be locked once the initiative reaches Stage 3, and fields could be displayed to allow the initiative owner to start capturing actual metrics.

As you can see, each of these capabilities work together to support even the most complex stage-gate processes. However, they can also be combined flexibly to address governance and workflow requirements in other use cases.

We are already seeing the impact of these capabilities with early adopters of Shibumi stage-gate functionality, and we’re eager to help more program teams experience this success!

Contact us if you’d like to learn more or to see a demo of these great capabilities.

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See how Shibumi can scale your RPA program

Posted on September 18, 2017 by Mark DiGirolamo

Congratulations, your Robotic Process Automation (RPA) program is beginning to take hold. The opportunities to improve the business are almost endless. Now it’s time to scale the program as well as the results. However, as the number of opportunities grow, so does the endless stream of excel files, email threads, PowerPoint presentations, and SharePoint sites.

Providing management with a clear view of the impact the program is having on the business is extremely difficult as the data is all over the place and requests are increasing. Creating a scalable program is now the bottleneck to delivering maximum benefits to the business.

Shibumi was designed to help. Shibumi is the configurable benefits tracking solution that helps you do the right work, the right way, at the right time. We’ve created a simple, centralized way to identify, prioritize and deliver automation opportunities while maintaining focus on the benefits the program is returning to the business.

As easy as 1. 2. 3.

First, ideas are captured in Shibumi and organized by major process area. The information gathered establishes the business case for the opportunity and jumpstarts the prioritization and categorization process.

Second, opportunities are assessed and assigned a complexity score and automation classification to assist in making sound investment decisions. Once approved, the opportunities are scheduled and their progress tracked.

Third, we ensure everyone understands the impact of the opportunity from both a time and cost savings perspective leveraging both live dashboards as well as executive presentations.

With Shibumi’s benefits tracking solution, you can:

  • Centralize the management of the program and provide the “single source of truth” for both progress and benefits
  • Streamline and standardize the assessment process to drive sound investment decisions
  • Deliver timely updates and benefits reporting anytime, to any device.

With Shibumi, ensure the RPA program is executing effectively while delivering maximum value to your business stakeholders.

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Filling the Strategy Execution Gap

Posted on July 24, 2017 by Mark DiGirolamo

Organizational strategies result in the definition of comprehensive programs, projects and initiatives to achieve desired objectives. By necessity, these programs are monitored at a tactical level to ensure that each detailed milestone is reached to progress the overall strategy forward.


Unfortunately, monitoring at a tactical level makes it challenging to understand status of the higher-level strategic objectives. Today, many companies address that challenge with significant manual effort. Tactical project managers provide details about their specific areas of ownership and the Program Owner or PMO aggregates content from all projects to prepare executive briefings. The effort to produce these executive briefings is time consuming! In fact, a study completed by Bain & Company estimates that companies spend 300,000 hours a year supporting weekly executive briefings.

While that volume of time is staggering, the more detrimental issue is the delay in providing information to the executive team. Strategic decisions are made based upon dated information. By the time the aggregated information reaches the executives, it is often too late to course correct, to help their teams clear hurdles, or to take advantage of new opportunities. This inability to make quick decisions is a critical issue and contributes to the strategy execution gap.

In reviewing this challenge, Gartner’s Donna Fitzgerald raised this key question: what approach must organizations implement to help executives make better, faster decisions so that they can pivot quickly to achieve greater strategic results?

The answer is that companies must work smarter, not harder. Gone are the days of brute force use of spreadsheets to track information, presentations to communicate it, and an army of people to maintain it. The smarter, more agile company connects the strategy with the performance information real time and generates always-current briefing decks.

As competition increases and resources become more constrained, it will be the smarter companies that succeed. Providing accurate information faster to drive executive decisions will be a powerful competitive advantage and will help to close the strategy execution gap.

Learn how Shibumi enables the smarter enterprise. Contact us today.

