IT Strategy – The Basics
Is it really that important to have an IT Strategy? Understandably, many organizations shy away from having teams of expensive consultants work for months developing a high-level IT strategic plan or digital strategy. Often, these plans may not seem to add much value to the organization. Others may say they have a strategy, when in reality they have a long list of things to do or a budget.
Planning Can Be Challenging
It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day fires and challenges of IT and not take the time to focus on the long-term direction. A fire-fighting mentality can be embedded in the culture of an organization and pervasive throughout the business. All departments may be reacting to every issue as it comes up. Many CIO’s may fall into the trap of checking off tactical to-do’s without taking time to think strategically about the business and IT. At times, being strategic doesn’t feel as productive as completing tasks. It can also be painful and risky to ask questions that may challenge the status-quo.
But Planning is Critical
Strategic planning does not have to be lengthy and expensive. If done right, the planning process and results can be critical to the success of both the IT organization and the business. As technology is encompassing the entire organization, IT is becoming more and more critical to businesses. A strategy can create clear plans for the future, focus on what is important to the organization, and provide the business with a competitive advantage.
Key Components of a Plan
What are the key components for a basic IT strategy or digital plan?
- Understand the business. According to a study from Harvard Business School, 95 percent of employees in large organizations are either unaware of or don’t understand their company strategies. You can plan a great future, but unless you truly understand the business, the direction may not be aligned with the business needs. Start your IT strategy with understanding the business mission, vision, purpose, values, key objectives, and key metrics. Review the various stakeholders, understanding their personas, needs and desires, and review their process for engagement. Understand the industry, competition, and disruptive forces that the business faces. Objectively review the strengths and weaknesses of the business.
- Objectively evaluate the current state of IT. Before you can develop a plan for the future, you need a thorough and objective view of where you are today. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your technology environment. Consider the business applications & business processes, infrastructure, data, IT organization and resources, and IT processes. Look at the budget and how money is spent today. Compare your situation to industry benchmarks.
- Create the future IT state and long-term goals. People often prefer the status quo rather than changing things. To cause change, you need to generate new insights that help the business achieve a competitive advantage. What do you want the environment to look like in three years and beyond? Develop the technology mission and vision that is driven from the business priorities. Identify the IT objectives and guiding principles for people, processes, and technology that result from the business objectives and situation. Identify the metrics that will measure success.
- Develop action plans and roadmap to achieving the desired results. Clear priorities need to be established up front. If everything is deemed important it can cause frustration as it is difficult for people to determine what they should be working on and why. Identify the detailed projects that will help you achieve your goals in the areas of people/organization, processes, technical infrastructure, and business applications. Prioritize the projects and develop a roadmap. Identify the budget necessary to support each year of the roadmap. Identify the person responsible for each project. Change the allocation of money and resources to match the new priorities.
- Drive accountability and governance through communication. Review the progress of the projects every quarter. Establish appropriate governance to review the overall plan, making adjustments when needed. Ensure results are achieved. Continually communicate the strategy to both IT and the business.
- Take time to celebrate progress. This step is often overlooked. Celebrating progress reinforces the correct direction and gives everyone a sense of accomplishment.
As shown by many studies, having an effective business and technology strategy with the components outlined above can have a positive and significant impact on an organizations performance. Look for more details on the impact of strategy in another blog!