It goes without saying that IT (Information Technology) is a vital part of any organisation. Technologies change over night, securing the appropriate funding can be challenging, not to mention the potential conflicts in organisational priorities. However, it is absolutely essential that organisations have a roadmap in the form of an efficient and effective plan for the future. As Crawford Greenewalt, former president of the DuPont Company, once said, “Every moment spent planning saves three or four in execution.” A robust and thorough IT strategic plan not only sees time saved in the execution phase, but can result in considerably higher returns on investment.
According to Architecture and Governance Magazine, some Fortune 500 companies and government agencies have validated returns on investment as high as 700% as a result of their investment in IT strategic planning.
What is an IT strategic plan?
IT strategic plans are most commonly 3 – 5 year proposals that consist of organisational and project goals, objectives and overall guiding principles. IT strategic plans can range from incredibly specific, in which precise time frames, costs and resources are detailed, to more generalised plans, which leaves it open to department and senior managers to establish the project goals and objectives. Effective strategic plans focus your resources, time and money by prioritising the projects that generate the most significant benefits for the organisation.
Oftentimes the process undertaken to develop a strategic IT plan is just as important as the plan itself. The IT strategic plan should complement the strategies, goals and objectives of other divisions within the organisation. Involving the other units of the organisation early in the process can help to shape and improve the overall objectives through gaining a better understanding of what is necessary for all involved. This approach can be vital in ensuring the plan receives the appropriate funding and resources.
For example, marketing and sales could be managing a significant increase in the amount of customer data. IT could begin planning for how the organisation will handle that increase through expanding on-premise data storage, moving to the cloud or upgrading the capabilities of the data analytics team. If these data storage and analysis resources are inadequate, then steps can be taken to shore them up internally or to locate an outside IT consultant that these tasks can be outsourced to.
An IT strategy would address these gaps and highlight the need for the organisation to build out the supply of skills and infrastructure necessary to meet the demands of multiple divisions of the organisation.
It is important that IT not only think of it’s strategy in terms of technological solutions, but rather think in terms of business goals and opportunities.
A number of organisations use the services of IT consultants to perform the process of creating an IT plan to help provide objectivity and dedicated resources for the creation of a strategy.
IT strategy creation
In order to develop an efficient and effective plan, project management best practices must be followed. This entails the creation of a project charter, developing and following a detailed project plan, as well as the formation of a project team with a project manager to oversee and steer the entire process. In the beginning stages of the formation of the project team, the definition of roles and responsibilities is vital. Likewise, the project team should consist of representatives from all major organisational departments.
Information and feedback is gathered from all relevant stakeholders. This includes hardware and software inventories, documentation for telecommunications services, network topology diagrams, organisational charts, policies and procedures, disaster recovery and continuity of operations plans, as well as all other relevant documentation.
Additional information is gathered through internal and external stakeholder surveys, interviews and focus groups with the goal of assessing how current IT is performing, what challenges people face and what opportunities are available.
Once all relevant documentation and information is collated, an analysis of the data is performed. This attempts to look at best practices and gap analysis in order to understand current IT deficiencies with the goal of developing recommendations based on the findings.
During this phase it is vital the project team are consulted to ensure these initial findings are in alignment and on target. It is likely however that additional research will be required.
Goals and objectives are formed, along with overarching guiding principles in order to aid the writing of the strategy. The guiding principles in particular help guide and shape the overall decision-making, particularly when issues arise that are not part of the goals and objectives.
For example, the strategy might include that IT will take a cloud-first approach when purchasing new technologies and software. The project team then need to provide adequate feedback within this documentation phase to aid the prioritisation of strategic initiatives and plan objectives. This includes the assurance that funding, time frames and resources are not only realistic but achievable for the project.
Following this, a detailed strategy is written where feedback is obtained from the project group and relevant stakeholders.
The feedback is used to revise and finalise the plan. The project manager then presents the plan to senior management, IT staff and other relevant stakeholders, following which the strategy is usually published and distributed internally.
Following the completion of the plan, the objectives and initiatives are implemented within the specified time line and budget. As the implementation of the IT strategy takes place over the 3-5 years of the plan, it’s vital that progress and performance are monitored and tracked. More often than not, the plan will be revised and adjusted during this time as a good plan is always under construction. External, and unpredictable, factors such as emerging and disruptive technologies, the economy and legislative change can impact and alter the original implementation.
You can learn more about eStorm’s IT consultancy and how you can get the most out of your IT environment.
eStorm Australia is an IT managed service provider headquartered in Brisbane. We partner with your business and provide IT solutions and services that suit your specific requirements. Our solutions include a variety of services that are critical to overall business success and competitive advantage.