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Quarterly Business Reviews that don’t Suck

Posted on September 16, 2015 by Mark DiGirolamo

Status Quo:

Sitting on a plane en route to Dreamforce this year, you couldn’t help but overhear the chatter from dozens of sales execs, partners and others. Everyone was excited to tell their war stories about time in the field, customer hassles and internal roadblocks they had to face while trying to close a deal. Striking up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me was a good chance to ask about the pain points in her organization and at the previous companies she worked for.  While there are many stories that will make an account executive cringe, few garner the reactions you’re bound to get when you ask about a company’s quarterly business review (QBR) process.

Necessary Evil:

While many AEs cringe at the thought of prepping and sitting through their QBRs quarter after quarter, the process provides value to the organization.  Sales leaders get the opportunity to review performance, discuss goals and engage in sales territory planning.  Quarterly Business Reviews give a great excuse for coaching on the ways and means to execute sales processes more efficiently in the coming quarter.  Unfortunately, the process has become a time suck. Reps waste days out of the field and valuable selling time pulling reports, parsing data and producing presentations that are likely never looked at again after the hour long review.  Look familiar?



The data becomes stale before you even start the review and it’s only valuable for the immediate discussion.  You may come up with some great ideas for expanding your territory or get some great tips, but where’s the follow-through?  Too often, QBRs lead to increased insight into what a rep could and should be doing to grow their business only to have the next quarter’s QBR seem like groundhog day as all of that insight gets buried in a file folder somewhere.

It gets worse if your QBR isn’t as simple as the example shown above, it’s not uncommon to see company’s with QBR decks that span 20-30 pages.  As more data and more views are required, the time and pain to complete a QBR jumps exponentially for members of the sales team.  You’ve already input all of the data into Salesforce – shouldn’t that count for something? It’s time for a change.

Make your QBR Useful:

Having been through the process ourselves, we think there is a better way to leverage data you ALREADY have to give managers the insight they need. Shouldn’t you focus more time on actually strategizing how you should grow your territory instead of spending frustrating time pulling reports and formatting PowerPoint?


Utilizing Shibumi for your sales execution cuts down on time preparing by automatically integrating with all of your Salesforce data and account information.  Quarterly Business Reviews become less static and are able to be monitored and reviewed throughout the quarter to ensure you get the coaching you need to stay on track. Automation has been working throughout every aspect of the sales process to speed onboarding, document delivery, customer education and countless other tasks – don’t you think it’s time you took a step to automating your QBRs too so you can spend more time driving revenue growth for your territories?

See how Shibumi can save you time and money and turn your Quarterly Business Review into something that helps you and your team succeed throughout the quarter.

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Help New Reps Navigate Internal Sales Processes to Speed Time-to-Value

Posted on August 27, 2015 by Mark DiGirolamo

One of the most difficult parts of building a sales force is bringing new account executives up to speed on your company’s sales process.  As we mentioned in a prior post, having an established sales process is critical to your ability to measure your sales effectiveness and try new approaches.  A written sales process also allows you to efficiently and effectively transfer that knowledge rapidly to new reps.  Your team may possess raw sales talent, but if they’re not trained on your process, a lot of that talent may go to waste.

When a new sales rep is brought onboard, every company spends (or should spend) a considerable amount of time coaching and training on the product.  Naturally, this makes sense and will be crucial to unlocking the talent of the rep.  You shouldn’t anticipate closing many sales unless your reps have a firm understanding of the product, the customer’s pain points and the competition’s offerings.  Often overlooked in training though is the process your company has established to actually close a deal and recognize the revenue.

As almost all sales reps can attest to, their first few deals always progress slower than they should.  New reps inevitably struggle navigating all the hurdles put in place to actually recognize a deal.  Getting the customer onboard is just one aspect, understanding the batch of forms, approvals and other legal and finance-related steps is another.  While a new rep is selling the product, they also have to run a gauntlet of internal processes. Running a parallel process can be the difference between closing a deal by quarter-end and having it slip. As most have learned, time kills all deals.

What do I do now?

As a sales manager, even with naturally talented reps, this is the question that will continually arise during the first few sales cycles for all of your new reps.  If it’s not your time that is being requested, it will invariably be that of several other reps in your company that are taking time away from their selling to help navigate the process for the new hire.

