With the first few weeks of January behind us, and most people's mental presence at work catching up with the physical, it's time to start putting your IT strategy into action. With the excitement of the New Year, it can be tempting to dive right into execution; however, if you haven't already done so, take a day or two for a final gut check of your strategy along the following lines.
Here are 4 questions to kick off your gut check.
Does your strategy cover too much?
Technology is in a renaissance, with everything from ubiquitous portable devices, wireless networks, and autonomous vehicles on the horizon. It's tempting to try and shoehorn in the latest shiny object, but consequence for doing that is likely an stuffed strategy that accomplished little. Even if you can't abandon some elements of your strategy, at least rank and schedule them such that you'll complete cornerstone elements of the strategy rather than ending up with a dozen half complete initiatives at the end of the year.
Is it relevant to the business as a whole?
If you've built your strategy outside the purview of peers and stakeholders not part of IT, now is the time to validate that you're focusing on the right areas. Set up a meeting or two and discuss some of your key initiatives and how you expect they'll impact the business as a whole, and the area of responsibility of the person with whom you're speaking. Not only might you refine some of these initiatives, but you'll also gain support and buy-in at the highest levels of the organization. If there's no excitement whatsoever, it may be time for a last-minute revision to your strategy.
Is IT the right group for the job?
Like it or not, almost anyone in your organization who can approve a purchase order or has a corporate card can now procure IT services. Furthermore, non-traditional players are making strong moves into spaces once occupied by IT. Your product development staff might be building cloud platforms to support digital products, while your marketing team is almost certainly engaging an agency that now offers digital services.
Rather than fight a protracted turf war and attempt to bring everything into IT, determine why various entities are looking outside your walls. Are there capabilities your organization is missing that should be developed internally? Does IT have a reputation for projects that never end and cost way too much? Are there vendors promising something unrealistic, where an unbiased assessment from IT could save the organization from a failed initiative? In any case, if there are consistent reasons for your peers reaching outside IT, let those reasons inform and guide your strategy.
Is it actually strategic?
One of the great legitimate worries for IT leaders is being consigned to irrelevancy, gradually watching all the cool initiatives go to external vendors while IT is winnowed down to a few bodies that keep the technical lights on. One contributing factor to that drift toward irrelevancy is when IT leaders fail to connect their activities to the overall company strategy. While a major software upgrade or hardware replatforming may be technically exciting, if you fail to demonstrate how this enables the company to put the corporate strategy into action, it looks like an irrelevant technical boondoggle. Ensure that each of your initiatives has a tie back to the broader company's strategic plan, and is tied to the goals, measures, and timelines of that plan.
While I'm rarely one to advocate excessive planning and revisiting well-considered plans, your annual IT strategy is too important to launch without one final gut check. Spend a few moments now, and you'll be well on your way to a successful year.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at email@example.com, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.