Leadership

Creating an IT Strategy: Information gathering

When creating an IT strategy there are a few rules of thumb that will help, but the course you take is usually dependent upon the industry you are in.

When creating an IT strategy there are a few rules of thumb that will help, but the course you take is usually dependent upon the industry you are in.

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What you are attempting to do with the IT strategy is several fold:

  • What is the perception of IT in your organization? This is key to helping you understand how hard you have to work to get projects approved and your agenda implemented. If IT has a history of failed projects or poor customer service, you have some hurdles to overcome and an internal marketing plan to develop and implement. Without the business' confidence in IT, you will not accomplish what you hope to accomplish. I found that using a third party company to interview executives to ensure anonymity is key to getting at the truth. Their goal is to encourage honesty and frankness.
  • How technology savvy is your executive team? This helps you identify where you need to provide some executive TLC. It is your responsibility to educate management as to what technology can do for them. This must be presented in a way that won't scare the hell out of the executive and make them feel part of the solution. This also helps to identify which executive you will need to work on to let them know how much skin they need to put into the project. Most executives that are technology neophytes are used to chucking requirements over the wall and expecting you to read their minds about the details. They will need to understand the amount of time they must commit to a project to ensure its success.
  • What are the growth strategies for the company? How do they plan on growing the company? What are the critical areas that need attention?
  • IT Organization. What does IT need to look like? Are there a lot of technology neophytes at the executive level? Then there needs to be an investment in good business analysts and project managers. If they are few, then good project managers and business savvy functional directors are what is needed. Again, it all depends.
  • What do the financials look like? Is there enough cash to get things done? Can you cut IT costs to focus on revenue producing processes?
  • Who are the key stake holders? These are typically marketing, sales or merchandizing, but this also depends on your industry. In manufacturing, it could be helping engineering become more streamlined to shorten product cycles. In consulting, it could be resource optimization and bench-time minimization.
  • Reporting needs. DO NOT underestimate reporting and how you present data. Having a company dashboard with RELEVANT information (vs. data) is key to identifying new applications, features or systems to help the decision makers. Because you are the IT guy, you will need to define information presentation. Executives need to provide their key measures and indicators. This application, whatever form it takes, will be your biggest homerun if you do it right or your biggest failure otherwise.
  • Innovation. How will IT innovate to help differentiate the company from its competitors? This is a hornets' nest and will have a direct correlation to what the IT organization looks like. Innovating in IT will take a different type of resource to accomplish, but the bottom line is YOU need to understand the business and how applying technology will move you ahead on the competitive landscape chess board.
  • IT alignment. This is the end result. What processes will you put in place to make sure that IT is aligned with the goals of the company? Again, you need to understand the business and how applied technology will move goals forward.

The next post will help you pull all this information together in preparation to present to your executive team.

1 comments
pmaina2000
pmaina2000

My 2 cents: To formulate an IT strategy you need to be aware of: 1. Basics: Organization mission and vision 2. The business strategy (and it's not always about growth, there are other things like improving efficiency, improving customer service, cutting costs, improving products/brands, focusing on certain market segments etc). 3. Current IT Portfolio in that organization 4. Your IT Portfolio Maturity 5. How the portfolio is aligned to the business strategy. 6. Organizatinal Constraints & politics (you covered these quite well) Based on this information, you can formulate a plan to: 1. "enhance the good", "retire the bad" for current systems. You can get some quick wins here - but be ready for change management issues as you question some long established beliefs! 2. Identify and Acquire technology that supports the business strategy (e.g. helps achieve the strategy much faster). 3. Propose changes to the business strategy to compound the benefits or introduce some new advantage offered by technology - within the constraints you identified (financial health /pollitics/ etc). You then Identify your quick wins. What can you deliver in the shortest time possible (3 months or less) with some visible benefits to the business? Then you identify your medium-term and long-term deliverables. Appraise your projects by looking at their Net present value. You must be aware of the implication of each in terms of viabilty, relevance, timing and ROI. Then you put your draft IT Strategy together and present it to the board or senior management. Once its approved, remember to review it constantly in light of changing business environment. Sooner or later, you will find IT capabilities starting to shape the business strategy. Final word: Easier said than done.

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