Scenario-Based Strategic Planning

Scenario-Based Strategic Planning

UWM School of Information Sciences creates a flexible planning practice and masters their budgeting process


At the UWM School of Information Sciences (SOIS), a top library and information science school, enrollment has dramatically increased over the past several years as students want to prepare themselves for a future in IT-related professions. Serving graduate and undergraduate students, the school is home to over 35 faculty and 200+ students.

University budget guidelines and protocols mean that with increasing revenue and rising enrollment, the School of Information Sciences faces complex budget and resource decisions. They needed a new approach to their annual strategic planning and budgetary planning process to improve the flexibility, buy-in, and accuracy of fiscal decision making.

Six strategic future scenarios and plans developed

Repeatable, participatory strategic planning process established


UWM SOIS brought in Stewart Leadership to develop a scenario-based strategic planning process to improve the budgetary planning process. A traditional strategic planning process usually assumes one future state to guide strategy development; a scenario-based strategic plan creates multiple future states where strategic implications are identified for each scenario. This can enable easier, more timely, and often more accurate strategic decisions.

We created a working team with representation from each academic program and employment group (staff, TAs, faculty). The working team followed a four-step process to create SOIS’s strategic plan:

1) Identify key factors & driving forces,
2) Define critical decision-making criteria,
3) Develop frameworks & scenarios, and
4) Decide on the strategic short and long-term scenarios for each scenario.


After this planning process, the working team identified six future strategic scenarios and a concise list of short and long-term strategic priorities. These strategic priorities were validated and approved by each academic committee, including the Academic Budget Committee and the Dean.
The Dean was so impressed by the process and outcome that he shared it with his boss, the Provost, who encouraged all other schools to follow a similar approach in the future. In the end, a repeatable, accurate, participatory strategic planning process was established, enabling improved and aligned budgetary decisions to be made.