Leadership

Essential CIO tools: The strategy presentation

Blogger Marc Schiller outlines the most important components of an IT strategy presentation that will demonstrate your grasp on IT's leadership role in the organization.

Last week we talked about what the vision presentation should look like and how it can be used to position yourself for greater influence at the executive level. Today we're going to talk about the IT strategy presentation, which is the presentation you'll probably use most often.

IT strategy presentations are especially difficult because many IT leaders don't really have a coherent IT strategy, which makes having a presentation on IT strategy very tough. Not only that, but I've discovered that what most IT leaders call an IT strategy is little more than a collection of projects and a budget. Although that's a critical operational piece of your strategy, it's not the most important part. It's not what you'll use to increase your influence and to attain your personal as well as your group's objectives.

A compelling IT strategy should demonstrate your hold on everything that's going on in IT. And it must address a broader set of issues and questions than, "What's the list of projects and what's the budget that we have?"

From my experience, highly influential IT leaders have a strategy presentation or, at the very least, strategies that can be turned into presentations that address the following three critical issues:

  1. their mandates and scope of services
  2. their organizations and service delivery models
  3. their IT investment portfolios

Let me explain why addressing these issues is so important.

Mandate and Scope of Services

As an IT leader, being able to provide a clear sense of the mandate of your IT group and other groups that provide IT services is essential to articulating your IT strategy. Your strategy must, by definition, answer the questions that everyone has, "What do you do for me? When do I come to you? And how do you fit in with the other IT service providers that work for our company?"

Communicating your mandate and your scope or services is more essential today than ever before. Why? Because IT groups are being fragmented; central IT often overlaps with departmental or specialized IT groups; more of IT is being outsourced; and shadow IT groups are cropping up within user communities.

The IT Organization and Service Delivery Model

Unfortunately, most IT leaders make the mistake of thinking that the way to align with the business is to ensure that their specific projects support very specific business goals. That's a good thing; and  I'm all for doing that. But that's not the fundamental alignment you should look for with IT. That's not the kind of alignment that elevates you from a service provider to a member of the executive team.

The more important alignment is around the basic operating model of the company and how it connects to the operating model of IT. For example, say your company is highly diversified and highly siloed by functions, by profit areas, or by product lines. Trying to service or work with the business using a highly centralized IT service delivery model will most likely fail if it extends beyond the most core infrastructure services.

Influential IT leaders are careful to align their organizations and service delivery models to the operating model and philosophy of their companies. When asked the question "How do I get the services I need?" or "How are our IT services aligned to our business?" influential IT leaders provide answers that instantly make sense to their business colleagues because they aren't new and unique. Rather, they are a mirror image of the corporation itself.

The IT Investment Portfolio

The third critical issue your strategy presentation should address is your IT investment portfolio. Instead of talking about projects and budgets per se, the investment portfolio should address how information technology is strategically being invested across the company. That's because, on their own, managers can't see the number of priorities IT has to juggle to determine the right budget levels, the right investments, and the right priorities.

It's important to provide a 50,000-foot view into the IT investment portfolio that explains what sits in infrastructure, what sits in shared services, what sits in departmental functions, and what tradeoffs are being made across the company.

Doing that helps all the executives understand what compromises they need to make in terms of their consumption of IT services, whether its slower response times or using outsourced service providers for help desk support or upgrading computers faster. This complete view of the IT investment portfolio and the business priorities to which the investments are attached lend tremendous credibility to the IT leader who can discuss it at that level as opposed to just at the project level.

For too many IT leaders, the IT strategy is about wordsmithing a mission or vision statement alongside a long list of projects. Go back and take a careful look at each of the topics presented above. I think you will see that they not only elevate the typical pedestrian headings found in most IT strategies, but they shift the focus of the IT strategy to the key questions being asked by your business colleagues. Learning to present your IT strategy from a business perspective is critical to building your influence within your organization.

Stay tuned for my next post, which covers the business presentation.

Marc J. Schiller is a leading IT thinker, speaker, and author of the upcoming book The Eleven Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders. Over the last 20 years he has helped IT leaders and their teams dramatically increase their influence in their organization and reap the associated personal and professional rewards. More info at http://marcjschiller.com.

