If you are a small or medium-sized business, you are the driving force of our economy. You are also probably situated in a highly competitive environment. Efficient use of resources, including information technology, is crucial to small and medium-sized businesses like yours. Do you have an IT strategy plan? It’s OK if you don’t at the moment. It’s likely that your competition does not have one either. However, this fact presents you with an opportunity to leapfrog the competition.
An individual tasked with the day-to-day management of your Information Technology resources has their hands full. Even at their most efficient, your IT specialists likely cannot carve from the essential work time needed to effectively set a meaningful and difference-making IT strategic plan framework.
An IT strategy cannot only support your IT leadership but also support everyone connected to your organization, from the chief financial officer to customer support personnel. Most importantly, strategic planning will impact the entire customer or end-user experience.
What is an IT strategy plan, and how is it different from an IT strategy?
An IT strategy defines the IT goals that will benefit your company and will remain relatively unchanged overall. But an IT strategy plan contains the details of when and how you will achieve your strategic goals. Because you will be monitoring what’s working and not working, an IT strategy plan changes more frequently as you iterate.
What are the strategy components of a good Information Technology strategic plan?
The top 5 components of an IT strategy plan include:
- Business strategy alignment
- Objective establishment
- Schedule & scope
- Metrics and/or KPIs
- Review & adapt
Let’s break down the elements of a good IT strategy plan.
Business strategy alignment. Begin your IT Strategy plan with a review of the business strategy. Make sure your IT strategy team and other departments agree upon and understand the business strategy. Everyone should even understand the brand and customers’ perceived differentiators from your competition. Start your IT strategy plan by writing a section that includes the following:
- A brief history of your company and the business’s core offering
- Your mission and vision
- The competitive environment/landscape
- Challenges your industry is facing and opportunities that exist
A good IT strategy plan example for this step can be found at the beginning of the FDIC’s IT strategy plan.
Objective establishment. Having addressed the business’s fundamental strategy, set your Information Technology strategic planning goals objectives. In previous planning of IT-specific objectives, you have likely already addressed the need to meet your regulatory and contractual obligations and implemented effective controls to protect your organization’s assets. But, it’s also important to take a systemic view of IT. Because IT changes impact your entire organization, it’s important to evaluate the net effects each goal will have on every aspect of the business. That said, IT goals commonly fall into a number of categories:
- Streamlining. List initiatives you could start that streamline processes and eliminate duplicate efforts for your organization.
- Revenue growth. Think about initiatives you could undertake to increase revenue within the following year.
- Risk management. You should always invest time in initiatives that will ensure critical data is secure.
- Infrastructure. Hardware, software, communications, and data infrastructure can become outdated rather quickly. Consider each of these critical areas when you are creating IT objectives.
Schedule & scope. All plans need a timeline. Your IT strategy plan should include a visual roadmap for the IT goals and a clear understanding of your organization’s present state and target state. Gartner Research has described some IT plans as “WORN” – Written Once, Read Never. Here are some tips to make sure yours gets read and followed:
- Narrow your focus and consider strategic IT initiatives that are well-defined in scope and attainable.
- Break out your goals into quarters and include milestones to keep everyone on track.
- Use visuals to make your plan easy to read and understand.
- Post your goals where the team will see them so that they won’t be forgotten.
- Check in with team members and celebrate their successes.
Metrics and/or KPIs. A goal that has no measurement is a wish. Be strategic and realistic in how you will measure your progress. Choose performance indicators to monitor as you pick your IT initiatives. Do they ladder back to your business strategy? If you’ve got a manageable amount of data to consider, you’re more likely to be able to act upon that data and improve the aspects of your business that IT is supporting. Some KPIs you may consider using are:
- Financial budget management
- Meeting various points of your timeline
- Adoption rates
- User satisfaction
Review & adapt. IT strategy is anything but static. Any plan that goes out beyond 12-18 months is probably unrealistic or is trying to predict the future rather than shape it through hard work. Check-in with your IT goals after a period of 6 to 9 months. Are there new or previously unseen factors affecting performance? Are there additional resources that need to be deployed to meet those objectives? What risks still exist? Go into each IT strategy plan with a lifelong learner’s mindset. Understand that technology and its adoption within organizations and society is ever-evolving. Plans must be revisited and adapted accordingly.
Do you have an IT strategy plan? If you still aren’t sure where to start or don’t have the resources to do it yourself, maybe it is time to collaborate with experienced hands and minds. Whatever you do, don’t give up. A solution that’s right for your organization exists.