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Mar 8, 2018

Industry insights,

Talking IT strategy

Let’s face it, if you are going to have any strategy within your business, aside from your business plan, your IT strategy should be top of the list. The reason being, that without a well-considered IT strategy, your IT won’t align with the plans and milestones mapped out in your business plan and you’ll almost certainly be left unable to leverage your aspirations for business growth. If you are starting out on your IT planning journey, to get you in the right frame of mind and to get the strategic thinking kicked off, here are some of the crucial elements to consider.

Build a team

Depending on the size of your business, it’s highly likely that although the responsibility for the IT might fall on your shoulders, it’s important to be able to build a team of people around you that can help you to deliver the strategy. Obviously these people will need to buy in to the overall strategy, and it helps to choose leaders that want to develop strategically and want to be stretched. Once you are able to deliver the plan and delegate to others throughout the business, it will ensure your key milestones throughout the plan are met.

Align with your business objectives

This point really is crucial to the success of your strategy and to avoid a situation where the business is unable to thrive or progress, being held back by limiting IT. In essence, it would be close to impossible, and certainly irresponsible, to try to create an effective IT strategy in silos from the key stakeholders that provide the business direction, such as the CEO, CFO, COO or Managing Director. The starting point for your IT strategy is a ‘business needs analysis’ which is vital to be able to achieve this alignment state. To do this there needs to be a process of engagement and feedback created with these key stakeholders.

In other words, your c-suite colleagues will need to be willing and able to share with you where the business is headed, in an open and transparent way, to be able to develop the IT strategy from an informed position and in-line with the needs of the business.

Current business plans could see the business launching into new or emerging markets, they could involve the consideration of adding employees and sizable growth strategies. They could also involve a high dependency on data access and storage, and the ongoing management of hardware such as licences, warranties and any subsequent upgrades that are required to bring your current IT in line with plans for growth. They might also focus on the unknown, taking into account how the business would cope in a disaster situation.

Even if you don’t currently have vast plans for growth, businesses nowadays are opting for IT solutions that have future proofing and scalability built in. In many cases these can be cloud based applications, and so can also offer additional benefits such as the flexibility of remote working – another consideration for a growing workplace. 

Create medium to long term goals

As the age old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s important, as with any plan, that you don’t set yourself up to fail. Create a plan that focuses on medium to long terms goals that span a full year, rather than micro managing the immediate goals and then getting overly disheartened if the smaller goals and milestones have to move. Doing this will give you an overall holistic approach of where you need to be in a certain period of time and will allow you with a little grace for agility.  What can help you to remain focused and on the right track is an architecture roadmap. This needs to align with the IT strategy and provide a technical view of what milestones need to be achieved within the given timeframe, and in some cases before other projects can start. It will also help you to remain in control of the overall delivery, with clear visibility of what is happening, and who is responsible for each element.

Keep ahead of the changes

Even once you’ve developed the strategy and started to implement the changes within your organisation, be mindful that business change is likely to happen, that could fundamentally shake up your previously well-considered plans. Build the plans with flexibility and progression in the forefront, and keep a little room for manoeuvre, be that contingency budget for additional projects that didn’t make up part of the original strategy, or the allocation of time to rewrite sections of the strategy that are no longer fit for purpose.

What’s trending?

However you want to word it, the digital era, or a technological revolution; technology is changing almost daily and what was current, new and exciting is becoming out dated quickly. Because of this, the technology sector is one of the most fast paced sectors, and to keep ahead of this and remain current, you will need to stay ahead of the current trends and innovation that are available. There are many ways to do this, and obviously included are things such as competitive research, educational podcasts and watching technology related videos through channels such as YouTube and Vimeo. 

Sign-off

This is the last and critical stage of the planning, getting the endorsement and sign-off. This will ensure that the right people have visibility of your strategy before it’s shared with others. In will ensure c-suite buy in and that things such as suggested timeframes and milestones can be agreed formally throughout the organisation.

For anyone that is embarking on their IT strategy journey and feels that they might want a little bit more information, we have a great resource document, called ‘Top tips for creating an IT strategy’ that can assist you further.