Strategy is important. Anyone would attest to that a paintball game, because without a strategy you'll probably stumble away with large welts all over your body. And yet, so many organisations don't sit down and work out their strategy, but now we're talking about losing paychecks instead of getting some bruises!
So what does strategic planning involve? Well there are certainly many ways of developing a strategic plan, but it always should start with the fundamental question of "what does the business want to achieve in it's strategic plan". No matter what you do from here, you have to ensure that your IT objectives help the business achieve its goals, or at least don't clash with them.
A good IT Strategic Plan will generally revolve around:
• Strategic Issues & Opportunities: While this may sound obvious, it's often easy to go into solution mode, but this then ends up being an operational plan. Look to identify high level issues & opportunities at this stage, and work out the detail later in the operational plan with your staff and technical experts.
• A Suitable Timeframe: It's a good idea to complete strategic planning regularly (e.g yearly), but allow the plan to cover a larger timeframe (e.g. 3 to 5 years).
• The Business Strategy: What are the functions and roles of the organisation; what is the strategic intent of IT, and what is the planning process?• Business Area Analysis: Ask plenty of questions from lots of different people at multiple levels of the organisation. From here you will be able to assess the visions for the future and the current pain points, and start mapping out what high level issues need to be addressed now, and into the future.
• An Analysis Framework: Map the issues and opportunities into categories of Hardware, Applications, Information, Organisation, Change for example.
• Identification of the Proposed Initiatives: Some organisations like a one page table summary, some like lots of executive buzz words, and smaller organisations often like this to look more like an operational plan. Not matter how it looks, it needs to be addressing the issues and opportunities for IT in a way that the intended audience will understand (don't forget they will often need to approve it, and your initiatives may need to be refined as well).
• You can also provide as much supporting information as required. e.g. Detailed descriptions of your current systems as per the chosen analysis framework above.
So what is the end result? You'll have a high level plan which effectively tells you what your IT function needs to be doing, and from here you can start pulling out the operational components. These can be matched up to specific timeframes, and the budget as well. You'll be working with the business, and supporting the business goals. You'll hopefully be reporting your progress against the plan at an IT Governance Forum or Steering Committee to keep everyone updated, and continue to work with the business. Your staff will have direction, and can be motivated to achieve measurable outcomes. In summary, you'll have a more efficient IT operation and the business will love you for it!
By Michael Ouwerkerk