12 comments
eternal_life
eternal_life

Yes, very good, bad is that all other areas not are ruled and runs under those in this article given and presented conditions. In my opinion that is the reason why the global economic situation is a s poor as it is.

alistair.k
alistair.k

"IT strategy presentations are especially difficult because many IT leaders don?t really have a coherent IT strategy, which makes having a presentation on IT strategy very tough." I am going to have this printed on a tee shirt and wear it next time I present to our Joint Management Team! As dallas_dc says above, its kinda obvious when you have it pointed out to you, but a lot of truely good stuff is. Deep down you knew it, you just needed it bringing to the surface where you can act on it. I think this is one of the most genuinely helpful items I've read on TR in ages. And well timed as I am due to cobble together a pile of projects and a budget forecast and call it "strategy"... This isn't just window dressing either, following what has been said here also should make for the basis of presentations to your internal teams as well. Many IT leaders make the mistake of selling the vision and the strategy to the customer/user, business sponsors, etc. but forget that the guys who are delivering need (and deserve) to be kept in the loop too... This seems like a great method of making it make sense to them too.

pmushimba
pmushimba

In deed excellent, and I couldn't agree more as most IT strategic plans are often mistaken for the collection of upcoming projects as requested by the business. I think emphasis should also be put on addressing the negative notion of IT being rather a cost centre as opposed to a profit centre but, that IT is actaully a business enabler in its support function.

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

Extremely insightful article. While it may seem obvious after reading it, most IT Strategic Plans ARE a list of upcoming projects, or how a key technology is going to be implemented over the next year or so. The ideas presented here create an idea platform for developing a true strategic plan. As I was reading it, I thought of all the presentations I have had the pleasure of hearing, and most fall into either covering the projects we will do to help the business or the technology widget the CIO is in love with at the moment. As you stated, there is nothing wrong with focusing your projects to benefit the business, a project portfolio does not make a strategic plan. Thanks

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

Is it just me, or is that just a bunch of words from the dictionary strung together? Pardon me, but I have no idea what you just said.

marcjschiller
marcjschiller

Totally agree. Most IT teams operate in the dark. And they so very much want to "get it". What's more, when they do, they are so much more energized and productive.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

Unfortunately, clarity of vision is a problem your cohorts in other departments (including the executive office) also have a problem with. Being able to see not only what should be but what is and how to move from one to the other, is a skill very few develop. There is very little point to presenting a clear vision of how IT fits into the business unless and until there is a clear and accepted view of the business. The best one can hope for is to generate enough conflict that the view of the business is actually developed. Of course, there are always organizations that have solved this issue ... just not as many as think they have. Good article. Glen Ford, PMP http://www.TrainingNOW.ca http://www.LearningCreators.com/blog/

marcjschiller
marcjschiller

Most IT leaders don't have the courage to see their strategies for what they really are. They so desperately want to be "business-focused" that they miss the whole point of IT strategy. There is much work for us all to do in this area but I am encouraged that there are like minds out there pushing in the right direction.

alistair.k
alistair.k

I totally agree. I have worked for a number of enterprises in both the public and private sector over the years and in most of these IT (and indeed other support teams) did seem to be kept in the dark. The companies where the senior management take the time and effort to talk direct to the teams often had the best morale, productivity, innovation... If my people don't know why they do what they do then how are they supposed to improve? (and continual improvement is #1 where I am at) We all talk about business alignment of IT and most act like it stops at the CIO or the functional management team. Wrong. Alignment has to be at all levels and it needs comunication of business goals and the general IT Strategy right down the line. We all knwo the projects, we are working on them or one of our co-workers is. Contextualising this within the overal service offering and the general business plan is the win. Like I said in my first post, I must have known this already, I do some of this already, its good to see it laid out nice and clear and succinct in this blog here as I have a better idea how to approach this round come April.

knecht4
knecht4

Most of my adult life has been inundated with the AVP/SR VP's pretending to understand the likes of "IT" strategy when really thay are just business folk just trying to keep down "THE MAN"...If you like business you better get schooled in "Informations Systems" or your just watching from the sidelines...Good luck! Oh and yes I'm mad as hell cause most Non IT folk have no clue...just ask the question. Do you use access or sql to create your queries? What a joke. Then ask how do they determine what data to use in their pivot table and charts? Most likely you will get the answer..HUH?..enough said.

marcjschiller
marcjschiller

Alistair - Great points and great choice of word "contextualizing". I plan to quote you in an upcoming seminar.

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