Sales execution platforms like Shibumi can help tie all of this together and save your team a ton of time while tying everything back to your existing data.  Further, you’ll be in a position to determine where bottlenecks or unncessary steps might be in your process that are hindering your reps’ ability to do their jobs effectively.  Yours deals should close more smoothly and your reps will be confident in the process.



See how Shibumi can help you onboard faster and keep your new reps asking the question “Who do I close next” instead of “what do I do now?”  Try Shibumi’s built in sales templates or develop your own to keep your team focused on what matters most – closing the deal.

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Developing a Repeatable Sales Plan to Drive Revenue Growth

Posted on August 18, 2015 by Mark DiGirolamo

As any sales veteran will attest, having a repeatable sales process is a huge benefit. While many rely on natural skill, a sales plan honed from experience is the most effective way to win business. Bottling up what has worked and avoiding what hasn’t greatly increases the chances of winning more customers without wasting time or money.

Harvard Business Review article from earlier this year by Steve W. Martin highlighted a survey showing the techniques employed by high-performing sales team. Notably, among the high performers, was the presence of a structured sales process – which also tended to be absent from the underperformers.

Establishing a written sales plan turns a hunch into a highly repeatable and data driven process that can be refined and scaled to maximize your sales growth. Taking three easy steps that form the basis for Shibumi’s sales execution process can have you on your way to joining the ranks of the high performers.

1.  Create a Sales Plan Template

Whether you know it or not, you probably already have a sales plan. If you’re a small organization, it might be based on that hunch that has helped your first few reps sniff out deals and get them across the finish line. Don’t waste that knowledge! Putting down the concrete set of steps, actions and interactions that helped you win that first deal can be critical to winning more. It can also be critical to helping you clone your top performers and bringing new reps up to speed much more quickly as you scale to become a larger organization.

If you’re a large sales organization without an established process, congratulations – you’re one of the few. If you have one, however, there still may be room for refinement and improvement to tweak multiple approaches for different products and environments. Having a plan is the key to improving and leads us to step 2.

2.  Measure your Results Continuously

The adage that “you can’t improve what you can’t measure” rings as true in sales as it does in every other line of business. Now that you’ve established a solid plan based on some experience, it’s time to validate it. When used properly, and other CRM solutions are incredible tools for collecting data on your prospects, opportunities, pipeline and sales cycle. Now is the time to put that to use.

Having the data at your fingertips to slice and dice based on changes in your approach is key to understanding the critical elements of your plan. For some organizations, increasing your closed won will be the only metric that matters and data will be easily available to report on. More complex metrics that involve multiple parties or roll-ups may require a little more digging. Fortunately, with many tools available to pull data directly from your CRM, the old days of manually running reports and running the calculations by hand are gone.

You may be surprised by the correlations or trends you’re starting to see. Do you close 70% of the deals where your reps got real world data from your customer (step X in your close plan) but only 20% when they don’t? This is incredible insight into how prospects see value in your product and how you may be able to nurture deals that will happen and cut loose the prospects that are just wasting your time.


3.  Adapt your Approach

A diagnosis of what’s working (or sometimes more importantly – what’s not) is great to show you where you have room for improvement, but unless you adapt more of the good stuff you may not see your numbers growing as quickly as they can. As new reps join with ideas of their own or you launch new products or into new markets your plans and strategies will necessarily change. Having a plan with quantifiable data and key performance indicators (KPIs) backing it up allows you to experiment and expand on the parts that are working. Having the data that proves something is making a difference provides a tremendous opportunity for coaching your reps. That data also allows you to continuously assess and rework your plans to hit your revenue growth targets quarter after quarter.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Take a look at Shibumi today to see how we can kickstart your process into high gear!  See results instantly with our pre-designed sales plan templates or customize your own.  Shibumi will help you leverage your CRM data more effectively and drive the results you expect from your team.

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Strategy is nothing without execution

Posted on February 25, 2015 by Mark DiGirolamo

The difference between a wild success and a novel failure is the ability to execute against strategy. In many cases, even if the strategy is flawed, the organization that executes best, wins. I’ve read this so many times that it’s almost become a cliché.

The mechanics of strategic execution is what I’m interested in. And it turns out it’s not that complicated. Ultimately it consists of three simple concepts.

  1. Alignment
    This is where a solid strategy comes into play. If everyone is marching in different directions nothing gets accomplished. Set your goals and get everyone working towards them.
  2. Transparency
    People need to collaborate, stay informed and understand what others are working on. Without transparency you get waste, lots of duplicate effort and even more frustration.
  3. Accountability
    Everyone needs to know what’s expected of them. This means making sure they follow through on what they say, and they know how success will be measured.

Putting it to practice

Taking these three concepts and putting them into practice should be simple and straightforward. For successful execution, everyone has to participate and feel empowered.

  1. Define and communicate the goals & objectives. Make sure they are clearly communicated and that teams and individuals can expand on them and make them their own.
  2. Capture and track the metrics & KPIs. Once the goals have been identified, use metrics to track progress and set your targets to determine success.
  3. Coordinate and manage all the business activity. Marry the goals and metrics to the action plans necessary to realize success.

As a summary, remember: Goals – Metrics – Action Plans

We’ve put this to practice at Shibumi and have done some pretty incredible things.

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Tell your story using Shibumi

Posted on November 21, 2014 by Mark DiGirolamo

Working with our customers over the last year, we’ve reinforced our belief that effective communication is key to managing goals and initiatives. Teams are constantly spending precious hours updating management on progress and revising expectations.

Most often, people fallback to PowerPoint when they need to do briefingsor communicate progress with a large group; however, ’duplicative work’, ‘instantly out of date’, ‘time consuming’ is what we most hear about PowerPoint.

In response to this we’ve added a suite of features to replace the one off presentations.

Improved Dashboards

exec dashboard

To craft a story, you may want to highlight certain details such as specific milestones, KPIs or status messages. Giving access to the entire initiative or goal can cause information overload for a viewer. Dashboards are meant to simplify the views and display a subset of information. Combined with Shibumi’s custom sections, you have a powerful tool for communication.

Once the dashboard is built, invite others to view it. Presto, no more one off, manually created presentations. As you update your plan, the dashboard updates instantly increasing the timeliness of information and decreasing your workload.  And with Shibumi’s advanced security features you can tell your story internally or externally with complete confidence that you remain in control.

Custom Sections


Part of being able to tell your story is having control over layout. Being able to highlight goals in the top right, metrics in the bottom left, a scorecard right in the middle. This all plays to guiding a viewer down a narrative.

In support of this the Shibumi interface is now based on custom sections. Custom sections give you complete control over how the page is layed out and where information appears so you can determine what, when and how your viewers are consuming the information you want to share.

With custom sections you can resize, drag and drop, add custom labels and more.

Get started by creating an initiative and clicking the ‘Add Section’ button.

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Six Sigma & Shibumi

Posted on October 2, 2014 by Mark DiGirolamo

Shibumi is a cloud-based application used to simplify the execution of initiatives and deliver results. We’re all about defining goals, aligning business activity and measuring performance along the way. Working with our customers we’re often asked about Six Sigma.

Working with many Six Sigma practitioners, we have crafted some useful features to better manage projects utilizing that methodology.

Templates are the key

six sigma

We started by creating a template for Six Sigma projects. Because templates can be completely customized, including contents and layout, we were able to fully support the DMAIC methodology. This didn’t only include DMAIC but also all the phases and tasks under each of those steps. In addition, we attached the standard deliverables that should be produced at each stage. For example:

  • Process Maps
  • Fishbone diagrams
  • etc…

To capture all the quantitative data necessary for Six Sigma we leveraged Shibumi metrics. This included metrics like:

  • # of defects
  • Defects per Million Opportunities
  • Cost of Poor Quality
  • Throughput Yield
  • etc…

All of this culminated in a fairly detailed template that customers have already put to use in live Six Sigma projects.  Shibumi is a turn-key application that can help you and your team organize and track your progress and have you executing like the black-belt you truly are.  Try it out.

If you’d like more information about this, please contact us.


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